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A new era for the Planning Portal

by on August 1, 2013

You may already know that DCLG has today announced that it is looking for alternative funding models for the Planning Portal.  DCLG have made it clear that their preference is a partnership between the public and private sectors.

The team are really pleased with this announcement which we know will bring about the investment we need to continue to improve our service for our customers.

We particularly welcome Government’s recognition of the value which the Portal provides as a national standardised service, its commitment to retain a government stake in the future business and the option for potential partners to consider a mutualisation element within their bids.

You can be sure that whilst the process of agreeing a new model and selecting a partner is underway, we will continue to focus on business as usual, improving the online application service and tools.

The DCLG prospectus and press release is available here  For further information on this please contact DCLG at

The Portal team intend to develop a bid as an employee-led mutual and if you would like to discuss partnering with us on this proposal, please contact me via Anne Jefferies on 0117 372 6343 or

I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future and will keep you updated as things proceed.

  1. Keith permalink

    Looks like the vested interests and empire builders are about to take over the asylum. Bad enough with advertisers buying their way to prominence on a public service website, let alone being allowed to buy the whole thing.

    One aspect eludes me though, unless you are about to try to charge us, presumably the government will still have to pick up the tag, profit and all.

    I am continually surprised at the fallacy that current public servants will/can work harder and cheaper to generate a profit for investors whilst at the same time needing less from the public purse. It seems to me the answer is for government to employ the right people and save (the profit) for us.


  2. Josef K permalink

    Now, now, ”keith” be realistic the prevailing zeitgeist is against UK State Democratically accountable ownership of OUR vital resources, services and utilities. It is far better to have that control vested in unaccountable (to British ppl) :
    Private Equities;
    Sovereign Wealth Funds,
    Unknown share holders interested in Profit not fairness;
    ‘American’ neo-cons and neo-liberals ( now worth $1.9 trillion);
    Chinese government InfoTech groups;

    Selling our Planning control sector is a minor issue. AND – if it turns a buck and creates even 100 jobs it’s OK for any entrepreneur to build anything anywhere, as long as it’s not in the Home Counties.
    We’re all Fragging Fraggers now – together!
    Seems strange that ”we” must have a replacement Nuclear deterrent, and a massive standing military ”defence” force, costing £36.3 billion each year, whilst we are annexed thru’ the front door via the Finance market and are powerless over the supply of even our own WATER, never mind – power; heat; light; healthcare; planning; ….…

    [”Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Wilde, O.]

  3. I’m not going to enter into the wider political debate here (it’s a planning blog!) but I thought I’d offer a couple of thoughts from the perspective of the Portal team.

    Firstly, this move is very much welcomed by our team, many of whom have worked on the portal since the early days.

    The recent economic situation has meant that we have had to rein in plans to improve and develop our service in ways that our partners and customers tell us they wish would. It is extremely frustrating watching our service stand still whilst technology moves on and our usage increases, but we understand the rationale.

    We see this process as an opportunity to put the service back at the front of the curve and to really make inroads into improving the process of planning without being a drain on the taxpayer.

    We are delighted that DCLG intends to retain a stake, that there are commitments to keep core services free of charge and that there is an open door to an employee bid (the lunatics are already running this asylum and not doing too bad a job in my opinion)

  4. Good luck with your employee buy out – you might be lunatics but at least your planning lunatics.

  5. I can not see what advantage this would be to a private company(name any facilitates management company you want here! Serco, Capita etc etc.) to actually make a profit. The planning portal is not receiving any money from me actually submitting a planning application through the system and that is the only way that anyone will make any money will be to start charging. This is at a time when this government has changed permitted development rights to save Joe public £172 for a planning application. We are saving a little on submitting planning applications via the Portal, this will obviously go and the small domestic applications will become £195, which is the actual planning fee as published by the government. No joined up thinking

    • In its prospectus for the Planning Portal, Government has said that bidders will not be permitted to charge for core services (including 1App) for at least 2 years.

      • And after that there will be cost which we will have to pay whoever owns the Planning Portal to submit planning applications, so then we will want to submit direct to the LA so as not to pay a middle man! I agree you need the money to run the system but privatisation is not necessarily a good thing in this instance, but is what is going to happen. We all know surely that the actual planning fee for say a domestic application does not actually cover the costs for the LA and that they were nearly in a position to set there own planning fees, but this is just a case of lining the likes of Capita’s coffers and we the consultants getting a poor deal.

  6. C.P. DAVISON permalink

    The Planning Portal, with online applications, has been up and running for a number of years and working very successfully.
    Then along comes the man with the glasses hyping the system for all its worth and hard selling something which does not require a hard sell. How many other Government organisations have pictures of the heads of Departments on their e-mails? The system belongs to us and is knowledge based. It is nonsense to privatise it and will just lead to ever more cost. And what about the free downloads that are currently available and welcome? I can remember when planning applications were free and that the documentation requirements were minimal – yes and believe it or not buildings still got built and generally the human form remains just at it was then!
    I hope this Planning Portal smoke screen under the guise of improvement will not add still further to the costs in our struggling housing/building market and suck the breath from development.
    On a similar topic It appears that BRE a once very respected organisation has got into bed with Passivhaus and is peddling their propaganda and poor old Joe Public will be so swathed in insulation that he will not be able to breath let alone afford the increased costs.
    Also what is happened to Building Control, you only have to blink and they change the regulations, some so much so that I wonder how students on say a three year building related course are able to keep up with the curriculum let alone the lecturers.

    • Clive, am I the man in the glasses to whom you refer? If so I can assure you that I have never put my photo into my emails.

      I do make myself accessible via this blog in order to gather feedback and criticism on our service, which we use to improve it. I do also use it to talk about our successes and more recently about the road to privatisation. The blog gives me an opportunity for a genuine dialogue with customers and partners and gives them an opportunity to be heard.

      As for the hard sell, i’m sorry if it appears that way, it’s not my intention.
      Along with many of my colleagues I have invested more than a decade of my career into the Portal. Its future means a great deal to me and I honestly believe that privatisation is the best way of securing the future and developing the service, remembering that Government will keep a stake and that core services will remain free to use.

  7. Josef K permalink

    I’d like to review some of the correspondence so far :
    PortalDirector wrote:
    1.0 I’m not going to enter into the wider political debate here (it’s a planning blog!)…
    1.1 It IS part of the wider [Political / ideological] debate – just as an RSJ is part of a building.

    2.0 … this move is very much welcomed by our team
    2.1 Whilst this point MAY be valid, tho’ it may equally be assertoric speculation, it’s not their / your, organization – it belongs to the taxpayers = us. [7.1 Below]
    The parallel with carpet baggers during the conversion of Building Socs to Banks won’t be made.

    3.0 … without being a drain on the taxpayer.
    3.1 What a well roasted chestnut this one is. The costs associated with un-employment, depression, loss of homes, etc. caused to the many professionals sacked in the inevitable downsizing will dwarf any ‘drain’ – that’s if the service is a drain – or is this another assertion?

    4.0 We are delighted that DCLG intends to retain a stake,
    4.1 I’m really not interested in your emotional response – Planning is a FACT based process – isn’t it? As is public finance, ….
    4.2 What influence will this ‘intention’ [Not commitment] afford DCLG [In our name?]
    4.3 What % does DCLG intend to retain – and why? [Facts – Just give me the Facts.]

    5.0 .. that there are commitments to keep core services free of charge
    5.1 At last some good news – phew !
    5.2 But hang on – what’s this?

    6.0 … bidders will not be permitted to charge for core services … for at least 2 years.

    7.0 … there is an open door to an employee bid
    7.1 As C.P. DAVISON wrote ‘’ The system belongs to us … ‘’

    8.0 … Along with many of my colleagues I have invested more than a decade of my career into the Portal. Its future means a great deal to me and I honestly believe that privatisation is the best way of securing the future and developing the service, remembering that Government will keep a stake and that core services will remain free to use. [BUT only for 2 years !]
    8.1 The finest piece of ad captandum I’ve seen, on a site for professionals, in a long time. Will we have Violet Elizabeth Bott on soon as a guest contributor?

    • I am on the road today so just a quick response for now.

      I set up the blog to write in a professional and personal capacity about matters affecting the Portal and/or me as a way of having real contact with colleagues across the industry, thats why topics range through planning,architecture and trees to Lego and football.
      I often get asked for my opinion, but as a civil servant I can’t always give it. On this occasion I can and as several people have asked for my view on the current process my blog seemed the obvious place to respond.

      The intention is not to be a faceless bureaucrat but to be open, honest and emotional if I feel like it, not simply to present facts, they can be found elsewhere, and in this case I linked to the prospectus for the available facts. Does the world need another pseudo blog written by a comm’s team and purporting to be a conversation?

      On the subject of facts though, I have to challenge you statement at 3.1 “The costs associated with un-employment, depression, loss of homes, etc. caused to the many professionals sacked in the inevitable downsizing will dwarf any ‘drain'” is this not an emotional and possibly ad captandum response? everyone I have spoken to so far anticipates significant investment in and growth of the business!

  8. Josef K permalink

    1.0 Your considered response is awaited, rather than this seeming FtH one.
    2.0 What is your name, please?
    Kind regards

  9. Anonymous permalink

    Just wanted to say I, for one, appreciate the blog! I can’t say I’d blame you if you gave it up after recent posts in this and some of the other threads but I hope you don’t.

    Regarding the whole “the portal belong to us/the taxpayer” argument that seems to be brewing; as a taxpayer surely the portal belongs as much to Chris as it does to you and I? On top of that, without Chris and his team what exactly would you “own”?

    Finally, perhaps those “not interested in an emotional response” could just skip over that tiny section rather than complain?The blog is written for a wide variety of people; just because you don’t find something interesting don’t presume nobody does.

  10. Keith permalink

    My apologies to those who’s comment I have not yet read but When I got to, not allowed to charge us “for at least 2 years” I could read no further without immediate comment.

    At least we now know why “the lunatics” want to take it over for themselves, it’s not altruism or so they can just do their jobs better, but to enrich themselves at our expense.

    One more point, does the director think we have not had to resist or postpone decisions on progressing and keeping up to the minute technology wise.

    • Keith,
      as per my post, the Portal teams approach will be to put forward an employee led mutual proposition.
      Our plan is to create an Employee Benefit Trust in which no individual member of staff will hold personal shares.

      We are no more altruistic than anyone else who takes a wage for their work, it is important both for us and our customers that the business is successful in order to develop the service for everyones benefit (yes including securing our jobs).

      I don’t think it is helpful or fair to make accusations based on pure supposition of what we might or might not do in the future and it is particularly disappointing to have the integrity of my team called into question on this basis.

      I thought long and hard before publishing these comments, ultimately I decided to do so because I’d rather err on the side of transparency. I can’t guarantee I will always do so.
      I will however always publish constructive comments.

  11. Keith permalink

    It just occurred to me after having sent the last comment, unless “the lunatics” can get the government to legislate to make us use the PP, we can all desert en-mass and just email the plans and docs direct to the relevant LA. Best they don’t order the Ferrari’s just yet.

  12. Keith permalink

    No personal insult to anyone or anyone’s integrity intended, my apologies if anyone took it that way. However lets face it, the planning portal is not a business. it can be made a business of sorts, but being that can only get in the way of it’s primary purpose. Which is to oil the wheels of government (the planning regime of such at least) and disseminate information, as well, widely, impartially and cheaply as possible.

    There is no way that a profit can be generated without increasing income or reducing the current service, neither of which is compatible with the aforementioned primary purpose. That is not supposition but fact.

    A business, as us in business well know, is first and foremost a money making entity, if it does not make money it ceases to exist The opposed purposes of profit and public/government service cannot be reconciled.

    Additionally, there is such a thing as price sensitivity and competition. Your competition as I said earlier will I think be, if you charge, email which is free, or more or less so. In business terms, you have nothing to sell except government information, and that has to be given away or there is no point to it.

    This smacks to me as just another PFI smoke and mirrors job to reduce the PSBR whilst storing up consequences for the future. Ultimately I think the service and especially the staff that run it will suffer as the books have to be balanced. A mutual share whilst employed does not seem to me to compensate for redundancy or unemployment.

  13. Josef K permalink

    It really does now look like my latest ‘Comment” has been moderated out of existence – or has been sequestered like a Guardian reporter’s chum.

    • Hi, I’m sorry but there appears to be some confusion.
      You last comment asked me to delete the previous – which I did.
      i also replied to your email address.

  14. Dear Portal Director, We welcome all these but PP as it stand is very huge for someone to follow locally.Its better to break it so that the all local bodies make use of it compulsorily.The rule of planning process remains unchanged but it will help if councils provides the initial existing building Land/House plans to the owners so that they just do the amendments only by an Architect.By doing this you create many jobs for young school leavers and it irradiate cowboy Builders/Architects.

  15. Josef K permalink

    @Ganesh —-With the greatest of respect – I don’t understand what is being proposed. Might you clarify, please?

    FAO Portal Dir – Might you clarify, please?


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