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TerraQuest has been appointed as the preferred bidder to take over the running of the Planning Portal

by on January 20, 2015

It’s been a while coming but it can now be revealed that TerraQuest has been chosen by DCLG to partner with them in a joint venture to provide the ongoing delivery and commercialisation of the Planning Portal service.

The joint venture has indicated it will not charge applicants or LPAs for using the Portal’s 1App planning application service and that a new and improved 1App and website will be delivered by TerraQuest’s prime subcontractor Civica, later in 2015. The existing service will remain in place until the new website is launched – so there will be no disruption to our customers.

It is the intention to transfer staff to the new business before the end of the financial year however the JV is subject to final negotiation and therefore any questions regarding the process of commercialisation should be directed to PlanningPortalFuture@communities.gsi.gov.uk

The Portal team look forward to working with TerraQuest and DCLG in the new joint venture and are excited at the prospect of moving the service forward.

18 Comments
  1. Rick Phelps permalink

    Why not just do away with the Planning Portal and get all Local Authorities to adopt/administer the 1app? Planning Applications would then be submitted direct to the Local Authority cutting out the middle man, thus saving time. Too simple?

  2. David Bryan Craig permalink

    This is typical – we now have a ‘Preferred Contractor’ who already has a Sub-contractor in place which will eventually lead to a more expensive service.
    Why not spend your efforts on bringing Local Authority Planning Departments up to the mark thus removing the need for these additional layers of administration.
    DAVID B CRAIG. bcs

  3. recipe for expensive disaster on the horizon. Why pretend otherwise….?

  4. Ambrose permalink

    The only part of the planning process that doesnt need fixing , and its sold off

  5. Roy Gibson permalink

    Oh well, it was good while it lasted, better order more print paper and envelopes!

  6. Rick Phelps permalink

    The whole concept of a Planning Portal is entirely unnecessary no matter who runs it. All it has done is introduce an unwarranted middle man and layers validation officers. Why not just have a standard set of application forms and procedures that local authorities have to use and do away with the Planning Portal? Who need it? It certainly was not good while it lasted which was too long.
    Nice people but unnecessary service.

  7. Mark Key permalink

    The Planning Portal is the country’s recognised access point to Building Regulations Approved Documents – even government web pages redirect the public to it.

    How it can be deemed acceptable for approved inspectors to use customer’s fee income to advertise on pages from which the public access legislative guidance is beyond me.

    The financial services sector creates a multi billions pound mess and useful public services such as the Portal are ‘commercialised’ to save relative pennies – what a mess.

  8. Doesn’t this amount to conflict of interest. Terraquest already run Planning Departments for some local authorities

  9. Keith Baker permalink

    I just do not understand the hypothesis. To save money, take a non-profit entity and transfer it to a company that has to make profit, That equation in order to balance demands more income or less service to provide the profit. As I said previously, emailing applications direct to LAs is the alternative means to submit applications. That leaves for us to have to pay to access/read Approved Documents, Acts and SIs.

  10. O.K. folks there is a lot of negativity here and that’s perhaps to be understood but there are also a few points I’d like to respond to.

    Firstly, the assertion that “The whole concept of a Planning Portal is entirely unnecessary” and “Who need it?”

    Frankly without the PP there’d have been no 1App. The team worked tirelessly with LAs, Government & industry to bring together the thousands of local variants in forms to create a standard set. It did so without a mandate and brought all parties together voluntarily.

    I’m not aware of any other central service that has 100% voluntary take up by LAs. It makes sense, reduces cost and improves both efficiency and consistency. No longer do businesses with a national or regional profile need to access dozens or even hundreds of websites to submit applications, in often differing ways, with the added benefit of useful administration tools.
    If we didn’t do it every LA would have the expense and hassle of maintaining local systems, amending them at taxpayers cost every time legislation changes.

    Secondly the public benefit. Millions of visitors to our guidance and help tools including the Interactive House demonstrate the value of our service. Once again removing the burden on local authorities to constantly update guidance locally.

    We know the Portal is not perfect which is why we welcome the investment TerraQuest will bring. Without it all the work we’ve done over the years will be lost as the service inevitably suffers from the economic squeeze in the public sector.
    Yes there’ll be commercial services, but there already are and always have been. We’ve sold advertising and maps since day 1 and we’ve added in other services over the years.
    The intention in future will be to build on those revenues in a way that adds value and its worth saying again that TerraQuest have indicated that 1App will remain free to applicants and LAs.

    Any regular readers will know that I’m intensly proud of the Portal and what my team have achieved with the collaborataion of the entire community. Together we’ve been part of the transformation of an industry over the last decade and we see the next stage as a welcome opportunity to once again innovate and extend our service with our customers at the heart of what we do.

    Chris Kendall

  11. Keith Baker permalink

    What you say is noted and unquestionably the PP has led planning into the 21st century. The thread of “negativity” as you put it is because of the uncertainty in respect of our not seeing how a profit is to be made without either services suffering or expense being imposed.

    I do not recall any sort of consultation had with us the “customers” before this was decided. Whatever happened to the old fashioned idea of a shareholding democracy. If that had been explored it might be that we could now be contemplating a mutual organisation where the users are the stakeholders rather than as now transpires, just pawns to generate profit for a PLC..

  12. Rick Phelps permalink

    I still maintain that the Planning Portal was unnecessary. A standard set of planning forms should have been imposed on Local Authorities by the government without creating another layer of bureaucracy and doubling up the application process. It has all cost. The fact that it has been taken up (I have used 1apps since its inception) by so many is that there is not much in the way of an alternative.

  13. Keith Baker permalink

    For the record The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 did impose a more or less standard form, which I think it will be found is essentially the basis of the PP form. The PP just creating their electronic version of it.

    The value of the PP to applicants and their agents is not so much the application submission aspect but rather as I see it a central database of Planning and Building Legislation, Guidance News and Information.

    As I have said many times before applications can be emailed direct to LAs.

  14. Richard Harris permalink

    How bizarre that you can’t put up a tent in this country without carrying out a public consultation but public services can be privatised on some politician’s whim.
    Why does this service need to be privatised? If it is about it costing money that the Government is seeking to cover then why not simply add an administration fee for using it on top of the planning fee.
    Privatisation has yet to demonstrate that it actually works in the public interest.
    The railways privatisation has been a disaster
    energy privatisation has been a disaster
    water privatisation has been a disaster
    waste collection privatisation has been a disaster
    I could go on but we need to reject this really bad idea.

  15. The new scheme like a move in the right direction to me. Submitting, finding and responding to planning applications on the LPAs which I am familiar with is a nightmare and whilst it isn’t perfect, the Planning Portal is aiming in the right direction.

  16. The Planning Portal saves us so much time and money. We consider it a very valuable service, whether in the hands of the public or a private company. The simplicity of submitting applications now compared to several years ago is one of great benefits. Now, if the Portal could also be used as a validation tool that would be the icing on the cake…. The local authorities can take weeks and weeks to get round to checking applications then requesting additional information simply to justify the delay to validation.

    • Dennington permalink

      Leigh –
      Any LPA demanding additional information simply to justify delay in validation, or indeed demanding extra data simply because it can (hardly unheard of !), risks the whole application being taken out of its hands.
      A 10A Notice can be served on it and, if the LPA does not concede that it does not need the extra stuff demanded in order to determine the application and validates the application, a right of appeal then arises at the end of the statutory determination period.

  17. Matthew Farmer MF Architecture permalink

    Agree that the 1app could be built into the local authority’s website, and even better, why not standardise each website…more familiar to navigate, and save costs on re-design for each authority.

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