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The Portal you know and trust… only better

by on November 20, 2015

I wanted to take a moment to update you on where we are with our service redevelopment plans. We’re currently in testing with the new site, rebuilt from the foundations upwards.

While we aimed to get this live this year we’re now looking at a launch in early 2016 but after a quick overview I hope you’ll agree it’ll be worth the wait. We understand how much business and government relies on the service so we don’t want to go live until we’re sure it’s right.

Over the next few weeks I want to give you a few insights into what we’ve been working on. I’m going to start with a sneaky peak at the new home page most importantly to talk a little about the values and principles we hold dear.

We pride ourselves on having worked in partnership with local authorities and professional applicants for the best part of 13 years. Now we are outside government I thought I’d talk about a few things that aren’t changing and then a few things that are.

Firstly, we intend to remain a national and free service – no upfront (or hidden) costs. We don’t intend to charge for applications. Yes, we obviously intend to raise revenues but these will be from value-adding services that complement and not replace the free, core services we’ve had your support developing.

Secondly, we’re proud to remain a trusted and integrated partner with every local planning authority in England and Wales.

Thirdly, we will continue to work with our corporate customers to drive the uptake of online applications through our dedicated account management team and our Smarter Planning scheme.

Now on to what is changing.

Early in 2016 we will deliver a faster, mobile-friendly website with better focus on key user tasks.

We’re not going to be turning the service on its head – we’ve had a strong focus on continuity in development. Everything will look familiar but we’ve introduced some exciting improvements to make the application process faster and easier.

It’s the Planning Portal you know and trust only better.

We’ll also be introducing some major new improvements in 2016 – all of which have been requested from you over the past months and years. So in no particular order, next year we plan to roll out the following…

  • A seamless and integrated planning and building control application service
  • A suite of tools to make the application service work even better for professionals
  • An improved range of online payment options to address validation issues – including a secure method for applicants to pay directly for applications submitted by their agent
  • An intuitive, redesigned interactive house
  • A facility for LPAs to increase supporting document file sizes – where they are able to process them

Finally, here’s a sneak peak of our home page. We’ve worked hard to focus on the key user tasks.

We can’t wait to roll this out to you. I’ll be sharing more information and features in the coming weeks.


  1. johnelvidge1979 permalink

    Dear Sir or Madam


    Further to your email, I have been meaning to write to you but never seem to find the time.


    Would it be possible to have a 'not applicable' box against all of the materials questions. For all applications such as a straight change of use it is intolerable having to complete individual boxes with 'not applicable' simply so that the page can receive its green tick.  

    Many thanks and kind regards John Elvidge

    John Elvidge Planning Consultancy The Old Stable Block King George VI Memorial Park Montefiore Avenue Ramsgate Kent CT11 8BD Mobile: 07914421548 Tel: 01843 297054


    Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 at 12:33 PM

  2. Culver Evans permalink

    John Elvidge – you don’t have to put something in every box. If it’s not applicable, just leave it blank. It has worked for me dozens of times.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      You are right Culver, that you can use this as a work around on the current system. We’ve known that it’s a nuisance though and we’ve built the new system to handle materials and other irrelevant questions more intuitively, meaning that you won’t have to trawl through sections which you don’t need to complete. I’ll post some screenshots of that over the coming weeks.

  3. Culver Evans permalink

    This is all great news. The Portal is a great resource but everything can be improved. Speaking for myself, the single greatest improvement would be to speed things up. For example, when you make a full planning application for a domestic project, you still have to go through all the pages relating to employment and other irrelevances. Many cannot simply be ignored. Also, I would like to see it recognised that those of us with slow broadband speeds suffer when things are broken down into individual pages that have to be downloaded before being filled in and then uploaded.

    Speed is also affected by web page design. Local authorities present a perfect example of how not to do things. Their pages tend to be dense with verbiage, with random links scattered around, and often require you to navigate from page to page unnecessarily. The Portal is not as bad as that but it’s as well to bear in mind that the most user-friendly websites really understand the KISS principle.

  4. Geoff Wilkinson permalink

    Can you clarify how the “seamless and integrated planning and building control application service” will work? I trust that this will reflect customer choice between using LABC, Approved Inspector and where applicable competent persons

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Geoff. More information on how this will work technically will follow over the coming weeks, but we recognise that customers in the building control market have a choice over who deals with their development.

  5. ian stronge permalink

    So, nothing to help the general public who wish to comment on planning applications in their area. Nothing to force applicants to name their “supporting documents” usefully, nothing to permit multiple document downloads for even middling developments which easily accumulate several hundred files through revisions and updates — each of which has to be downloaded individually using multiple superfluous keystrokes. etc. etc. Nice to know we taxpayers are funding all this for you professionals. Anyone care to respond to this comment, which I have made before… to absolutely no response at all.

    • GRPA permalink

      Ian – your comments are heard, but they are directed to the wrong people. This a site to submit planning and Building Regs for both professionals and the public, and for local planning authorities to get those applications. After that point it is the LPAs that deal with downloads and comments etc and it is their individual websites that are apparently failing you. And I agree they vary greatly. But that is not the Planning Portal’s fault (or of the ‘professionals’ you deride).

      • ian stronge permalink

        I’m not deriding anyone. But I am pointing out that planning is for the benefit of everyone in the community, and that decisions taken in the implementation of one part of “the planning system” have both planned and unforeseen consequences elsewhere. But I hardly need tell that to planners. To return to the specifics… Would it be so hard to enforce a standard for file naming when uploading files? The enforced part need only be the preliminary stub identifying which part of the legally required information the uploaded file contains; you could append (or not) to that stub whatever other identifying description/codes you wanted for office/project use. Indeed the stand stub names could easily be presented as a set of pull-down options. As for downloading, am I to take it that the Planning Portal team pay absolutely no attention to whatever Local Authority IT suppliers like (name removed) have to tell them about efficient implementation? Which brings me to my other point: the complete lack of engagement by the Planning Portal with end users from the general public. Is there anything you would like to add Sarah Chilcott?

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        Hi Ian. As part of the data we send to LPAs there is information which shows what the attachment is (ie flood risk assessment). This is defined in line with the national requirements. LPAs’ systems use this data, but it isn’t always published to their registers (it depends on their IT supplier and set-up). That said, we are already looking at further improvements that can be made and are revisiting naming conventions, particularly around plans. There is also a point of principle here: we have always been and will continue to be about making planning and building simpler – for everyone, including the general public. We work through local authorities to reach them, as well as directly through our interactive houses and guidance. As our service evolves, we will absolutely continue to work to make it simpler for LPAs, planning and building professionals and the general public. We’ll do that by providing an excellent service, not by ‘enforcing’ ways of working on our customers. I’d welcome any further thoughts you may have on how we could do that, Ian. Do email me at if you would like. Thanks, Sarah

  6. John Newton permalink

    Just keep it simple for us non tech Planning Consultants who qualified many years ago!!

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      We’re planning to make it simpler for everyone John!

  7. Rosemary Pettit permalink

    Agree with Ian Stronge about requiring applicants to name their supporting documents usefully and accurately. A clutch of numbers and acronyms does not help anyone. The value of supporting documents rests in their being as comprehensive as needed, but quickly identified.

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