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New Planning Portal preview: forms

by on January 14, 2016

We’re entering the later stages of testing on the new Planning Portal site now and I thought I’d take the wraps off some of the new features.

First up are the application forms themselves.

The new forms are adaptive, meaning questions appear and disappear based on the answers you give – in other words you only answer the questions that are relevant to your application.

Naturally, the forms still follow the national question set approved by DCLG and are accepted by every LPA in England and Wales.

I thought I’d show you how we’ve addressed some known issues on the forms in a few areas: materials, hours of opening and the certificates.

The materials question has long been a bit of an issue and we’ve given a lot of thought to how to improve it.  We’ve made it easier to add materials that are relevant (and only relevant) to your application. Take a look at the short video to see how it works (note: there’s no sound in the video).

Secondly we’ll take a look at one of the more complex questions to complete – hours of opening.

Currently this is a very long question with all entries for each kind of use case on screen by default, resulting in a cluttered user experience.

Again we’ve applied the principle that the form should work for you – not the other way around.

You select only those use cases that are relevant to your application. You can select the correct hours of opening either by clicking on the clock icon in the relevant field and selecting the time or by typing the exact time you need.

We think it results in a more usable and cleaner experience.

Thirdly, we’ve made some improvements to the certificates.

Users had complained about a persistent validation error whereby one certificate would be partially completed before the applicant realised that a different certificate should be used.

In this case the system would record two versions of two certificates causing some confusion when it came to submit the application as it wasn’t obvious which part hadn’t been completed.

Now if you swap certificates the earlier version is wiped from the system resulting in quicker validation and application submission, saving you time and money.

Finally, at least for this blog post, the forms are responsive. This means they can be viewed and work properly on mobile devices. We live in an increasingly mobile-dominated world so making it easier to access your forms on the go was a key consideration.

There are many more improvements in the forms but throughout development our focus has remained on providing continuity for our customers. Everything has been refreshed but you won’t feel lost or need to ask directions.

We’ve applied best design practice but we’ve also listened to user comments for many years and we’re very excited to finally be able to pay you back for your feedback and patience.


From → video preview

  1. Culver Evans permalink

    If this does what it says it will be a major improvement. Slightly worried about all the “Incomplete” lines shown in the Materials video. If we have to answer all those (even if it’s just “no”), it will take just as long to deal with that as the materials in the old system! Hopefully, only relevant lines will appear as Incomplete.

    Just for small chuckle, I wonder what Brick Tiles for roofs are??

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Don’t panic! Only relevant lines will show. There are a lot on this video because this is complete list of sections in a Full planning form. The questions themselves won’t change, it will just be a lot quick to complete them.

  2. Can I assume that the new application forms will still be available for download in the case of paper submissions ??

  3. FranTanner permalink

    Is there any progress with a Mineral application form?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      The new site will only contain the same forms as the current one at launch, but we plan to add others (like Minerals) swiftly after.

  4. Trevor Dennington permalink

    Looks good to me.

  5. John Newton permalink

    A good improvement especially in respect of materials section and hours of operation. Any time line when these forms are coming in to use so that I can hold off filling in ‘old’ forms?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Thanks John. We can’t confirm the exact date yet, but it should be within the next couple of months. I’ll keep updating on this blog and as soon as we have a date, you’ll hear it here!

  6. I do hope you fix the certificate forms in that as an agent we don’t have to add our details all the time – under no circumstances would I give any of my clients my log in details to register a planning application – from the start of the forms it should be clear that it is the agent in control of the forms. I am all for speeding up the process, wish the same could be applied to the officers.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      In order to launch the improved system as quickly as possible, we’ve been focused on replicating what we already have, but making it quicker and easier to use. That said, there are some improvements coming and we have been working on pulling through the agent data into the certificates. Its proved a little tricky but I’m still hopeful that it will make the launch. If we can’t squeeze it in, then it should follow quickly afterwards.

  7. Bruce Reay permalink

    One problem I have found with the attachment of drawings is the fact that when transferred the mandatory drawings have the un-editable title even if it is not the title of the drawing added. We often produce a drawing that has both the location and site plans on a single sheet and therefore have to add other drawings to satisfy the required mandatory drawings upload. We have found when these appear on a LA website they have the portal title which is confusing if viewing on that LA website. Perhaps this can be addressed in some way?

    Bruce Reay
    Plan and Design Company

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Bruce. We usually recommend that drawings are split if possible, but if you can’t do that then the application service does have the option for you to flag that one mandatory document is included in another. That means the application can pass our system’s validation check without you needing to upload another/blank document to fool it and the LPA is notified that it is included somewhere else. Hope that helps. Sarah

  8. Peter Efwards permalink

    It is often the case that clients need to approve the forms before they are submitted.
    There needs to be an ability to print a draft form or send a link if the draft by email.
    Some times there are multiple listed buildings on a site of different grades. The current on line forms do not allow for this to be recorded. Most questions really need a comments box to allow an agent to pick up on such anomalies.
    The waste question is confusing. I feel there needs to be a differentiation between waste (which may require specialist disposal) and refuse (recyclable and non recyclable)
    The address boxes really do not need to provide the guidance they do
    Name/ number, street, town and postcode (the box merely needs to be expandable to accommodate long addresses)
    Finally will the portal be able to upload large documents at present it is often necessary to break up say The Design and Access Statement into a number of parts which is time consuming.
    Can application fees be paid via the portal in the future the disconnect in having to pay the LPA is not as easy as it should/ could be.
    I hope these comments help

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Thanks for all the feedback. Yes, it is very helpful. Some of these things are in the process of being dealt with, others I will add in. However on the last 2 points specifically we intend to improve these in the next few months, working with LPAs to make sure, for example, that any increase in file sizes is manageable from their end so there is no chance of delaying validation/decisions, which of course no-one wants! Thanks again, Sarah

    • Cadplan Architecture permalink

      You can export the complete form as a PDF Peter before you submit, you can then email the PDF to your client, for individual pages you can take screen shots and forward to your client by ‘sharing’ an an email, I did this yesterday re a new house for the biodiversity and tree Qs, the client could see the details and responded a short time later.

      The changes look good, we never really got the same interaction with the old PP set up so it’s very welcome, if only some LPAs would do the same!

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