Skip to content

New payment service for 1App in England

by on August 1, 2018

Since we were privatised in 2015, we have continued to develop our services, including significant investment in a new 1App service, a new building control application service and new interactive houses, as well as of course keeping everything compliant with legislation as it changes. All of this costs money to develop and maintain.

As we are no longer funded by the government, we have sought to generate income by launching services which add value to the process for all our customers, be that agents, applicants or local authorities. These services are gaining traction and income is rising, but we are still working to balance our books and continue to rely on the financial support of our parent company, which can’t last forever.

The latest new service, due for launch in September is the most transformative that we have launched to date, and in line with all the others we have worked hard to ensure that it will add value to all our customers. Critically, it will also bring us much needed income to balance our books and ensure that we can improve 1App in the way we have all wanted to for many years, as well as maintaining all our other services, free content and interactive guidance.

The issue of validation and payments

Today, approximately half of online planning applications are still paid for ‘offline’; meaning that the local authority has to find the planning fee separately and reconcile it with the application as part of the validation process. Across England, missing payments alone account for a quarter of invalid applications, often as a result of cheques being mislaid.

The Planning Portal’s new financial transaction service will resolve this issue and remove the pain from agents, applicants and local authorities. By processing all planning application fee payments itself, the Planning Portal will be able to release the application with the correct fee to the local authority, saving everyone the time and money currently wasted on making, chasing and reconciling offline payments. The concept of the new process has been thoroughly tested over the last few months with agents and local planning authorities (LPA).  We’re now in the midst of testing the end-to-end process and technology to ensure that the launch is as seamless as possible for all involved. Once we are confident we are in good shape, we will communicate the launch date.

The service in a nutshell

The service will:

  • Offer a standard range of options which either the applicant or the agent can use to pay for planning applications across all English authorities
  • Provide telephone or online payment options which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year as well as bank transfer options for larger fees. We have maintained an option to pay by cheque, but with other quicker, better options available we expect the number of cheques to drop drastically
  • As soon as the payment is received, the application and fee will be transferred to the LPA so they can start validation.

The service charge of £16.67+VAT per application will also include the option of using the current Payment ReDirect service which allows agents to nominate a third party to pay securely for applications, at no additional cost.

Applications which don’t attract a planning fee will not use the financial transaction service and will be released immediately to local planning authorities in the usual way.

Further Information

We have created User Guides for both agents and LPAs. If you are a regular Planning Portal user you should have already received a copy, but you can access both here:

These guides should give you all the information you need to understand the service and any changes to your business processes, but should you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Support team.

We appreciate that this is a change for everyone, but feedback indicates that this will be a huge step forward for the planning application submission process. These changes will also enable us to balance our books and invest in the future development of 1App and the other services.

We hope that you will continue to support us and the service we provide.

  1. Roger Stephens permalink

    Surely the levy of such a charge will, itself, discourage agents / domestic applicants to use this online fee payment service. Agents will have to pass the charge on to their clients and domestic applicants will not wish to pay for the privilege of using this online service. Hence, will it not ‘shoot itself in the foot’?

  2. Whilst the system may make life easier for the Planning Portal and for LPAs (though I forsee limited benefit for the latter), there would be little/no benefit to the applicant or agent, and so I do not see how applicants and/or agents would be willing to pay the additional £20.
    Many agents/applicants were disgruntled when the Planning Fees rose last October and so I doubt that an additional cost would be welcomed.

  3. John Flavell permalink

    I completely agree with Roger and James who have set out the issues. My clients have no problem at all with paying by telephone, so why would they want to pay more?

    • Adrian Farrell permalink

      Hi John, while agreeing with you it appears now that applications will be held until payment is made through the portal, therefore if using this application system the incentive will be that the LPA actually receives the application rather than it being “held” pending payment. There are alternatives available who don’t charge a fee (at the time of writing)

  4. Peter Davis permalink

    Another £ 20 on top of a householder fee that went up 20% last December.

    Double handling of the payment. They can go wrong on occasion with single handling.

    I like to pay by cheque on behalf of my clients. It ensures it gets paid quickly, I don’t start getting comms from the LPA saying my clients have not paid and I like the paper trail on the odd occasion things do go wrong. Now cheque clearance which should take 3-4 days will apparently take 8-9 days.

    The transaction is between the LPA and the applicant and the payment should go the same way without a third party involved and charging for it as well.

    I have just had a call from an LPA I deal with on a regular basis about a payment they lost, as it happens, and they don’t this idea at all. In fact they have given me the name of a rival opperation that I have already created an accout with and will give a go.

    The goverment has recently put a stop to charges on credit card transactions, this is just a variation on that ruse to get money from the customer. My cients wont want to be charged to pay!

  5. Shaun Richards permalink

    I think we all appreciate that some form of monetisation was going to occur with the move to private, but this is not an attractive proposition for agents.

    The portal is a useful service, and the alternative site is frankly a shambles. But I don’t relish the extra £20 per application considering we submit thousands a year. That’s a big chunk of cash you are asking for!

    A subscription model with upfront annual costs would be much more preferable. i don’t think it’s prudent to kid ourselves that continued use of the portal should be free – after all there are costs to cover. But there are certainly better ways of going about this.

  6. IAN C SAVAGAR permalink

    Well I suppose it was bound to happen, sneaky attaching the cost to the fee handling rather than the application. The authority will still have to check the fee to ensure that the correct fee and type of application have been submitted, (prior approval rules, floor area etc) which presumably will not be validated by the portal so I cannot see that there is that much benefit to the L,.A.
    Incidentally by my reckoning there have been approximately 850,000 applications submitted during the last 12 months which would have generate in excess of £12,000,000 (assuming a few zero fee applications) nice!

  7. Philip Anthony permalink

    Just a way of making money by the back door. If you included this charge in with the application fee it would have hardly warranted a mention but by trying to be “open” you have alienated everyone. I just hope that the majority of LPA’s see this for what it is and continue with their own on line payment system for which I have never had a problem.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Philip. The planning fees are set by government, so wrapping in a service charge isn’t an option. We have also always been open with our customers – that’s the right way to behave – and many have welcomed the service and improvements it will enable us to deliver. We hope you’ll continue to use the service as we do so. Best regards, Sarah

      • goonersara permalink

        the planning portal say they have been open with our customers. Why is it then that the first we heard of these financial charges was a few weeks ago? When you ask for alternative ways to send in applications your comments are moderated. I don’t think this aspires to openness.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        Hi Sara. I’m sorry you feel that way. Best regards, Sarah

  8. I like the idea of providing a central point for payment, and can appreciate the need to charge, but shouldn’t the fee be proportional to the cost of the application? This represents about 10% of the cost of a householder application!

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Mike. Thanks for your comment. We looked closely at the level of charge and the costs/work involved in managing the service day to day, in order to keep it as low as possible for everyone – the cost of handling the planning fee is the same regardless of how much the fee is, after all. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it only a tiny fraction of the cost of any home improvement scheme and still far cheaper than a paper application would be (printing forms/plans, postage etc..). I hope that clarifies. Best regards, Sarah

  9. What are the options for applicants wanting to send in an application form? Will this see a revival in paper applications and CDs?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Paper forms will still be available from our site, but electronic submission remains the quickest and cheapest option to submit to any authority. I appreciate that agents are used to using our online service for free, but that is not sustainable and by introducing this new transaction service (and charge) we will remove the single biggest challenge in the planning application submission process across England and generate an income which can be used to further improve all our services to our customers.

  10. Clive Milburn permalink

    I agree with just about everything said above. The imposition of a 10% fee on clients is so unreasonable.
    I have used the Planning portal since day 1 and it is brilliant for me as an agent. I get my clients to pay direct by telephone or through the Council’s websites as soon as the application has been lodged. This has worked perfectly for years. This new surcharge seems totally over the top.

    At the very least the Planning Portal should give people the chance to continue as they have done in the past and pay the fees themselves OR use the new payment system and pay the £20 surcharge.

    Out of interest, i do wonder if this complies with new legislation that came into effect on 13 January 2018 which ban companies from making a surcharge on financial transactions. I genuinely don’t know and am not an expert.

    Either way I think there is a strong possibility this will now mean people moving away form using the portal and going back to printing the forms,scanning them and emailing them to teh Council – now that’s progress!!

  11. Clive Milburn permalink

    PS – I do note Ian Savagar’s comment above about the fees to be generated and completely agree.
    Sarah – can you justify a fee income in excess of £12 million a year to cover development of the system ?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      The figures are way off I’m afraid. The forecast income is much smaller than that and the costs of delivering the service are high. As well as the technical development, we have had to recruit a large number of staff to cover the processing and reconciliation. Banking and finance fees are also not insignificant. I can assure you that the projected bottom line is minimal to fill our annual c. £1m loss and provide a development pot for 1App.

  12. Hannah Smith permalink

    How is charging a service charge for paying online going to encourage the people who currently pay offline to then pay online?

  13. Clive Milburn permalink

    PPS – Having downloaded the Householder application form it does not seem too much problem to print it, complete it, scan it and email it to the Council with the plans. So not such a disaster after all.
    It just seems a massive step backwards.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      I’m sorry that you feel this way Clive, particularly as you started this thread saying how long you’ve been with us and how good the service has been. Unfortunately continuing as is wasn’t an option as despite increasing income and cutting costs over the last 3 years, we are still running at an annual deficit just over £1m. We’ve tried to add value rather than just adding a charge and with your and others’ continued support we’ll be able to further improve 1App and maintain all the free content and guidance we currently provide. Sarah

  14. Shaun Richards permalink

    I can live with the charge. It seems reasonable, all things considered. What I’m not happy about though is your email sent yesterday that explains the new Workspaces feature. This is a replacement for the ‘pdf a form’ feature which is incredibly useful to our business.

    I don’t agree that Workspaces is an effective replacement for this as an account is required to view draft forms, which leads to issues of its own.

    A more elegant solution would be to simply watermark the pdf’d forms – can this be done please?

  15. Clive Milburn permalink

    Hi Sarah
    I appreciate what you are saying and there is no easy solution to this. I am in private practice, I use the Planning Portal because it is easy and quick for me to use. Being completely selfish I don’t care about ease of use for Planning Authorities because they don’t care about me!
    My client’s generally know nothing about the Portal and don’t care as long as their application is submitted.
    It now comes down to whether I print forms, complete them by hand, scan and email them OR I have to go to my client, explain I am using a third party private company to complete their forms and then get them to pay through that private company instead of direct to the Council and to do this pay a £20.00 fee.
    I don’t know and I may well give the new system a go but I think it will be quicker for me to go the paper route than the extended dialogue with my client.
    This may settle down with time but it has come as a shock and it is a large fee for Householder applications.

  16. I agree with the principle of an annual subscription payment for the Planning Portal service but do not agree that fees should be charged for handling application fee payments (as neither credit card companies or Local Authorities are allowed to do so) or that the Portal should attempt to enforce a monopoly over the method of payment of fees for online submissions made through the Portal. Where was the advance consultation on finance options for the Portal, setting out the alternatives and inviting comment? This current arrangement does not reduce costs for LPA’s as they still have to process and reconcile payments received via the Portal the same as when received direct from the applicant/agent. They also still have to check the fee is for the correct sum based on the type of application and scale of development proposed. The cost is all laden upon the applicant as agents will not bear such a charge themselves.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Martin. When the Portal was privatised 3 years ago part of the rationale was that the applicant should bear the cost for the service rather than the taxpayer in general supporting it. The view being that the applicant (whether homeowner or developer) is ultimately the beneficiary of the planning permission, increased value etc… You may or may not agree, but that was the view at the time. Rather than simply levying a charge on the service, we’ve tried to look at how we can add value too. As we are no longer part of government we do not need to ‘consult’ on these kind of changes, though as any good business should we looked at all our options and did some market testing with customers, as well as checking the legalities of the service. I hope that clarifies. Best regards, Sarah

  17. IAN C SAVAGAR permalink

    Hi Sarah
    You obviously disagree with my calculation if you are “open” perhaps you could give us a ball park figure, as I assumed 80% of applications generate a fee and that application numbers are concurrent, I would think my sum is not far off.
    In respect of the fee itself we have the basic agricultural fee of £96 -17%, handling fee
    Fee for conditions £80 – 20%, handling fee,similarly household applications,all of which make a fair proportion of submitted applications where any input required is limited and seems excessive.
    For prior approval applications where there is a time limit based on the date the application is received by the council, assuming a valid application, will the time limit be based on when the application is received by the Portal or the L/A in certain circumstances this can be critical.
    As to the fee itself I will admit that I shall probably continue to use the Portal under protest the time,cost and hassle of making paper applications just about out ways the cost.
    If the L/A find the fee is incorrect for any reason will there be a procedure for additional payment other than refund and how will this affect the time scale.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Ian. Thanks for your comment and questions. We are indeed much more transparent than most businesses, but we are still a business with current and potential competitors and we must be mindful of that when publish information on an open forum such as this unfortunately. Clive has also posted a comment about total income, but you must both appreciate that income doesn’t equate to profit. Regardless of the payment option selected by agents or applicants, the costs involved in processing the fees are high and in each case a mix of manpower and banking/finance fees, as well as the technical development of the service. Our business case for this service sees us cover our annual deficit and provide a reasonable development pot for 1App and other services, not make extortionate profits. In terms of your questions about time limits, nothing changes. The clock will start once the LPA receives the application from us. There are documented processes for managing refunds and additional payments. All can be found in our Agent FAQs (I’ll add the link to this post though it is still in the one from 1 Aug), but please do contact our Support team if you have any further questions and they will be happy to help. Best regards, Sarah

      • IAN C SAVAGAR permalink

        Hi Sarah
        So with a cheque which a lot of my farmer clients still prefer,an agricultural prior approval application which has a time limit of 28 days (including non-working days) for the L.P.A to respond, it could in the worst case scenario be 15 days until the L.P.A receives it.( L.P.A`s on receipt of a cheque accept it as valid from that date). This is obviously not acceptable.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        Hi Ian. There are many alternative ways to pay for applications. Nearly every adult in the UK owns a debit card and your clients could choose to use this to pay for their application at any time to suit them day or night, either online or by phone. This will release the application instantly to the LPA. I’m not saying they have to use a card – if they would prefer to continue paying by cheque then that option is still available, unusual as that is for an online system. As previously communicated, the time limit for determination starts once the LPA receives the application. Sarah

  18. Clive Milburn permalink

    Government statistics indicate there were just under 470,000 planning applications between April 2017 and April 2018. This would generate approx £9.4 million for the portal. If 20% were Prior Notifications or free goes it is still over £7.5 million income for the portal. It seems a large jump – up from nothing!
    I have just downloaded the householder applications, completed my details as agent and copied a load. To complete these by hand, scan and email them to the council with pdf’s of the drawings will take me 5 minutes longer than it does to complete the application online.
    I will do this for all of my clients whom I have currently quoted £206.00 for Planning.
    I will then see how things are panning out and speak to future clients about the additional £20.00 fee.
    I understand that feed back from the LA’s to the portal stated that they will have more resources to deal with Planning matters instead of chasing fees. I will be very interested to hear if any agents find any improvement at all in service delivery from the LA’s as a result of this.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Clive. I’ve just replied to Ian’s comment about income too. Please take a look as it explains the costs that are involved in the service. In terms of application numbers – actually over 25% are nil fee applications and will therefore not be charged for our service. On top of this, the many prior notifications added in recent years do not currently form part of 1App, though it is in our plans to include them in future should government retain them. I’ve been as open as I can be about the business case for this service, so this is the last I’ll post on the matter. I hope everyone understands that. Best regards, Sarah

  19. D Kumar permalink

    I want to have foot path lowered to park don’t know where to start

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi. You can find out more information on ‘dropped kerbs’ on our interactive guidance:
      You will however need permission from your local council before you do any work – you can find their contact details by entering your postcode into the ‘Find your council’ box on our homepage.

  20. I too believe in the principle the applicant/developer should pay for the Local Planning Authority and Planning Appeals service based on a percentage of the finished value of the development secured (in the way Building Regulations fees are calculated at present) provided those funds stay with the LPA (and so not enable the drain upon Local Building Regulation Authority revenues created by introduction of Approved Inspectors). However, as you quite rightly point out the Portal is now a private company and should not be in a position of market monopoly where it can dictate commissions/charges. None of the funds you will be collecting for the Portal will be going into local government coffers (to redress the local imbalance in LPA function funding) or central government coffers (unless you count the corporate tax on the profits the Portal hope to make from this move). Who can we call upon to set up a rival to the Portal which exceeds expectations rather than depressing them and failing to bring all forms of application submissions on line within the three year timeframe of its private company status? When will we be able to buy stocks in the Portal and exercise our rights as shareholders? I think this is a conversation that will continue to run even without any continued input into this commentary from the Portal.

    • Mikael Armstrong permalink

      I don’t agree. You can use independent building control which is open to competition. However, there is no competition with planning control. It is the LPA, nobody else. There is no reason why planning permission should cost more because because the value of a development may be higher than any other. The fees should purely be based on what it costs to determine them, nothing more.

  21. A Hope permalink

    I have to disagree with the payment options, we live in an economy where the majority of clients, especially householder applications, want to pay as little as possible, adding a fee just “send an application” is just going to stop people, myself included, using this service. Even more so is the validation of the cost. Lucky for me, whilst not only being an architectural technician, I’m also a web developer. If it actually costs £20 (inc vat) for each application, your system is doing something massively wrong.

    1. Automation, No persons at planning portal SHOULD ever need to touch an application, the forms are filled and probably batch sent to LPA’s at a given time, automation is meant to REDUCE costs.
    2. Staff need paid, I understand this, however, how much staff do you have vs what you actually need? I don’t want anyone to lose a job, but with this route, I think you’ll be losing a business, let alone 1 or 2 jobs.
    3. Server Fees. companies, especially government based or privatised always pay ridiculous amounts for simple technology, then even more for “experts” to run them… from my guess you use 123reg for your domains and hosting, which means at most you’re paying £1319.98+vat yearly, and if you are anywhere near this you’re overpaying massively.

    I wish planning portal the best in luck moving forwards when the fees are introduced, my usage will go with it.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi. Sorry to feel that you don’t feel able to support the new service. There are already long posts and comments about how we’ve tried to add value to our customers and continue to provide/improve our service, so I won’t repeat myself. Best regards, Sarah

  22. Jacqui Mitchell permalink

    So does this mean that for trees in a conservation area applications (currently free) there will now be a charge to use the planning portal?

    • Clive Milburn permalink

      I don’t think so as there is no fee to pay BUT it does mean householder NMA’s and clearing condition on applications – currently £34.00 – will have a 58% surcharge for using the portal.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Jacqui. No, free applications will pass straight through without a charge for the service as no payment is being taken. Sarah [updated]

      • Jacqui Mitchell permalink

        Thanks – Sarah do you mean ‘pass straight through without a charge’? or ‘with a charge’? Many thanks.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        *without* sorry!

      • Jacqui Mitchell permalink

        Thanks Sarah, that’s great news.

  23. Tony Covey permalink

    It seems to me that a significant revenue will be raised from this action – between and application i made in Feb 18 to one yesterday the PP ref increased by nearly 700,000 x £16.67 thats £11.7m
    Do you not feel the price tag is too high

  24. David Howells permalink

    I’m still not sure how this payment will help improve the process for local authorities. If you see the main issue being the payment hold up, and are therefore not releasing the application until that has been received which I believe will take anything from on the day to up to 10 days with a payment being made by a cheque. However, I dont believe this to be the main issue for LPAs. The main issue is the fact that it can take them up to 2 weeks to actually review the submission and then at times find the smallest thing to make an application invalid to allow themselves the full 8 or 13 weeks to assess the application as they had taken so long to validate it in the first instance. During that 2 weeks they have almost certainly received the cheque within the first day or two of getting the application. So please can you explain how your process of making agents and applicants pay an extra £20 will help to speed up the validation process for an LPA? Unless you are validating the applications as well, if the application is being paid for by cheque it could now take up to 4 weeks to be reviewed by the LPA (this includes your cheque clearing process) before making it valid or invalid, this is completely unacceptable if it is the case. So in some cases such as the agricultural prior approval that has been mentioned by others, this will add an extra 28 days to the process if the LPAs are not able to validate applications in a timely manner. So have you reached an agreement with the LPA’s that on release of the application following the receipt of payment they will in fact review and either validate or make invalid your application within 24 hrs? This is the only way that adding a charge to the submission process will help to improve the submission process and justify the costs. And will the charge also enable applications to be submitted with documents larger than 5mb. Because if it doesn’t, sending in the application by CD direct to the Council with a cheque will actually be quicker than your procedures.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi David. I’ve already posted quite a lot of info on the reasons for invalidation and delays, so I won’t reiterate here. We’ve also focused a great deal of effort on providing simple, quick alternatives to cheques, several of which release applications instantly to authorities. As you will also know from the previous posts and comments, the income from this service will be used to make improvements to the 1APP system itself as well as supporting our extensive free content etc… The 5MB limit is top of our ‘to do’ list – more to follow shortly. Sarah

      • David Howells permalink

        But you haven’t addressed my question about whether this will speed up the validation process, and I can’t see where you have made that response to anyone else, because no one else has asked it on this thread. How does your system help to improve that process. I can’t see how it will because you aren’t providing any additional resources to the LPA’s in terms of staff unless you are going to be specifically validating the applications before they get sent to the LPAs. If you aren’t doing this then how is the process improving. Is this payment ensuring that the LPA’s will respond back in 24hrs? This question has not been answered, so it will be interesting to hear your vies on this as well.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        Hi David, Only time will tell as to whether this speeds up validation or not, but it will certainly mean less time wasted for everyone. The process of reconciling payments to applications is time consuming for authorities and missing payments alone have accounted for around a quarter of invalid applications in recent times. From now on every application which an authority receives will have already had payment taken, so no more time wasted for them or you on searching for missing cheques or BACS payments. For agents working with fees under £1000, using our ‘nominate a third party to pay’ function will mean that the system chases your client for payment and notifies you when they pay, saving you time too. You’ll also get a VAT receipt automatically without having to phone and ask. And payment details are consistent for all authorities – so if you need to make a bank transfer for example you just send it to us, each time, quoting your PP reference number and we take care of the rest. I hope that clarifies. Sarah

  25. I have just submitted an application via the planning portal and there were only two by bank transfer or pay by cheque. I had to screen shot the payment page and email it to the applicant to make the payment. There is no option on screen to nominate the applicant’s email to make payment. Now I am not sure what happens next? Will the application automatically be transferred out of my pending list once the applicant has made payment? is there a telephone number they can ring today instead as they are not used to paying by BACS?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Tracy. The system will only show you the options available based on the fee – payment by card (either phone or online/nominate a third party) is limited to £1000, so I’m assuming that the fee for this application was higher than that? If your client pays via their bank today using Faster Payment (most bank transfers are this type), then the application will be released tomorrow. You will get confirmation of successful payment and confirmation that the application has been submitted in the usual way – by email and in the 1App status. A full walkthrough is available here fyi:

  26. Shaun Richards permalink

    Sarah – I’m not sure why my earlier comments didnt merit any reply, but I hope you can offer an insight here. I have been trying to use the Workspaces feature today, but have found that it hinders, rather than helps.

    I (along with many others, I imagine) use the ‘copy’ function to raise a new draft submission as a time saver. However, when copying over an old submission I am not given an option to save the newly raised application anywhere else than the default Workspace. As far as I can see, there is no way to allow a colleague to view the default Workspace, instead a new Workspace has to be created with a custom name to allow a colleague’s connection. I also can’t move a draft application from one Workspace to another, which itself would go some way to making the feature usable.

    None of this was ever a problem before, as I used to just produce a completed pdf form for circulation/checking prior to submission. But that function has now gone. I understand why a change had to be made there, but I do think that watermarking the pdf (as I’ve said above) is the better solution.

    I appreciate that there will always be teething and bedding in periods with service redesigns, and I hope that you can take a look into this and come up with a better solution.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Thanks for your question Shaun. You can copy applications within a workspace, but not between them at the moment. If you contact Support (t: 0333 323 4589 or they can move an application for you to get you started. We are working on a solution for the printing/exporting of applications in draft and thank you for your patience in the meantime. Watermarking may well be part of the solution. I’ll provide an update as soon as possible. Sarah

      • Shaun Richards permalink

        Thanks for your response Sarah, I’m very glad to hear that the Portal is open to looking at this issue a different way. I will do as you suggest and contact support to see what can be done about copying over a number of key applications in the interim.

  27. Paul Tunstall permalink

    Whilst Sarah appears to be making a valiant attempt at justifying this new payment regime, I am afraid it serves to create nothing more than confusion and ambiguity for agents and their clients. Many of our clients pay application fees by cheque and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Sending a cheque to Birmingham instead of walking into the local planning department is certainly not adding value to my business or those of my clients.

    Having just submitted an application and printed the remittance slip to go with the cheque, the submission process seems to stall without any clear guidance as to what happens next. The application remains in the ‘Draft’ folder so I have no idea whether the digital submission is acceptable or not. If I go to it, the final ‘Submit Application’ remains ‘incomplete’. I can see a scenario where in 10 days time, the cheque is cleared but the good old Planning Portal has not accepted my application. I am afraid it seemed at the outset to be a hastily and poorly justified and executed exercise in exploiting applicants and my experience today does nothing to change this view.

    I am pleased the 5mb limit is being reviewed. When you can post a social media photo of more than 5mb instantly, a supporting document to a multi-million pound planning application surely warrants greater capacity. Do you have an indication of time for this or do you need to collect many thousand £20’s first?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Paul. You will get the usual notifications when payment is made and the application released – by email and via the status in 1App changing. This part of the system has not changed. We are working with our technical supplier at the moment regarding the 5MB limit and will provide an update asap. Sarah

  28. P K Martin permalink

    It appears that the new App will not allow completed planning application forms to be downloaded before payment is made. Is this correct? Can completed forms be downloaded once payment is made?.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi. Yes, this is correct. Once the application has been released to the authority you will be able to download it. Sarah

  29. MCotton permalink

    I wish to voice my disappointment regarding Planning Portal fees. Definitely a rip off.
    It reminds me of the Thatcher years where the public was sold shares in publically owned companies (now all foreign owned)
    PP was set up and paid for by the government (sorry, tax payers) – to simplify the application process …. mainly for planning authorities (I was involved in the early trials with my authority)
    If it is quicker and better for authorities to process electronically – surely it should be cheaper than the manual method?
    Planning fees were debated and increased recently – without mention of delivery methods – did you not comment during the process? If additiional fees are valid why arent they integral? LAs could pay back when they receive via the Portal, otherwise they keep the processing fee. Avoids VAT.
    There is also plenty of added income for you from peripheral things; location plans, building control, land documents and data – which is Terraquests core business.
    The idea of holding applications until your fees have been paid is shocking. Did your business plan to the Ministry spell all of this out?
    As the process only involves a fairly simple computer program, hopefully other companies will now step in and compete.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      It is certainly quicker and more efficient for authorities, agents and applicants to work digitally, but the costs of maintaining and improving the service needs to covered by someone. Ultimately, even if local authorities had the money and were to pay, it would still be the taxpayer in general funding the service, not the businesses and individuals who benefit from the development. Sarah

      • Mikael Armstrong permalink

        The entire planning system is operated for the public at large. It is not there just for people who want to develop land or buildings. I am sure most people doing such work would be quite happy if they did not have to apply for planning permission at all. There is therefore nothing wrong with taxes paid by everyone paying for a system which is there to protect the interests of everyone to make things more efficient. However, I am not sure the £20 per application could be justified by any local authority, so that is no doubt why you have made the fee payable by applicants.

  30. Sunil Mehan permalink

    I am very disappointed, we are forced to make applications on line and now are being charged in addition to planning application fees which is a back door levy tax.
    I would rather have the option to pay directly to the local authority that is receiving the application where they already have means to collect the payment via their own portal or telephone service.

    • Clive Milburn permalink

      You can Sunil. That’s the point now – the Planning Portal is not a government operation or part of the Planning process – it is a private company that charges you to do your applications online.
      There is absolutely nothing to stop people scanning applications and emailing them to their council or using the other online company that provides online submissions direct to the Planning Authority.

      My argument on this whole issue is that the people the Planning Portal benefit the most is the LPA’s themselves. They will save an enormous amount in terms of admin costs per year by having online submissions automatically completing their own registration system.

      I believe they should be asked to contribute towards this system out of the increase in fees they are now charging.

      This is a double whammy on our clients who now have had a 20% increase in Planning fess + this charge.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        Hi Sunil. Clive is right. You have a choice and we are not part of government any more. However, scanning applications or emailing isn’t the best way forward for anyone. It takes time (and therefore money if you are an agent) to try and work round the system. It takes more time for the local authority, which again doesn’t work in your favour as you wait for the decision on your application. Ultimately, if people choose not to support the Planning Portal that is their choice, but they should be aware that the planning application service, the interactive guidance and the other support/guidance we offer won’t be there in the long-term if they don’t. Sarah

  31. Dean W Marsh Ltd permalink

    I’m a Planning Agent dealing with numerous Local Authorities. This ‘service’ fee is outrageously high for the service provided and will definitely dissuade clients / applicants from wanting to make an on-line submission. They will almost certainly want to make a paper or pdf submission direct to the LA instead, except for the larger applications.

    The justification of unpaid fees to LA’s seems redundant – typically the application just gets bounced after a couple of weeks if fees or info’ is missing. Without paperwork, this would just involve an e-mail from the LA saying the application has been aborted. Nothing even to post back (which they used to do).

    Presumably it is the LA’s responsibility to confirm compulsory information to the PP, so I really can’t see what extra work there is for the PP anyway. I’ve had several LA’s request additional registration info’ after being submitted via the PP regardless (such as when attachments turn up blank etc) so the PP doesn’t even act as a full checking service. Its just a postal service.

    Not sure if this applies to Building Regs Applications as well, but I have found that on-line Bdg Reg’s applications do not produce a stamped approved set of plans, which is a useful record for clients.

    As someone noted above – tax payers money was paid to set this service up. Now we have to pay to use it? Definitely shot yourself in the foot here.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Dean. I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve already written a lot about why this charge was necessary to maintain and improve the service we provide. I’ve also made it clear that we’ve stuck to our principles and tried to deliver something of value rather than just adding in a charge. The time and costs involved in chasing/reconciling missing payments are high, even for one agent or authority, let alone aggregated nationally. Sorting this out across the country can only streamline the process for everyone in the long run. It will also generate investment in the service and we are looking at improvements to validation as just one part of that. Finally – it does not apply to building regs and there is no plan to change that. Sarah

  32. Thomas permalink

    As a frequent user of your service and small business owner, I appreciate the need to monetise your business. However, £20 an application is exorbitant for the service you provide. Even £10 is too much. I’ll be going backwards to paper/CD’s til you resolve or a better equipped business steps in to provide the online service. Not even to mention removing the draft application download button UNTIL the application is paid for, that’s great logic!

    Alienating your loyal customer base is the first step onto a slippery slope, which is a shame as you’ve got the market cornered as it stands. Now that people can see just how easy it can be to generate huge incomes with minimal input, I’d imagine your competitors are going to be gearing up quick sharp in a hurry.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Thomas. I’m sorry you feel that way. As I’ve already posted somewhere on here, we did look at the fee carefully to make sure we could keep it as low as possible, but there are high overheads and we incur significant charges to deal with the processing of the payments. We hope you’ll like the improvements coming online soon through in the service – more to follow over the coming weeks. Best regards, Sarah

  33. Mikael Armstrong permalink

    I can understand the reasoning for making this service, but the cost of it should be paid for by the LPAs. They can then decide whether or not the efficiency savings it creates from them are worth the cost. If it is not worth the cost, then they would not use it. I have no problem with how it worked before and the £20 fee for payment is an extortionate amount for use of an online payment service. It must be the most expensive payment handling service in the country. The tax payer paid to set this website up and now we get stung to use it. It is outrageous.

  34. Tommy Davidson permalink

    It is too expensive to charge extra £20 on top of minor applications like a householders application, which is currently £206. This is ridiculous and most of the client will start to use the pdf format and post or email, which will add a burden to the council.

  35. David Purcell permalink

    The fee of £20 is out of proportion to minor planning applications. I have just paid £54 for an NMA.
    I feel the fee should be reduced to stop people reverting to paper applications. We appear to be going backwards!

  36. Peter Davis permalink

    I have been a Portal user for about ten years, and I like it, but the idea of being charged to make a payment irks me, and my cleints. It was bad enough when businesses were adding 1 or 1.5% to credit card, (and sometimes even debit card), payments, but the £ 20.00 PP charge is 10% on top of a householder application fee. That is very steep. And as many have pointed out, for other applications it represents an even larger percentage. The likes of Google, facebook and Twitter seem to be able to make a fortune without charging their ordinary users a cent.

    I have looked at another site but it is clunky compared to the Portal and I have not made an application with it. Perhaps I will try it, and maybe familiarity will make it feel better, but for now I have reverted to ‘paper’ applications. I have downloaded the forms for my LPAs and using my paid for pdf software have cretaed machine fillable form boxes where required so that I do not have to hand write them. I just have to remember to re-print the filled pdf form with my pdf generator software to lock the data into it so that it cannot be further amended by reciepents. My drawings are PC generated pdfs anyway so an email submission of all pdf documents is no trouble at all.

    I am not sure I could be bothered doing this for full applications because the form is so much more complex, but the great majority of my applications are householder or LDC, NMA DOC etc.

    Admin in one of the LPAs I deal with regularly tell me they were quite happy collecting application fees themselves, they don’t require any ‘help’ with it.They even suggested a way of avoiding the PP payment, they said many of their applicants/agents were doing it, but I wont repeat it on here nor would I do it myself.

  37. Matt Goddard permalink

    i have used the portal for years, it was very good. Unfortunately, the charges for me are unacceptable and even though it is a small amount of money, they all add up. i will be avoiding the portal now and using the old methods which is a bit of a shame. i suspect there are many others like me and the result with be that this site will be forced to just close down…..

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Matt. Sorry to hear this. We have tried to keep the service charge as low as possible and it is certainly competitive with the cost of printing and posting forms, plans and other supporting documents. Its also quicker. Running as was just wasn’t an option any more – we were running at a serious loss and still need to keep investing in the technology and other service improvements. The vast majority have stuck with us so far and are finding the new service very useful. I hope you’ll give us another try in the future. Best regards, Sarah

      • Philip Anthony permalink

        I think you are missing the point Sarah. I have not used the portal since you introduced the charge, I simply fill in the relevant LPA form and email it over with all the documents and make payment by the council web site. Just as quick as filling in the portal and if anything I would say the acknowledgement is coming back to me quicker. Absolutely no reason to post anything.

      • sarahchilcott permalink

        If you choose not to use our service Philip and have other options, then of course that is entirely your prerogative. I would only reiterate that we no longer receive any funding from government and therefore have to generate income to cover the costs of our services and all the interactive guidance and other content which we continue to provide and maintain free of charge for all users. We’ve tried to do this by adding value rather than just by sticking a charge on top of the planning fee. Many others are seeing value in the new service as well as supporting the Portal to deliver all the rest of what we do – content, support desk etc…. The value will only increase as the application service develops further from the investment we can now put in. Sarah

  38. Nick Willder permalink

    My first contact with the new fee was for a little package of Prior Notification of Demolition for three small buildings being operated as a single demolition contract. The £96 per demolition fee for a decision on whether consent is needed is galling enough; but then I hit the combined £60 portal fee, immediately did a U-turn and submitted to the LA by email. What a pity.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Nick. Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately the costs we incur are the same regardless of the level of the planning fee, hence the fixed service charge. Free applications go straight through without a charge. I hope you’ll continue to use the service for your other application types. Sarah

  39. Clive Milburn permalink

    Hi Sarah
    You may not consider that there has been enough complaints or people migrating from the portal to worry about but, given the feed back on this blog, are you considering other ways of financing the portal.
    At the end of the day the portal is online for anyone to look at and use the information provided. There is just a charge now for submitting an application that attracts a fee. This is no different to using an editable pdf and emailing it to the Council. Adobe Acrobat can be bought to provide this facility for less than your cost for submitting half the applications I make in a year.
    You do not even charge for Building Regs applications that attract a fee.
    This all seems a bit wrong to me,,,..
    I have already had three LPA’s moaning at me saying they will have to increase admin support to take emailed applications.
    Apart from obvious online advertising income, could you not consider an annual subscription system from agents or approach the DCLG or LGA or the LPA’s themselves to aid funding?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Clive. I can assure you that we looked at every option. Since we were commercialised by DCLG, income has been going up from advertising and other sources, but not quickly enough to cover the costs – which we have also cut substantially. The bottom line is that we just couldn’t carry on as we were indefinitely, particularly as we want to continue improving the service. The content and other services remain free, but they all cost money to run. Its fair to say that change is never unanimously welcomed, even when its for the best, but the figures speak for themselves and the vast majority are sticking with the service and starting to see the benefit as they get used to the new way of working. We will of course continue to monitor the feedback via all channels and think about how we can improve the service for all. Sarah

  40. Steve Eastland permalink

    When the planning portal was first proposed the concept was that it would remove all the local authorities varying requirements and allow us as agents to complete a single form with identical requirement in any LA across the country. Mr Pickles MP decided at the same time to allow all the local authorities to put in their own requirements thus negating the benefit of the planning portal.
    Now if we use this former government system, we now must pay for the privilege, with none of the advantages. This is galling as we were told by the company (the Planning Portal) that there would be an option to pay direct to the LA without incurring the charges. I am now given to understand this is no longer the case and we must pay through the portal or not use the portal for the application.
    It strikes me that the company has got agents used to using the system and is going to milk it for all it is worth.
    We can put an electronic application directly into the admin teams at the local authority for less money and without the delay of double handling that the portal has put in place handling data.
    Am I going to use the portal in future? Yes, for the time being until we can find a way of avoiding the charges on charges.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Steve. There is no doubt that a standard set of forms across the country was a massive step forward at the time – before the Portal there were more than 12,000 variations of planning forms nationally. The system is set up to deal with both national and local constraints, which LAs update directly on our system. I’ve already talked at length about why we have introduced the charge, but in summary it was a mix of dealing with a massive validation issue nationally and making sure that we turn a massive deficit into a small positive balance each year – so that we can be sure that the Portal will still be there in the future and that we can continue to invest in developing and improving the system. Finally, we’re already seeing good feedback that the service is speeding up processing where it is bedded in. That can only be good for you, your clients and local authorities. Sarah

  41. john newton permalink

    Just got a surprise when submitting today about another £20.00 fee to pay for what?? Another stealth tax to put up construction cost yet again : it gets passed down to the consumer the end of the day

  42. Vanessa Farrow permalink

    I used to submit all my applications via this portal, but since the £20 on-cost, I am now downloading the forms, completing them off-line and emailing them direct to the planning authority.

    I’m sure that this is how a lot of other professionals are viewing this on-cost, and are “protesting” in a similar fashion. I’m also sure that this causing additional work for the planning authorities, which was not the purpose of this portal.

    Could the fee not be a percentage of the application fee, as a flat rate is disproportional for smaller applications.

  43. R. OBrien RIBA Chartered Architect permalink

    This is a disgraceful stealth tax with VAT added to a an inflated payment service charge. If a good number of agents revert to paper applications I bet the charge would soon stop

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      I’m sorry you feel this way, but the rationale for implementing this service and the benefits it is bringing have been well documented on this blog. Ultimately the service is not mandated and everyone has a choice whether to use it or not. So far the vast majority have stuck with it and are seeing the benefits of this service and the ongoing investment it enables. Sarah

Leave a Reply to Clive Milburn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: