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1App improvements in the pipeline

by on October 26, 2018

We mentioned a few weeks ago that we were working with our technical supplier to re-introduce the ability to download PDF versions of draft planning applications. This is based on feedback from many agents that they use these PDFs to allow clients to check applications prior to submission. At the same time we need to make sure that the downloaded applications are not valid for submission by email/post to an LPA as this will only slow down the process for everyone.

We’re therefore pleased to announce that the development is well underway and we are currently working towards putting the change live around the end of November/early December, the final date to be confirmed.

The downloaded draft forms will have the following differences from the standard application forms:

  • A watermark and header which states that it is a draft version and not valid for submission
  • Removal of some form details that would not need to be checked with a client

In parallel, our supplier has also been working on an increase to the maximum file size for supporting documents. When the original 1App service was launched, the maximum size for each file was set at 5MB as this was the limit for receipt by most authorities. Technology has moved on of course since then and we’ve wanted to increase this limit for quite a while. It’s still early days on the Financial Transaction Service as things continue to settle down, but this was the obvious place to start for us in terms of improvements made possible by income coming into the business. We know that this change will also be welcomed by many agents as well as many local authorities.

The change to double the maximum file size to 10MB will therefore be applied at the same time as the draft application downloads. You will still be able to upload as many files as you need for each application and the process for uploading won’t be affected. Any English authorities who cannot accept 10MB files, please contact us before 9 November, by emailing communications@planningportal.co.uk.

This is just the beginning of the pipeline of improvements and we’ll continue to update via this blog in the coming weeks and months. Thanks again for your ongoing support as we work together to improve the process for everyone.

16 Comments
  1. Shaun Richards permalink

    Excellent news Sarah, thanks for driving this change through! Could you give more detail please on the areas to be omitted from the draft forms which you say would not need to be checked by the client? Great news on the 10MB limit too. Whilst still restrictive it will certainly make life a little easier.

    • Planning Portal Content Team permalink

      Shaun,

      The current plan is to remove the agent details and the declaration.

      From discussions with users, these were the fields that they felt would not need checking with the client.

      The system will also be configurable, so we can make changes going forward as required.

  2. Brett Spiller permalink

    This is a step in he right directly. As a regular user I would also suggest that you need to ensure that card payments can be made for more significant applications. The current delay in transferring applications to LPAs owing to pending BACs transfers is not acceptable.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Brett, Thanks for your comment. I’ve just replied to Lee Wright who raised similar points , so please do take a look at that if you have a moment. Thanks, Sarah

  3. Lee Wright permalink

    It is good to see draft forms being available again; albeit, I would stress that bringing back something that was removed is not an ‘improvement’, but a reinstatement. Surely ‘DRAFT’ printed across each page as a bold water mark and your copyright printed with it in smaller print should suffice and stop LPA’s accepting the forms. You could also email all the LPA’s and ask them not to accept such forms and remind them it is a breach of copyright.

    The payment side is a mess and with so many applications now being over £1000.00, making electronic payments and the delays it involves is unacceptable and I am unsure why this is? It surely cannot be for fraud purposes, as card fraudsters buy a tv or computer and not put a planning application in!

    10mb attachments is great news.

    Just these few tweaks and it should be a really good system.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Lee
      Thanks for your comment. The £1000 limit on cards was put in place to allow us to keep the service charge as low as possible. We can’t charge a different amount for different payment routes, but on credit cards we typically incur a fee of around 1.5-2% depending on the card. If you have the option, Faster Payments are a better method than BACS, as they are usually with us the same day. Sarah

  4. Neil Warren permalink

    Not sure about this, why not just send to client prior to submission
    Regard
    Neil Warren

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Lee permalink

      Hi Neil – it’s because the new forms cannot be printed off in PDF prior to submission, as the portal have removed this facility with the last upgrade. The request is to the portal to add this facility back.

  5. Andrew Dunks permalink

    I agree with Lee Wright below – Just the watermark (and maybe the declaration removal) would suffice. I’m now going to get customers saying “I thought you were going to act as my agent but your details aren’t on the form” . . . .

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Thanks for the feedback Andrew. I appreciate it may feel a little ‘belt and braces’, but unfortunately even though many agents wouldn’t dream of misusing the service in this way, some have tried to get round it. To protect everyone therefore we do need to make sure its as watertight as possible. Offline feedback was that the client wouldn’t be asked to check the agents details in any case, so they are safe to redact. I hope this gives you some context. Best regards, Sarah

  6. Miles Forsyth permalink

    Excellent news ! I always used to send clients a ‘pack’, drawings, forms, all the docs, as pdf, to be agreed as a final ‘check over’ before submitting. While the workspace option was used by a regular client the other day without issue it’s a clumsy workaround that I can’t see being appropriate for ‘non-professional’ clients/householders.

    I ‘get’ the point about users circumventing the Portal’s fee but my ‘vote’ would be for a watermark saying ‘NOT FOR LPA USE’ or something across each page and otherwise leaving the form exactly as would be submitted – I’m not sure if omitting agent’s name and/or declaration or anything else adds or subtracts anything to the process beyond being slightly irritating. Whereas watermarking versus £16-67+VAT fee should deter all but the most ardent, errant Photoshoppers !

    More positively the zipped ‘pack’ that is available after submission is excellent. Thank you.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Thanks for the comment Miles. I’ve just replied to Andrew who raised a similar point about agent details. I hope that clarifies. All the best, Sarah

  7. Matt Hobby permalink

    It seems nonsensical to me that when we now submit an application, it stays in the Draft folder until the fee payment has been processed, and whilst it stays in Draft it shows as being incomplete and can be submitted again, possibly multiple times. Once submitted, the application should move to the Submitted folder, as was the case before the last update. Then it moves again to Transferred once payment is cleared. Simple…?

    It would also be handy to receive an email from the Planning Portal after an application is submitted, rather than having to wait sometimes days before the confirmation of receipt of payment email arrives. Confirm receipt of the submitted application ASAP, please.

  8. IanSsavagar permalink

    Hi Sarah
    I have reverted to using a P.D.F editor to fill forms etc and e`mail direct to the relevant authority but have been told on several occasions that they will only accept electronic submissions via the Planning Portal. Quoting the guidance within the Parliamentary Acts has had the required effect and enabled submissions to be validated. However there is already another company providing a similar service, but are at this time not accepted by many authorities, whereas on many of the Local Authority planning websites there are specific instructions to submit electronic submissions only via the Portal.
    Whilst the Portal was either a government organisation or indeed a free “government sponsored” organisation I can see no conflict of interests, but now the service provided comes at a cost I can already see other organisations wanting to offer the same service and if Local Authorities do not recognise this in their advice notes there may be trouble ahead.

  9. Mark Maxted permalink

    Just getting my head around the forms issue, and I’m still not happy. I agree with Lee Wright that giving back something that was taken away is not an improvement, and I’d go a step further than that in light of the fact that the form will have the word draft plastered across it and have bits blanked out.

    Any client hovering over their cheque-book to pay my invoice would understandably question whether the application has been submitted at all, and I’ve already had this a couple of times.

    I very strongly disagree with a third party marking my submission as a draft when it is not.

    I’m afraid that all of this is a backward step, and not at all the improvement that it’s being advertised as. Furthermore I see no reason for it, and the only explanation given appears to me to translate to “because we say so”.

    Not happy guys. The Planning Portal is gradually transforming from a useful servant to self-important master, introducing constraint where it is not required, and trumpeting the same as service.This is a classic case of “hang on guys, you’re supposed to be helping us, not making things more difficult”.

    I’ll be very interested to see whether this view gets posted or binned.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Mark. Sorry to hear you’re not happy. We have always tried to make things easier for our customers, but fundamentally we need to support ourselves financially or we can’t continue to provide all of the forms and content that we’ve done for so many years. As I’ve already said, we’ve tried to do that in the right way and largely its been well received, particularly now a couple of niggles have been ironed out and new processes are bedding in. Whilst most of our agents are supportive of the service, there are a few that have already tried to find a way round the system and of course we have to minimise their ability to do that – to protect the future delivery of our service and to make it fair for those who are using it honestly. You’ll see back in the thread several comments asking us to watermark the forms as draft for example, so whilst we can’t please all of the people all of the time, as the old adage goes, we will try to please some of the people some of the time as we continue to develop the service. Sarah

Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that are not constructive or that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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