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The Planning Portal’s payment service drastically improves payment efficiency

by on February 14, 2019

Our aim when launching our new payment service in September 2018 was to speed up the planning application process by helping to reduce the amount of invalid applications.

We knew that missing payments accounted for a quarter of all invalid applications across England and that these missing payment issues were very often related to cheque payments.

There is no doubt that cheque payments were causing delays in the planning application process; aside from the fact that they were more easily lost or mislaid than other payment methods, they also had to be sent and then cashed, which in itself could be a lengthy process.

We decided to try and reduce the amount of cheque payments used by making more payment options available to all our customers – whichever local authority they were applying to – and encouraging them to pay for their applications by other means. Our data shows that this approach has worked well. Before we launched our payment service, around 25 per cent of all planning applications submitted via the Planning Portal were being paid for by cheque. This has now fallen dramatically to just three per cent.

You might wonder where all these cheque payments have gone. Nowadays, around 85 per cent of the payments we receive for applications are online payments or nominated payments.

For those that don’t know, the nomination service we provide allows applicants to defer payment to a third party. This service was previously known as our Payment ReDirect service and was only available for applications going to opted-in authorities. With the launch of our new payment service, this feature has become a standard payment method and is available for all online applications.

The convenience of the nomination feature has clearly appealed to our customers, with around half of online payments now being done by a third party.

As you can see, our transaction service has turned unreliable and inconsistent cheque payments into fast, digitised payments; bringing down invalidation rates and making the process more efficient for everyone. These updates have bought the planning application process firmly into the 21st century.

From the feedback we’ve received so far we know that our payment service is helping local authorities and planning agents alike. We’re proud of our achievements, but we’re also aware that there is always more to be done. We are currently working on refining our nomination feature, to make the process as simple as possible for both the nominator and the nominee, regardless of the payment method. We will be sharing more details on this soon, along with other improvements to the payment service and 1App itself.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear about your experiences using the new service. Please get in touch at communications@planningportal.co.uk to let us know.

11 Comments
  1. john newton permalink

    A very good system but another on cost to be picked up by the client or end user

  2. John Theobald permalink

    Since September we have seen a dramatic drop in payments taken over the phone in our Planning support team and also cheque payments continued to decrease.

  3. Will Abbott permalink

    yes, but the system only accepts credit/debit card payments up to a maximum of £1000. This, as I see it, is a constraint.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Will. Although 90% of planning fees are less than £1000 we are looking at whether we can raise this, as we understand it would still be a preferred option for some larger fees. You will be aware from previous comments that we had to look at a limit to keep the amount of the service charge as low as possible, whilst managing our financial risk – as you may know, businesses typically incur around 1.5-2% in card fees from their bank. What sort of fees would you typically want to pay by card that you can’t currently? And would debit card be a viable option for you? Thanks, Sarah

      • I paid a £20k fee by Internet Banking to PortalPlanQuest. In fact, it’s easier than entering my debit card details each time.

  4. Alice H permalink

    The system is good for small fees. However, none of this nominated payment applies for fees over £1000 and therefore this has to be made by BACS which can take a long time to clear, and can be very frustrating for agents and their clients.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Alice. BACS should take no longer than 2-3 days to clear, so please do speak to our Support team if you’re having any issues with particular applications. If your bank offers ‘Faster Payments’ this will also be much quicker. I’ll also ask someone to contact you and see if there is anything which can be done more generally in terms of the process – I know some agents have dealt with this in different ways. Sarah

  5. Clive Wilson permalink

    Surely the reason for cheque payments going down to 3% is partly because some councils are no longer accepting cheque payments not as you suggest only because of paying online through the Portal

    Clive Wilson

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Clive. The figures quoted are only for applications submitted through the Portal, so how LPAs deal with payments for other applications is not relevant to the figures. Application numbers are similar to before the service was introduced, so it’s also not accurate to say that people who previously paid by cheque are no longer using the Portal. Sarah

  6. What are the plans to extend this to Wales? I submitted three applications to Conwy Council this afternoon, and had to pay by phone three times, as their online payment system isn’t working?

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Sorry Steve, but there are no plans to extend this to Wales at the moment. Sarah

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