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2019 round-up

by on December 18, 2019

We’ve had a busy and productive 2019; working hard to improve our services by implementing a wide range of updates and hosting our very first annual conference. With the year drawing to a close, we wanted to take a look back at what’s been accomplished this year and to look forward to some of the work in store for 2020.

All Prior Approval applications can now be made online

In late November, we updated our online service to include all the current Prior Approval application types and since the update 710 such applications have been submitted online. The ability to submit any Prior Approval application through the Planning Portal had been requested by applicants, agents, local authorities and national government for some time, so we were happy to be able to deliver this before the end of the year.  This was a significant development project which involved:

  • The introduction of 16 new application types
  • Updating the application chooser and fee calculator
  • Replacing inconsistencies in the references to the name of the application
  • Providing an ‘eligibility’ question for each new type to ensure the proposal meets legislative requirements reducing invalid or unnecessary applications.

Local authorities are reminded that the initial implementation of these Prior Approval applications is without integration to back-office systems. Therefore, these need to be manually downloaded from your Planning Portal account.

It is important that these are actioned ASAP as prior approval applications receive deemed consent after a fixed time period (56 days for most, though some are shorter). Therefore, it is paramount that they are receipted and processed correctly.

Read our guidance for local authorities about manually downloading applications.

Planning Portal Conference 2019

This year we undertook the challenge of hosting our first ever annual conference, bringing together speakers, delegates, exhibitors and sponsors from across the industry to discuss the most important topics affecting planning and building.

We were very pleased with how it went and there were so many interesting discussions and presentations from experts, really getting to the heart of what matters within the industry. There were also key networking opportunities available, allowing those within the built environment field to meet other delegates and to find out the latest news and opportunities from our fantastic sponsors and exhibitors.

For 2020, we are looking to expand on what we accomplished this year, so if you were in attendance please do let us know your thoughts by answering our short survey.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, exhibitors, partners and of course our delegates.

Browse the images in our conference gallery.

SponsorsEsri, Urbanist Architecture, Objective, Plan Grid

ExhibitorsBECG, CIAT, Environment Bank, Esri, Francis Taylor Building, ICF Supplies, LABC, Nature Space, Objective, Plan Grid, ReQuestaPlan, Urbanist Architecture


Enhancements to the Nominate payment option

You may be familiar with the Nominate payment option which allows a user to request that someone else pays for an online application. Agents and applicants have reported great savings in time and effort since its introduction and the feature has been hugely popular; now around half of payments are made through the Nominate process.

In August, as a result of analysis and user feedback, we made some significant changes to:

  • Make all payment options available to those using Nominate
  • Improve email notifications, including clear formatting and a description of the Planning Portal’s role in the application process
  • Introduce alerts for when payment requests have been accepted
  • Display clear payment rejection options
  • Make nominee and nominator names obvious and editable
  • Introduce a notes field in the set up and payment request email.

All of this provides a more transparent service and eases user understanding of applying online.

Improvements to form redaction for local authorities

Another area of improvement to our services involved refining the redacted versions of the forms we provide for local authorities in England.

Local authorities are obliged by legislation to provide a publicly accessible record of planning applications. These days, this means that applications, once validated, are usually made available via the local authority website.

By providing a copy of the online application as a PDF form with personal information redacted, we can help LPAs across England be more compliant.

Industry Insight: App data down, Portal site traffic up

Planning applications being submitted across the country have declined slightly, likely due to economic uncertainty and the current unstable political climate, creating nervousness around planning permissions and build rates.

Planning applications for the 12 months leading up to October 2019 show an eight per cent decrease for householder and full planning applications, in comparison to the 12 months prior to this, whilst there has been a five per cent application drop for all application types.

There’s been a far greater drop in applications when looking at early stage major developments, with a 22 per cent fall in submissions for outline consent and a 14 per cent drop in reserved matters.

Interestingly, the number of people visiting the Planning Portal website has increased over the last year, particularly earlier in 2019, suggesting that despite there being less home improvement projects taking place, home owners are still researching their next project. It will be intriguing to see the shift in the spring and summer of 2020.

What’s ahead for 2020

For the coming year we will deliver a significant project for the Greater London Authority and improve our schema for our planning application service, continuing to roll out improvements based on user feedback. We will also be attending local authority meetings, running regional workshops, exhibiting at national events and of course, holding our second annual event; the Planning Portal Conference 2020.

How we are listening, learning and improving

Over the last year, the Planning Portal attended many local authority development manager meetings and visited agents to try and understand different ways of working, we brought this knowledge back to our teams in order to improve our services which we’ve demonstrated through our recent service enhancements.

We always welcome feedback to help us to enhance our services and understand how you think the planning process can be improved, such as access to local authority policy and local plans. Please do contact us with any thoughts you have regarding this. As always, you can contact our Business Development Team or email

2019 has been a very busy year for us and we’d like to thank everyone who has offered their continued support which has helped us to accomplish so much throughout the year.

Christmas team availability

We’d like to take this opportunity to share our support teams’ opening times for the Christmas period and wish you an enjoyable Christmas and a successful 2020.

Customer support opening times

Christmas Eve 09:30 – 15:30
Christmas Day Closed
Boxing Day Closed
27 December 09:30 – 15:30
30 December 09:30 – 15:30
31 December 09:30 – 15:30
1 January Closed
2 January 09:00 – 17:00 (normal hours resume)

Our telephone payment team will continue to be available 24 hours a day throughout the Christmas and New Year period for those customers wishing to make planning application payments.

Browse our bank of frequently asked questions or find contact information on our help page.

  1. Clive Wilson permalink

    Please could the bright red watermark on the application form be either paler or in smaller typeface. This is what the applicant sees and it is in your face and a bit aggressive

    • Portal Director permalink

      Thank you for the suggestion, Clive. I will pass it on to our team to log as a suggested improvement.

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