Published: Wednesday, 28th February 2018
This month's bulletin includes information on updating your links to the Planning Portal, our new Insights Reports, our commitment to GDPR and the Web Accessibility Directive.
Welcome to the first Local Authority Bulletin from the Planning Portal, our monthly briefing designed to bring you news about our latest products and services, industry developments, legislative changes and much more.
As part of our mission to transform planning and building control, we want to engage with local authorities to improve processes, identify issues and work together to support the planning sector.
As a user of our services we hope you’ll find this bulletin useful in keeping you up-to-date with critical changes and improvements, as well as helping you to get the most out of the application service and the wide range of accurate and informative content we maintain. We would also welcome your suggestions on content for us to include.
So, without further delay, here’s the latest from the Planning Portal.
We have sent a number of communications over the last year advising that the historic planningportal.gov.uk links on your local authority website need to be updated to planningportal.co.uk links.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) are currently supporting redirects to both the Planning Portal website (including the 1App paper application forms) and access for your integrated 1APP connectors to retrieve applications, but this support is being withdrawn from the beginning of April 2018.
It is vital to your service continuity that you arrange for the links on your site to be updated by 31 March at the very latest.
What you need to do
1. Updating your website links
To help you update the links on your website to the Planning Portal, we have created a links guide for local authorities.
Using these links will ensure customers will continue to be signposted to each Planning Portal service and have a positive experience using our site and yours.
If your local authority continues to provide individual links to each of the application forms, a note on updating them can be accessed here.
2. Updating your 1APP connector
If it isn’t you/your team that has responsibility for IT and integration to the Planning Portal, please contact your IT team and/or ICT supplier to discuss as soon as possible.
You will need to ensure that your 1APP connector integration is now using the correct web service URL and IP addresses.
Failure to make this change ASAP will result in application download failures that will need to be manually downloaded and re-keyed into your back-office system.
To update your integration the correct connector URL is:
If you need to update the IP Address then this is usually done in a host file or firewall. For security reasons the IP Address to associate with planningportal.co.uk should be requested from our Support team.
If you have any queries regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact the Planning Portal Support team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gain insights into ICT procurement and management processes and benefit from other local authority’s recommendations for improvements.
We are delighted to announce the first in an ongoing series of ‘Insights’ reports from the Planning Portal. Our goal is to develop and publish a library of research-led analyses for a wide variety of audience groups, including local authorities, across planning and building control.
Our Insights reports will identify pain-points, trends and other developments, seek to gain feedback and recommendations from key stakeholders, and share learnings. This enables us to understand our own roles, and others, in the process, and to work together to improve working practices and outcomes. Where appropriate we will update the reports over time to gauge improvements and developments, or the impact of changes within the sector.
We will be informing about subject matter for future Insights studies in due course. If you have any feedback on research themes or are interested in finding out about the benefits of sponsoring an Insights report, please contact us at email@example.com.
About this report
With over 90 per cent of planning applications submitted electronically via the Planning Portal, our partnership with local authorities has helped to establish the 1APP service as the main channel of submission to all local authorities in England and Wales.
In around 85 per cent of cases, local authorities have a 1APP connector that retrieves application information directly into the back-office system. Sometimes that talks to the DMS to index supporting documents and is linked to the corporate payment system too. But often this isn’t the case.
We invited local authorities across England and Wales to take part in a survey about IT in planning with the goal of empowering them to review their IT systems and the benefits they deliver, or otherwise. We were delighted with the comprehensive and candid responses we received and want to extend our thanks to all the local authorities who contributed.
This report demonstrates areas of improvement required in integration with the Planning Portal, pitfalls to avoid in procuring new IT systems and compares some key elements of current systems available. From service satisfaction levels across a wide range of criteria to shared learnings on process improvements, our report has it covered.
Accessing the report
If you would like a copy of this free report, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, which local authority you work for, your job title and email address.
Please be aware that we will share the information with our carefully selected sponsor, Tascomi, without whom we would not be able to invest the time in delivering what we are confident is a highly valuable report. Tascomi will not share your data.
As a key partner to local authorities and the planning and building control sector at large, we take our data processing and storage responsibilities very seriously. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just a few months away, we wanted to offer another update on our approach and how it will affect the Planning Portal.
We have already posted updates on our Knowledge Hub and have discussed the legislation at our local authority roadshows in November and December, and we will continue to update as we have more news. Join our Knowledge Hub to make sure you stay informed about GDPR and other Planning Portal news.
What is GDPR?
GDPR is an EU privacy law that will take effect on 25 May 2018. Anyone processing personal data will likely be affected by the GDPR. If you ever collect, record, store, use, or erase personal data from customers or contacts, the GDPR will have a significant impact your business.
Transmitting data to local authorities
We’ve been working hard to prepare for the GDPR, including auditing our data processes and systems. We want to make sure there will be minimal impact to our services. We will continue to provide details of the changes and do our best to assist customers so they can continue to lawfully transfer and use personal data when the GDPR comes into effect.
One of the key changes is that users intending to create and submit applications on the Planning Portal website (www.planningportal.co.uk) will need to confirm acceptance of our terms and conditions to register.
As part of this process we will also confirm with the user that the submission of planning applications through the Planning Portal constitutes consent to transmit their (or their client’s) data to the relevant local planning authority for the purpose of processing that application.
We will also reiterate this in the final declaration/confirmation screen (where the user is required to tick an explicit confirmation) prior to application submission. A similar statement will be included on all of our PDF-based forms.
Getting your permission to stay in touch
An integral part of GDPR compliance is getting the consent of our service users to contact them with relevant information about their industry and job function, as well as vital updates about our products and services.
In order for us to continue our mission to improve planning and building control processes for all parties involved, it is vital that we are able to communicate with our various audiences, share updates and learnings and encourage collaboration. In the coming months every planning or building control applicant will be asked to re-register. They will also be asked to select their preferences for specific communications from the Planning Portal, including these bulletins.
In next month’s bulletin, we’ll give you more details about what you will need to do and by when to ensure continuity of your Planning Portal service.
You may have heard about the directive on digital accessibility that was approved by the EU parliament in October 2016, and is due to come into force on 23 September this year. It will affect all public sector bodies as well as those who ‘provide services that are essential to the public, or services that specifically address the needs of, or are meant for, persons with disabilities’.
Aside from the legal implications for non-compliance (the directive advises that auditing will take place), failure to adhere to the standards means your local authority is not providing an accessible service to all your users, especially those with disabilities.
What you need to do to comply
- Ensure your website and apps comply with the accessibility standards
- Provide a mechanism for reporting compliance failures with these standards
- Provide a current statement on compliance using an EU Commission template.
Rules for compliance
We have provided some useful links at the foot of this article which, as you can imagine, aren’t particularly light reading. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Engage all relevant stakeholders ASAP. This will undoubtedly include your web development team/provider, but could also involve comms, marketing, IT and other executives. Even experienced developers may need to be trained on these specific aspects of design. Day courses that give a good overview are widely available, though aren’t particularly budget-friendly. We’ve noted that Udacity offer a free online course for senior developers, though we can’t verify the quality. They estimate it will take two weeks to complete. Please do inform us on our Knowledge Hub if you use this service or can recommend another to your peers.
- Conduct feedback sessions/user testing. Getting first-hand insights into how people use your website is vital. You might not even need to spend precious budget if you can find willing volunteers at local schools or community groups. Social media is also a great recruitment platform or simply ask around your local authority. Find out more about user testing on people with disabilities. While ensuring it doesn’t detract from the user experience of your site, having a feedback mechanism on-page to report any issues or make recommendations will greatly inform future design decisions and shouldn’t cost a penny, just some time resource to collate feedback.
- Avail of both manual and automatic testing. There are a number of reputable automatic testing tools available online, but they should be used alongside manual testing by experts and the aforementioned user testing. Access a directory for automatic testing tools.
- Manage your suppliers. If you outsource your web or app development, don’t assume that your supplier has web accessibility covered. Discuss and document your compliance requisites and get assurance that your site will be fit for purpose well in time for the deadline (web projects being notorious for over-running).
Don’t worry if this all sounds a bit daunting. All local authorities are in the same boat and there are plenty of resources our there to help. Please do share your learnings on our Knowledge Hub, get the wheels in motion regarding the above recommendations and let us know how you get on. The goal, to create genuinely accessible websites and apps is an important one and one that is worth investing time in.
Key dates for compliance
- 23 September 2018 – deadline for countries to have put laws and regulations in place to comply with the directive
- 23 September 2019 – all new websites (created after 23 September 2018) need to be accessible
- 23 September 2020 – all websites (not just new ones) need to be accessible
- 23 June 2021 – all mobile apps need to be accessible.
We are delighted to report that we now have 63 local authorities signed up to our Payment ReDirect service. We successfully processed 105 payments in January and 111 as of 21/2/18. The service allows clients to securely and easily pay for planning applications submitted by their agents. It offers the following benefits:
- Secure and simple: Applicants receive an instant payment notification to pay online, with a daily reminder to ensure prompt payment. The agent will be notified when they’ve paid.
- No additional costs: There are no system or back-office implementation costs, ongoing license fees, IT implications or extra admin or finance work – your local authority benefits from receipt of the whole fee!
- Speeds up validation: Removes cheque payments from the process, streamlining and improving registration and validation times, saving you time and money.
- Reduces financial risk: The client pays directly, so no cashflow or VAT issues for agents.
Please note - this is an additional Payment option and does not replace any existing options.
For more information, contact Ian Foster at the Planning Portal.
We are always looking for ways to improve our products, services and website content and better serve our community. If you have any comments or suggestions, or would like to know more about our products and services, please contact us at email@example.com.