Headlines: February 17th, 2004

New measures to ensure all local councils can handle planning applications electronically have been announced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. It is setting up an integrated programme to bring together a number of projects and initiatives designed to drive forward the e-planning agenda.Planning Minister Keith Hill said communities across the country would benefit from advances in e-planning with a faster and more efficient planning system. An e-Programme Board and a dedicated team have been established as a focus for the operation to achieve the target of ensuring every local planning authority is e-enabled by the end of 2005. That would allow them to accept and process planning applications electronically.

The new e-Planning Programme Board is made up from representatives from a range of stakeholders, including local and central government, statutory consultees, NGOs and professional institutions. Richard Goodwin, who is currently the Planning Portal Director, will lead a new team within the department to support the Board. Management of the Planning Portal, which is designed to be a one-stop shop for information on all aspects of the planning system and which provides on line planning services, will transfer from the Planning Inspectorate the ODPM.

Announcing the moves, Mr. Hill said, “This is exciting news as it builds on the successful collaboration and delivery of a range of initiatives in the planning world, and clarifies the role and future of the Planning Portal and the Planning and Regulatory Services Online National Project being delivered by local government.” The measures were also welcomed by Katherine Sporle, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate, who said they would ensure that the Planning Portal continued to develop to meet the needs of the full range of stakeholders it set out to serve.

Since it was launched in May 2002 the Portal has signed agreements with 218 local planning authorities, more than half of all authorities in England and Wales. Thirty-eight local development plans are now accessible in electronic format on the Portal and almost six thousand planning professionals now subscribe to its weekly e-newsletter.