Headlines: February 12th, 2009

There are hopes that 100 local planning authorities will sign up to the new online service developed by the Government’s Planning Portal by the summer. Thirty-four authorities in various parts of England have taken part in trials of the e-Consultation Hub.

The Hub is a large national project set up to make consultations on planning applications quicker and more transparent. It was launched in the spring of last year and the Planning Portal says the local authorities that have participated have seen benefits including a faster, more streamlined approach to the planning process.

The trial period ended in October and the Portal said authorities had reported significant improvements in their planning consultation processes. Consultations are being issued and acted on more quickly and councils have made significant savings in printing and postage costs. The Hub is also being advocated as an effective mechanism for managing consultation processes.

It is expected that the development of new connectors, enabling responses to be fed into authority’s back office systems, will lead to a significant improvement in the efficiency of the process. It is estimated that planning applications generate around a million consultation requests a year from authorities to a range of bodies including national agencies, parish, town and community councils and utility companies.

Responding to the positive feedback from the three-month trial, Chris Kendall, the Director of the Planning Portal, said he was hoping that up to 100 local planning authorities would sign up to the new system by August. “Currently many LPA staff spend considerable time, effort and money printing and circulating paper application files to consultees. The hub standardises and e-enables this process delivering significant efficiencies for all participants and revolutionising the way LPAs and consultees interact,” he said.

The Planning Portal team have now obtained firm commitments from key statutory consultees to adopt the National Hub as their preferred method of consultation.