Socitm: ‘Councils need to improve planning objection process online’

Only a third of councils provide a good or very good service for citizens going online to object to a planning application, according to research.

The latest survey by public sector ICT representative body Socitm found a raft of problems stemming from poor integration of third party software into websites.

This affected the quality of the customer journey and task promotion, according to the new Better Connected report.

The report said: “Very few councils customise the implementation of the planning system, even in the simplest of ways, and this seriously affects the customer experience.

“Many were let down, for example, by the restrictions of the search function within the planning system.”

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Socitm was also concerned that many councils failed to give information about what planning officers are legally allowed to take into consideration when deciding or making recommendations on an application.

Almost no council provided helpful information at the point of completing the comments form, it said.

In addition, reviewers found that many councils used maps which slowed down the process and were often unusable.

They also said that although councils are getting better at avoiding jargon, there are plenty which still need to make improvements on their planning pages.

Wording on some sites failed to make it clear that councils would still publish names and addresses even if they stated they would not display users’ personal data online.

Socitm said: “Most members of the public will not be able to differentiate between ‘personal data’ (meaning e-mail address, phone number etc) and their name and address which is not considered personal data for planning purposes.”

The report highlighted examples of good practice by councils in Eden, Edinburgh, Flintshire, Preston, Rushmoor, Southampton and West Berkshire.

Colin Marrs

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