North Somerset Council uses its Internet pages to reduce the number of invalid planning applications, save officer time and deliver annual cost savings.
North Somerset Council receives approximately 3 000 planning applications a year, of which at least 50% are invalid. Responding to the complications caused by these invalid applications takes between 40% and 60% of the time of four full-time employees, whose task is to register and process planning applications. The council also receives, on average, 10−12 calls per day regarding what planning permissions relate to a given site (costing the authority about £61 per day compared to £3.40 if this information is made freely available online).
Finally, the council has to manage a further 8−10 questions per day asking whether a particular site is subject to a designation. These calls take between 5−15 minutes each and the cost of theses calls is about £30 per day based upon the council's The Budget Challenge 2011−2015 (£3.06 per phone call x 10 minutes each).
North Somerset Council decided to implement a strategy to deal with this issue by encouraging planning agents to get things right first time when they submit applications. However, this is not possible if the agents are not aware of potential constraints that relate to their site. It was therefore decided that planning constraints should be made freely-available online to reduce the cost of dealing with invalid planning submissions.
All planning constraint information has now been located into a single location and made available to the public via the authority’s website. This uses their standard interactive mapping application, together with a range of Ordnance Survey mapping datasets (supplied under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement) to deliver easy-to-use and easy-to-interpret, mapping. All data is automatically updated every evening.
- Significant reduction in officer time spent dealing with invalid applications.
- Reduction in the number of expensive face-to-face and telephone enquiries by providing applicants with online answers to planning enquiries.