August 2018 sees notice from the Planning Portal that their enhanced systems will enable them to take all application fee payments for submissions via the Planning Portal to reduce fee handling costs for LPA's. The Portal will not charge LPA's for this improved service, but attach a substantial commission charge on fee payments received at the point of payment. This is to bring the finances of the Portal into the black and remove its financial reliance on its parent company. The Terraquest parent company branding has now been removed from the Portal and so it does raise the likelihood of the Portal being floated either as an independent company or for sale to another parent company.
This new cost is loaded directly on to the applicant and follows on from a recent rise in application fees.
If the Portal needs core finance to support its work and further development then why has this not been pursued on a subscription basis for the consultancies saving substantial time and money submitting applications? Where was the public consultation prior to the new commission charge being put into effect?
Recent statements from the Portal indicate that this new system mean no release of electronic submissions to the LPA's until both the application fee and the commission charge have been paid to the Portal. This would see an unacceptable monopoly situation. The Terraquest parent company branding has now been removed from the Portal and so it does raise the spectre of the Portal being floated either as an independent company or for sale to another parent company.
There is currently no legal obligation requiring all submissions to LPA's to be made via the Portal, only that standard application forms are used. Nor is there any legal barrier to application fees being paid directly to LPA's. I don't see any applicants choosing to use the Portal payment option. Gone is the premise of a public service designed to be a web-hosted conduit for on-line submission to all LPA's of all formal submissions. The Portal have significantly failed to achieve this and have no firm, published timeline for doing so, despite being privatised three years ago.