DCLG to offer out Planning Portal website as investment opportunity
Expressions of interest invited with public-private sector partnership preferred
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said it is inviting investment offers for the Planning Portal website which provides a one-stop shop for processing planning applications and accessing guidance.
It says the investment is needed to ensure that the portal can deliver a more comprehensive service and exploit further commercial opportunities.
DCLG said it is seeking "indicative bids and innovative ideas", to help decide the best options for the investment future of the Portal and to improve the website.
DCLG added that the government is "flexible" about the future model and welcomes proposals that could include government retaining a small stake, granting a licence or management contract or the business "becoming or having a mutualisation element."
It has issued a prospectus with more details. Around 70% of all planning applications in England and Wales now go through the Portal and this will increase to 80% in 2014/15. It is also the official electronic source of approved Building Regulations documents, with over 2 million downloads a year.
DCLG said, "This is an exciting commercial opportunity for an experienced partner to work alongside the department.
"The website is an important service that helps boost growth by ensuring the planning system can be swiftly and efficiently navigated. The business occupies a unique market position and hosts significant quantities of valuable data on the industry and the development pipeline: such 'big data' opens up significant commercial opportunities."
All planning authorities in England and Wales are linked to the Portal and the business hosts significant quantities of data on the construction industry and future developments.
The Portal has more than a million visits each month, receives around 320,000 planning applications a year with all but one authority allowing planning applications to be submitted electronically through the website. The site also reaches 85,000 professionals each week through its newsletter.
Customers that use the site include councils, architects, small businesses, shop-fitters, advertising companies, householders and housing and retail developers.
Planning Minister Nick Boles said: "There is huge potential to take the Planning Portal to the next level and provide a tool for both homeowners and businesses, including generating benefits from the data that it holds.
"We have built a business that is well run and has a strong brand but now is the time to look for investment for the site to fulfil its full potential. We are committed to improving the Portal and bringing in external expertise is the best way to ensure the site works at its very best in the future."