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Public private partnership pioneers National planning e-Consultation service

Northgate Public Services today announces its participation in the development of the national e-Consultation Hub in partnership with the Planning Portal.

Following a successful three month pilot with a number of local authorities, Northgate Public Services is building a connector linking Northgate’s local authority planning systems to the national e-Consultation hub. The connector will be available in Spring 2009 and will provide the missing piece in the end to end e-planning process.

Every year over a million consultations are carried out by Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) following planning application submissions. A third of these are with Statutory consultees, many of whom have agreed to adopt the national hub as their preferred method of consultation. Currently, applicants must submit paper copies of their applications and LPAs forward a copy to every consultee.

Local authority clients who implement the new Northgate e-Consultation Connector will gain a range of benefits including:
• consultation request and responses automatically sent to and received from the hub into the back office system;
• saving of staff time and cost in loading consultation requests on to the hub and downloading responses, including attachments;
• saving of time in sending and receiving consultation requests and responses;
• automatic notification of decisions to consultees.

Chris Kendall, Director of the Planning Portal, said today: “I am delighted that Northgate are firmly committed to the development of an e-Consultation Hub connector which will provide a fully integrated online consultation solution for their Local Planning Authority (LPA) clients. Currently many LPA staff spend considerable time, effort and money printing and circulating paper application files to consultees. Through e-enabling this process, the e-Consultation hub revolutionises the way local authorities and consultees interact, providing a more effective service and significant efficiencies for all participants.

“I anticipate Northgate will be the first technology provider to deliver an operational connector and I look forward to working closely with them and other ICT suppliers on their connector development in the near future. This is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to improve services for clients and I am particularly pleased at the vision and leadership shown by the Northgate team on this project.”

Russell Osborne, Managing Director, Citizen Solutions, Northgate Public Services added: “We are committed to working in innovative partnerships to deliver benefits to local communities. Whilst the efficient use of technology will meet the needs of the planning industry, we are committed to working with our partners to use the potential benefits from the system to generate higher degrees of informed public participation from individual citizens and communities affected by the planning system.”

For more information:
Fellows’ Associates:
Kathy Sutton 020 7395 1516; 07966 890401
Konstantinos Makrygiannis 020 7395 1518; 07930 566291
Notes to Editors

1. Northgate Information Solutions is a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets. Its task is to enhance public value through the intelligent use of people and technology, and to share in the economic and social benefits that this brings. Founded in 1969, the company has nearly 8,000 employees.

2. In the UK, Northgate works with 95% of local authorities and every police force. Northgate Public Services supports public service transformation through sustainable performance partnerships. Its services are used to provide environmental and energy solutions; in electoral administration systems covering 18 million people; by over one hundred housing associations; and to support the national system for reporting police performance.

3. The Planning Portal is the first port of call for anyone wanting to find out about the planning system in England and Wales. Its aim is to provide a one-stop-shop supplying answers, services and information to anyone involved in the planning process - from home owners and businesses to planning professionals and Government officials. The Planning Portal is delivered by Communities and Local Government (CLG).

4. The E-consultation Hub is being developed by the Planning Portal and is funded by CLG. The internet-based service was launched in Spring 2008 and manages the exchange of documents and messages about planning consultations between participants in the planning process. October 2008 saw the successful completion of the official trial of the live e-Consultation hub. It is anticipated that the first back office ICT connector developed by Northgate will be available from April 2009.

5. The consultation process is still very much a paper process. The bulk of consultations are with local Consultees, primarily citizens, local residents and amenity and parish and town councils outside the metropolitan area, Highway authorities and national agencies such as the Environment Agency and English Heritage. In total there are:

• 34 highway authorities
• around 10,000 community, parish and town councils in England and Wales
• 850 other consultees that look at consultations regionally or nationally
• more than 50 Statutory consultees
• individual citizens