St Albans planning portal to undergo revamp after ongoing problems with site

The St Albans district council planning portal. Picture: SADC

The St Albans district council planning portal. Picture: SADC - Credit: Archant

Problems with the council’s website has left some residents struggling to have their say on housing decisions.

Cllr Mary Maynard.

Cllr Mary Maynard. - Credit: Archant

People trying to view the St Albans district council (SADC) Planning Portal have reported intermittent problems over a long period of time, including ‘Forbidden’ errors blocking access or deleting comments.

It was completely down for multiple days in early April, meaning residents may have missed deadlines for consultations on planning decisions which affect them.

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Mary Maynard, said sorting this problem was one of the first things she set in motion when she was appointed to the role.

She described the site as “hopeless and clunky”: “We have been aware of an issue which started last summer - it was intermittent before but the real problem happened [in April].”

SADC are working towards moving the planning process onto a different, more user-friendly, platform.

“In the meantime, we are trying to find ways to keep what is on there going,” she said.

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She believes the problems were caused by an upload of large documents onto the SADC pages, including infrastructure work for the Local Plan.

Cllr Maynard added: “It is very important that people can view the planning documents and we have to do everything we can to ensure that - and we are.

“We have invested in completely replacing it with a new platform.”

She said there were planning documents going back 20 years on the outdated technology.

“I am looking forward to seeing something new because I use it all the time.”

Head of corporate services at SADC, Simonne De Vall, said: “We have had issues with our planning system for some time. We are working on a significant upgrade which is currently being tested and we hope to launch this summer.

“The upgrade should improve both performance and the overall customer experience.

“In the meantime, we are trying to stabilise the intermittent performance issues, as we understand how frustrating it is for people if they have to try again at another time. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this is causing.

“If the system is down, people can still make comments on planning applications by email, post or from the link on our planning homepage. Planning applications can be viewed too at the council offices during office hours.”