Chorley Borough Council has improved customer service with a system that allows local residents to view and comment on planning applications online.
The council said the system, which was rolled out at the end of April, had lowered postage costs, freed up staff time, and made it easier for residents to access and comment on applications.
Many councils have been putting planning applications online over the past couple of years, after government targets encouraged the move. The Transformational Government project, which encourages the uses of electronic service delivery in the public sector, aims to make it easier for citizens to find the information they want.
Louise Taylor, resources manager at Chorley Borough Council, said the system had eased storage requirements, as well as reducing costs arising from photocopying and posting planning applications. Since the system has been introduced staff have noticed fewer people coming into the council offices to view applications, she added.
"There is now access for customers to view the plans 24x7, rather than being restricted to using the council offices in Chorley between 9am and 5pm. It also cuts down on storage, because you have not got rows of planning applications lying around," said Taylor.
The council used the ROCC PDF Tools Integration package to implement the system. Adobe Reader is used to view the planning application, and there is a measuring and mark-up tool enabling residents to scale the plans, work out distances and make comments on them.
Taylor said, "The government has been pushing for councils to introduce electronic planning services. We decided not to until we had a fully integrated system. One of the strengths of the system is the way that it is populated from the back-office software.
"The idea is to improve customer service. People can look at them from the comfort of their own homes, and dozens of people can see them at the same time."