Greater Cambridge Statement of Community Involvement Consultation Draft 2019
Representation ID: 33088
Respondent: Heather Coleman
IDOX is very hard and slow to use. It is very user-unfriendly for members of the public, thus may disenfranchise many people.
This entire consultation seems to be utter gibberish to call a spade a spade. I've no idea what most of the questions mean. I've seen discussion of it by a group who are well-versed in responding to planning applications and frankly, they have no consensus on what on earth answers are wanted.
However, as someone who has commented on planning applications, I do have a few comments which I will put under this question as it seems the most pertinent.
It is unnecessarily hard to scrutinise applications, especially for a concerned member of the public or neighbour who is not used to jargon. IDOX is very hard to use indeed.
1) The lack of persistent URLs, or more strictly, that you are required to
get the cookie from the opening page of the application first before a
document URL works. I bet this means that officers waste huge amounts of
disk space by re-downloading files, for instance. When I've attempted to send a url to someone else I think might be interested, the link doesn't work for this reason. I have to send them the application reference and the name of the document instead.
2) The URLs are also non-guessable for example:
3) Its slowness. Is this inadequate server capacity or poor indexing of the database? If you are on a home internet connection, you can virtually lose the will to live sometimes.
4) The inability for ordinary members of the public to understand what is
presented. For instance, a "Design and Access Statement" means "how are people going to get on and off this site?", but this is hidden amongst 100+ documents sometimes with other inpenetrable names to the layperson. A good, accessible approach to displaying planning applications would attempt to make things easier to understand.
5) The search is completely useless if there are many results for a
street. Try typing in Mill Road here:
A result "Too many results found. Please enter some more parameters." is
not good enough - this should be a paginated result. You may only know that it's between Tenison Road and the railway bridge; you can't search for that. Also sometimes the search function just doesn't work. If you see a notice in the street, your only way of being sure of finding it later online is to stop and copy down the exact reference of the planning application, as that is the only sure way of finding the application you actually want to look at.
6) The search should have search-as-you-type so that people can zoom in on
the correct address quickly. This would avoid the kind of problem where a
search for e.g. "102 Mill Road" comes back with results that include "102
Millington Lane" - autocomplete would get rid of this problem as the user
would see their intention in the drop-down list as they type.
7) In general, the place search isn't very intelligent. A search with an
explicit number like "1 York Street" shouldn't include "21 York Street"
"113 York Street" and many others in it. And it includes things going back years; surely there should be a way of searching just for applications that are still open to comments?
8) The map view is just awful.
9) Dates are totally unintelligible, even to people reasonably familiar with
the planning system like me. Can you tell me which is the date I need to
respond to an application by? This one has three dates mentioning
consultation, and they are all different.
10) you can open some documents in a new tab and look at them. Others insist on downloading onto your computer, often in a really odd format, for example, E-mails in the document list get saved as .eml which I think is an
Outlook-specific format. I can just about read them on my system, but in a really odd format. Opening maps takes forever!
11) There is no linkage to the meeting where an application is being
considered. It surely cannot be difficult for a database structure to list
such an entry. Officer reports are added but not usually agendas/minutes
of meetings, so it is impossible to find out what was actually debated on an application.
12) Are S106 agreements routinely added?
IDOX has a similar feeling to the very clunky (and expensive) online purchasing system I am required to use at work which my employer purchased about 10 years ago. Horrible to use and must put many people off of commenting. All those who want to comment/object/support (I have personally supported some applications) are members of "the community". I long for the day when applications are required to follow a set format so that you know exactly where to look, every time, for the information you're interested in.