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DM Software Pathfinder Project Update number one. Project launch, February 2022.

DM Software Pathfinder project update #1

In the first instalment of a new series, we share updates from the Development Management Software Pathfinder projects.

Our work to support the improvement of planning software used by Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) is taking an important step forward.

From this month, eight new Pathfinder projects, each led by a different LPA, will be exploring different opportunities within their development management services.

Below, each team has outlined what they will be working on and what they hope their projects can achieve.

The development management software Pathfinder projects will run between now and the end of April 2022. The teams will share their progress at monthly Show and Tell events and via monthly Project Update blog posts, which will be published here on LDCU’s Medium publication.

The next Show and Tell will be on Tuesday 1 March at 2pm. Please email DigitalPlanningTeam@levellingup.gov.uk if you would like to be added to the invite list.

Watch the project launch event

If you missed the Pathfinder project launch event on 1 February, during which the projects presented their objectives and plan, you can watch the recording below or view the slides.

A recording of the DM Software Pathfinder launch event, which took place online on 1 February 2022.

Our Pathfinder projects

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

This is a first phase of work that builds on pioneering work undertaken by Buckinghamshire County Council to extract raw data from the IDOX Uniform system, and create the capability to process this into active dashboards using PowerBI.

Our eventual goal is to generate a dashboard that can be used by the Planning Team to manage all work by individuals and their line management. This increased visibility will help the overall throughput of work in the team.

A second dashboard can be used to provide information on current cycle times and planning performance to members of the public and agents.

The output of this project will be a set of guidance for other councils on how to achieve this using the IDOX Uniform product.

The project team will include a Project Lead, Planning Team Lead, Planning Development Support Team analyst and the IT Team, as well as occasional working with IDOX.

The first phase of this project is the exploratory phase to understand the art of the possible and the connections required to enable phase 2, which could focus on uploading and running the PowerBI tool.

We plan to document this journey and produce a ‘how to’ guide for other LPAs who are looking to do something similar.

Main back-office software provider: Idox

Colchester Borough Council

As planning leads, we want to improve the customer experience and make quick and accurate decisions, while delivering value for money for our business and users.

The planning process is hindered by the lack of true GIS integration at the point of application and publication. Duplication, re-entry and static file outputs are blockers to progress. We are seeking to explore and document a fresh new approach with GIS as the beating heart of our platform — not as an add-on. We will be building from spatial data as the starting point of all interactions with planning services.

Existing software solutions have been developed to effectively manage a paper process, whether physical or digital, as opposed to enabling a fully integrated platform with the capability to access complex and diverse data based on place.

We are seeking to re-imagine the way our customers interact with our planning service. To do this we must improve the way they interact in real-time with live spatial data.

This journey has the potential to take authorities to a place where we end the reliance on images, documents, and endless storage. A place where spatial data is alive; delivering better experiences for our customers, increased accessibility to planning data, and the potential to drive further organisational efficiency.

Main back-office software provider: NEC

London Borough of Harrow Council

Our project aims to improve the customer experience by providing:

  • clearer information on the Consultee response process
  • better automation when people fill out forms
  • automatic acknowledgements once forms have been submitted.

For our Planning Officers, we aim to provide better automation in pushing customer form data into our back-office systems, so that we can reduce the time it takes to respond to customer enquiries.

Overall, we hope this project will improve turnaround times and user satisfaction, and provide enhancements to a product that has a large market share.

Main back-office software provider: NEC

London Borough of Havering

We aim to deliver an end-to-end, user-centred planning pre-application process that will:

  • improve reporting of planning data
  • make records easily accessible
  • increase process efficiency
  • share reusable practises with other LPAs.

We have identified the following user stories that we want to address:

As a customer,

I want to book, pay and receive updates on my planning pre-application advice appointment,

so that I can receive prompt advice on my plans.

As a Local Planning Authority planning team,

We want to design scalable architecture using PowerBI to manage data,

so that we meet our future reporting needs and can share knowledge with other authorities using PowerBI.

As a planning manager,

I want to access reports using a web-based management information solution,

so that I minimise the use of static, inflexible formats (e.g. PDFs).

Main back-office software provider: Ocella

North Devon District Council

We plan to customise existing modules offered by our current supplier, DEF Software, to meet our Section 106 ‘To Be’ process requirements. We also plan to purchase additional modules linking SQL data and stakeholder intelligence to vastly improve those processes.

This will ensure we become more efficient, by decreasing duplication/hand-offs, improving the confidence in our progress reporting, and supporting a robust central database giving visibility and integrity of our returns.

In addition to these enhancements, we will propose a detailed specification for a brand-new module to manage the HELAA (Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment) process linked to our Joint Local Plan Review.

We will continue to share our learnings and target operating models with the DEF community and wider Local Planning Authorities.

Main back-office software provider: DEF

Nottingham City Council

As a planning authority, we want to improve our publication of planning data through enhanced reporting capabilities, with data interoperability at the heart of what we do.

In order to keep pace with the growing demand for planning information, we need to improve the efficiency of reporting and data maintenance in order to drive added value for users of the planning system.

We will work with our existing suppliers to introduce dynamic querying and publishing of data held within our development management system. We will look to fully automate the data management process, which will in turn feed into statutory reporting (PS1 and PS2 returns), publication of data openly and population of interactive tools.

Main back-office software provider: Idox

Sevenoaks District Council

We receive an average of 700 applications each year to carry out works to trees covered by a Preservation Order, and notifications of intended works to trees in a Conservation area or emergency works to trees.

Applicants first have to determine whether the tree/s are protected, and they can do this by using our already excellent interactive map.

Currently, they then need to contact us to obtain a copy of the Preservation Order, which we typically send by email. Applicants can then identify if the works they intend to carry out will require an application to be submitted.

We would like to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ so that applicants can confirm if an Order exists, download a copy of the Order, and submit their application at the same time.

Main back-office software provider: Idox

Tewkesbury Borough Council

Tewkesbury borough is one of the fastest growing districts outside of London. With this comes a huge amount of development and a growing demand on the planning service. It has become important to explore options to relieve some of this pressure and provide an excellent customer experience.

We have identified the following user stories that we want to address:

As an applicant/agent with an application for planning permission,

I want to receive alerts notifying me on progress with my application at key stages, what the next stage will be and the anticipated timescale for reaching the next stage,

so that I do not have to continually contact the council for an update on progress and to enable me to plan my build programme for my proposal.

As a planning officer,

I want applicants and agents to be informed about progress on their applications and anticipated timescales,

so that the time I spend answering queries about progress is reduced.

A planning application tracker will help to keep applicants and agents informed on the progress of their application. In time this will give other interested parties, such as parish councils and local residents, the option to receive updates if they wish.

This will greatly reduce the number of calls and emails to the planning team, freeing up officer time to concentrate on processing the applications. We hope that in turn this will also reduce the turnaround time for applications.

Main back-office software provider: Idox

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow Local Digital on Medium or on Twitter for more updates from our #DigitalPlanning Pathfinder projects.

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