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Planning back office

Weekly update - 22 February 2019

During the first planning session, the team set the theme of our first sprint: ‘the pain of planning officers’.

We’re using this first sprint to get out and really understand the pain points that planning officers are currently experiencing in the administration process.

Some of the activities covered this week include:

Interviewing Planning Officers

Planning Officers

Interviews conducted across planning team members, including the ‘Fast Track’ applications and technical support teams, to identify the current processes of planning administration, current system setup and understand how each person feels about this process.

Aligning with similar projects in the planning space

Speaking with team across similar projects of close interest, including Open System Lab for ‘Plan X’, Hackney Council for ‘Submit My Planning Application’ and MHCLG for ‘Single Register of Planning’, amongst others to begin understanding where this projects fits in the big picture.

Demos and walkthroughs of the current systems

Arranging and having demos of the existing systems to begin identifying the types and formats of data currently used.

What we've learned

Planning workshop
  • emerging common themes / common likes and dislikes
  • a focus on fast track cases would be the most efficient and beneficial approach
  • every office appears to have developed their own adaptations to be able to work with the current system, both new and long time employees, this doesn’t mean, however, that the inefficiencies aren’t still there; it’s incredibly manual
  • in order to ensure continuity of service we might decide to look at designing a system for the most common applications - however, in order to future proof admin, we’ll also look to build on tools such as PlanX, rather than just create an improved version of what we already have
  • there is a tension between those that believe the planning decision making process is subjective and those that believe it is complicated but logical - which way you lean determines your expectations of a management system
  • there seems to be a strong feeling that a lot of manual processes involved (eg indexing / validation) could be made more efficient by a more prescriptive and standardised submission system and that some of the more manual and repetitive tasks surely could be automated
  • there is an expectation that the future brings many changes with things like Google maps / BIMs / AI likely to disrupt the entire process - site visits, for example, could become less important in the future as officers might rely more and more on frequently updated satellite imaging and street view

What’s next?

Next week, the team is planning to:

  • interview Planning Officers across the Hackney Council team
  • interview non-London councils about their planning application processes
  • gather and analyse baseline data and metrics of planning applications (eg number of applications per authority, average cost per application type, etc.)

You can view a summary video of Week 1 here.

Page last updated: 01 December 2020

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