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Planning back office

Weekly update - 1 March 2019

This week has seen the team crossing the sprint one finishing line of the back-office planning system discovery phase. Continuing the sprint one theme (‘The pain of planning officers’), this week has primarily focused on continuing engagement across teams and synthesising insights.

Some of the activities covered by the team this week include:

Interviewing staff at Southwark Council and Hackney Council

Continuing user interviews across the Southwark planning team, as well as venturing across to Hackney to begin interviews within their planning team. People engaged with so far include planning officers, technical support staff, managers, team leaders, and enforcement.

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Demos of current systems

Scheduling demos of the existing different systems across Southwark and Hackney to identify commonalities within processes and data flows.

Gathering and analysing baseline data and metrics of planning applications

Working with Southwark teams to gain access to the core data behind applications over the last three years (including average planning consultation cost, number of email queries, etc.) to begin addressing a business case.

Sprint one insight synthesis session

A core team session to bring everything heard and learned (so far) from across the first sprint, tying this into key themes.

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Show & Tell #1

Holding the project’s sprint one Show & Tell (on the planning floor at Tooley Street) to share progress from across the last two weeks.

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View Show & Tell #1 slide deck

Watch a video of Show & Tell #1

What we have learned this week

  • The highest percentage of planning applications received are ‘Fast-track’ applications, but they often lack the necessary detail to be processed, leading to additional manual administration tasks by planning teams - there could be a good opportunity by focusing on these types of planning applications
  • Through standardisation and automation, improving visibility and access of raw data (eg not sitting in PDF documents) and rethinking elements of the overall process (e.g. site visits), there are opportunities for freeing up planners to focus where their effort is most needed
  • An understanding of the wider planning project and current system landscape and where this system may sit in the big picture, including potential standards-based data flows

What’s next?

The team’s Sprint Two goal is ‘To gain a clear understanding of the main end-to-end back office planning process opportunities’ - with the aim of beginning to achieve this through linking up what we’re hearing from the Southwark Council team and identifying any crossover with other London and non-London councils.

Next week, the team is planning on:

  • conducting further interviewing across the Hackney Council team to gain a further understanding of existing systems and data flows, including their ‘Submit my Planning Application’ project
  • interviewing colleagues at Greater London Authority to begin understanding their needs for aligning with the London Development Database
  • holding a workshop with the Southwark Council planning team to identify the end-to-end process of ‘Fast-track’ planning applications
  • reaching out to engage other London and non-London councils to begin understand their current experiences and requirements of back-office planning system

Keep up-to-date with progress across the project by joining the #southwark_planning channel in the PlanTech Slack workspace and following the #InnovateSouthwark hashtag on Twitter.


Jack, Boris, Celia, Graeme, Martyn, Paul and Wing.


Page last updated: 01 December 2020

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