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Planning back office

Weekly update - 8 March 2019

A new week, a new sprint and so a new sprint theme (sort of). We’re continuing to focus on the pain of Planning Officers and understanding the wider technical background. The team are now engaging with Planning Officers from non-London councils to identify potential crossover themes and big opportunities on a UK-wide basis.

Image 1 8th March

This week, many of the team have been in Edinburgh at the Service Design in Government 2019 conference, so we’ve been at half capacity. Nevertheless, we’ve soldiered on and gained more useful insights.

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

A session to identify fast-track applications

We had a really helpful session with Danielle and Abrar at Southwark to help us pin down some ‘fast-track’ applications since we have decided to focus on these types of applications for now. Southwark Council uses the term ‘fast-track’ to cover various types of applications, including householder, advert consent, and certificates of lawfulness. We plan to map these out further to understand what data is needed at what stage, and how this flow could be improved.

Image 2 8th March

Reaching out to other planning officers

Our user researchers have been trying to find planning officers that work in councils outside of London to speak with. As always, the process is slow at first as we try to gather potential contacts, so if you know anyone who might be willing to talk to us for the project please let us know.

Image 3 8th March

A conversation with the Planning Portal

We had an interesting conversation with the planning portal around standardised data and how they operate. They are keen to participate in the work we are doing, and help to improve the life-cycle of a planning application. We now need to figure out how we can work with them to ensure that the system is improved and can be easily adapted in the future.

What we have learned this week

Thanks to our session with the Southwark planners, we are slowly but surely coming to grips with the various types of planning applications and the data that comes with them. As we become more familiar with the process, we can gain a clearer picture of what data standards might be needed and what a back-end system might look like.

What’s next?

Next week is looking busy. Some of the team plan on going to ALBPO-TS (All London Borough Planning Officers Society -Technical Support group) next Thursday, where we will be presenting some of our findings and hopefully meeting a wide range of Planning Officers from across London.  We are also going to meet with the various other projects that are looking into planning to compare insights and exchange knowledge about the subject.

Finally, we’re hoping that some of our emailing and pestering will come good, and we’ll have some user interviews with Planning Officers who work outside of London! Again, please let us know if you have any potential leads.

It’s our Show & Tell next week, Thursday 14 March at 2.30pm at Southwark Council - everyone welcome (ping Jack an email if you’d like to join).

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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