Our team has just wrapped up the seventh sprint of our Back-office Planning System (BoPS) beta phase with Southwark Council, MHCLG and partners.

Our aim is to create a user-centred back-office planning system that uses accurate, up-to-date records and data to increase efficiency across the planning application process and meet the needs of local authority planning teams. Find out more about the project here: BoPS digital.

Progress across the last sprint

The theme for the sprint has been about summarizing the results from RIPA (Reducing Invalid Planning Applications). This looks at the result (opinion) that RIPA (‘Reducing Invalid Planning Applications’) gains from the answers that have been put forward by the applicant. At the end of the application process in RIPA, the applicant will receive a message from RIPA giving advice about potential next steps, i.e. submitting a full planning application. This is useful for the case officer as it allows them to see what the applicant has been told. The applicant has the opportunity to agree or disagree with the advice and mention why, and this will all be seen in the results section in RIPA.

Work we have done during sprint seven includes:

How to support evidence of assessment

As planning officers are reviewing a case, the aim is to move towards a semantic officer assessment. This allows for more structure in the way the assessment is made and the evidence of that is recorded. This includes moving away from a report-style document to a more smart, data-rich document, which can be used in different ways. To achieve this, templates are being reviewed and our team is speaking to planning officers and managers to identify the user needs which will help future design work.

User testing

Ongoing user testing is constantly being conducted, enabling any issues with the design to be raised and reviewed. For example, during this sprint we addressed an issue that meant when a manager assigned a different case officer to the application, the list of names was sometimes too far down the screen to be easily noticed.. This issue has now been redesigned, thus ensuring consistency and usability across the software.

RIPA result

The result from RIPA, which is the summarized opinion derived from the questions the applicant has answered, is now displayed on the application. At the moment it shows “APIUser” rather than “RIPA” because it has been submitted using a custom API until the work on RIPA’s side has been completed. This has been set up so that if one of the fields comes though, it will be displayed, if not then it won’t be displayed. If there happens to be no result all together then no result will be displayed.

RIPA result screenshot

RIPA result screenshot

Ordnance Survey basemap The majority of this work was to gain the licensing key. Once that was acquired, it was straightforward to replace the basemap. Now what the applicant sees and what the officer sees are the same, which is crucial.

Reasons for document submission In the future, RIPA will give the applicant the opportunity to give a reason as to why they are submitting the application. For example, the applicant will be able to upload a PDF of receipts and provide a reason for submitting those receipts. This is crucial for enabling immunity applicants to show potential evidence that it was built a while ago.

Reasons for submitting document screenshot

Reasons for submitting document screenshot

What’s next?

The theme for sprint eight is to look at the further functionality of the site map and the red line plan map. There are a number of work arounds of the private beta, which is currently live with three partner councils. One of the work arounds will be removed, which is the invalid application notification that gets sent out to the applicant. Another task is continuing work on evidence assessment. This involves the process the planning officer takes to assess the application; if it’s an LDC it will be assessing it against the REGS, if it’s a householder, it will be assessed against planning policy. Further funding is also to be applied for with MHCLG, the funders of the project. The BoPS team is keen to speak to more planning teams in other local authorities across the country to set up user testing sessions. If you’d be interested and can spare some time to help with the project, please get in touch via bops@southwark.gov.uk.

See the full recorded Show and Tell here:

Show and Tell #7

Follow BoPS on Twitter for the latest updates: @BoPs_Digita.

Written by Fiacré Baidoo