Our team has just wrapped up the ninth 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.

BoPs Gif

Image by MHCLG via MHCLG Digital.

Progress across the last sprint

The theme of sprint nine has been drawing and displaying maps and validation, with activities including:

User testing planning

To create a more structured and focused user testing plan for new features and functionality, the partners met last week and have agreed to run two testing sessions each fortnight. This includes open invites across all partners to attend, take notes, and join the post-testing sessions to discuss feedback and agree actions. The benefits of this approach is to create more consistency with user testing and increase visibility across all partners.

Processing real applications

A total of six Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) planning applications have been processed in the current private beta phase using RIPA (Reducing Invalid Planning Applications) and fed through into BoPS:

  • Two with Southwark Council
  • Four with Lambeth Council

With the processing of these applications, this sprint has seen the project hit another big milestone: the first decision notice has been issued using RIPA and BoPS by Southwark Council, validating functionality for LDC planning applications.

Through the processing of these applications, the BoPS team has been receiving positive feedback from the planning teams using the MVP system.

Prototyping how planning officers can evidence assessments

Building on work from the last sprint, a completed prototype has now been created to support how officers can evidence their assessment for LDCs and this assessment against policy. Through this prototype, planning officers are able to add a decision to a specific line of policy for the application to state whether or not it complies.

BoPs prototyping screenshot

The next step is to test the prototype for feedback. This piece of work represents a big movement forward in how BoPS can store decisions, based on specific points of policy, and how this can be stored as data, which unlocks a lot of potential within the system.

Integrating a new mapping tools

Building on from the last sprint, this sprint has been focused on moving across to the same open source mapping tool that RIPA is using, creating more consistency between both the RIPA and BoPS systems.

New mapping tool screenshot

Restoring documents from archive

Previously, archived documents could not be restored (for example, if archived by mistake). Further research has highlighted that planning officers sometimes archive a plan, but it’s needed later. To meet this need, further functionality has been added to enable planning officers to restore any archived plans and documents into an active state with the application.

Ordering of applications

Further research with planning officers has also highlighted that they would like to see the planning application displayed on the index page in chronological order. This ordering has now been enforced, which provides an easier way for planning officers to know which applications to be working on.

What’s next?

The focus for sprint ten is the building, testing and iterating of features for evidencing assessment, with planned activities including:

Implementing the new approach for user testing Building features for evidencing assessments User testing the new prototype for enabling planning officers to evidence their assessments through BoPS

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:

Written by Graeme McCubbin