A 'brave new world' for digital planning

BoPS screen in a laptop

How we created a user centred, data driven back-office planning system (BOPS) to help provide a better, simpler and more transparent planning service for councils.

MVP approach

transformed planning application processing time from days to minutes

20% reduction in time

projected when application and assessment services are used together

The challenge

The BOPS product is part of the Department of Housing, Levelling Up and Communities (DHLUC) open digital planning (ODP) programme. ODP's ambition is to ensure that its products are commercially viable, comply with government legislation and support simpler and more transparent planning services.

BOPS crazy eights

For BOPS, this means making planning data open and accessible to support a modular system through integrations (using both current and new systems).

This will help planning officers in councils spend less time searching for information, giving them more time to use their expertise on higher value work.

What our client had to say

Stephen Barnes | Product Owner | Open Digital Planning

"Unboxed have done really impressive work fostering an environment on this project where councils work together effectively to make an innovative product framed around their exact needs."


DHLUC funded a number of councils through the Local Digital Fund to partner with Unboxed to design and build a more innovative back office product. This product has become part of the wider ODP programme to transform the UK planning eco-system as a whole, from how people apply for applications to how they are assessed and granted.

Our approach

BOPS has been designed in collaboration with planning officers for planning officers. So far we’ve delivered:

  • a discovery phase to engage with planning officers in multiple local authorities and stakeholders across the sector, understanding user needs and the broader planning landscape and presenting a compelling vision
  • an alpha phase to prototype and test potential solutions to improve efficiency, effectiveness and transparency within the planning application process
  • a beta phase and ongoing development of a working system, integrated with the broader planning ecosystem and a shared vision for Open Digital Planning

In line with the above, we've followed the GDS Service Standard.

prototype-evolution-on BoPS

What we learnt

Relationships are essential in a complex project of this nature to keep focus on the desired outcome.

We're able to work collaboratively with a large number of product owners, subject matter experts, stakeholders and delivery partners across multiple organisations and workstreams.

We are also able to manage the political, legal and commercial challenges in planning from subject matter experts and use this as an opportunity to re-imagine and co-design worthwhile solutions.

BOPS ideation workshop


beta MVP testing sessions, in public beta with three councils


council teams engaged with new service delivery environment

Next steps

After designing and launching a beta version of the case management system to validate, assess and review applications (currently being used by Buckinghamshire, Lambeth and Southwark Councils), we’ll be working with more councils to see how we can make the product adoptable on a larger scale.

Find out more

You can find further details about the project on the ODP website. We're always happy to talk about our work at conferences and events.