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Being part of Open Digital Planning opens the door to working with a community of likeminded Local Planning Authorities, central government and technology companies who are passionate about modernising local planning services.

Open Digital Planning (ODP) is a community that is centred on collaboration, knowledge sharing and the improvement of planning services for the benefit of both residents and professionals.

ODP began by exploring what might be possible through newly developed products and services. However, over the last year, it has evolved into a community committed to modernising technology, data and planning practices.

We are working on an expanded offer for our members to help fast-track Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) on their service modernisation journey. We plan to launch this later in the year.

Progress over the last 12 months

  • The BOPS and PlanX products have developed the core technical functionality required for householder planning permission services. The services will launch by the end of 2023.​
  • We have expanded our scope. Our newer members are working with existing software providers; we are currently supporting council-led projects that involve eight private sector companies.
  • Council partners piloted GIS and data training developed by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Planning Advisory Service, which has since been attended by 510 people. Over 50 people have been trained in agile software development techniques as part of ODP.
  • Open Digital Planning has grown from an initial eight local planning authorities into a community of 28 councils, with 150 active community members. The ODP Slack workspace is well used by our community members, with 52,945 interactions over the last 12 months. ​
  • Our monthly online Show & Tells have a typical audience of between 60 and 90 people; 854 attendees have joined these events since the beginning of 2023.
  • We have held three in-person team days hosted by partner councils, who also run a public event on the same evening. So far 139 unique people have joined the public events.​ 

Benefits of the projects we have funded

Faster, smarter services

On average, up to 50% of planning applications are invalid when a council receives them. Good quality data publishing to the National Planning Data Platform, coupled with a submission service such as PlanX, which helps applicants to make sense of planning rules relevant to their project, make it more likely that a planning application will be valid.

Common errors related to the site location plan, the application form and planning fees can be reduced through services designed with the user experience in mind. For example, we estimate that PlanX can prevent as much as 71% of invalid planning applications. We are measuring the performance of live services right now.

Continuous improvement, informed by evidence

Good product development is led by evidence. All project partners contribute to an active metrics working group. We keep a close eye on the performance of services to understand where improvements can be made and to support the business case for adoption.

All partners have benchmarked their data and we are collecting information about live services to test our assumptions. We aim to publish updates on what we are learning as we go, including the results from improvement projects with established software providers in the future.

Our early results suggest that the time taken to validate an application is reduced by around 30% when validating a planning application using BOPS. PlanX is currently demonstrating a 20% reduction in the number of Lawful Development Certificate applications that are invalid on submission.

We believe that with better online guidance and better-quality applications received, planning officers will spend less time working through minor issues, and can focus on higher-value planning work.

“What I appreciate the most is our collaboration across disciplines. The diverse range of expertise within the ODP community not only fuels innovation, but also ensures that our solutions truly match up with the needs of planning teams.”

Stephen Barnes, Senior Planner (Digital Projects), Lambeth Council

Next steps

The PlanX and BOPS products will be processing householder applications by the end of 2024, and all application types by the middle of 2024.

New data standards for planning applications are currently in development and will be part of forthcoming legislation when the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is passed later in the year.

Members of our community are proactively working with established software providers to develop modern integrations between products in the market, as we lead the movement towards a more flexible market for planning software.

Currently, only LPAs funded by DLUHC’s Digital Planning Programme can join ODP. The next round of funding will open in October 2023.

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