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About the programme

Open Digital Planning is a project to build the next generation of planning services in local government. Partners from all of the UK don't just buy the services, they help create them. They contribute ideas for service improvements, then help to design, test and use them.

Who's involved?

  • Department for Leveling Up, Housing & Communities
  • Southwark Council
  • Lambeth Council
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Camden
  • Buckinghamshire Council
  • Dacorum Borough Council
  • Gloucester City Council
  • Medway Council
  • Open Systems Labs
  • Unboxed
  • Agile Collective
  • Nomensa

Future of planning

Planning is evolving from a system largely based on documents and paper maps, to one that embraces data and digital technologies. This will allow faster, simpler and more transparent processes.

Open Digital Planning services (formerly 'RIPA and BOPS') are designed around user needs, security, and openness so that they meet modern technology standards. We're creating flexible software with better access to underlying planning data, allows information to move seamlessly, and helps to automate routine processes.

Future legislation seeks to encourage this move to more modular technology.

“It was so different as a planner to go from being asked 'does this work?' to 'what do you actually want out of this software?'”

Janine, Dacorum Borough Council

How it works

The team is made up of council officers, content writers, developers and user research experts from nine local authorities, four agencies and central government.

We work in small product teams. Team members take part in research, design and testing activities. Depending on their level of involvement (see How to join) councils may also collaboratively prioritise the features that are built and help direct the overall strategy for Open Digital Planning.

Council partners are also responsible for the day-to-day running of the services in their local authorities.

We use the collective wisdom of council staff with deep knowledge of local planning so that our services better meet the needs of council planning teams.

The project uses agile processes: the work is prioritised into two-week sprints and when we reach a milestone we test and release. In this way we continuously improve the service products. Some of our best thinking takes place in retrospective meetings - spaces for reflection that ensure we stay critical

Design and development support is provided by four digital agencies: Open Systems Lab, Unboxed, Agile Collective and Nomensa.

Being open

Open source

The source code underpinning our work is open by default. The code is freely available to software developers to reuse and edit.

Where features in our services are of interest to others, reusing our code can save effort and support the improvement of services across the planning software market.

Working in the open

We make our documents, presentations, and research publicly viewable so that others can benefit from our findings.

Monthly Show-and-Tells are open to all and allow us to share our progress with a wider audience on a monthly basis.

Open standards

We want to see a plug-and-play ecosystem of digital planning services that 'just work'. Integrations between different systems should be straightforward, and based on openly published standards and documentation, so that councils have more choice in the software they can use.

Collaboration

All Open Digital Planning partners are committed to the five principles of the Local Digital Declaration, an ambition for the future of local government services.

We believe that councils should be at the heart of how local services are designed, and we have benefitted from working together to solve shared challenges, supporting and learning from each other as we go.

Our services are designed with more than just our project partners in mind. By bringing in multiple viewpoints from council officers across the country we are creating services that work for everyone.

“There's great work being achieved and there's much to be said for government, developer, and Local Authority collaboration, and the innovations and improvements that derive from this”

Jenna, Doncaster Council

Future of the Programme

We launched our first live services in the summer of 2022 and a lot of the functionality needed to support services for more types of planning applications has already been developed.

Working incrementally, we aim to continuously improve our services as we go.

Our primary focus is to develop services for full householder planning permission. We are continuously improving our services and adding new features all the time. The team working on the Application Services are currently exploring a simple prior approvals service, for example.

Our Assessment Service is expanding in its scope. Current work will integrate planning history data and improve the assessment process for officers. We're scaling and improving the way that we support new councils to adopt the services and to join our collaborative teams.

Our ambition is to ensure that our services are commercially viable, comply with government legislation, and support simpler and more transparent planning. In the future, Open Digital Planning will develop into an independent not-for-profit legal entity, jointly owned by councils that oversee a flexible and affordable ecosystem of digital planning services.

Roadmap

  • 2019 - RIPA and BOPS project separately win funding from DLUHC's Local Digital Fund.
  • 2020 - RIPA and BOPS projects reach beta phase and align product development activities.
  • 2021 - Private beta services launched for Lawful Development Certificate applications, users are invited to test them.
  • 2022 - Public beta services launched for Guidance, Application and Assessment services, live on council websites.
  • 2023 - The next intake of Open Digital Planning project partners. ODP services integrate with key submissions services and back office systems via open APIs.
  • 2024 - The services are processing live applications for householder planning permission. Open Digital Planning is incorporated as a legal entity backed by a sustainable business model.

Register your interest

Become a key part of Open Digital Planning by co-owning the services and contributing towards their development.

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