Planning project approval

Apps launched in move towards fully digital planning system

Two web apps have been launched in a bid to help council planning teams and simplify the planning process for homeowners in a further step towards a fully digital planning system.

The Back office Planning System (BoPS) app will help council planning officials manage permitted development applications, tracking progress and putting the information they need to make decisions in a user-friendly format.

It puts the focus on data rather than documents, helping planners make decisions much more quickly and efficiently.

The apps, funded through the government’s Local Digital Fund, have been designed by the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, as well as Buckinghamshire, and are being tested in these areas.

They are a first step towards the aim, outlined in last year’s ‘Planning for the future’ white paper
, of replacing the current outdated, paper-based system, with one that is digital from start to finish.

The government said this would do away with hundred-page PDFs and inaccessible information, and put data and decision-making in the palm of people’s hand.

Also, a new
app for homeowners, architects and developers, called Reducing Invalid Planning Applications (RIPA) has been launched.

It has been launched as many home improvements, such as kitchen extensions and loft conversions do not need full planning permission.

However, the rules are complicated and often result in people submitting invalid applications for ‘permitted developments’, wasting time and money.

The new app uses simple language and diagrams to help navigate the system and asks a series of questions, determining whether the plans meet local and national requirements.

Users can then apply within the app for the certificate they need to show their plans are a permitted development, therefore allowing building to go ahead.

Commenting, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick said:

“We want to speed up the planning process to help families make improvements to their homes more quickly.

“These apps are a step towards a planning system that is transparent, efficient and end-to-end digital, saving time and money for developers, architects and homeowners, and letting planners focus on the merits of applications rather than chasing paperwork.

Lambeth Council’s Director of Planning, Transport and Sustainability, Rob Bristow added:

“Around half of the planning applications we receive in Lambeth are found to be invalid, mostly because people have difficulty interpreting the complex planning requirements to make valid applications.

“The RIPA app will guide users through the rules, based on what they want to do and where in the borough their property is to see whether their plans meet the requirements, along with the BoPS app, which will see a hugely improved back-end system for planners to use in their assessments.

“These exciting new tools will not only provide an enhanced experience for property owners, they will also enable interested parties, such as neighbours, to be consulted sooner and help planning officers process applications more effectively.

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