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DLUHC opens digital services for planning

Model of house on grid
Image source: Chlorophylle Serge Nied

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has released three new digital services to support planning process in local government.

They have gone live on the websites of Buckinghamshire, Lambeth and Southwark Councils, which led the respective pilot projects, as the latest step in DLUHC’s programme to modernise the planning system in England.

Two of the services - ‘Find out if you need planning permission’ and ‘Apply for a lawful development certificate’ – are applicant facing, to help the public and professionals understand which permitted development rights exist for a property, and to submit proposals where planning permission is unlikely to be needed. These have been developed as part of the RIPA (reducing invalid planning applications) project.

The third service, Back Office Planning System (BOPS), is for council officers to validate and process lawful development certificate applications, and for direct communications between the officers and applicants.

Development of RIPA and BOPS was supported by DLUHC’s Local Digital Fund.

Unique approach

A DLUHC blogpost on the projects said: “The applicant facing services are unique in that they only ask a user questions that are relevant to their project, and can signpost applicants towards relevant legislation that could impact their proposal, meaning no prior planning expertise is required.

“Key information is captured as data, rather than being stored in documents, so that it can be used more flexibly for other purposes such as efficient application processing by planning officers.”

Matt Wood-Hill, head of digital planning software at DLUHC, said in a post on LinkedIn: “We're doing collaborative agile software development, so expect the services to be improving all the time based on feedback from users and - for the planning wonks - more application types to be added in the future.

“Better still, give us your feedback if you live in one of the areas launching services today.”

New banner

DLUHC added that it expects other councils involved in the project to make the services available soon, and that it plans to bring the services together later this year on a website under the banner of Open Digital Planning.

“We plan to launch more opportunities later in the year for local planning authorities to contribute to the development, testing and use of the Open Digital Planning services being co-created by local planning authorities,” it said.

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