Hackney’s drive for a digital ‘Submit My Planning Application’ service

Doesn’t time fly!

It seems like only yesterday (Nov ‘17) when we were holding a Planning design sprint with @euanmills and his Connected Places Catapult team. Since then we’ve been fortunate enough to win an MHCLG funding bid to take forward our ambitious idea for the ground breaking Submit My Planning Application digital service (SMPA).

For the past year Hackney ICT have been working tirelessly with Snook and their technology partners Hactar to deliver a really high quality prototype for our SMPA digital service. Thanks to some great help from the Hackney Planning team, local businesses and residents the service has been fully designed around user needs. working collaboratively with the Open Systems Lab and the Southwark Planning team has saved us reinventing the wheel by utilising their digital Local Planning Policy engine approach.

Going back to the original brief, our goal was to either build a new service or stimulate the market into providing excellent digital Planning services.  We still want to meet the real needs of the Planning Authorities, businesses and residents that are suffering from a stagnant software market -our digital service will be the first step in that direction. However, I really didn’t see Northgate’s acquisition of Snook coming, a really interesting partnership and something to keep an eye on!

So after several sprints, retrospectives, all the iterative user research, many weeknotes and of course the obligatory show & tells we now have a working prototype and plan to deliver a Live minimal viable product later this summer.

So what are we doing now?

Basically, lots of building, testing and deploying! We have six sprints scheduled to take us to a live working product. See our previous show & tells, even better see all the whole project, here’s our project site alternative you can follow us on Pipeline.

Our aim is to have a Live working digital service by the end of the summer ‘A service so good people prefer to us it’. This is a bold statement, but we know demand failure is hitting a high of over 50%, therefore plenty of room for improvement. Imagine Amazon getting 50% of deliveries wrong! Also in this case the people do actually have an alternative i.e. the Planning Portal and iApply hence we intend to deliver an excellent alternative.

Normally when developing a new system from scratch, a lot of the work done is behind the scenes. Nowadays it’s not so much behind the scenes anymore, Hackney being part of the digital declaration, projects posted on Pipeline and working in the open you can find the code is stored on GitHub. You’ll see we’ve also been utilising existing capabilities such as gov.notify and developing excellent simple to follow documentation such as our API walkthrough. Currently we have 90% of the MVP under test and using real life applications to make sure the software works as expected. 

Our LLPG and GIS systems are now integrated, not to forget the most important integration i.e. with Tascomi our soon to be back office Planning Management system. We’re also keeping a close eye on the GLA’s London Development Database. Our service will need to capture all the right data up front in a standard format that can be seamlessly used right through the Planning process and not locked away in those closed and difficult to use PDFs.

What’s coming up and worth looking out for

The next couple of weeks are all about finishing the build and testing, testing and more testing!

As well as building the MVP we’re focussing on the not so exciting logistics of making the service Live within our new DevOps ways of working and if timings work out well, we’ll be integrating with Tascomi!

Key dates to look out for:

Come and join us at our offices or remotely, we’ll be around afterwards for deeper discussions on how we can shape the service and how others can adopt it 

  • 17th Sep Connected Places Catapult (Plantech Week)

We’ll be presenting our new digital Service ‘Submit My Planning Application’, Book your tickets through Eventbright

  • 19th Sep GLA – Event (Plantech Week)

14:00 GLA Plannig Event , Plantech for Local Government

(Venue City Hall)

  • 19th Sep SMPA Product Launch! (Plantech Week)

18:30 Connected Places Catapult Third Thursday

(Venue Urban Innovation Centre)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.