New planning system to be introduced across Dorset

planning blueprintDORSET Council is planning to introduce a new planning system later this year, after combining six for local authorities which all had their own systems.

In April 2019, district, borough and county councils combined to form one unitary authority, Dorset Council. All six of these organisations had their own versions of planning management software from two different suppliers.

The new unitary authority wanted a planning system to provide a modern service to enable Dorset to grow economically. Backlogs of planning applications and validations also needed to be addressed.

The challenge was to combine policies, people, users, processes and software into a one-team system capable of delivering excellent customer service while supporting the growth and regeneration of the county.

Working with employees, councillors, architects, surveyors and planning agents a three-step approach was developed to transform the service by:

  1. Dealing with the current backlog
  2. Implementing a single system
  3. Improving communication

Dealing with the backlog

An agency has been employed to concentrate on clearing the back log of planning applications. Dorset Council says they have made “good progress” in clearing the validation backlog which was affecting the former West Dorset and Weymouth areas.

hey will now clear the validation backlog affecting former Purbeck and East Dorset areas and their progress will be monitored.

A review will be carried out to improve validation criteria and to ensure that they are consistently applied, and a plan is being created to use technology to help prevent a return of the backlog.

A single system

A new planning system will be in place mid-September. There will be phases of implementation for the different areas with a complete system by March 2021.

All core planning, land charges and building control will use the same system, database and mapping data.

Improving communication

Work is continuing to improve communications. A clearer website, use of chatbots and automatic checking will help to achieve this. 

Cllr David Walsh, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “It is incredibly important to make sure all aspects of our planning process run as smoothly and efficiently as it can.

“It’s been a challenge to combine six different organisations processes and capabilities. The team is working very hard to ensure we have a modern, consistent customer-focused service.”

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