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Planning, efficiency and holding onto jobs

by on March 4, 2009

Back to planning after my diversions into cyberspace and a topic that’s never been hotter – efficiency and a bit about holding on to planning jobs.

For the last few years we’ve been banging on to everyone who would listen about the efficiency benefits of working electronically.

Together, the Portal team, planning agents and LPAs have made massive strides forward despite a booming sector that was swamping local planners and left little time to fully embrace the benefits we’ve described, never mind the business process changes required to make it happen. Well you might have noticed it’s changed a little now.

If you are a business looking for a competitive edge, greater internal efficiency or simply to get value out of your I.T investment now is the time to really get a handle on e-planning. Not to mention the fact that an increasing number of your customers will want to see your green credential applied right through your project and that includes taking paper out of the application process.

e-Planning will save you time and money in the vast majority of cases if properly applied.

From an LPA perspective the old barriers are coming down with more and more applicants expecting to be able to submit and communicate online. All the tools are now in place to deliver an end to end electronic system from application to Appeal, it is simply a matter of adopting them locally.

Those LPAs that can hold back the pressure to cut jobs have an opportunity to fully embrace the services on offer such as online applications and the e-Consultation Hub and will rapidly see the efficiencies accrue. This will place them in an enviable position come the upturn, with systems and processes stress tested at a time of relative low demand and staff familiar enough with the systems to not revert to paper planning.

This is not waffle (I can hear you!) I regularly receive really positive feedback from architects, agents, applicants and LPAs who testify to the difference e-Planning can make if comprehensively applied.

I know it’s not always easy to change culture and processes that have existed for years but we are very much here to help. My team are absolutely dedicated to helping anyone that wants to make the switch regardless of the size of your organisation or from which side of the process you come.

Tell us what we can do to help or where you think we can add value and I promise we’ll listen.

  1. Marcus Galey permalink

    By and large the Portal works fairly well, and e-planning is infinitely superior to the old days of massive stacks of copies of applications. The biggest hurdle I encounter these days are not local authorities (once you’ve explained that picking the right option on the ‘Page Scaling’ dialog when printing PDF’s will solve their objections about page scaling), but the Inspectorate. Despite ticking the ‘I prefer to be contacted by email’ box on the appeal form and always communicating electronically with them, it is still pot luck whether you get an officer who will do so. Too often it’s snail mail left to the tender mercies of the Royal Mail…

  2. chriskathome permalink

    Hi Marcus,
    good to hear your feedback.
    I’ve passed on your comments to PINs.
    I’ll take up the page scaling issue with our account managers and see if we can’t spread the word.

  3. Simon Fitzpatrick permalink

    I completely agree that e-Planning is helping to reduce printing but it would seem that once our (agent) pdf plans are submitted they are printed out and then scanned back in purely for the LPA to prove that they received the plans on a given date. Isn’t there a way to remove this printing process making it even better for the environment and to reduce a slightly archaic date stamping process? I can only hope the LPA doesn’t send out printed plans to all the statutory consultees?

  4. PortalDirector permalink

    we try to persuade LPAs that it’s not necessary to print and scan simply to date stamp, as we don’t believe it is necessary to date stamp manually where the electronic system records the date of receipt, registration etc.

    LPAs out there might have a different view!

    • Marcus Galey permalink

      The problem is that the pace of change in the methods of application is exceeding the capacity of LPA’s to step back and consider the best way to administer the process. Hopefully, they will use the current lull to improve their systems to cope with the inevitable resurgence, rather than just shed staff to maintain the previous (manic) staff-to-applications ratio.

      With regard to the specific point on printing and re-scanning of electronic documents, it’s not just the amazing waste of time that it represents – it’s also that the online end result (increasingly the only thing that interested members of the public see) is often of terrible quality. Having spent large chunks of a client’s money on lovely drawings, it is particularly galling to see them put online with all the fine details and subtle colouring gone. In the worst cases, colour photographs are scanned in black and white (not even greyscale!) making them completely useless.

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Couldn’t agree more on both points.
        We’ll be doing everything we can at the Portal to help LPAs and businesses gear up for the up turn and as leaders of a Killian Pretty project to improve the quality of information available on LPA web sites (using best practise where it exists as the template)

  5. The huge cost to the LPA of printing, which includes the purchase of Large printer plotter scanners and maintaining these ios the true result of e-planning so far. Just because its electronic DOES NOT MEAN ITS CHEAPER OR FASTER!
    The real savings are around Business Process engineering. Using funding from the Regional Efficiency and Improvement Partnerships or other sources to look at and innovate around back office infrastructures is central.
    Its not easy and it will drive you towards embracing local or corporate Electronic Document Management Systems and the heady world of Workflow. Innovate or die!
    And of course Invest to save under CSR07, Gershon, Hampton and others is now changed by the credit crunch. The pressure is to introduce efficiencies, but take savings and use them to meet the corporate need to ‘save money’ rather than deliver customer savings.
    The balancing act is to try and do both, and no where is this more importent that in Planning and the other high profile services such as Adult Care and Child Care.
    And of course the technology is not mature enough to meet the needs we have, the colour plans are a good example as getting them on line simply means that customers cannot view them as the file is to big to open, and that’s the broadband restictions we need to acknowledge.
    Just as we did with GIS the LPA is at the cutting edge on BPR and EDRMS, LETS HOPE WE DO NOT GET ACRONYM FATIGUE!

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