Rotherham launches paperless planning office
The planning department of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has become the latest local planning authority to go paperless.
Reduced desk and filing space from a recent office move, combined with the ever-present need to make savings led Rotherham to explore greater and more innovative uses of technology to achieve efficiencies.
The implementation of a document management system (DMS) has now drastically changed the way the planning department works within Rotherham.
The back-office is now completely electronic with no part of the planning application files being printed.
Meanwhile, any paper applications that are received are processed and scanned by the planning support team and sent electronically, through the document management system, to the relevant staff. All staff now combine hot-desking and working from home so access to this information electronically is essential.
The local planning authority is now receiving approximately half of its applications online and continues to work closely with the Planning Portal to encourage further online submission.
Nigel Hancock, Development Manager at Rotherham MBC said: “Officers have responded very well to the use of electronic working and it has let us make the transition to the new building far more easily.”
He added: “We are soon hoping to trial using tablets on site to view plans.”
As a reduction in office space means lower costs, more hot-desking and remote working, LPAs can easily introduce the use of technology to support these changes effectively.
Two other Yorkshire LPAs are heading the same way. In a previous post I highlighted how Doncaster Borough Council also made the move to go paperless; Kirklees is planning to take the same plunge later this year.
If you are planning to go paperless, bear in mind the following lessons learned from Rotherham’s move to a paperless planning office:
- Don’t expect to get rid of all the paper. Keep the paper submissions for the case officer to use and let them print out the bits that they need from the electronic submissions.
- Dual screens are essential. Use a laptop to write the report and a large monitor to view the plans.
- Be flexible in your approach to trialling new ideas. Changes like this need a lot of time to bed in and settle down but the benefits of this approach far outweigh any negatives that there are.
Meanwhile, if there are any other LPAs out there that have made the move to paperless working and would like to share information and lessons learned about their approach and implementation then we’d like to hear from you. Email our Head of LPA Engagement