Tewkesbury Borough Council: Planning application tracker
Tewkesbury Borough is a fast-growing district. This has caused additional pressure on the planning department, which receives high volumes of planning applications. The planning team was struggling to deal with the number of calls and emails received from applicants, agents, and members of the public. 70% of calls are from applicants or agents asking for updates on a planning application or for the planning process to be explained. Answering these calls takes up a significate amount of officer time, resulting in delays in decision making.
Based on the concept of a delivery tracker, planning application tracker allows an application to be tracked as it progresses through the different stages of a planning process. It allows real-time updates by linking to the council’s back-office system, to pick up when key dates are added or changed. Interested parties can subscribe for updates, which will trigger an automated text or email alert to be sent when the planning application is updated.
Built on the council’s low-code digital platform, Liberty Create, by the council’s in-house Business Transformation Team, the tracker has been designed to provide the relevant information in a clear and concise way. It includes a progress bar, the application area displayed on a map and additional information about each stage of the planning process. It also has links to the council’s website, where customers can find the plans and can submit any comments they have.
The planning application tracker is modelled on private sector offerings and meets customers’ expectations to be able to track the progress of a planning application.
Tewkesbury was one of eight councils successful in a bid for funding through the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities pathfinder project. It became apparent very few local authorities have a planning application tracker, and those that do tend to be time-based, progressing applications based on set time periods rather than live updates from back-office systems. The tracker was built to complement the Public Access software system, allowing the council to keep the tracker streamlined. Additional, more detailed information is available on the system if it is needed.
Further information on the different stages of the planning process is provided on a separate page to the main application page, ensuring all necessary information is available, whilst maintaining the clean look and feel of the tracker. The focus was to improve customers’ experience of the planning service, while freeing up officers to enable them to focus on progressing applications.
The planning application tracker allows customers to track the progress of a planning application online. Real-time updates on planning applications are provided displaying these on the tracker. Customers can subscribe for updates on individual applications, they will then receive an automated text or email alert when the planning application is updated.
The tracker’s success will be measured through:
- Monitoring the number of calls received by the planning team, to establish whether they have seen a reduction in phone calls asking for updates on a planning application.
- Monitoring the number of customers who subscribe to receive the planning application tacker.
- An increase in the speed in which planning decisions are made may indicate the of success of the project. Freeing up officer time from answering update enquiries allowing them to focus on more value-added tasks.
The development will positively impact the planning customer services teams. Ahead of launch, the tracker was taken to a planning agents’ forum to get user feedback. Following these discussions further functionality has been added including providing information on consultations undertaken and the number of letters of representation have been received.