How we settled on design patterns as a way to encourage interoperability and data reuse, without forcing local authorities to generate planning data in yet another specialised standard.
Single register of planning
mySociety and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government are exploring how to make trustworthy, up to date planning application data easier to find, use, and build into services.
Our goals for this project are to:
- Prototype: Prototype how to make planning applications available as a collection of data in order to show how a beta system with more complete data could work.
- Inspire: Create, or support the creation of, experimental prototypes of what can be done with this data, in order to demonstrate the potential value of making an open index of this data.
- Plan for scale: Explore options for how to scale from a prototype to a production system, and the challenges that would need to be addressed, in order to show how to turn this into a sustainable solution.
- Share our approach: Document and share our user research work, findings, prototypes and other outputs openly in order to gather wider input and feedback, and so others can learn from this work.
During discovery, we’re trying to understand more about planning application data flows, understand user needs for planning application data and understand more about the technical constraints and capabilities of the underlying systems.
What we’ve done
We’ve so far spoken to 18 different people: 6 in local government planning or IT, 6 in proptech businesses, 3 individuals who know planning data, 2 MHCLG experts and 1 system provider (the planning portal).
We’ve been making progress in understanding the needs of users for a data source, the domain of planning data, and how this data flows through different systems and organisations.
Here are four questions that have emerged as being particularly important and that we are focusing on:
- how do you get more structured data flowing through the system?
- how do we help users of this data tie related planning submissions together and to other datasets they might be using?
- what capabilities does a central data source need to have for it to be useful to the intended users?
- how do we get the ~360 or so local planning authorities across England all releasing it in the same format?
- how do we get structured and reliable data on commencements and completions?
On this last point, it looks as if the answer here lies in linking planning application data to a different dataset — building control data. There is enough complexity there that it may warrant a separate investigation of its own.
We’re now writing up the interviews and consolidating the findings to help inform our decisions on where to focus in alpha.
We will also be identifying gaps in our knowledge and looking to schedule more conversations targeted to fill in these gaps. For example:
- we want to speak to LPAs using a variety of office systems (Northgate and Ocella in particular) to find out how much of what we’ve discovered so far about how data is modelled and managed is consistent across different systems
- we want to start talking to system providers about what their systems can do and options for data extraction or integration
We’ve not yet started any prototypes for this project.
Related blog posts
After six weeks of discovery, we summarise the key findings from our work and where we're planning to go next in alpha.
People have been working on planning application data projects for over 10 years, from individual hackers, to local government and commercial providers. We summarise some of these initiatives and look at the challenges ahead for this project.
What we’ve been up to this sprint, including: talking to stakeholders, learning about similar projects that have been done, and holding our second round of user research interviews. Coming up next: more interviews; Alpha project phase plan
What we’ve been up to this sprint, including: Kicking off the project, creating a roadmap, and holding our first batch of user research interviews. Coming up next: more interviews, and an adjusted model of the planning submissions process.
How we are kicking off a new Discovery phase with the Digital Land (MHCLG) and mySociety teams. The Planning Permissions project, “Single register of planning”, will explore how to make data around planning applications more open, accessible, sustainable, and trustworthy.