Weeknote — 2020-09-08

Digital land sprint notes

This sprint we’ve finished our first round of local plans user research into data providers, and we're now speaking with data consumers. We've worked with BOPS and RIPA to build a backlog of planning data, and Paul has started building a collection of conservation areas.

User research into local plans

Lorna carried out the last interviews with local planning authorities about their local plan processes and systems, and how development policies might be understood as data. She ran 3 sessions with the team, to specifically focus on the 3 key design problems in the research which were:

  1. How might we design a process for local planning authorities to produce data about local plans and policies, which they find easy to carry out?
  2. How might we design a data standard for local plan policies that local planning authorities will find easy to produce?
  3. Do local planning authorities understand the value of this work, and what would motivate them to undertake it to a high standard?

These sessions prompted interesting conversations amongst the team and helped us to identify key decisions we need to make. We also have found areas we need to investigate further, such as:

  • What information do local planning authorities already send to the Planning Inspectorate and does it overlap with what we will be asking for?
  • Who in each organisation will publish the data? And how much influence do we have, or need, over which roles in local planning authorities should publish the data?
  • Does our work need to sit outside local authorities’ existing processes?
  • What is the potential scope of this project and of what we hope to achieve? This could relate to various factors, such as what metrics, measurements or evidence we may include, which policies or documents we cover, or how far back we expect the data to go.
  • What are all the potential scenarios in terms of joint plans, overlapping plans, multiple plans and documents? Does our existing schema fit these or have the flexibility to meet new scenarios?

Loïc started speaking to potential consumers of our data. Five PropTech startups participated in a series of in-depth interviews, where we explored their user needs and aspirations for a service that makes planning and housing data available to everyone. Key questions we’re covering include:

  • How do they currently explore data needed to build their products?
  • How do they access data?
  • What are the main barriers they currently have when getting hold of data?
  • What are their expectations in terms of accessing planning data with us?
  • What are their preferences in terms of data delivery method?
  • How can we enable trust in our data?
  • How can we engage with the proptech sector when new datasets are made available?

Planning data

Paul has begun building a collection of conservation areas to prove our model for recording development policies and build the process of collecting geospatial data from local authority publications.

screenshot of the conservation-area page for Borough Market

Euan and Matt have been working with BOPS, RIPA and our planning colleagues to create a backlog of planning data that we may need to work on. The list is still in progress but there are a few areas, such as Conservation Areas and Article 4 Directions, that seem to be high on the list of priorities already.

Euan and Egle had a first joint meeting with both the BOPS and RIPA teams to highlight the importance of the work being done and establish our working relationship in the coming months. There are 12 Local Authority partners involved, all of which we hope to work closely with in the future.

Policy and PropTech

Euan, Laura, Rishi and Natalie met to discuss stakeholder mapping. They thought through how we should map these stakeholders, both internal and external ones, to make sure we can maintain and build good relationships with them.

Whiteboard sketch of stakeholder map

This week Disruptive Innovators Network sent through a wealth of feedback to help in supporting our social housing policy colleagues. We are very grateful for their efforts reaching out to Housing Associations around digitalisation.

We've had meetings with a number of companies including Lanu, Square Seven, Commonplace, Occubly and DronePrep and spoken with 2 different data projects in the industry to help identify relevant PropTech overlaps or introductions.


We understood how much work remains to get the backend digital-land pipeline tools into a good state. Eventually they will be able to replace the legacy code currently in use for collecting and processing our incoming data. The initial focus of this work has been on the Brownfield Land data collection, but Paul has already started using the tooling for the conservation areas collection, which is helping us exercise all of the new code and build tools.

As well as fleshing out the details of the remaining work, we’ve implemented more features, including merging incoming fields, and better handling of datasets that use legacy field descriptors.