Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council

Outcome of Expression of Interest: Invited to apply

All local planning authorities are required to publish their brownfield land register digitally.  They also publish, usually in pdf format, maps of other sites allocated for development within their boundary.  In parallel, MHCLG is pushing local authorities to provide brownfield sites with ‘Permission in Principle’ (PiP) to reduce planning risk and increase confidence for developers.  However, research by LSE for RTPI suggested that –

“PiP allows the local authority to set out the type and amount of development permissible on a particular site. This permission, if it is to be implemented, must be informed by detailed knowledge of the plot and its physical characteristics and constraints. The current pressures on resources and on planning departments in particular mean it would be a challenge for local authorities to assemble the information required to implement PiP to any significant degree…link

Gateshead and Future Cities Catapult have completed a discovery project that structures Local Planning Authority and other public data sources to provide small developers with a clearer understanding of the risk and requirements associated with any small site in their boundary.  We believe this project is replicable to all local planning authorities.

Discovery evidence

We took a user research-led approach and conducted workshops and interviews with approx. 25 people including small developers and medium developers (S is different from M in SME), as well as agents, statutory consultees and council officials across relevant departments. Our research (view here) identified key pain points for developers as –

  • Assessing viability
  • Remediation costs
  • Timescales
  • Negotiation

We used a co-design workshop with Future Cities Catapult to develop various concepts for a tool that could de-risk the planning process, especially for small developers. We then developed a user experience prototype (view here) based on GDS guidelines, which was subject to user testing with small developers and council officials.  The feedback was very positive saving developers time and providing them with new information to assess the viability of sites. We are now in the process of developing a full software architecture specification which will enable the development of the full software tool and allow scaling of it across LAs to implement the digitisation of planning data and enabling resilient operations in future. We would use the Local Digital Funding to build and integrate a full software tool into our website.

  • Digital leadership training (for council leaders, service managers or senior executives)
  • Digital and agile awareness
  • Introduction to user research
  • Introduction to digital business analysis

Other training requests

We have full buy in from across the planning department to the new digital ways or working implied by this kind of tool. However we lack expertise in - ● Effectively procuring software developers ● Integrating with our back office system ● Ensuring that the system is adopted by other local planning authorities