Example fund applications – Alpha

These are example forms that illustrate the type of information we would need to receive to be able to properly assess your expression of interest (EOI) or application for an alpha project. Numbers, savings and other figures quoted are used for illustration purposes only. Any products or prototypes used are for illustration purposes only, they are not endorsed by MHCLG in any way and should we receive any EOIs or applications for funding those projects, they will be assessed by an impartial panel the same way as all other applications we may receive.


Royal Borough of Gala Apples have an issue with the planning applications they receive. Over half of the applications that come through have missing information, which takes up lots of their staff time. Often staff have to go back to the users and ask for more information before they can even start progressing the applications. In addition, user complaints about the service are really high and user satisfaction is low. The council knows that all planning authorities have to deliver this service and are facing similar issues.

Having recently signed the Local Digital Declaration, the council are keen to redesign the service in line with the declaration principles. They are used to working in Agile and have already completed a Discovery, which resulted in producing a redesigned to-be process and a prototype used for user testing. Having completed five rounds of user research, they have a good understanding of what the main issues with the current user journey are and how to make it better. However, in order to make sure that the new solution can be reused by other councils, they would like to find partners for Alpha and test the new design with other council users.

The council has a fully staffed project team, ready to kick off Alpha. However, the team would like some support with making sure that the end products are made open source and can be easily adopted by others. Also, engaging with suppliers and finding partners for the Alpha project has been difficult and they would like some assistance with this.

Example expression of interest

Lead authority Royal Borough of Gala Apples
Partners involved
Applicant details Name Role
John Doe Head of Digital
Proposal details Discovery Alpha
No Yes
Q2: Summary of the common solution you want to develop or iterate, mentioning who you plan to collaborate with

Household planning applications

Over 50% of minor household planning applications are incorrectly submitted, with further 5% of applications being rejected at the end of the process.

To find out how the issue can be resolved, we did a discovery, produced a prototype for a redesigned pre-application process and would like to take it into the next stage of producing a reusable product that can be picked up and localised by all planning authorities.

Current solution does not account for local policy variations (we want to develop this part), but it does include an online tool that provides:

  • Information to the user if they need to submit a planning application form at all
  • An upfront decision given to the user on whether or not their application is likely to be accepted
  • Information about fees and timescales for the application that the user needs to submit
  • A back end tool for planners to process the applications
  • Ability for the user to check the status of their application online.

We will work in partnership with any local authority(ies) that wishes to take part in this project.

Q3 Discovery evidence

We did a 16 week Discovery that helped us understand why users are submitting incorrect applications so that we can develop a standard application process that users can follow and complete successfully the first time around.

Our findings showed that main blockers to submitting planning application forms right first time are:

  • Use of jargon – applicants do not understand the questions asked
  • Fields not indicated as required – applicants leave fields empty
  • Inability to attach the documents – people struggle with certain formats, scans are ineligible, etc.
  • Not knowing if a planning application is needed, which type of application needs to be submitted and likelihood of their application being accepted.

We did 5 rounds of user research, spoke to 22 users and 7 members of staff and concluded that a full redesign process is required for the application. Following this, we prototyped and iteratively tested the solution during 5 more rounds of user research. We made sure to test the prototype with users from a mix of genders, age groups, digital skills, accessibility needs and locations.

Full discovery findings are documented and published on github

Q4 Training requests

We have a fully staffed project team with service design, user research and project delivery resources in place. However, we lack expertise in:

  • Making the prototype tool open source
  • Integrating the tool with back office systems
  • Working in the open to get input from other local authorities

We would like some guidance from MHCLG on how to procure the required skills for the duration of the project. It would also be very helpful if MHCLG could facilitate the conversation with planning back office system suppliers to understand their appetite for allowing the prototype integration with their back end systems. Finally, we would like to make use of ‘Agile for teams’ course, as we presume that once we find partners for the project, we will benefit from a refresher course for all.