Reducing Invalid Planning Applications (Beta)


  1. Project outputs
  2. Project timeline
Lambeth Council are leading on a project to design a system that reduces the number of invalid application submissions. They also hope to make the current system more transparent and easier to navigate.
The new application will increase satisfaction, save money, and make it easier for users to submit information. It will help avoid requesting duplicate information from multiple documents. The project also wants to develop a system that only asks for information that is unknown. Information that councils already hold the answer to will not be asked. For example, whether or not the applicant lives in a conservation area.

Project scope

The minimum viable product is being built to be ready for private beta testing by the end of 2020. This will allow local planning authorities to manage Lawful Development Certificate application.

RIPA prototype
RIPA prototype

Ways of working

The project follows Agile delivery principles, incorporating user research and service design into its activities. Working in the open, the project hosts fortnightly show and tells to update on progress and share findings. You can find the show and tells and sprint notes on the project website.

The outputs of this project will be openly shared, in such a way that they can be easily adapted and adopted by any local authority or private sector company wishing to provide a digital planning submissions service.

If you would like to get involved in Beta user research – to help the team design a better system for planning application submissions – please email them at or join them on LinkedIn.

Project outputs

All Local Digital Fund beta projects are asked to provide the following information:

  • User research report
  • Benefits case
  • A user experience demo or design pattern, a data model or a set of instructions
  • Recommendations for next steps

See and try out RIPA: Householder planning applications

Project timeline

October 2019 - alpha

‘Reducing invalid planning applications’ alpha is awarded £98,500 from the Local Digital Fund to deliver previous stage (Alpha).

April 2020 - alpha

The project team of the ‘Reducing invalid planning applications’ alpha deliver the agreed outputs, published openly on the Local Digital website.

June 2020 - beta

The project had their first sprint, which included a kickoff workshop, defining a wider engagement strategy and an adoption strategy,  creating 6 parallel instances of the service and doing their first Show & Tell (watch Part 1Part 2 & Part 3).

The project published three blogposts following their kick off workshop:

The first sprint ended with a show and tell and a blogpost that summarises Wider Engagement Strategy.

The second sprint focussed on an engagement strategy, sharing validation requirements and looking at maps. This was followed up with a Show & Tell (watch Part 1Part 2Part 3 & Part 4).


July 2020 - beta

The third sprint was about validation requirement mapping and looking at APIs. Watch the Show & Tell Part 1Part 2Part 3 & Part 4.

The fourth sprint focussed on service design for a clickable prototype and validation requirements / rules. Here are show and tell slides.

Project also published a Maps blogpost that explored how the project should treat ‘red lines’ provided in the application.

August 2020 - beta

The 5th sprint continued looking at service design and improvements to the prototype. Here are the slides and Show & Tell recording.

Following the 5th Show & Tell project published an update blogpost. They wrote about about their workshop session with their new User Researcher and partners where they looked at the application and policy from a headline angle.

The 6th sprint focussed on roadmapping and onboarding requirements. View the slides and  Show & Tell .



September 2020 - beta

During the 7th sprint team did validation rule research, carried out user research, started writing flows and set up a Content Team. At the end of the sprint they did a Show & Tell and shared slides.

The project published  Latest (belated) sprint notes where they gave a number of updates including the need to  accelerate the project from an 18 month timeframe (December 2021) to a reduced 6-months timeframe with a March 2021 date set to achieve a private Beta.

The 8th sprint focussed on benefits case research, user research and ways to let users know if they need a planning permission. Watch the Show & Tell and see slides here.

The project published a blogpost Workshop 8! where they shared a RIPA prototype, spoke about using to find users and findings from the latest user research sessions.

They also published another blogpost about Benefits case and metrics where they spoke about a customer survey they’re putting together and mapping Lawful Development Certificate user journey.

October 2020 - beta

At the 9th sprint project looked at Certificate of Lawful Development Data, carried out validation and user research, looked at database + API, carried on exploring ‘find out if you need planning permission’ user journey and looked at Article 4s.  Here are show and tell slides and Show & Tell recording.

Project published a blogpost summarising Workshop 11…. where they spoke about how they used a ‘retrospective’ to reflect on the project, ways of trying to find more user research volunteers and what happens when a live demo does not go to plan.

Reducing invalid planning applications and Back office planning system projects had user story mapping sessions to agree the user needs we’re going to meet with our Lawful Development Certificate MVP.

RIPA project had their show and tell (SlidesShow & Tell recoding) and a fortnightly workshop where they had a retrospective that allowed them to reflect on how the project is going. 

November 2020 - beta

RIPA and BOPS projects had their final user story mapping session to agree the user needs we’re going to meet with our Lawful Development Certificate MVP. RIPA project is also working on a number of tasks, including legal agreements and payment system for the project, prototype content review, risk log and defining private beta parameters.

RIPA project had their regular show and tell, SlidesShow & Tell recording.

The project has been working on a number of things, including finalising content review for the existing certificate of lawfulness application, doing user research, defining the private beta scope,  adding a ‘prospective’ rear extension to the service mock-up for testing, running a workshop with enforcement officers. See their 12th Slides, and Show & Tell recoding.

The project published a blogpost that summarises key events from the past few weeks.

December 2020 - beta

The project has been working on a number of things, including risk log, content review for the proposed development prototype and monitoring & evaluation framework.  They had a show and tell and a regular workshop, watch a recording on the project’s YouTube or find out more on the project log.

The project is also working on agreeing a pre-private beta testing plan, integrating with the BOPS platform and continuing to build our user journeys. 

January 2021

The project had a break over the festive period. They also worked on improving RIPA’s content and made progress with their private beta user testing plan. Read their latest blogpost where they reflect on their last sprint in 2020 and watch the show and tell!

The project has been working on finalising scenarios for pre-private beta testing. They also started recruiting user research participants.

The project had another show and tell where they spoke about preparations for Beta testing, risks, continuing integration with GOV.UK Pay and continuous improvements to RIPA platform. Catch a recording here. The team had a remote retrospective and have been focussing on preparing for pre-private beta user testing, agreeing priority scenarios, etc.

February 2021

The project received £350,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work. During the next phase, the project aims to:

  • continue to test and improve the ‘Find out if you need planning permission’ and ‘Apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness’ services
  • reach and test with new users, including users with particular accessibility needs
  • develop and test an ‘Apply for Planning Permission’ service for householders
  • focus on achieving a working minimum viable product that can be easily maintained and extended in future continue to work closely with the BOPS project

The project has been progressing with agreeing new scenarios for testing and doing more user research.

March 2021

RIPA project’s 19th show and tell is available on their YouTube channel where they spoke about:

  • user research – carried out 2 more testing sessions
  • small fixes and iteration to the ‘Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate’ journey (that include removing the back button after the user has paid and other small issues flagged by user research)
  • building a component that will allow the system to calculate the correct fee and display it to the user
  • sorting out partner DPAs and other documentation.

RIPA project had their 20th show and tell where they spoke about:

  • Planning Officer Society presentation where they spoke about project vision and gathered officer feedback.
  • work to rekindle a Benefits Case and Metrics workstream
  • progress on recruiting a Content Designer via digital marketplace
  • pre-private beta testing with planning officers
  • User Researcher updates  – having completed two more sessions
  • development updates with the current focus on finalising the payment feature that calculates the correct application fee.

The RIPA project had a busy sprint, where they made good progress with agreeing new scenarios for testing and carried out further user research. During their 21st show and tell they spoke about:

  • user research sessions and application development
  • development backlog prioritisation  
  • how their progressing with GOV.UK Pay integration
  • pre-private beta officer testing

The team has published their latest sprint notes that summarises what they’ve been up to over the last two sprints.

The team had also been working on:

  • continuing to procure a content designer
  • producing an accessibility testing brief
  • tested confirmation emails to be sent to users when a payment is received and an application s submitted
  • continued user testing the LDC application and recruiting users for further testing
  • have been making iterations to the application, such as allowing users to upload a site plan if they choose to, or an option to report an issue with the displayed property information.

April 2021

The project held a 22nd show and tell where they spoke about upcoming testing, user research findings, finding private beta participants and others.

It has also been progressing with a number of activities to ensure they can go to Lawful Development Certificates (LDCs) private beta:

  • holding content designer interviews
  • agreeing with project partners what other issues need to be solved before going to private beta
  • iterating user journeys and working through tech issues
  • putting in place a plan on contacting LPAs to gather performance / benefits case data
  • allowing non-planners to test the RIPA application form
  • carrying our user research
  • producing a final brief for accessibility testing
  • starting to align notifications with the BOPS project.

May 2021

The project hosted 23rd show and tell.

They also worked on:

  • benefits case and performance metrics to be tracked post and pre-private beta go live.
  • recruiting a content designer (starting in June time).
  • met with MHCLG policy colleagues to see how the translation of the legislation can practically be reviewed by MHCLG.
  • RIPA dev team met with Breandan Knowlton from the Cabinet Office to discuss security and infrastructure and provide some guidance on best practice for their app.
  • aligning with BOPS project on notifications to be shown and sent to users throughout private beta
  • finding a partner to do accessibility testing
  • 1st session with private beta participants to introduce the system and discuss their needs
  • further rounds of user testing.

June 2021

In an important first step towards digital planning reform, the RIPA and BOPS projects launched a private beta of their planning products.

During this next phase, the projects are trialling their beta products to process lawful development certificate (LDC) applications. The participating councils are inviting residents that need a LDC to use the new service, so that the teams can collect user feedback as they continue to improve the products to process other types of planning application.

Read more about this exciting move towards a 21st Century digital planning system in this blog post on DLUHC Digital.

July 2021

The RIPA and BOPS tools began accepting live applications for Lawful Development Certificates.

The teams fixed a red-line ‘draw site boundary’ issue that had been identified in the testing, and have integrated with OS maps which reduces rework. It also enables anyone to use and contribute to the shared code.

The teams continued to have conversations with more councils interested in adopting the products.

August 2021

The two project teams spent 11 hours in workshops run by MHCLG, as they worked through high level project alignment. During one workshop, they covered:

  • a review of the project to date
  • functions and roles within an improved delivery structure
  • the vision for the project, which will inform the phase of work from September/October onwards

You can watch a recording of the project’s eighth show and tell on the Unboxed website.

The BOPS team created a new open source ‘draw site boundary tool’. The basic tool was originally developed by Open Systems Lab, the delivery partner for RIPA. They packaged this up and shared the code on Github so that the BOPS team (and delivery partner Unboxed) could develop a new piece of BOPS functionality to simplify the communications between planning officers and applicants.

This means that applicants and planners can propose a redrawn site boundary, rather than a planning application being returned as invalid and requiring a completely new submission. This development work marks a recent high-point in cross-product collaboration.

September 2021

The RIPA and BOPS team held three Showcase events this month. During the second event they presented their first end to end demo of a householder LDC application. 

The showcases resulted in 17 councils signing up to be in the next cohort to develop and implement the tool.

They also held a Show and Tell on 16 September – watch the recording.

Additionally, the open source boundary drawing tool is now in use in both RIPA and BOPS, and has code contributions from the two different delivery partners.

November 2021

The Digital Planning team at DLUHC launched the RIPA/BOPS EOI to find 5 new councils who wish to join the project team to design and implement new development management software products.