Questions asked at our RIPA/BOPS Expression of Interest Q&A session
View the Q&A presentation slides from the session on 15 November 2021:
Questions about the Application Process
Do you weight applicants on the basis of getting a variety of Council’s involved to test proof of concept in different settings? For example, are you looking for a spread of rural / urban or District / Unitary?
Our assessment criteria is not weighted. We encourage applications from a range of types of authority. We can see that the development of the tools would benefit from a diversity of users. Such diversity will enable us to learn how the products work in different contexts and ultimately to develop them so that they could be adopted by as wide a range of LPAs as possible.
Will RIPA and BOPS be primarily focussed on District / Borough / City Council planning applications or will County Council (Minerals, Waste, Reg 3) applications be given equal consideration?
The primary problem the team is looking at is how to make the application process easier. At the moment they are focusing on the high volume application types – such as householder applications for planning permission and lawful development certificates.
Please can you provide clarification around the prerequisites?
We have published a set of 11 Adoption Commitments – see slide 14 in the Q&A presentation deck above. These are based on our learnings from working with the three pioneer councils who have led this work to date, and it is based on a practical ‘go live’ checklist that each council has used to gain approvals before launching their services.
What types of skill sets are being sought specifically?
Staff who can fulfil the following capabilities will be useful members of your proposed project team: Project Leadership, Project delivery and Support, Planning Officers, IT and other technical support. See slides 11 and 12 in the Q&A presentation deck for more information.
How soon will we hear whether our application has been successful, and how many Councils will be successful?
We aim to fund at least five councils. The deadline for applications is Friday 26 November at 5pm. Interviews will be in the week commencing 29 November. A public announcement will be made confirming successful councils in January 2022. See slide 10 in the Q&A presentation deck for more key dates.
Questions about the products or the project
I’ve seen the products are based on the GOV.UK format – can the workflow and knowledge be used in other forms packages and how does this integrate into COTS planning systems?
Visually it has an interface that looks like GOV.UK, but the RIPA product is quite different. RIPA sits on the ‘Plan X’ platform, which is a complex flow builder tool. It is unlike any traditional forms packages. It does not just collect the question and answer data that most forms packages use, it collects a lot of metadata as well. It also tailors the questions asked based on planning constraints that are bespoke to the applicants using the product.
At the moment, RIPA and BOPS do not integrate into existing planning software systems. It is on the team’s product roadmap to make these integrations in the near future. The team will be doing this on a case-by-case basis as needed, and is prioritised by the needs of the councils who are working on the project.
Our current back office system has integrated modules for Enforcement and Appeals Case Work. Will the RIPA/BOPS system be developed to eventually include a similar solution?
The project aims to stay within the scope of development management services. Currently the plan for both RIPA and BOPS is to develop all of the functionality required to process full householder applications, within the next 2-3 years.
The team aims to involve colleagues from other parts of council planning or built environment services, so that we can lay the foundation for the types of integrations and pieces of functionality needed in the products in the future.
What level of support is provided for integration with GOV.UK pay?
It depends on the support you need. The GOV.UK Pay team in GDS are very supportive and understanding of local government needs – growing the use of GOV.UK Pay in local government is on their own Roadmap. The project team has learnings and resources that can be shared to support new councils in conversations with their finance teams – the project has already seen three integrations with GOV.UK Pay. Within the RIPA/BOPS EOI funding package, money is specifically allocated for integrations such as this.
Would BOPS become the product that we would need to purchase in the future and RIPA works alongside it?
At the moment, through the EOI, we are looking for councils who want to work on the development and implementation of both RIPA and BOPS. At the moment RIPA only works with BOPS, and BOPS only works with RIPA. It is on the team’s product roadmap to integrate with existing application submission and back office case management software.
Our current systems are used for more than just development management-related activities – how would RIPA and BOPS fit into this?
The products are being designed in such a way that means that in the future they could form a discrete development management software module that integrates with other systems council teams are using.
We are attempting to make our travel planning software fit for purpose and would like to know whether to put forward an expression of interest.
The RIPA/BOPS scope is limited to householder applications in the short and medium-term. See slides 16 to 18 in the Q&A presentation deck for more information.
What is the key driver for this project?
The key driver for RIPA and BOPS is the ambition set out in the Planning for the Future white paper to modernise the planning system through better use of data and digital technology. As council-led work that started in 2019, it is also led by the real-world needs of the three pioneer councils – Buckinghamshire, Lambeth and Southwark – who are exploring how to improve their planning services.
It would be good to get an idea of how you envision the selected councils working together through this [project].
The project team has an established set of working practices and a meeting/work schedule. Shortlisted councils will receive more information about this at the interview stage. See slide 9 in the Q&A presentation deck for more information.
Funding and DLUHC support
Can we bring in an agency to deliver the work?
Up to £300,000 is to cover staffing costs. This is expected to be through the recruitment of assignment of permanent staff or staff on fixed term contracts. The purpose of this funding is not just to support staff contributions but to support capability development within the partner organisations.
RIPA/BOPS project and products
What is the long term vision for these? Will they just become another planning portal?
The vision is that both products will remain open source, and will eventually be managed by a not-for-profit entity, independent of DLUHC and not run by a single council. The team has not worked out the precise details in terms of the type of company and business model. We are taking inspiration from a successful project funded via the Local Digital Fund, called LocalGov Drupal.
Will there be dual running of RIPA/BOPS alongside our existing/legacy software?
We have been working with the existing partner councils to identify where dual running is required, and to implement mechanisms so that it does not have an adverse impact on council staff time.
Will we have to change our data?
One of our guiding principles is to work practically with local authorities on the structure of data that we [DLUHC’s Digital Land team] accept. Through working with the initial RIPA authorities (Buckinghamshire, Lambeth, Southwark) as well as projects such as the “local plans pathfinders”, we’ve been able to extend our [Digital Land] data platform to collect and transform data from a variety of sources into a consistent format.
We may need to work with you to understand the shape of your data, and we’ll work with you to test that our data platform is able to interpret it correctly.
Why do we need to make data available (openly/publicly)?
By making the data available openly and publicly this makes it easier for us [DLUHC’s Digital Land team] to ensure that we’re collecting the latest data. A secondary benefit is that services outside of RIPA and BOPS will be able to use the data too.
How much time/effort is anticipated to make the data available?
This really depends on how much of your planning data (that is needed by RIPA) is a) already mapped in your GIS application, and b) whether your GIS application is able to make that data available.