Tandridge District Council in Surrey has overhauled its back-office document management and planning systems to ensure it meets central government targets to improve its online planning service.
The district council built interfaces towards the end of last year between its electronic document management application from software supplier Civica and its Headway Planning Development Control application from MIS-LGS.
Under government legislation that takes its lead from criteria set out in 2003 by planning expert Peter Pendleton, every local authority with responsibility for town planning has to meet government targets aimed at moving as much planning information online as possible .
The back-office integration project enabled Tandridge to meet the Whitehall deadline for councils to comply with Pendleton's 21 principles for presenting planning information online.
Many other councils have not been able to meet these demands in full, only being able to comply with some of the principles.
The council said, "The expectation was that by opening up the town planning system to the public there would be savings without any detriment to service levels.
"The challenge was the integration of software from the various suppliers without complicating our support issues. Obtaining the suppliers' agreement to meet our business and legal interpretations was not simple."
At the outset of the project, Tandridge set up an internal implementation team with staff taken from the planning and IT departments. A project manager was appointed to manage the internal developers and the two suppliers.
The council said, "Significant technical difficulties and the suppliers' understanding of the legal requirements presented us with a challenge. In spite of our expressed off-the-shelf approach, we made major enhancements to the software using internal expertise."
Tandridge spent £45,000 making its planning applications available online. Some £20,000 of the capital investment was accounted for by a web-based interface for the document management system.
The cost of integrating Civica's document management system and MIS-LGS' Headway planning application was met from the budget of other council projects.
Integrating the document management and planning applications has also helped Tandridge prepare for the next round of Whitehall targets.
Councils with planning responsibility have to introduce a standard planning application form, 1APP, by 1 October this year.
Related article: Woking Council publishes planning documents onlineCivica plc
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This was first published in March 2007