Planning software systems - Public forum - Planning Advisory Service (PAS)
Planning software systems
We are looking into replacing our current database management, document management and mapping systems.
I would be interested to know which systems other Councils are using, what works well, what could be improved upon, any pitfalls and lessons learnt please.
Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
We use MasterGov. It integrates well with Esri/ArcGIS. The document management is integrated. Has good notification for case officers and workflow (which we haven't implemented yet). Very configurable. Good template system for letters etc. It also has modules for Enforcement, Site Monitoring, Appeals, Land Charges etc
The Planning Portal import needs improving (cannot import amends), but I understand that is being worked on this year.
What are you currently using?
We have recently implemented iDOX cloud, which has been disapointing compared to the 'vision' we were sold, although the officers quite like some of the functionality. iDOX really need to do some serious development work before it would be something that we could recommend.
Cumbria County, pre-reorganisation, were using the County Module of DEF MasterGov and will be until the Minerals and Waste Planning function has been split into the two successor authorities (Cumberland/Westmorland & Furness). Westmorland & Furness are currently implementing MasterGov too, expected to be live by the Autumn when migration and training are complete. When implementing for Cumbria County, getting the migraition right from our previous supplier (Atrium) was critical and also being prepared to adapt processes to fit the software to avoid bespoke development unless absolutely necessary (i.e. do it like others have been doing it before but with the ability to influence future development/best practice for the benefit of all of their clients). At the County, for the modules where GIS is linked QGIS has been used and seems to be working OK, although it had not been implemented for planning yet. W&F will be using QGIS for planning.
Training and particularly early 'expert' user training (not just for one or two people) is critical to make sure you get the best out of the system, making sure that you take advantage of as much of the workflow and automation as early as possible in my view and is a lesson learnt for me at least as staff changes can quickly dilute the expertise and knowledge of configuration options and possibilities. The 'hive mind' opportunities obviously increase with the number of expert minds and disciplines.
in North Yorkshire we have just formed a new Unitary from a county and seven districts. The legacy systems are still in place - county system MasterGov, for minerals and waste etc, all the lower tier LPAs on IDOX Uniform I believe.. I don't think any options have been investigated yet re aligning them.
I'm an LPA ecologist not a planner, so not a 'backoffice' user but with the arrival of BNG in November I'm concerned that systems need to handle different document formats and generally act as an audit trail for the 30year BNG obligations. GIS files, biodiversity Metrics on macro enabled spreadsheets, maintenance and monitoring reqmts, habitat plans secured by s106 and conservation covenenants as well as enforcement of the BNG delivery.
Does this make a difference to the choice of system and its functionality?
I beleive two of our districts use Exacom too - for tracking S106 and CIL but I know very little about it. Would be very interested in other's thoughts.
Tim, BNG Officer, North Yorks Council
I realise you said the back office is not your area, but do pass onto those that may be thinking about this that Dorset Council went unitary and aligned all their planning systems onto MasterGov over the last couple of years, if they need someone to talk to/pick brains of
MasterGov had their annual User Group meeting last week and demoed the new BNG aspects they are currently building... Basically imports the calculator spreadsheet into the planning record and then, as I understand it, allows it to be tracked in the Site Monitoring module after permission granted.
BNG is not my area, so I don't know whether it's what is required - I am sending some screenshots to our Ecologist.
Just to throw in a twist, DEF Software Ltd in partnership with Telford & Wrekin Council are designing and building the next generation of planning and building control software to replace what is mainly dominated by aged legacy products. It will be a web based solution with an anticipated go live Q4 2024.