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  • ePlanning has radically modernised the planning application process in Scotland and vastly improved the quantity and quality of planning information published. The service is delivering substantial savings to planning authorities and applicants whilst ensuring an efficient and accessible service to members of the public and businesses. The success of the ePlanning Scotland website, and the savings that it can deliver, can be measured by the proportion of applications that are submitted online. This is currently approaching the 40% mark, which is significantly ahead of the original business case prediction of 12% at the end of the third year.

    Scottish Government

The planning system must be efficient and responsive so that it delivers high quality outcomes that support sustainable economic growth and other key national and local priorities. With the introduction of the ePlanning Programme, the Scottish Government has delivered a step change in the planning service, making it simpler and more accessible. Through the use of online technologies and mapping data from Ordnance Survey, ePlanning has successfully allowed for faster and more transparent decisions. The improved service has also increased efficiencies in the public sector, providing savings to businesses and offering citizens greater confidence in the process.

The challenge

The Scottish Government is committed to improving the planning system by strengthening the involvement of communities, speeding up decisions and improving the quality and enablement of development. The primary objectives of the ePlanning Programme were to drive maximum efficiencies by working across a number of organisations, facilitating shared services, standardising forms, communication and processes, and sharing best practice.

The ePlanning Programme needed to provide a range of online services for both members of the public and professionals, with the aim of offering a complete planning service from initial enquiries, applications, decisions and, where applicable, through to the appeal process.

The solution

A key strand of the programme was the delivery of a single ePlanning Scotland website, for submitting planning applications and appeals to any of the 33 planning authorities in Scotland. The website was launched in April 2009.

The easy-to-use site includes standard forms, the ability to attach supporting documents, online help and a fee calculator. A mechanism has been provided for all planning authorities to receive applications and appeals electronically, providing associated efficiencies for the authority and the public, architects, agents and developers. This project has delivered a technical solution but has also acted as a catalyst for driving business improvements and for removing activities from the processes that add little or no value.

The system uses Ordnance Survey mapping, provided through the One Scotland Mapping Agreement, at multiple scales to locate applications and to help users purchase a location plan for their application. Datasets used include the One Scotland Gazetteer, OS MasterMap® Topography Layer, MiniScale®, 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster and 1:50 000 Scale Colour Raster.

Online plans are easy to submit, allowing simple map searches and the display of associated policies and supporting information in either a map or text format. Members of the public and professionals can view documents as they are prepared and submit comments electronically.

Access to good addressing data is also crucial to the accurate location of planning applications. ePlanning uses the One Scotland Gazetteer for all address-based searching and for a number of location-based queries. By using web services, spatial and address information is interrogated at the national infrastructure and communicated to the ePlanning site as required. As a result, planning applications can be located and displayed against Ordnance Survey mapping.

The benefits

  • Submitting and processing applications electronically saves time and money and has significant environmental benefits.
  • The ePlanning Scotland website has already saved applicants £7 million.
  • Applicants will save an estimated £45 million over the first 10 years of the project.
  • The website will save planning authorities £10 million over the first 10 years.
  • The higher than anticipated usage of the site confirms that online submission is now well established in Scotland.

The products used

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