ASSURE – Transforming planning with Colchester Borough Council – The Pathfinders Project

In an ever-increasing digital world, planning departments across the country are striving to modernise. Colchester Borough Council is one of the authorities at the forefront of such change.

When Colchester Borough Council was one of eight local authorities selected to lead a pathfinder project around enhancing digital planning services, our ASSURE team was delighted to assist, continuing our partnership with the council.

The 12-week programme, funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), looked at how local authorities could evolve their development management software.

Developments had to align with the vision set out in the Planning for the Future White Paper.

Joining the project

Colchester Borough Council wanted to identify those key areas to develop technical solutions with a blue-sky thinking approach. Its aspiration was to make its processes even more intuitive and easy to use for citizens. The pathfinders project showcased how ASSURE could support Colchester in its plans to develop the planning application processes. It also presented our ASSURE team with a fantastic opportunity to work closely on a project that would contribute to the development of ASSURE in line with future requirements. As a flexible solution, ASSURE is designed to accommodate changes and can easily be adapted to new requirements.

Simon Cairns, Development Manager for Place and Client Services explains: “We’re always looking for ways to make the user experience as painless as possible. Working closely with NEC’s ASSURE team was needed to explore the wider benefits that could be gained. We live in a world of such high public expectations. As we continue to innovate and facilitate a more agile customer journey, we need technology to help with achieving that.”

Collaboration with Colchester

Colchester Borough Council already uses ASSURE across a range of services, with a cloud-based approach and widespread integration with other council systems.

It has key features that align perfectly with Colchester’s ambitions in planning.

Firstly, it has a fully-integrated GIS (Geographics Information System) feature, which means citizens can navigate planning applications with ease. This creates, maps, analyses and manages all kinds of data, accessible at any time. This was of particular interest for Colchester, as it contributes to making an application as painless as possible.

The offering of AI and automation, to auto-complete form fields for planning applications, also makes for a much slicker process. It will allow Citizens to drastically reduce the time taken to submit applications.

For Colchester, it holds the opportunity to lower the number of incomplete applications. “We spend a lot of time receiving incomplete applications,” Simon explained. Digitising the process through online forms cuts costs and time.

As with all ASSURE applications, ASSURE Planning accommodates mobile accessibility. An application can be completed on the go, 24/7, as long as a signal or internet connection is available.

What next?

With the 12-week programme concluding, we took away all of the findings and feedback from Simon and his team at Colchester.

These findings will help to continue the development of ASSURE Planning, to ensure that our customers, and the people that they serve, have a solution that makes their lives easier.

We will be working closely with Colchester, and our other ASSURE customers, on a Planning User Group. This will help to continue the evolution of the product, so that it’s even more customer focused, more agile and innovative.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank Colchester for inviting us to work with them on this project.

Learn more about ASSURE Planning