RESOURCE AND FUNDING OPTIONS
80. There are examples of planning authorities developing small scale innovative e-planning project on low budgets and with small teams. In most instances, however, e-planning services require planning authorities to make sizable commitments in terms of financial and staff resources. E-planning has become a mainstream part of the planning service and needs to be properly resourced.
81. In most instances, planning authorities have used a combination of sources to fund e-planning improvements. The main source of funding has been from internal council funding sources. The Executive's Modernising Government Fund ( MGF) has also been a key source of funding for e-planning improvements. The Executive's research on fees and costs of planning will examine the costs of providing an electronic planning service. Other potential funding sources are outlined below.
82. Partnership enables ICT costs, staff resources and risks to be shared between organisations. Partnership working arrangements may be between adjoining planning authorities or with authorities that are more distant but at the same point in e-planning service development. Partnership with a statutory consultee may be another effective way of spreading costs and risks. Existing collaborative partnership arrangements for e-planning include Forth Valley GIS and the arrangements within structure plan teams. The Executive is keen to encourage partnership working and, through the e-Planning Group, hopes to promote this across Scotland's planning authorities and other organisations involved in the planning service.
Case Study 8: Salisbury District Council, West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council have developed the Planning & Licensing Website, which is an interactive online service for the submission, viewing and tracking of planning and licensing applications. Roles were divided between the partners - Salisbury Council took the lead on design, content and defining functionality, while West Dorset Council used its inhouse developers' skills to deliver the site and to manage integration, including coding and testing. Also of interest is the Welland Partnership.
Local Authority Resources
83. Many e-planning objectives are closely linked to local authority corporate e-government objectives, so it may be possible to deliver e-planning service improvements through corporate initiatives. For example, in many councils e RDM systems are being implemented corporately. Planning staff should ensure strong working relationship with corporate ICT departments and web development teams. This will help ensure that corporate ICT development takes account of the needs of the planning system. There may also be opportunities to work in collaboration with other parts of the council, such as building standards, economic development, transport, licensing and environmental health.
Fee Earning Services
84. Some planning authorities have developed fee earning services based on their unique geographic information holdings, such as information held on land and property. Planning authorities need to be aware of the risks involved in funding projects this way, as similar services are often provided by the private sector.
85. One funding option is to cover hardware, software, development and change management costs through a transaction-based model. Private sector companies provide e-planning services in return for a charge per transaction, such as each time a planning application is processed electronically. The attraction of this approach is that it is revenue funded and spread over several years - a particular benefit to planning authorities with no prospect of funding from capital sources. The downside can be the high costs per transaction.
Case Study 9: City of Edinburgh Council's Planning and Building Control Portal online planning system was launched by the Deputy Minister for Communities. The portal gives real time online access to the wealth of data in the planning authority's back office systems and allows plans and associated documents to be displayed online. Representations on live applications can be submitted online. The council has also developed the electronic Property Enquiries Certificates (e- PEC) system, which produces a property enquiry certificate that shows information about the status of a property.