Over four million planning documents now stored on Dorset Council’s system

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Dorset planning documents dating from the 1970s to the present day – over four million documents – are now securely stored on one system.

When Dorset Council was formed in April 2019, there were six different planning teams from the former district, borough and county councils. There were separate software systems for each area. Each team had 47 years of information, including planning applications, building control applications, land charge applications and tree preservation orders.

Officers, lawyers, city and parish councils, building companies, residents and developers were all asked what they thought of the existing systems, what worked, what didn’t and what it would look like a good planning system.

The team has been restructured and work has started on the convergence part of the project. A key element was bringing together all the information held in one system. Transferring systems with the volume of information they had was a colossal undertaking. This was managed by a multidisciplinary team. This team ensured that the data was transferred correctly and that the minimum disruption occurred when the planning website was taken offline for the transfer itself.

As of October 2020, the 47 years of planning information from the old district and borough councils has been transferred to a new system. The cumulative time that the website could not be accessed was 14 working days in total.

Cllr David Walsh, Dorset Council portfolio holder for planning, said: “It has been a huge job. We are starting to see efficiencies as employees are able to process requests in areas of greatest need, rather than being restricted to a particular part of the county.

“For me, it’s much easier to access all scheduling apps through one place on our website.”

Once the final convergence phase is complete next month, the board says its focus will turn to transformation. Using information gathered during the initial discovery phase and working with service users, the council will develop a modern scheduling system that streamlines processes and makes it easier for clients to use.

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