This is Quality (Part Three)

Part 1 of this series introduced the Planning Quality Framework – the antidote to target based performance management. Part 2 explained how we’d made the framework ‘modular’ and much easier to engage with.

In Part 3 I’ll take you through what the framework actually is, explain a bit more about each module, how it all fits together and show you some of the newer outputs we’re developing.

How the Framework ‘works’



The framework brings 3 sets of data together in one place:

1) Facts: What does the data from our management system tell us?

2) Opinions: What do customers say and think about us?

The greatest compliment ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.

Henry David Thoreau

3) Development quality: How good are proposals and what eventually gets built?

It turns these 3 sets of data into…


A rounded (i.e. not just speed) set of measures set out in:

• Quarterly performance reports
• Annual performance report
• Bespoke localised reports (we’ll send you a database so you can create your own bespoke, local reports).


The reports help you focus on what’s important, to re-think what you do, and look for opportunities for…

Service Improvement

• Good practice
• Improvement support
• Peer-to-peer learning.

It’s Sector-led

The content of the framework has been developed with the help of the sector. To date, approximately 20 councils have piloted the first part (data). We are currently, with their help, putting the finishing touches on the reports, benchmarked against others.

We are currently testing the surveys with the help of Hastings Borough Council. The surveys capture the views and feedback of a variety of ‘customers’ of the planning service including applicants/agents, neighbours, councillors and staff.


The quality aspect is in two parts. The first is a review of the quality of the planning service itself – managers will review and score the council’s role (e.g. ‘did we negotiate well?’), processing specific applications. The second is a review of quality of the planning decisions on Major developments using a framework used by Camden and based on CABE’s Building for Life criteria.

This data schematic explains how the different data sets fit together:


We’ve only just begun

The “quality” parts of the framework will take time to filter through as we rely on councils to spend time collecting evidence about developments. This will also grow into something more valuable as we develop the framework to go beyond analysing transactions and get to thinking about whole developments. We can’t ignore costs forever either and may suggest a time-sheeting exercise every 2 or 3 years.

Reports – some new ways of looking at ourselves

The Framework reports will provide a rounded picture of what is happening in the service (I’ll blog here with more detail in August). The reports will be tailored for different audiences, and we are experimenting with some new views – here are a few examples:

(i) Development Investment – helping councils understand the investment value tied up in the applications they are processing at any one time:


The ‘Investment estimate’ is based on the build costs for different types of development – these are just PAS estimates for now, so are illustrative only. In this example, the trend is that development investment is going down, but even at its lowest point, this planning department is managing development applications that represent a £20 million investment in this place. Powerful stuff.

(ii) FTE Estimate over Time – how well matched are resources to work volumes?


The ‘FTE estimate’ plot is based on PAS 2012 Benchmark data. Marrying this data together with application volumes, fee income trends and the development investment data, adds a little ‘piquancy’ to many of the resourcing decisions facing the service. It may highlight a number of opportunities to re-focus resources.

(iii) The concept of ‘non-value’ work

A lot of the ‘applications’ in your management system aren’t. Many are what we have re-named “follow-ups” – things like discharge of conditions, and there are certifications and prior approvals. Conditions represent additional work and their inappropriate use is a continuing bug-bear of many customers. We should pay more attention to how we use conditions and on what types of development – the Quality Framework reports will allow you to do so:


The above picture is for Householder applications. I hope that Council ‘I’ is having problems with its data rather than over half of its householder applications having conditions attached.