Mendip District Council serves a local government area in Somerset covering a largely rural region of 285 square miles, with a total population of approximately 112,500. A relatively small Council, the authority features a diverse landscape from the Wiltshire border in the east to the Somerset Levels in the west, much of it with minimal development. In 2019, they declared a climate and ecological emergency, with ambitions to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. They intend to adapt the planning process to accommodate these goals, through sustainable construction and development, and by implementing green incentives and grant schemes.
Before the pandemic, working from home was already common practice with Council officers. Laptops and mobiles were already set up, while virtual planning boards and committee meetings were implemented in response to COVID.
The council has seen a significant increase in planning application numbers and in the number of enforcement complaints. Many of these applications have been from householders wanting to extend their property, others have been looking to create a separate office space for home working. Several major strategic schemes for commercial development are also now on the horizon.
Mendip District Council made the transition to digital relatively early, so that by 2020, they had been using Uniform on-premises for around a decade. Keen to modernise and streamline their processes, they needed a robust and stable system built around the additional support that a managed service provider would provide.
Even though Mendip District Council had been using Uniform for a decade, they wanted to secure the very best possible solution for their officers whilst also delivering an improved customer experience for residents and business owners. After research into other solutions, they decided that because Idox were well established, they already had the advanced functionality they needed and had been a reliable technology partner for so long, that staying with them was the logical decision. Another factor was that because the planning module is so widely used across the UK, that new staff were often already familiar with the system.
Idox were able to offer a relatively fast timeline to get the hosted system up and running quickly. Once the project was initiated, the team delivered the solution over three months, starting in October 2020. The move was completed with live deployment in December that year. Mendip District Council now utilise the Planning and Land Charges modules and related applications for EDRMS (document management); consultee access; public access; and Enterprise (Uniform management tool).
For Mendip District Council, the benefits of migrating from on-premise to a hosted solution have been quickly realised. By maintaining and hosting their cloud software, the Idox managed services team are able to provide consistent additional key skills and support, along with a higher degree of resilience for the system as a whole.
70% increase in efficiency savings:
The council has seen an 70% increase in efficiency savings on time spent completing validations, each of these now taking 3 – 4 days, compared with 15 – 20 days previously. Officers are also saving around 7.5 hours per week when processing application decisions.
A future in the cloud:
The council is aware that the systems for designing and managing local planning are constantly evolving. The Council is keen to take on the challenges with smart, responsive software that will allow them to keep pace and stay competitive. Working closely with Idox, they hope to continue to streamline their systems as far as they possibly can, relying on Uniform Cloud as their trusted solution.