Conwy County Borough Council
Like many local authorities, Conwy County Council’s planning department in North Wales relied heavily on paper-based systems and unconnected databases to manage planning policy development.
In moving from paper to an integrated online mapping, document and consultation system Conwy saved nearly £20,000 in print costs alone in its Local Development Plan (LDP) process, as well as thousands of pounds of officer time in preparing consultations and maps, and in managing and responding to representations.
The OpusMap Software was integrated with the OpusConsult system and Conwy staff were given onsite training to help bring about these massive savings.
Key project features
- Significant cost and time savings achieved through licensing OpusMap and OpusConsult as one integrated system
- Conwy instrumental in making the systems bi-lingual and Welsh planning oriented
- Non-technical staff able to make significant contributions to workflows via ease-of-use of both systems
- 24/7 access via a web browser and no licensed user limits means in busy periods additional staff can use the systems at no additional cost
OpusMap is delivered via a web browser and allows Conwy to publish maps and documents online via a simple CMS that can be easily used by both technical and non-technical staff. Of particular benefit is the fact that OpusMap provides tools to create 2-way links between maps and documents in formats that play to the strengths of the Internet and of generic web technologies so that maps, GIS data and text are published in formats and with features that are customer-oriented. The ease-of-use of OpusMap means Conwy can design and produce maps and documents in-house while thinking about how they are accessed and interacted with from the public users’ perspective rather than simply from the view of the GIS expert or planning officer.
Also delivered via a web browser, OpusConsult joins together public involvement in policy planning with Conwy’s officers and policy-makers. Representations are made through the public part of the system and then handled by the administration console private to the local authority.
The powerful and multi-functional administration system of OpusConsult is the powerhouse of the software as it allows officers to manage any representation however it’s received, whether via the public website, by email or on paper. All aspects of the consultation process – the issues, the representations, the responses, the contact database, the reporting and the analysis of data and results – can all be undertaken from within the administration system. Little wonder that the Programme Officer module is so helpful when Inspectors determine the issues that will be inspected prior to Plan adoption as all data relating to consultations undertaken are accessible in one place.
For both OpusMap and OpusConsult all training, troubleshooting and software updates are included in the fixed license fee and in the fixed annual support and maintenance agreement. This level of support and continuity of service frees up Conwy staff to concentrate on achieving the full benefit from the systems without worrying about technical issues or the effectiveness of meeting the demands of workflows, schedules and outcomes. Although both systems are integrated Conwy can design and publish interactive maps and documents in OpusMap independently of OpusConsult and have often done so.
Conwy’s Strategic Planning Policy Service officers are now able to handle more than 15 SPG representations per day, whereas previously the workload limit was closer to nine. This makes the authority’s eight-strong team more efficient and effective in their service delivery. Such added value remains critical to local authorities as budgets continue to be squeezed.
The team fully appreciates the pressure involved in submitting planning material on time in line with regulations and as required by Welsh Government. At times of ‘all hands to the pump’ situations, they have always been accommodating, supportive and delivered the desired outcome on time.