First Blog of 2021

Project Team RIPA
4 min readJan 25, 2021

A belated Happy New Year!

We started back with a series of meetings. First up, we had the first of our newly titled “Omega” meeting. These are a new meeting type that we’ve started to look in more detail at how and what user testing outcomes are informing the design and content. .

Lots of topics discussed including:

- What are the project types other than side-extensions we should be testing?

So far we’ve only tested side infills — but what others types of extensions do we need to be testing?

We agreed we needed to be building a library of testing — start with what was easy and fix issues and build this as we go.

We also discussed what will the future eco system look like. Will there be logins or will people use magic links to get to the system? We agreed we needed to begin to do some soft user testing about this and find out what users would prefer? A login? Magic link?

We also discussed the landing pages for the different partners — will the content differ from council to council? We agreed, at least for the beta phase, that the content will be a uniform landing page — except for of course having the colours and logos specific to each partner council.

Finally we discussed the need for two sets of guidance

  1. A pre-beta guidance for officer testing; and
  2. A guidance for the actual users when we open up our private beta to applicants.

Next up was a session on the scenario building and testing schedule for officers which we’ll be running our private beta with users.

Lots of discussion including looking at these scenarios in the same way as ‘setting exams’; we can test our system by asking trick questions and more complex cases, although we need to ensure that we ‘pass the basics’ first.

Coming up with scenarios may take a lot of time but it is an incredibly valuable exercise and will make us all the more confident that our product actually works!

Our first Show and Tell of 2021 was followed by the usual partner workshop (number 16 no less!)

This included a session with the Retro Board to facilitate some much needed reflection on the project so far — including parts which have gone well and those where we can improve.

Scenarios Update

Over the last sprint, Michael from MHCLG and Emily from Bucks have been busy creating and organising resources, which will be used by planners when testing our service. Since we will be relying on volunteers from across the partner councils to test our service, it is essential that we make this process and easy-to-follow as possible. A number of documents have now been created to guide this process — including a ‘RIPA/BoPS — User Testing’ guidance document, which will work alongside our existing library of scenarios (essentially journeys through the system that will be tested).

Now on to what we will be testing — and the partners have all been busy over the last sprint in coming up with potential journeys that users may take when using our system. These could include users wanting to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness for their roof extension, or more complex cases such as the conversion of office space into a commercial sauna (a bit ‘out there’ — but it has been done before!).

One big step over the next sprint will be to hold an introductory session with all planners from the partner councils who will be helping us with testing. It is important that we get everyone on the same page and up to date with where they should record comments/results from our service — more on this following our next Workshop.

The Retro Board

For those who have been following these blogs, you will know that we frequently like to reflect on the project in order to identify any improvements to be made moving forwards. The board allows partners to add cards anonymously based on ‘What went well/worked’, ‘What could be better’ and ‘Actions/Questions’. Each partner can then review the cards and vote for the one they agree with most.

We’ve also turned this into a useful spreadsheet so that we can start to collect each retro and have a record of the comments. You can view that info here.

Overall, this week’s retro showed that partners are feeling confident in our product and that we are incredibly proud of the work that has gone into creating scenarios so far. We are now in a good place to start testing, before launching our private beta product for LDC applications over the coming months.

In terms of ways we can improve our approach — a number of partners highlighted the need to organise documents more carefully in our project Google Drive. This is more of an admin point, but certainly useful to take note of as we progress.

It was also suggested that we need to communicate our actions more clearly amongst the partners, following Workshops and meetings. Priorities can of course change over the course of a sprint, however, it is crucial that all partners are kept up to date of these developments.

Next Steps

As we move ever closer to the launch of our private Beta product, testing our service with planners is the crucial task. This will be a big focus over the next sprint, in addition to reaching out to past LDC applicants who may wish to trial our service.

Join us for our next Show & Tell on Friday 29th January to hear more updates on our quest to bring the planning system into the 21st Century!



Project Team RIPA

We’ve made it to Beta. An MHCLG funded project, led by Lambeth with five partners — Buckinghamshire, Camden, Lewisham, Northumberland and Southwark