The Localism Act 2011 introduced new powers for people to make neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood planning orders, with reduced interference from central government.
The Southam Neighbourhood Plan Working Party is a group of volunteers from around Southam, brought together to help with the formulation of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Party.
An early issue was the fragmented information sources between different people – whether it was email, Dropbox or distributing excel spreadsheets. There also needed to be a way to inform and engage the residents of the town on the working groups progress leading up the referendum that would take place once the plan has been completed.
A platform to allow ease of use, accessibility and to provide the tools needed to facilitate evidence gathered, required to form the basis of the neighbourhood plan in a centralised location that all volunteers could access to improve the efficiency of collaboration online outside of meetings.
A bespoke web application that allows committee members to plan meetings, discuss ideas and to collate and document evidence. The system should be accessible via a web browser on a desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
Web App Development, Design
The platform included the following features:
User invitation system – Allowed working party members to be invited to the portal and create an account to join in the collaboration process
Forum/Messageboard – Allowing the conversation to take place outside of email, improving visibility and allowed any new volunteers ability to get up to speed quickly.
Document Repository – All documents and evidence gathering stored securely in a central location.
Meeting Management – Ability to communicate to registered volunteers when the next meetings were taking place and allow users to confirm attendance or nominate a proxy.
Public Pages – Allows the working party to broadcast information about the plans progress.
The application is accessible via desktop, tablet and mobile.
The project has successfully increased engagement within the working party and the residence of the town on the importance of creating a sound neighbourhood plan.
“The Southam Neighbourhood Plan Working Party needed a space where information could be published for public consumption but that also had a private repository for the members to share draft material and to collaborate. Previously Facebook and Dropbox were tried but members found it difficult to use and keep in sync. The capability that James developed met our needs quickly while being robust from day 1 and easy to use. Access to the private area and repository is password protected and users can be added and deleted easily. An independent planning consultant has remarked that it is the best Neighbourhood Plan collaboration tool he’s seen and demonstrates the commitment of the community to the process..”
The plan is still currently in progress and due to go to a referendum in 2019/2020.