Be First, the regeneration arm of Barking and Dagenham Council, has been awarded £100,000 of funding from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, as part of the UK Government’s Digital Planning Improvement Fund.

The funding will enable Be First, who run the Council’s statutory planning services, to develop modern planning practices within planning data by utilising digital capabilities and development management software. They are also able to join the Open Digital Planning community where they can collaborate and learn from other planning teams.

Be First will to use the funding to simplify and digitise many aspects the borough’s planning process ranging from domestic house extensions to major development projects.  The funding will enable them to develop pilots and assess the right systems in line with planning industry best practise.

The next step will be for Be First to do an internal digital processes audit and create a digital action plan for improving these processes.

Tim Thomas, Head of Transport, Infrastructure and Policy Planning from Be Frist, said: “We are proud to have been selected for this funding because of our vision and level of growth ambitions and willingness to share our experiences. This funding marks our first steps into a digital planning service, enabling us to work more efficiently, be more accessible to communities and developers, and pinpoint improvements necessary to move planning into the digital age. It will also allow us to work collaboratively with other local authorities, and we will be sharing existing innovations and successes such as our approach to the digital design code.”

Cllr Cameron Geddes, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “It’s great news that Be First, on behalf of the Council, will be joining the Government’s community of selected Local Authority projects to establish a modern and efficient planning system in England, shifting a documents-based system to one that is data-driven and standards-based.”