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Project planning your local development order (LDO)
This information is based on a masterclass run by Novare Consulting for local planning authorities considering a local development order (LDO). It provides a simple, non-technical introduction to the basic steps to successful project planning. Wherever possible we've used plain English phrases and avoided the use of jargon.
- Key questions
- Stakeholder management
- Risk management
- Project planning checklist
Planning takes place throughout a project’s lifecycle, however, it is worth making significant investment into building the initial set of plans for the project. These will be constantly used and updated during the project with inevitable adjustments along the way.
Although project planning takes time its benefits to any project outweigh this initial concern. By undertaking planning at the beginning of any project, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to review the practicalities of the project ensuring all the steps needed to deliver your project are achievable. It is better to delay a project than to start it without having thought it through.
The project plan provides an overview of the total project and forms part of any project approval documentation. The project plan identifies key deliverables, resource requirements, the total costs, and the major control points within the project. Without clear and robust plans, no project will be managed effectively.
Lessons learned from the first round of pilot authorities indicate that the more thought that had gone into the project at the start, the more smoothly the project has proceeded.
The specific content of each plan will vary according to the needs of the project and the different levels of management involved. It is important to realise that a plan is much more than just a gantt chart schedule, like the horizontal bar chart from Microsoft Project. The software tool used for a plan is less important than the information it contains. Word processing or spreadsheets can be just as effective as specific project planning software in the right circumstances.
Whilst contents of a plan will vary you should remember to do the following:
- Define the scope and products.
- Include stakeholders and risks.
- Identify the Activities and dependencies.
- Estimate the effort and duration.
- Assign activities to people.
- Refine the plan.
- Submit the plan.
- Why are we doing this?
- What are we planning to deliver and the work required to deliver it?
- Who is going to do all the work?
- How are we going to check that it works?
- What are the risks with what we are trying to achieve?
- When do we need it by (or when can we deliver it)?
- Are we dependent on anybody else?
- How much money do we need for this project?
Before you can make any project happen you have to decide what exactly the project is, what its scope is, and what you hope to achieve by your project. By scope we mean the combination of the customer requirements including defining the project goals and tasks, and the work required to accomplish them. You must also consider what will not be included within this project - what is in and what is out of scope.
Devon is planning a LDO to promote the availability of appropriately located, very small building stone quarries of key important types of dimensional stone in order to restore listed buildings. They note that for building stones that are not identified as key types, the core strategy will propose an alternative policy.
The London Development Agency’s LDO for an energy network set out initial thoughts on the appropriate scope and content of the LDO. These thoughts drew upon the typical scope of other types of infrastructure which already benefit from permitted development rights under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). They listed 'What might be permitted' and 'What could be excluded'.
Pilots have found this the most challenging element of the project plan and have underestimated the officer time needed (bearing in mind officers’ other workloads). The plan should identify other departments that will be asked to contribute and ensure they too have capacity at the right time.
Whilst both Wycombe and Hertsmere LDOs were policy led, they drew on the experience of colleagues in handling planning applications to compile the list of permitted development and conditions to be applied. For example, they required legal advice and their graphics service designed the consultation materials.
Scheduling is the process used to determine the overall project duration and when activities and events are planned to happen. This includes identification of activities and their logical dependencies, and estimation of activity durations, taking into account requirements and availability of resources, including people, finance and materials.
The schedule, or timetable for project activities and milestones, is often shown as a milestone chart, Gantt or other bar chart, or a tabular listing of dates.
Pilots that did not schedule fixed events such as elections and meetings of their cabinets (taking into account lead-in times) found their projects slipped.
Cornwall set out a very detailed project plan from the outset and this has helped them meet an ambitious programme. Their project steering group was to meet every 6 weeks to monitor progress on the agreed work programme targets.
Quality is broadly defined as fitness for purpose or more narrowly as the degree of conformance of the outputs and process. For any project plan this might include reviewing the key tasks identified and confirming that they meet the requirements for time and cost set by the key decision makers.
The main test of the LDO being fit for purpose will be through consultation. Different stakeholders will have different expectations of the LDO. Devon has draw up a chart identifying the key players through to those with a general interest. This is useful for organising stages of formal and informal consultation.
The Cornish parish design guide was published in a rough draft for local residents to give an early view rather than delay it until it had been worked up in more detail - detail which might have been wasted if residents did not agree with it.
Wycombe set out the temporary nature of their proposed LDO. The ultimate objective for the LDO was to assist in reducing the proportion of empty shop frontages. Following a return to a more benign economic climate, it is envisaged that the LDO would be removed with the policy framework for the zone reverting to either a primary or secondary frontage approach (to be determined in a future local development document). This statement clarifies the approach which can be taken to setting up, implementing and monitoring the LDO.
Stakeholders are the organisations or people who have an interest or role in the project or are impacted by the project.
A common criticism of many projects is that stakeholders were not kept informed of changes to a project’s baseline scope, cost, time or quality objectives or of developments, and that this more often than not has a negative impact on the project. Stakeholder Management is the systematic identification, analysis and planning of actions to communicate with, negotiate with and influence stakeholders.
Cornwall had the greatest amount of external involvement by stakeholders as collaboration between the parish council and Cornwall council was a key purpose of their LDO. Yet they managed to keep to their plan. The design guide which underpins the LDO drew on the experience and knowledge of local residents. Dates for workshops and consultation were agreed from the start.
All pilots received 'in principle' agreement from their lead members before working up their project plans. Swindon have made stakeholder engagement a key objective of their project:
"Objective 3: By means of community consultation throughout the project cycle, key stakeholders will have been actively engaged in, and supportive of, the LDO project and the project outputs.
What success would look like: There will be wide-spread support for the LDO as measured by the positive feedback received from key stakeholders in response to the formal consultation on the LDO. Through engendering ownership, responsibility and care for the Victoria Road area from key stakeholders, robust yet streamlined compliance processes will have been set in place."
Right from the start, Devon have identified the key players are Natural England, English Heritage and in time landowners, mineral operators and developers and support in principle has been received from Natural England, English Heritage and Government Office South West.
Risks are often thought of as being negative - events or actions which may threaten fulfilment of the stated objectives.
However, risk management should not be seen as just an exercise for identifying threats to success but is also a chance to consider opportunities which might benefit the authority. A failure to identify and embrace a significant opportunity may be a risk in itself.
London Development Agency identified as a risk confusion by the public over the works that would be approved. They have programmed into their project publicity and guidance materials for publication once the LDO is adopted, turning the risk into an opportunity to communicate messages about renewable energy.
A risk identified in Swindon’s project plan is the perception there may be a democratic deficit from the removal of the requirement to apply for planning permission. They intend to publish a 'framework plan' to capture the needs and aspirations of the local community. The final LDO should therefore reflect a general consensus of opinion as to the future development of the area.
Project planning checklist
- Are there clearly defined business goals and objectives?
- Are the goals and objectives in the scope section of the plan document?
- Is there a list of all the deliverables for the project?
- Does the project plan include all of the products needed to achieve the objectives?
- Does the project plan show any links to products not part of this project?
- Is there a clear list showing all the activities required within this project?
- Have assumptions been included?
- Have constraints been identified?
- Are dependencies identified in the plan?
- Are external dependencies linked to activities in the plan?
- Have similar projects been reviewed to establish the baseline estimates?
- Has work effort been estimated?
- Has task duration been estimated?
- Has skill level of people (resources) been taken into account?
- Have the estimates been supplied by or validated by the people who will actually do this work?
- Has the project manager’s time been included in the estimates?
- Have the cost estimates (budget) been calculated from all the activities?
- Have quality reviews been included within the estimates?
- Have resource requirements, (i.e. sign-off/procurement) costs been estimated?
- Has a contingency (additional time or money) been included within the estimates for unforseeable risks?
- Have key steps (milestones) and dates been identified in the plan?
- Are resources available to the project for 100% of their time?
- Are named resources assigned to activities?
- Has any necessary training been scheduled in to the plan?
- Have resources working on multiple projects been included within the schedule?
- Has an analysis of the key activities, with no spare time, been undertaken against this plan?
- Is the project time limited? Has this been applied to this project?
- Is the project resource limited? Has this been applied to this project?
- Have all key stakeholders’ expectations been identified for this project?
- Has the overall project quality criteria been documented for this project?
- Is the project required to apply any specific assessment for quality? Have these been included for this project?
- Have people with quality responsibilities been defined for key milestones?
- Have individual acceptance criteria been defined for key products within the project?
- Have quality tolerances been stipulated for this project?
- Is the quality stipulated measurable?
- Have the major stakeholders who have an impact on or are affected by the project been identified?
- Have stakeholder objectives for the project been captured, disseminated, discussed, aligned and agreed with any omissions being signed off?
- Have stakeholder perceptions and attitudes towards the project been identified? Is this documented and reviewed?
- Is there a mechanism for including stakeholder input into the identification of the project’s products?
- Is there a common and shared understanding of what is meant by ‘stakeholder’?
- Have the objectives of the project been clearly documented in advance of risk identification?
- Is there an agreed risk profile (for example, a view on the high, medium and low-level risks) for the investment under consideration?
- Is there a process for monitoring changes to objectives and the impact on risk?
- Is a procedure in place for identifying when risks have exceeded tolerances?
- Are risks assessed in a way that enables risk management action to be prioritised and be as effective as possible?
- Have risk ‘owners’ been identified?
- Are risks monitored on a sufficiently regular basis?