Better Planning Approvals Project

  • 2023

  • Service
    Public Sector Services

Designed By:

  • Nous Group – Design Practice

Commissioned By:

Department of Transport and Planning

Designed In:


To improve planning approval processes across Victoria, Nous partnered with the Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) and local councils to co-design and implement the Better Planning Approvals Project (BPAP). The project’s human-centred approach and co-designed solution suite are improving processes, user experiences and system capacity across Victoria.

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  • Administering planning regulations is a critical function of local government and thousands of Victorian businesses and residents apply to local councils for planning permits every year. Application processes, however, are complicated, time-consuming and inconsistent across the State. This creates avoidable frustrations for applicants and council planners, who invest significant time sharing information, checking the status of applications and coordinating efforts with other departments involved in the application. DTP engaged Nous to streamline and improve the planning processes of local councils and make it easier for Victorian businesses and residents to engage in the planning process through tangible solutions.

  • Nous partnered with DTP, councils, applicants and residents to understand the experience and co-design, test and tailor a suite of 31 non-legislative solutions for improving the permit application process. Over an 18-month period, design sprints were held with 15 councils during which a suite of solutions was tested, iterated and validated by hundreds of participants across diverse local government contexts and permit types. BPAP has already been rolled out by more than 30 councils and is being integrated into other State Government regulatory reform programs. In mid-2023, the solution suite will be available for use online by all Victorian councils.

  • More than 30 local councils have taken part in BPAP and with each implementation, user experiences, processing times and overall efficiencies are improved at a local council level. The new learnings, implementation strategies and updated solutions developed in each implementation are then added to the BPAP so they are available for use by other councils across Victoria. The overarching project design ensures system-wide challenges are addressed as the project scales and evolves with each council implementation. This is creating better experiences and outcomes at individual councils while increasing consistency and building capacity across the State’s planning system.

  • We took an iterative approach and the project followed four key stages: Understand the regulations, issues and opportunities: We started with regulatory review and research with applicants, council planners and regulation and public policy experts. Core issues and options were identified through workshops with planners from State Government, local councils and private consultancies. Findings were synthesised into an issues and opportunities report with a set of problem statements and potential solution concepts. Detailed design and implementation: The team worked with pilot councils, co-designing solutions for six solution suites across the end-to-end planning permit process. The co-designed and prototyped solutions included tools, templates, and processes that were tested, iterated and implemented with councils. Co-design and implementation at scale: Exploratory discussions with individual councils provided context, specific challenges and helped identify which solution suites would deliver the most value. First iterations of solutions were developed and implemented quickly to capitalise on momentum. State-wide rollout: The solutions were productised and further iterated based on our implementation experience, user feedback and individual council needs. The number of solutions grew as new tools and templates were developed and existing solutions were improved. This provided greater flexibility and more options supporting implementation across all Victorian Councils.