Awarded to The Dextrous Web (trading as dxw)

Start date: Monday 9 March 2020
Value: £71,250
Company size: SME
Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government

MHCLG Local Plans Alpha Phase

6 Incomplete applications

4 SME, 2 large

24 Completed applications

22 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Tuesday 14 January 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 21 January 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 28 January 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
MHCLG recently completed a discovery ( into the production of local plans, and ways local plan data can be made more accessible.
The alpha phase will test different approaches for helping local planning authorities keep and maintain up to date local plan data.
Latest start date
Tuesday 10 March 2020
Expected contract length
8 to 10 weeks
Organisation the work is for
Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
This work will help MHCLG and others build a national picture of local plan-making.

Making it simpler to build a national timetable of local plan-making, and an index of the policies contained in local plan documents, will help the Planning Inspectorate better plan their resources for examinations and assist MHCLG in prioritising which local authorities to engage with and support throughout the plan-making process.

Learning how to make local plan data more accessible, trustworthy and linked to other data will help PropTech and PlanTech companies build services to better inform people making decisions throughout the planning system and housing marketplace.
Problem to be solved
We want to:
• develop a data standard for the timetable of local plan making
• develop a data standard for listing the policy categories contained in each plan
• test methods for a local planning authority keeping and maintaining the above data current

We would also like to:

• test and refine approaches for presenting the above data to users, such as through a dashboard
• investigate approaches for analysing and collecting the datasets used as evidence to inform each of the policies contained in local plans
• test new approaches for presenting local plans and data with users, including members of the local community
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a policymaker I need:
• to know what stage a local plan is in the plan-making process ⇒ so that I can support local plan makers

As a local planning authority officer I need:
• to match up the local plan making process to local government cycles ⇒ so that I deliver a sound plan in good time, making the most of resources

As a Planning Inspectorate (PINs) officer I need:
• to know where local plans are in their production ⇒ so that we can resource and plan examinations
Early market engagement
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) recently completed a discovery into the production of local plans, and ways local plan data can be made more accessible.
The alpha phase will test different approaches for helping local planning authorities keep and maintain up to date local plan data.
Further details can be obtained
Any work that’s already been done
MHCLG has done discovery ( into users and needs of people involved in production of local plans, and ways local plan data can be made more accessible.
We spoke with people involved in the production of local plans and representatives of the main user groups of local plans, in order to better understand their needs and the obstacles to those needs being met.

The team developed a prototype ( during discovery to collect a list of development schemes and local plan documents, and a collate a single item of data found in each document: the target number of houses.
Existing team
Suppliers will collaborate with the Digital Land Team ( who will support and advise on technical aspects of the data standards, aligning with other Digital Land projects. Our current team has user research, content, service and interaction design capability. We also have policy specialists, business analysts and developers.

The supplier team should include a developer or business analyst, a designer capable of collecting and processing data, a designer capable of prototyping ways of presenting the data and a user researcher to test prototypes with users and analyse findings. Some delivery management is desirable. Not all roles need to be full-time.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
We expect the successful supplier to work regularly with MHCLG in 2 Marsham Street, London, W1P 4DF, including a weekly face to face update meeting in this location. The supplier may work 2-3 days a week off site.

MHCLG will not fund travel within London but will fund necessary travel outside of London.
Working arrangements
The supplier is expected to work onsite alongside the existing team for at least 2 days a week. We would prefer the team to be co-located in 2 Marsham Street but expect travel for user research and other activities.

We expect the supplier to work in line with the Digital Land team mission, values and ways of working ( We are a digital team who work openly and using agile methodology. We will induct the supplier on team specific practises and on the overarching hypotheses and vision we work to as team.
Security clearance
CTC or above isn’t required but is desirable so staff don’t need escorting on site. There is no requirement for supplier personnel to be security cleared.

BPSS clearance will be required to access MHCLG's ICT systems.

Please make it clear whether staff have CTC security clearance when submitting responses

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
All materials/outputs derived from the contract shall be the property of MHCLG.

Any GDPR requirements shall be discussed and agreed with the preferred supplier at the appropriate time.

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Experience of delivering alphas in line within the Government Service Manual.
  • Experience of recruiting users for research.
  • Experience of delivering user-centred solutions to problems.
  • Evidence of meeting skill requirements based on the anticipated composition of the team.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
Experience of working with on the production of local plans in a local planning authority

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Understanding of user needs
  • Approach and methodology
  • Team structure
  • Estimated timeframes for the work
  • Technical solution
Cultural fit criteria
  • Be transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Care deeply about users
  • Share knowledge and experience with other organisations
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Please can the URL’s be sent through separately as some links in the document do not work
Please see below URL links to the related documentation as referenced in the advert.

Discovery Document

Housing Numbers Prototype developed during discovery

Digital Market Team

Digital Land team mission, values and ways of working
2. What do you see as good outcomes for this alpha?
Data standards are hard for Local Authorities to fulfil. MHCLG Want to test existing data Local Authorities provide, understand their process, and then test with prop tech to see if that is useful and worthwhile. We see this as perfect Alpha work – each Local Authority to make data which will not be hard work, but then developing this in something more meaningful and intelligent is the challenge.
3. Do you have Local Authorities available to test this with?
The work delivered by the Discovery did provide some good contacts with Local Authorities – the team has good links across the planning sector which will allow us to involve a good range of Local Authorities.
4. Referring to the Nice to Have question on local plans. What are you looking for in our response?
You can provide what you know about this by return. It would be useful if you were able to provide an example of where you have worked, produced and delivered a digital project where local plans are or were involved.
5. Contents of policies within local plan - what is the scale of challenge – common or diverse, and also will there be any resistance from Local Authorities?
The main aim of the Alpha is to flush out some of this. Ultimately, the findings of the work could feed into wider changes to the local planning process or the local planning policy framework. However, in the short term, it is not about standardising policy wording but better mapping policies to themes/topics/requirements in the NPPF, supporting policy makers and planners. Local Authorities are already working with us closely in this area.
6. Essential skills and experience – team composition – what evidence is valid?
User researcher based – making something with the data – element of making something and what depends on capability of person. It’s up to suppliers to provide their evidence of what is the best team to deliver this requirement based on our requirements and clarifications provided.
7. Contract length and duration – would the Authority accept a shorter delivery time?
The MHCLG Team have spoken about this before it was advertised. Reducing the resource/time allocated and making the delivery period longer is one option. However, we would look to suppliers to tell us what they can deliver based on our requirement and the questions and answer session.
8. Some work on-site and some off-site. Would it be acceptable to provide staff on-site for the duration of the contract?
Yes. Can MHCLG can accommodate supplier teams on-site.
9. So MHCLG are looking for a flexible approach?
Yes, we are content with a flexible approach (when suppliers are working off-site, we use Slack to ensure cross-team working for example).
10. What level of security clearance is required?
CTC level of clearance is required for this requirement.
11. How will this requirement fit in with other MHCLG Digital Live projects (such as developer contributions).
This will run in isolation but there is a linkage between other projects. For example, Compulsive Purchase orders (CPO’s) is standalone but there is a crossover in terms of evolving standards in the Housing sector.
12. Looking at the likely activities required in this phase, aside from the first and final week or fortnight, we anticipate most of our team would work primarily from our offices to optimise our time to deliver.
We would, however, implement effective collaboration platforms to enable the team and MHCLG colleagues to work together and communicate on a daily basis.
Subject to further detail in our proposal (if shortlisted), might this arrangement be acceptable?
This would be acceptable, however the Authority would require periodic show and tells, (this could be done online.)
13. Is there an incumbent supplier in place?
The Digital Land Team is in-house, but MHCLG have other related projects running at the same time. The digital land team will coordinate work across the multiple teams and projects.
14. We understand that the Alpha phase are specified to last 6-8 weeks and this project is 8-10 weeks – is there scope to extend further?
We are open to the alpha happening over a longer period of time, but would require the supplier to fully explain their intended approach and rationale if suggesting this in the proposal.
15. We understand that the Alpha phase is meant to test (the riskiest) assumptions through prototyping ideas. Can the assumptions/ideas gathered from the discovery phase be shared?
Yes. Some information is already shared on our site, and the successful supplier will be inducted by the discovery team to add depth and context.
16. The output of the Alpha phase to have prototypes to test/validate the assumptions and the product. Is it also expected to also test how it fits into the market etc. before moving to the Beta phase?
We expect the alpha to test how something fits into the existing wider planning sector, yes. We are currently identifying local planning authorities to conduct user research with.
17. Are there any benchmarks to how the Alpha prototypes' success will be measured?
We are a hypothesis driven who work to meet user needs. The alpha phase will test if the ‘problems to be solved’ (as per specification) we identified will meet the needs of our users. We work to outcomes not outputs.
18. Is there a service owner identified and who is the service owner?
Paul Downey – Head of the Digital Land team – is the service owner.
19. Is there a specific Local Authority or a specific amount of Local Authorities that we need to test with?
Please see response to Question 3
20. Are there any additional material from the discovery phase and can that be shared?
The successful supplier will receive an induction regarding the discovery phase. Everything public is shared on our site (links are given in the specification).
21. Can we assume that the use cases per policymaker / local planning authority officer / PINS officer have already been prioritised?
We have considered and prioritised the multiple user needs identified in discovery, which have defined the ‘problems to be solved’ (as per the specification) hypotheses to test in alpha. We believe solving these problems will also help other users of the data.
22. Is there a priority between policymaker / local planning authority officer / PINS officer as a user?
Please see answer to Question 21
23. Are there user journeys already mapped out as part of the Discovery phase?
Resources including user journeys will be shared with the successful supplier at induction.
24. Are there any specified technologies that the MHCLG would like to be used in this Alpha phase?
We expect the prototyping kit to be used when building prototypes.
25. It is noted under 'Problem to be solved' that the Alpha phase should 'Test methods for a local planning authority to keep / maintain the data'. We would like to clarify on whether it's envisioned that local authorities would host their own data? It seems that it might be beneficial for a centralised system hosted by the service owner (as an example) in order to get a 'national picture'.
Local Authorities will host their own data. Hosting data at source is a design principle of the Digital Land Team.
26. Can you please outline your timeline for the additional assessment, following shortlisting?
Feedback to all applicants will be given on 4th Feb 2020 with interviews taking place on 7th Feb 2020.
27. Will MHCLG be able to assist with recruiting users for research, or is this something you're expecting the supplier to take the lead on?
Please see answer to Question 3
28. Is the budget inclusive or exclusive of VAT?
This is VAT inclusive - in accordance with clause 8.4 of the Call-off Contracts Terms and Conditions.