Start date: Monday 26 October 2020
Value: £63,750
Company size: SME
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Oxford-Cambridge Arc Data Observatory (Joint Digital Evidence Base) Discovery

6 Incomplete applications

5 SME, 1 large

17 Completed applications

15 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Friday 31 July 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Friday 7 August 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Friday 14 August 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Local planning authorities produce large amounts of evidence base documents. This tends not to be published in a standardised or machine-readable format, making it hard to find, use and share. To support the spatial framework, this Discovery will seek out the opportunities in creating a shared digital evidence base.
Latest start date
Monday 28 September 2020
Expected contract length
8 weeks
Organisation the work is for
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Budget range
The contract is expected to have a budget in the region of £60,000 to £80,000 (excluding VAT).

About the work

Why the work is being done
MHCLG need to establish which information in key evidence base documents to prioritise and standardise. The Discovery will need to explore best practise, existing tools and standards that are in use across the Arc and further afield (i.e. nationally/internationally). This will determine whether existing approaches can be scaled or where a new approach would add value (i.e. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Councils have produced an open data portal).

This will contribute to ensuring the joint digital evidence base can aid the Spatial Framework and that any new evidence base information that is commissioned during its development, will have a set of common data standards to conform to. Through establishing standardised digital formats, the information will move from documents to data, and will become interoperable. This will enable us to have a strategic overview across the Arc and for greater collaboration between Local Planning Authorities.

Several evidence-base documents relating to Local Planning Authorities in the Arc have already been commissioned and published. These documents contain information that has been collated in different ways and expressed in different forms. This makes it hard to form a coherent overview across the Arc and even harder to keep up-to-date or share with other bodies.
Problem to be solved
- Identify the key datasets produced as part of the Local Plan evidence base documents (at the local planning authority level and the higher spatial framework level);

- Identify potential users for the data sets being produced;

- Identify whether there are standard outputs in key evidence base documents which have already been commissioned and published by local planning authorities;

- Identify data sets from other parties (i.e. Environment, Transport) that will need to be analysed and included;

- Prioritise data sets based on user needs;

- Consider both the existing evidence base we already have, and the future evidence base work Government would commission for the spatial framework.
Who the users are and what they need to do
The Data Observatory will cater for local partners, stakeholders and is envisaged to hold all necessary data to monitor, evaluate and reach decisions across the Arc.

As a local planning officer and local council partner (i.e. transport providers), I want all information stored as linked data in one place and relate to my local or neighbouring planning authority. Access to standardised data will make it easier to inform cross-boundary strategic planning and analyse potential opportunities/constraints with neighbouring authorities.

As a decision-making stakeholder (i.e. infrastructure provider or housing developer) I want any data required to make a decision to have the most recent, reliable information to provide evidence for any investment decisions.

As a local politician, planning decisions should be informed by a robust evidence base. If a decision was challenged, I would draw upon resources that were easy to find and to support decision-making.

As a government planning officer, I would need local evidence base documents to understand the cumulative impact of development, and be able to advise Ministers on strategic investments and decision-making.

As a resident in the planning process, I want information that is accessible, easy to understand and up-to-date, so communities can engage with local plan-making consultations.
Early market engagement
Not applicable.
Any work that’s already been done
The Digital Land team within MHCLG, have run various projects into Local Plans, Brownfield sites and Developer Contributions which has set data standards, created prototypes and made data easier to find, understand, use and trust. The work completed to date on these projects and their lessons learnt can be taken forward into the Discovery stage of exploring the opportunities of a shared digital evidence base. (
Existing team
Suppliers will collaborate with the OxCam team and Digital Land Team ( in MHCLG. Suppliers will also need to collaborate with other suppliers working on projects that align with this work.

Our current teams have user researchers, content, service and interaction design capability. We also have policy specialists, business analysts and developers.

The supplier team should include a User Researcher, Service Designer and Product Manager. 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 (or virtually given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic). A bi-weekly update meeting will be held at 2 Marsham Street or virtually.

MHCLG will not fund travel within London but will fund necessary travel outside of London.
Working arrangements
Given the current COVID-19 climate, we would expect the supplier to work remotely but keep in close contact with the existing team. Any changes on these circumstances will be agreed with the supplier.

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 use agile methodology. We will induct the supplier on team specific practises and on the overarching hypotheses and vision we work to as a team.
Security clearance
BPSS clearance will be required to access MHCLG's ICT systems.

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
  • Have experience of delivering discoveries in line within the Government Service Manual (7%)
  • Have experience of recruiting users for research (3%)
  • Have experience of delivering user-centred solutions to problems (7%)
  • Have experience of digital planning (3%)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrate experience of working with Local Government (2.5%)
  • Demonstrate experience of solving problems involving data for local authorities (2.5%)

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 (4%)
  • Approach and methodology (4%)
  • Team structure (4%)
  • Estimated time frames for the work (4%)
  • Technical solution (4%)
Cultural fit criteria
  • Be transparent and collaborative when making decisions (5%)
  • Challenge the status quo (5%)
  • Care deeply about users (5%)
  • Share knowledge and experience with other organisations (5%)
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. When you say "experience of digital planning" do you mean digitised planning applications etc, or do you mean making digital transformation plans? We are confused on which is the intended meaning.
We would like the supplier to demonstrate experience of digital transformation of planning (i.e. digitising planning applications, ability to pull relevant data from Local Plans etc.)
2. None of the links in the opportunity seem to work – can you provide new links?
Please try the following links:

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Council’s Open Data Portal:

Work completed to date and lessons learnt:

The OxCam team and Digital Land Team:

Digital Land team mission, values and ways of working:
3. What's the expected size of the supplier project team? Do you expect specific roles for the team?
We expect the Supplier team, at a minimum, to include User Researchers, a Service Designer and a Product Manager. As the Discovery work will be based on User Research, the Supplier should plan to bring in other roles to process the insights as and when they’re needed (whether this be a service designer, or other roles that are required to dissect the findings). Not all roles need to be full time.