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How manual planning assessments and templates cost planners hours and result in poorer decisions

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

We generally outline the process for decision-making in consent applications - from proposal to final decision - with the diagram below.

Through our experience working with planners, we've identified the following challenges at each stage of the decision-making process and where current solutions are failing.

Assessment Stage

Situation: At the assessment stage, a proposal must be assessed to identify relevant considerations and build an understanding of the issues and how they are to be addressed in decision-making.


  • Complex planning rules and regulations create the risk of missed considerations and gaps/errors in a planner's understanding of a proposal's issues.

  • Missed consideration results in the need to rework assessments and decisions late in the piece and can result in judicial reviews if undetected altogether.

  • Gaps in a planner's fundamental understanding of a proposal's specific issues and how these are to be addressed in the planning framework result in poorer decision-making downstream (inconsistency, incorrect/misplaced assessments).

Current Solution: Most planning teams either follow their intuition or use checklists to help ensure that required information has been provided and relevant rules have been assessed.

Problems with current solution:

  • Even experienced planners make mistakes. Without a methodical process the risk of error increases. If there's no documentation of your due diligence there's only memory to fall back on if questions arise later on in the process.

  • Checklists are often lengthy and cumbersome, making the process more about documentation than building an understanding of the proposal.

  • It’s hard to streamline this process as every application is different and missed considerations can cause significant issues downstream.

Once the proposal is finalised, the relevant information is received and the planning issues have been identified, the process moves into the decision-making stage.

Decision-making stage

Situation: As mentioned in the first step, the process for decision-making varies greatly and depends on the specific proposal and planning issues at hand. A planner must form their overall judgement on these issues and then convey these clearly in their decision report.


  • Many of the problems at the decision-making stage start at the assessment stage.

  • A decision must be adapted to the specifics of each proposal and its planning issues and if these aren't understood an incorrect or poor decision can be made.

  • The above must be balanced with the fact there are similarities across decisions and planners don't need to waste time and create inconsistency by reinventing the wheel for every decision.

Current Solution: Planning teams often use report templates to ensure all decision-making requirements are covered and provide structure for model responses to various planning issues.

Problems with current solution:

  • Similar to the assessment checklists, templates typically cover all the potential decision-making requirements as not to miss anything. Planners must spend a significant amount of time reworking these templates and removing superfluous information to tailor them to the job at hand.

  • As every proposal is different and there are so many planning issues it's very difficult to provide model responses for most situations. 'Planning by template' we call it, is unreliable and ultimately there is no substitute for a planner having a robust understanding of the underlying issues at hand.

The bottom line

Overall checklists and report templates are just some solutions that look to address the challenges planners face at each stage of a consent application. These are only partial solutions to the underlying problems and ultimately they:

  • Bog down consent processing with repetitive, box-ticking tasks that detract from the high-value assessments planners are trained to make.

  • Don’t adapt well to unique applications and instead must cover everything that could apply, making the process unnecessarily long and complicated.

  • Add hours of unnecessary work and complexity to consent processing and reduce the quality of decision-making.

But there's good news

Rico has developed technology specifically for planning assessments and decision-making. We create digital planning workflows specifically for you that:

  • Adapt to each project, building a clear fundamental understanding of a proposal's unique issues and how these are to be addressed to better inform a planner's professional judgement

  • Streamline the process for conveying decisions clearly and consistently in professional quality reports.

Book a demo today if you'd like to learn more about how Rico can improve your planning workflows.

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