Local Digital Project: Chatbots and AI

Data Dive: Planning Service (Oxford City Council)

An analysis of the data produced to inform the project business case

Telephone calls

The Contact Centre has a 40-seat capacity and handles the majority of calls from the public across a range of services, including Planning.

Planning is considered as a small service within the Contact Centre and so has no dedicated officers taking calls. Callers are routed using IVR to an available Customer Service Adviser, acting as a ‘triage’ for calls to the planning department. It does not have trained planners working within it.

A large proportion of calls received are for a named individual, but local policy is to not give out their direct phone numbers.

Annual calls

Data range: 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018

Data range: 1 April 2018 to 31 January 2019

Call volumes are also published online

Data on annual planning calls is analysed below

Sample calls

Of a sample of 100 planning calls taken by the contact centre;

Of the sample calls, 20% were for a named officer

Face to face visits

Data range: 01/02/2018 to 21/02/2019

Face to face volumes are published online

Customers are able to pre-book appointments by phone to see a customer service adviser about a range of council services, but for planning customers they are told about the Planning drop-in service operating hours and have to present themselves for an appointment on the day.

The drop-in service operates 3 hrs per day using 20 minutes interview slots (10:00am to 1:00pm, with the last appointment at 12:40pm). It provides limited professional advice but this does not include if planning permission is required, for which a separate pre-application process is available.

Customer Service Advisers saw 768 customers as “Fast-Track” appointments and the Planning Duty officer saw 832 customers as appointments.


Data range: 17/12/2018 to 11/3/2019

The council has a generic inbox for planning enquiries (planning@oxford.gov.uk) which is staffed by the Applications Team within the Contact Centre. The team often dedicates one member of the team to managing the inbox all day.

Data was extrapolated to an annual equivalent and shows;

Web contact form emails

Data range: 19/12/2018 to 11/3/2019

90 web form emails were analysed to assess topics of enquiry. Of these, 4 were duplicates and were ignored from the assessment. Of the remaining 86;


Website visits

Data range: 11 March 2018 to 10 March 2019

The council’s website had over 2m visits. 2.49% of these visitors used the general Contact Us page with nearly 50% of people leaving the site afterwards.

2.44% of all visits were related to planning, nearly all of which used the main planning landing page. Over a third of these visits led to the Contact Us page before leaving the website.

Nearly 9% of all site searches related to planning. 76% of site searches were from just 4 pages;

These pages also accounted for the most common page before trying the Contact Us page.

Website downloads

Data range: 01/01/2018 to 31/12/2018

A total of 208,000 documents were downloaded from the website during this time. The top 100 downloads amounted to 91,036 downloads. Of this sum, planning-related items accounted for 28,733 (31.6%) downloads.

The top ten planning-related downloads were;

Oxford Core Strategy Oxford City Council 2,615
Sites and Housing Plan Oxford City Council 2,403
Oxford Local Plan 2036 Preferred Options Full Document (low res) Oxford City Council 1,969
Oxford Local Plan 2036 - Proposed Submission Draft Oxford City Council 1,772
Planning Pre-application Advice Service Protocol Oxford City Council 1,429
Building Control Application Fees Oxford City Council 1,398
Planning Applications Weekly List Oxford City Council 1,088
Oxford Policies Map 2013 - North East and city centre inset map Oxford City Council 1,051
Planning Policies Map 2013 - Legend Oxford City Council 1,020
Oxpens Masterplan SPD Oxford City Council 989