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SMEs and local authorities receive cash injection to update planning system

Words: Laura Edgar

Nine small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local authorities have been awarded a share of £200,000 aimed at supporting the development of new tools and innovations to transform the planning system.

Future Cities Catapult, a high-tech business accelerator, awarded the funds after inviting UK businesses, individuals, entrepreneurs and planning authorities to develop ideas to create a more data-driven and digitally enabled planning system.

The full list of winners are:

  • HACT/OCSI are developing a neighbourhood insight web-tool aggregating government open-data and other data to neighbourhood planning boundaries.
  • PlaceChangers are making it easier for local councils to compile, update, and coordinate their local development land portfolio with other stakeholders.  
  • The Behaviouralist are applying machine learning and satellite image recognition to identify opportunities for green infrastructure.
  • A London local authority is working on a mapping and analytics tool that brings together housing and social infrastructure data under one spatial platform to represent and test current and future growth scenarios.
  • Toolz are creating a custom-made 3D interface that would allow planning officers to assess development proposals within a live 3D model of the city.
  • Wikihouse + Southwark Planning Division are building an online tool to improve and automate aspects of householder planning applications.
  • Linknode Ltd is exploring the use of augmented reality to visualise unbuilt development proposals at public consultation.
  • Create Streets are working on an online tool permitting users to measure the quality of a place, and gives analysis of correlations between urban form with wellbeing, health, happiness and value.
  • ODI Leeds are working on two projects:

1.  PDFs for Planners is exploring how commonly used planning documents could update in real time from data in the cloud.
2. ‘A clearer plan’ is bringing together existing open data in a tool for those that want to submit a planning application or understand the local housing picture.

Nearly 90 entries were received, including:

  • Using data to identify land for housing developments.
  • Managing the impact of new developments on school and GP capacity.
  • Augmented reality to allow citizens to see future developments by holding up their phone or tablet.

The awarding of this money follows the launch of the government’s industrial strategy, which outlined plans to upgrade UK digital infrastructure.

The winners now have 12 weeks to develop prototypes that are designed to help achieve a more transparent, inclusive and certain planning system, according to Future Cities Catapult.

Euan Mills, planning and urban design lead at Future Cities Catapult, said: “For years we’ve heard how the planning system is broken, and how it hasn’t delivered the number of homes we need or the types of places we want to live in.

“Our Future of Planning programme focuses primarily on how we plan, rather than what we plan for, and creates critical space to experiment; allowing those involved in the planning system to think how it could be done differently.

“We’re excited to work with the winners of our open call as they develop and test prototypes to build a faster, more transparent and equitable planning system.”

Richard Blythe, head of policy and research at the RTPI, said: “Big data and digital innovation present an opportunity to create a more integrated, flexible and inclusive planning system. The RTPI is working closely with Future Cities Catapult to explore this agenda as a member of the project board, and this funding is a major step forward.”

Details about Future Cities Catapult can be found here.

Image credit | Shuttershock