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Digital innovations in planning

As part of our Smart City-Regions project, the RTPI is supporting the Future Cities Catapult (FCC) as they explore how new technology and big data is changing the way we plan.

Our profession, as with many others, is being transformed by digital innovation. Further disruptive change is right around the corner, and it's our responsibility to ensure our members can actively shape this agenda.

As a government-backed centre for the advancement of smart cities, the FCC has been working to identify state-of-art products and services from tech start-ups and local planning authorities. Through our position on the FCC project steering group, the RTPI has helped organise workshops where members have discussed key challenges facing the system, and worked with companies in the PlanTech sector to explore ways to make planning more transparent, democratic and effective. Many of these solutions have the potential to ease the administrative burden on planners, freeing up valuable time to focus on more complex issues.

Case study: An offer to develop a free, interactive digital map of local plan policies at the city-region or county-region scale

The RTPI would like to understand the experiences of local authorities who are experimenting with new technologies and approaches which can improve the coordination of planning across administrative boundaries. As part of this, we would like to draw attention to the work of Urban Intelligence, a company in the PlanTech sector, who have worked with the government-backed Future Cities Catapult and DCLG on their 'Future of Planning' project.

The company has developed an innovative platform called Howard (named after the founder of the Garden City movement), which can host and display digitised planning policy documents, collected and standardised across multiple local planning authorities. After piloting this platform in London, Urban Intelligence are keen to partner with a group of entrepreneurial local planning authorities to develop a free, interactive digital map of local plan policies at the city-region or county-region scale.

The end product will be an interactive policy map that can visualise a complex policy landscape in a single interface. This includes a search engine that enables users to query the policy text database, and a map where users can click on a site or enter a postcode and immediately learn the relevant national, regional, and local policy designations. This could allow local authorities make cost savings during plan making and implementation, provide a world-class service to local communities and staff, and improve plan-making and decision making through the use of technology.

The piloting city-region or county-region local planning authorities will commit to providing their planning policy data and allowing the Urban Intelligence team to shadow their planning officers to conduct user research for the best outcome. In exchange, the local planning authorities will receive a region-wide interactive policy map, free to host on their own websites via the Urban Intelligence platform. The RTPI would also feature the selected local authorities as a case study in our Smart City-Regions project.

To find out more, please email