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London moves towards planning data automation

London is working to create a ‘live hub’ of planning and development information by 2020.

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London Development Database
London Development Database

London’s planning data automation project, the London Development Database (LDD), has received £100,000 in funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Local Digital Fund.

 

The Mayor of London has committed to matching MHCLG’s funding to ensure the project gets off the ground.

 

The London Development Database (LDD) is a collaborative project between the Mayor and the London boroughs to monitor planning permissions, starts and completions across London. It has been running since 2004 and is now being given a boost with digital technology.

 

The planning data challenge

 

At the moment there are many challenges with collecting adequate and accurate planning data from across London.

 

The information required by City Hall is limited to the requirements of the London Development Database. Further, the 35 planning authorities each collect the data in different ways.

 

At the moment there are many challenges with collecting adequate and accurate planning data from across London.

 

This leads to an incomplete picture of the pipeline of development in London. For example, it doesn’t show pipeline development — i.e. projects that have not yet been approved; schemes that are refused; small commercial developments; or diversity issues – e.g. traveller sites under threat from changes of use.

 

This situation is also compounded by the fact that some planning authorities are locked-in to proprietary IT systems which have limited functionality but are expensive to change.

 

Towards 2020

 

City Hall’s ambition is to create a ‘live hub’ of planning and development information, accessible to all Londoners.

 

To do this, it needs to reform the information it collects and the way it is collected. Greater London Authority (GLA) is moving towards a system where it requests the data it needs for monitoring up-front, on the initial planning application. This data will pass into authorities’ improved back-office systems, where planners will verify it. It will then automatically move from those systems to City Hall and onto a public website.

 

GLA is working to achieve this vision by February 2020. It estimates that the work could significantly reduce the £3 million which is currently spent by planning departments on costs related to planning data.

 

GLA estimates that the work could significantly reduce the £3 million which is currently spent by planning departments on costs related to planning data.

 

The Local Digital Fund’s contribution will allow GLA to prove the concept by April 2019. In particular, GLA says the funding will speed up delivery of the updated database that will collect the automated flow of data, along with upgrades to back-office systems.

 

Scaling it nationally

 

The funding bid was submitted with partners inside and outside of London, including Plymouth City Council, and the London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Hackney and Southwark. The project is also supported by Sheffield City Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

 

London says the collaborative work will ensure that the solution developed meets the data collection needs of authorities outside of the capital.

 

“By working together with rural and metropolitan regions, we can test whether our automation process and live data hub could be scaled nationally. This could lead the way toward MHCLG’s commitment to develop a national register of planning applications,” said Molly Strauss, Principal Policy and Programme Officer and Peter Kemp, Planning Change Manager at the Greater London Authority, in a post on Medium.

 

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