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SMEs help to overhaul UK planning

UK businesses, individuals, and planning authorities were invited to develop ideas to create a more data-driven and digitally enabled system

Mills: the programme focuses on "how we plan" rather than "what we plan for"
Mills: the programme focuses on "how we plan" rather than "what we plan for"

Using data and technology to improve cities is fast becoming part of modern infrastructure planning

Digital innovation presents an opportunity for "a more integrated and inclusive planning system"

A mix of nine small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local planning authorities have been selected by Future Cities Catapult to receive £200,000 to transform outdated planning systems.


The open call competition followed a report published by the urban innovation centre of excellence that identified the key challenges facing planning authorities around the UK. Businesses, individuals, entrepreneurs and planning authorities were asked to come up with ideas to create a more data-driven and digitally-enabled planning system.


Some 90 entries were received, demonstrating the clear need for innovation in the planning sector. Proposals submitted included: using data to identify land for housing developments; managing the impact of new developments on school and GP capacity; and using augmented reality to allow citizens to see future developments by holding up their phone or tablet.


“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,” said Euan Mills, planning and urban design lead at Future Cities Catapult.


“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.


He continued: “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.”


Using data and technology to improve cities is an area of rapid development, and is fast becoming part of modern infrastructure planning, Future Cities Catapult said. Announcement of the winners comes as the UK Government continues its industrial strategy consultation, of which innovation, improving infrastructure, and growing UK businesses are key priorities.


The award recipients will have 12 weeks to develop prototypes that will help achieve a more transparent, inclusive and certain planning system.


“Big data and digital innovation present an opportunity to create a more integrated, flexible and inclusive planning system,” added Richard Blythe, head of policy and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).


“The RTPI is working closely with Future Cities Catapult to explore this agenda as a member of the project board, and the funding announced today is a major step forward.


“We look forward to seeing the experimental planning tools and processes developed by the winning applicants, and will continue to support Future Cities Catapult in considering [its] wider application.”


The full list of winners is as follows:


HACT/OCSI is developing a neighbourhood insight web-tool aggregating government open-data and other data to neighbourhood planning boundaries.


PlaceChangers is making it easier for local councils to compile, update, and coordinate their local development land portfolio with other stakeholders.


The Behaviouralist is 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 is 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 is building an online tool to improve and automate aspects of householder planning applications.


Linknode is exploring the use of augmented reality to visualise unbuilt development proposals at public consultation.


Create Streets is 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 is working on two projects: PDFs for Planners is exploring how commonly used planning documents could update in real time from data in the cloud; and ‘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.



If you like this, you might be interested in reading the following:


Three UK cities take planning lead

The Future of Planning programme explores how design, data and digital tools can improve the planning process in the UK


Innovation week first for UK’s second city

Week-long programme of events in Birmingham will help connect local businesses, drive innovation, and promote opportunities in the smart cities market


Future Cities issues £50,000 IoT open call to SMEs

Winning SMEs will receive up to £10,000 each to develop and demonstrate connected devices in London



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