A guest Article by Peter Kemp – head of service at the Greater London Authority responsible for, amongst other things, transforming how planning and development data is collected and managed.
I can confidently say that together the London Planning Authorities are leading the way in how users and developers experience the planning system and delivering data relating to development.
The planning system has remained broadly unchanged (but not unchallenged) since implementation of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Legal framework was developed before most homes had a PC, and more importantly most citizens had an expectation that they would be able to access knowledge and certainty of facts in seconds.
Citizens expect more from planning authorities. Expecting decisions and policy to be joined up, and LPAs to have the same level and quality of evidence that developers’ consultants are often able to produce.
Historically planning is often seen as an art, whilst residents in my experience prefer and are more able to understand a more factual, science like, approach. It is only the delivery of this fact-based approach which will enable politicians, planners, residents and developers to reach agreement on the best ways to speed up the delivery of much needed development.
What is London Doing?
There are many projects in London aimed at achieving this objective, however I have chosen to focus the ones that are going to transform residents experience:
London Data Map – the first of the planning led tech projects has been to open up planning data across London. This creates a space where planning authorities can publish spatial information and residents can access it as a single point of truth. This is a collaborative project involving all of the boroughs in London. This reduces work for boroughs, and also enables business to access information with some confidence. Have a play https://maps.london.gov.uk/planning/
Planning London DataHub – This will unlock data about development enabling it to be analysed and informing decisions being made. As well as providing most of the data you would normally find on a planning register, it will include data about floorspace, infrastructure and energy requirements, parking provision, bedspaces, CIL, S106 and affordable housing. Citizens will quickly be able to see and understand what is changing around them in a joined-up way, as well as form a strong, live evidence base for the future planning of London. For Town Planners this will be a live, interactive Annual Monitoring Report. This is due to launch in the spring of 2020. For more information please do read our most recent blog. https://medium.com/@SmartLondon/from-pdfs-to-machine-readable-planning-data-progress-on-changing-londons-planning-system-fcb001ade768
3D London – City Hall are in the process of procuring a single 3D model free for residents and business to access and review developments on. There are many use cases for this, however it is the planning one which is driving this work. The vision is not to compete with market solutions, but help develop a change for residents.
There are also some great projects taking place that are worth watching, including improved infrastructure planning, automating viability assessments, improving how applications are submitted and processed. So, watch this space.
Will this fix it?
To be honest, as with all good solutions, they will change the challenge, but for Londoners it is the first step in making development more understandable, and hopefully open the door to more constructive conversations about planning for future development.