Local planning authority projects to digitise planning process

Esri UK has announced the winners of a competition to find local planning authorities with innovative ideas for how best to use geospatial technology to help modernise the planning process.

Attracting almost 50 entries, the three winning councils were Nottingham City, Dacorum Borough Council and South Ayrshire who will now work with Esri UK to make their pilot projects a reality, receiving free consultancy and access to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software from the company.

The competition revealed several common planning challenges faced by local authorities being addressed by the pilots, including the improvement of community engagement, how to maximise the use of 3D visualisations and how to manage developer contributions more efficiently. Esri UK is also creating a Customer Advisory Board to help grow best practice use of GIS within planning.

Stephen Croney, Head of Sector for Land, Property and Planning, said: “As the government looks to reform the planning system with an increased use of digital technologies, we wanted to find innovative solutions to planning challenges and collaborate with authorities to bring them to life. By combining each council’s domain expertise with our team of geospatial experts, the pilot projects will explore new and efficient approaches to problems all designed to help make the planning process easier for everyone.”

Nottingham City Council’s project will examine how geospatial technology can help increase the use of 3D visualisations within planning, both internally and with the public. Dacorum Borough Council’s pilot will be using GIS systems to better manage the use and communication of developer contributions secured through Planning Obligations, while South Ayrshire Council’s objective is to create an innovative community consultation platform, with interactive methods of engagement to improve community involvement in Local Development Plans.

Geospatial technology and data have an important role to play in digital planning reform, as outlined in the Planning for the Future white paper, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in 2020. The use of mapping and associated analytical tools was also one of the recommendations in the report A Digital Future for Planning: Spatial Planning Reimagined, released in February 2022, by the Independent Digital Task Force for Planning.

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