Why is this the way things are done? Why aren’t we thinking of how we could be using data to power digital technology that can improve the way we plan? Simply because the technology to do something different, something innovative, is new. Our current planning system has been with us for over a century. Digital technology? A few decades, if that. So, while it might perhaps be forgivable that we currently are where we are, it would fast become unforgivable should we choose to stay where we are.
Change is coming to planning standards
This is why it’s so exciting to see change starting to happen. Some great work has already started on developing planning application data standards and digital services, with Hackney Council, PlanX and the GLA all tackling elements of the challenge of standardising the top-level information that is submitted by applicants. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the data contained within the planning system.
At Connected Places Catapult we have been building a map of all the data used as part of the evidence base in local plans and planning proposals. The evidence base for local plans seeks to understand the condition of a place and a ‘system’ within it (eg, employment land, green space, housing need etc.) and forecast how they may change in the future, so as to inform planning policy. The evidence base for planning proposals seeks to understand the context into which a development will land and the economic, social and environmental impacts of that development.
Our research into the data contained within a typical local plan suggests there are on average 50 evidence base documents used to create one local plan, which are collectively informed by more than 400 data sets. Then for a development proposal, there are typically around 20 documents submitted which are supported by more than 400 data sets. When comparing these data sets there are many that are used multiple times across multiple documents, as well as data sets that are used in both proposals and plans, such as traffic counts.