Government announces 10 councils to test digital planning tools

MHCLG unveils a £1.1 million grant fund to implement a ‘pathfinder’ programme across 10 councils to test the use of digital tools in the planning process

Posted 2 June 2021 by

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has announced a £1.1 million fund to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas.

The pathfinder programme will look at the digital transformation of local plans which will “increase community involvement and speed up the planning process,” said MHCLG in a statement.

It said that by introducing a digital system that makes plans map-based and accessible online, local people will be able to engage with planning in their local area, which will help get homes built quicker.

“We are moving away from notices on lamp posts to an interactive and accessible map-based online system – placing planning at the fingertips of people,” said housing minister Christopher Pincher MP.

He said the announcement “will ensure the planning process will be brought into the digital age. Communities will be reconnected to a planning process that is supposed to serve them, with residents more engaged over what happens in their areas.

“While the current system excludes residents, who do not have the time to contribute to the lengthy and complex planning process, local democracy and accountability will now be enhanced by technology and transparency.

Councils will test how existing local plans translate into the new system, including moving away from long text documents to an interactive map with accompanying annotation document. It is also considering the adaptation of existing site allocation policies into the proposed land categorisation format.

This will enable planners to understand the impact of proposed land designations and associated policy implications on land allocations and inform a wide range of policies across the reform programme.

Community engagement

MHCLG said digital tools will be key “for making planning proposals more accessible and interactive, supporting the ambition for more effective community engagement.”

“Councils want communities to be able to shape and define the area they live in, and support measures to enhance public participation in the planning process through a more digital service,” said local government association chairman Cllr James Jamieson.

“This will help to make the planning system more accessible and efficient, and we look forward to working with government to ensure that all residents can engage in the planning process.”

The 10 bids from local councils to be selected are:

  • Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council
  • Stratford upon Avon District Council and Warwick District Council
  • Plymouth City Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council
  • Dacorum Borough Council
  • Broxbourne Borough Council
  • Birmingham City Council
  • East Suffolk Council
  • London Borough Hounslow
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  • Ashford Borough Council

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