The Future Cities Catapult (FCC) has launched a prototype digital system to simplify and create more transparency in the planning process.
Named PLANtraq, it is directed at the post-permission stage of the process, which is often made difficult by the conditions attached to a planning permission.
An FCC spokesperson said it is currently a conceptual prototype that demonstrates how to begin to overcome the problems, and will be used in a scoping exercise to provide guidelines how a working tool could be built and integrated into planning.
It comes from the wider discovery programme for the FCC’s Future of Planning: Roadmap to Digitisation project, which is looking at how technology and data can overcome barriers in the planning process.
PLANtraq brings together the relevant data on a web portal to help developers identity what needs to be done, and updates the information across all the user databases when a condition varies or there are any amendments. Its features include a search function for information on what is going on after a decision has been made, and view sections for agents/developers and case officers.
A live timer also dates the decision notice and alerts users if there is an impending expiry or deadline for particular conditions, and can provide an update if a permission is implemented. In addition, it provides for links between the planning authority and agent to help both identify post-permission tasks.
These features are aimed at helping planners, developers and consultants to take action on a decision notice within its timeframe, ensuring that any amendments are taken into account.
The prototype is also intended to help people who want to know how a development is shaping up after the permission has been granted, but who often feel locked out of the process at that stage.
A first sprint of the project, carried out with Hackney Council, led to the development of the planning application submission portal. The council is now taking this further with money from the Planning Innovation Fund.
Meanwhile, Waltham Forest Council has used some of the discovery work to apply for funding to run a small business research initiative on a similar issue, and FCC is encouraging other local authorities to fabricate the prototype into a working tool.
FCC is the Government backed organisation that promotes smart city and data initiatives. It has made the improvement of the local authority planning application process one of its priorities, with a number of projects aimed at the digitalisation of more of its elements.
Image by Big Ben in Japan, CC BY 2.0 through flickr