Gateshead Council has developed a prototype digital service aimed at helping small and medium sized builders identify sites that could be used for new housing.
It has carried out the project with the Future Cities Catapult (FCC) with support from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Planning Delivery Fund and aims to embed the service, named the Homebuilder De-Risking Tool, in its website.
The prototype has pulled together data from several sources to provide potential developers with information they need about a site early in the process. It includes a tailored list of constraints and planning requirements required for each.
Euan Mills, head of digital planning at the Future Cities Catapult, said that the research identified 14 characteristics that frequently come as a surprise to developers after they have begun a planning application. These include issues around flooding, contamination, protected species and archeological remains.
The prototype provides details on their implications and any additional studies required, along with a site-specific list of documents needed.
In addition, as the developer provides details about the types of tenure of housing planned they are given an estimation of the community infrastructure levy and Section 106 agreements on planning obligations that will be required.
This is aimed at helping smaller developers who cannot afford consultants to help them understand this part of the planning system.
Among the expected advantages is that the prototype can shorten the development cycle for much needed housing, reduce the scope for errors in the process and cut the overhead costs for developers.
Neil Wilkinson, head of planning for Gateshead Council, said: “Gateshead has a higher proportion of small and medium sized sites, which are brownfield sites, and we find the volume housebuilders are not attracted to them.
“The digital planning tool helped in this because the council holds 60% of the information the housebuilders would want to understand the site. So in tackling the ‘known unknowns’, the digital planning tool brings all the data together so the builder can decide if he wants to go forwards.
“It’s about reducing the risk to the housebuilder.”
He added that the council now looking for a partner to develop the software further.
Image by Les Chatfield, CC BY 2.0 through flickr