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MHCLG funds councils testing digital tools for planning

02/06/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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

Houses under construction

It is part of a pathfinder programme for the digital transformation of local plans to increase community involvement and speed up the planning process.

MHCLG said the money will support 10 projects for local authorities to test how the tools work with existing local plans.

It highlighted the aim of moving away from long text documents to the use of an interactive map with accompanying annotation document, and 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.

MHCLG also pointed to potential to improve community engagement through tools to make planning proposals more accessible and interactive, and said the councils will work with it on improving data standards.

Project leaders

The teams of authorities leading the projects to receive funding are: Newcastle City and Gateshead councils; Stratford upon Avon and Warwick councils; Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon councils; Dacorum; Broxbourne; Birmingham; East Suffolk; Hounslow; Kensington and Chelsea; and Ashford.

A spokesperson for MHCLG said it is not yet ready to release further details on the individual projects.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher MP said: “We are moving away from notices on lampposts to an interactive and accessible map based online system – placing planning at the fingertips of people.

“Today’s 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.

Improve public participation

Local Government Association chair Councillor James Jamieson said: “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.

“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 move derives from the proposals for modernising the planning process in the Planning for the Future whitepaper, published in August of last year.

Image from iStock,Lichtwolke

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