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Future of Planning - State of the Art Innovations in Digital Planning

Stefan Webb, Head of Projects at Future Cities Catapult, introduces our newly launched State of the Art Innovations in Digital Planning report.

Future Cities Catapult have launched a programme that will explore how design, data and digital tools can update how planning is conducted in the U.K. and globally. Future of Planning aims to build a picture of a faster, more transparent and equitable planning system that delivers the kinds of homes, communities and cities we want.

This ‘State of the Art’ report provides an insight into how new technique and technologies are beginning to permeate the planning system, in the UK and internationally. It provides a mixed picture. In some areas tools and techniques that have been in academia or the private sector are being adopted by planning authorities and developers. However, innovation is sparse, with few places adopting digital and data-driven techniques across all elements of the planning process.

It’s also the case that there is no private sector monopoly on innovation in planning; it’s clear that planning consultants, developers and (to a lesser extent) architects are still behind the curve in adopting data-driven and digitally-enabled tools to improve their engagement with the planning system. Similarly, no one country seems to have built the entire picture.

Over the coming months, we will be talking to different users of the planning system to work with them to identify the challenges of the current system and the opportunities to innovate. We will be launching an Open Call that will seek responses to the challenges and opportunities that we identify. We hope that the Future of Planning programme will begin to paint a picture of the near and far future planning system, then begin to build that vision.

Whilst the planning system is criticised, often unfairly, for many reasons those criticisms rarely focus on how analogue the system is.. While analogue and document-based systems are standard practice planning support systems-technology-based solutions encompassing analysis, design, visualisation, communication, and participatory planning- have steadily evolved over the past decade. In recent years, with exciting technological advances in such as Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things, as well as market interest in PropTech (Property Technology), the push for digital solutions in planning has intensified.

With significant pressure on the planning system for reform, it is an opportune moment to contemplate systemic change, whether incremental or wholesale, and what the future of planning may look like. This report conducts a broad survey of innovations in digitally-enabled planning that are currently being developed or have been deployed in the UK and elsewhere. The following questions are considered throughout the report: What are the technologies, and how are they useful? Which stages of the planning and development process are the innovations particularly focused on? Which stages need more attention?

The report is divided into chapters. Chapter 2 explains the categories used to organise the innovations and provides background information on the planning and development process. Chapter 3 presents three to five innovations chosen to be highlighted under each category. Chapter 4 offers in-depth narratives into the successes of exemplary cities in digital planning. Chapter 5 concludes the report with final remarks. Built environment professionals, including planners, in 5-10 years’ time will have a completely different suite of powerful, interactive, visual, and data-

driven tools available at their fingertips. This report serves as a sneak peek into that future, which has already begun to unfold.

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