What Came Out Of The Planning System: Hack?

Last weekend we held our hackathon, in partnership with Future Cities Catapult. Our company has created a technology system that extracts planning applications from England-wide councils each day. Having access to this dataset creates a crystal ball into the future, as you know what is going to happen to a place. We have gone to great lengths to collect this data and for our own product – Land Insight – we only use a small portion of the potential value, so with the Planning System Hackathon, we hoped to engage others who could see the potential of the data to create a wider variety of services with them.

35 attendees trooped through the whole weekend so they could learn to use the data. We held workshops on business pitching, encouraged the meeting of people, team formation, and create new products and services. The climax of the weekend was a pitching competition in front of our panel of judges for a chance of winning £1,000.

The ideas and effort that came out of it were incredible – way beyond our expectations. I believe this is testament to the passion that people had to fix the problems that they are familiar with in how the planning system currently fails to deliver anywhere near its potential.

Some common themes emerged: fixing the problem of under-used places that could have community value in the short term, perhaps before a development took place, or while it is vacant. Another theme emerged in that engaging and collecting data from citizens should be at the heart of the planning system, which is not being performed well by the current methods of displaying planning applications. The ideas put forward tackled these issues in vastly different and creative ways.

A run down of the tools and teams produced

Winners

Joint 1st: Demand Vision

demand vision

 

Using planning applications to estimate the current and changing demand for products and services in locations so that businesses and service providers can make better informed commercial decisions before making large capital investments.  

 

Joint 1st: Plan Gage

Plan Gauge
Making it easier to see and interact with planning applications via providing better visual information about them, tools to stay alert to changes and simpler interfaces.

 

3rd: You Plan

You Plan

Unpacking the content of a planning application to make it more visual and clear what impact it will have on a wider area, eg. having a green light appear if it affects a listed building of local significance. This approach could be used to further encourage communities to engage, comment and provide data on local needs which can be collected and fed back into schemes that there is demand for, such as fixing potholes.

 

Other ideas generated

Co-creative Places

Co-Creative Places

Using short-term space for creative projects and collecting real-time local data about thoughts on it, to drive longer term use of the space.

Future Scope

Future Scope

Turning planning applications into more 3D visual experiences, to better engage people, overcome controversy and understand impact.

Activate Space

Activate Space

Combining data sources to locate underused spaces and match with service providers and short term users.

Geotech could be as big as Fintech

data is coming from everywhere and unlocking new devices

Alongside some of the other companies that sit with us in the Ordnance Survey sponsored Geovation Centre in London, I recently talked about Land Insight to The Guardian newspaper.

As much as smart phones give access to the world of data online, they also “haemorrhage data” about the world around which they travel. This data adds new layers to the physical world allowing better mapping, measuring of behaviour flows, integration and control of more devices and the quantification of, well, everything. On this nervous system of data the “internet of things” will grow and a greater understanding of the way the world works will evolve (in theory).

There are big bets being made on this web of connected devices – just look at Softbank’s $32billion acquisition of ARM, or IBMs recent swath of investments – but whatever the future holds, “geotech” is emerging and the opportunity for it presents is enormous – “.. as big as fintech” says Alex Wrottesly, head of the Geovation Hub.

Land Insight is leading the way in using geographically accurate data to help find and assess land with development potential that is otherwise too time consuming and difficult to locate.

Here is a link to full article

Open-data revolution meets planning

Guest post from our series on Property Futures, by Yeonhwa Lee at Urban Intelligence:

Open-data revolution meets planning

Yeonhwa

The property industry is on the cusp of a technological revolution — a revolution that has shaken many if not most other industries but somehow left the property sector largely untouched. Slowly but surely, the property industry has begun incorporating technology and data to fundamentally change how built environment professionals work and how their clients access services. The open-data revolution is at the heart of this transformation.

The US was the first country to make all government data (excluding personal and national security information) “open by default” seven years ago, and Britain soon followed suit, rising to score the highest on the open-data index score worldwide. The result, in the UK property sector, has been the emergence of companies that build on and curate such open data, such as Land Insight, which helps developers find off market land by presenting data on ownership rights and past planning applications, and GeoLytix, which has collected and mapped information of over 10,000 supermarkets in the UK and provides chains with insights on opportunities for new stores. Other companies such as Zoopla and Rightmove are also worth mentioning, for creating online real estate search platforms that bring the information directly to consumers.

The above is a snapshot of 2016: data is constantly being collected, published, and curated, and the “world of bricks and mortar” is beginning to see its value. The property sector is undergoing a transformation to become faster, simpler, and more transparent. In 20 years, the disruption brought by the open-data revolution will have matured, and the data, technology, and tremendous increase in efficiency and unambiguity will seem unexceptional, just as now we can’t imagine the days before Google Maps.

All of this sounds great. However, there is one caveat. The innovations occurring in the property sector will not fully realise their potential to streamline processes if the ultimate hurdle that private sector actors must jump over, the planning system, remains as it is today: with minimal exposure to technological revolution and accepting slowness and inefficiency as an inherent characteristic of the public sector. The UK planning system has seen little innovation since its inception in 1947, and researching planning policies to understand what exactly is allowed remains a labour-intensive, time-consuming, and costly task.

This is where we come in.

Urban Intelligence seeks to revolutionise the way built environment professionals interact with the planning system. We are building a search engine that allows one to access all planning policies (currently dispersed in various formats, on websites of inconsistent layouts) relevant to one’s area of interest on a single, central platform. Furthermore, we plan to embed this policy data into 2D, 3D maps, so that planners, architects, and developers can visually understand how the textual policy manifests in the real world.

Planning policies are open data, but they are not in user-friendly formats despite the extensive research and interaction required to comprehend them. Urban Intelligence seeks to pool and curate this data, so that navigating through the planning system is up to speed with how information is shared and decisions are made in the private sector. Breakthroughs in the private sector must be complemented by innovations in the public sector. Urban Intelligence is here to bridge the gap.

Company Bio
Urban Intelligence is a proptech startup that is using tech to boost productivity in the planning system. They are currently participating in the third cohort of the Pi Labs accelerator.
Author Bio
Yeonhwa is a senior planning policy analyst at Urban Intelligence. She studied PPE at Penn and is currently undertaking a masters in international planning at UCL.

The Public Land Map Discussion

We held an online event earlier in the week with the Community Land Advisory Service. We got together a group of charities, non-profit organisations and businesses to discuss the benefits of mapping public land. Here are main issues raised and the conclusion by Land Technologies.

Not all land is registered – mapping it all will be hard
Councils have lists of their own land holding, but often their list is not accurate since land ownership hasn’t changed hands in a long time and title deeds documents go missing. Let’s get the known land published first.

Greater community involvement needed
There needs to be more efforts from councils to support communities that want to improve land to develop their neighbourhoods. They need to find ways to identify problem/unused bits of land and reach out to the community to see how it can be used better for temporary or long term uses. How can they reach the community better? Who do individuals talk to understand what can be changed and co-ordinate action?

Case studies
Case studies are an excellent way to demonstrate communities coming together to change places for their needs. It’s a powerful way to get across the impact of new projects. Locality and My Community Rights have some good case studies.

Highlighting the economic benefits for community engagement
Councils would be encouraged to work more with community groups if there was clear economic evidence that the co-operation could bring. Perhaps Locality and the LGA could help with funding projects that help communities across the country.

Working together
Councils need to work together to provide new services that are more affordable than just commissioning new services themselves.  New start-ups and social enterprises should help connect councils and other organisations to bring about change. For a national project such as mapping public land, this would need to happen to make it possible.

Connecting to research in this area
We’re not aware of related research projects. Organisations such as the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University might be able to help. If you’re aware of any related research, please contact us.

Conclusion

Whilst it’s extremely useful to see the location of public land on a map, it’s more important to provide information that helps people achieve their specific goals. Local authorities don’t have the finance to provide additional services to help with land needs. Some councils provide support for finding land for allotments, housing land and temporary use but it seems like most do not.

Freedom of Information requests directly help people with their specific goals, but are so costly that government wants to reduce the power of FOI requests. Having open information about land would not only reduce council officers work, but enable new websites to provide new services.

The need for benchmarking

Councils already can be compared in many ways, from how quickly they process planning applications to how they are spending their money. We should have benchmarks for how transparent they are about assets that they own and their process for managing and selling these assets. This would make it easy to compare councils in terms of their asset holdings and efficiencies.

The local government transparency agenda is key to this so individuals and organisations can compare local authorities and highlight ones that are failing. According to the Local government transparency code 2014, all local authorities must publish their land and property assets. This is new requirement, so councils should currently be working to make this happen.

We hope we can work with organisations to deliver a national map, not just for a sake for a new map, but for all of the other projects it can help inspire or enhance.

Get in touch if you’d like to help us with this project.

5 Open Datasets for a Better Built Environment

We usually leave town planning and new developments to the professionals and have little say in our future homes and work environments. But if citizens were given new digital tools to understand neighbourhood planning and actively contribute, what would happen?

Here’s our top 5 list of open datasets that could enable a new wave of digital tools to shape the future spaces where we live, work and spend our leisure time.

Continue reading

What is the Land Registry INSPIRE Index Polygon dataset and why should I care?

Official information about land ownership is crucial when searching for a suitable plot of land. That’s where the Land Registry comes in.

In September, the Land Registry released open data relating to boundaries of freehold land and property. This is what is known as the INSPIRE Index polygon data.

The map below shows what this index data (in red) looks like when overlaid on-top of Open Street Map data (in green).

Land boundaries in Hackney, London
Land Registry land boundaries overlaid on-top of Open Street Map data. Region is Hackney, London.

This open data provides valuable information that we never had access to before. The Land Registry will be releasing a free tool so anyone can search a map to identify registered and unregistered land. Let’s hope the all the data behind the free tool will be available as open data.

At Land Wiki we’re going to show land boundaries as part of our open and editable map, so identifying and discussing land is much easier. We’ll be combining this with our large database of plots of land.

Update (17/01/2014 ):
Unfortunately due to license restrictions by Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry INSPIRE data is not truly open. This means it would be too costly to pay royalties to Ordnance Survey for a free website, so Land Wiki cannot use this data. Some details are available on the INSPIRE FAQ page. We’ll be campaigning to get Ordnance Survey to change their license.


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