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
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
3rd: 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
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.
Turning planning applications into more 3D visual experiences, to better engage people, overcome controversy and understand impact.
Combining data sources to locate underused spaces and match with service providers and short term users.