Scotland’s nature agency is to become the first in the UK to deploy an artificial intelligence decision support tool to help planning authorities manage protected and environmentally sensitive land.

NatureScot, the lead public body responsible for advising Ministers on all matters relating to Scotland’s natural heritage, will deploy technology to enhance sustainable land management and planning across Scotland.

The platform, created by Informed Solutions, was developed as part of a Govtech Catalyst Challenge and with additional support from the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme.

The result is an innovative cloud-native information platform that integrates and exploits advances in digital service design, mapping, data analytics, earth observation (satellite) imagery, and AI capabilities to process and answer complex land management questions in a simple manner.

The product has been developed and refined through rigorous user-centred design, research, and testing involving over 30 major planning organisations across England, Scotland, and Wales. It takes advantage of Informed’s expertise in AI, analytics, and data unification, combining innovative technologies including natural language processing, named entity recognition, and location intelligence to provide rich, targeted information on environmentally sensitive areas to planning decision makers, as well as developers and land managers applying for planning permission.

For NatureScot, the deployment of InformedDECISION© is expected to deliver 50 per cent efficiency gains in key parts of the planning process; greater consistency of decision making as a result of AI-based guidance; and an enhanced user experience that provides fast and easy access to more accurate information.

Seth Finegan, UK CEO at Informed Solutions, said: “It is a proud and hugely significant moment for Informed Solutions to see this product develop from initial kernel to full solution, now being deployed and integral within the Scottish planning system. 

“It is a testament to how crucial collaboration is within the innovation process. Working closely with Nature Scot, CivTech and planning bodies across the whole of the UK has enabled us to develop a truly transformative product that will have a positive, system-wide impact on the way planning works and is geared towards protecting sensitive land resources.”

Darren Hemsley, NatureScot’s head of supporting good development, said: “Scotland is facing a nature emergency and protected areas have a vital role to play in helping us build resilience in the face of the climate change and biodiversity loss crises. We are committed to protect, restore, and value these special areas through evidence-based work with partners such as Informed Solutions. InformedDECISION©’s ability to integrate land and environmental data with case history in real-time, whilst providing immediate and tailored information for any specific site will be a great resource for land managers, developers and members of the public interested in their local protected areas.”