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Scotland’s planning system in line for £35m digital overhaul
Built Environment

Scotland’s planning system in line for £35m digital overhaul 

Scotland’s planning system is to be digitally transformed with a ‘next generation’ smart gateway that will track applications in realtime and revolutionise the way citizens and business engage with the local development process.

The Planning Scotland Gateway portal will become a single point of entry to all planning information and services across Scotland with a consistent user experience – as part of a £35 million five-year programme that will make it easier for planners to work together and for members of the public to get involved in creating and shaping their places.

The new data and technology system, to begin development in early 2021, is expected to generate up to 1,600 jobs in the construction and development sectors, and their supply chains, over the next 10 years, and bring as much as £200 million in economic benefits directly to users of the planning system.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, who will launch Scotland’s Digital Strategy for Planning next week, said: “There is immense potential for digital to provide new ways to get people involved in the planning of great places.

“Our Digital Planning team has been hearing about the experiences of people who work within planning, and also of those who participate in various ways. We’ve learned about what works well, what could work better, and how digital transformation can help deliver positive impacts and outcomes at both the local and national levels.

“We’re now preparing to put our findings into action, and over the next five years we will be building a world-leading digital planning system, helping connect people with their places, influence positive change, strengthen decision-making and focus on delivery of high-quality planned development.”

Introducing new technology and ways of working in the planning system will simplify and speed up the application and assessment processes. It will give planners the tools and data they need to collaborate and improve decision making, making it easier to understand the planning process and get involved at every stage.

The Transforming Places Together digital strategy has been conceived in order to ‘give communities easier ways to engage with a system that can often prove challenging to navigate and understand’ and was published after a two-year engagement process with users of the planning system.

For citizens, some of the benefits of the new system will be:

  • An accessible, next generation Planning Scotland Gateway online portal providing easy access, in one place, to all information about planning including ‘what is happening in my area?’ and ‘do I need planning permission?’
  • A simpler and easier-to-use smart application process which allows real- time tracking and notifications
  • Explore potentially suitable sites which are ready to develop and build on
  • Understand how to engage with the planning process by commenting on applications and local development plans to get involved in shaping your place as an individual or community.

For business and industry (including architects, planning agents, investors and developers), the benefits of the new approach will be:

  • Location based data, including mapping and visualisation, available on the Planning Scotland Gateway to discover opportunities for you and your clients, and inform investment decisions
  • Build marketplace value-added services for citizens and business on a modular, interoperable platform that combines data standards with new innovative technologies
  • A more consistent, streamlined and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas reducing complexity and resulting in downstream income generation for developers and investors with costs to large house builders reduced by c.£25,000-£30,000 per application
  • Collaborate in partnerships across private, public and academic sectors within a PlaceTech Innovation Lab as a research incubator and an accelerator programme to solve planning and place related technology challenges, improve public service delivery, create economic development opportunities and foster an entrepreneurial mindset within government.

And the benefits to central, local government or public sector bodies will include:

  • Bringing all Development Planning and Development Management information together in one place to allow forward planning data and policies to inform consented developments and enable the effectiveness of policies to be monitored in near-real-time
  • A more consistent, streamlined and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas, enabling workflow across local authorities
  • Automated reporting – reducing manual intervention and administration
  • Reduction of invalid applications
  • Increased community engagement without an additional resource requirement to assess, using digital community engagement tools that analyse responses digitally.
  • Avoid costs of £23 million in the case of doing nothing to update or change the current planning system, with potential income generation of £5.5 million for reinvestment in the planning system.

To read the 92-page document in full, visit the link here.

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