Digitising the planning system – how technology can streamline the planning process

Maps and analysis for planning technology

In our current climate digital technology has transformed the way that we live, work and interact and yet, the planning system itself remains relatively unchanged.

It is no secret that planning can be costly, uncertain and time consuming. However, with the use of technology in planning improving, there is increasing scope to streamline the planning process through digital practices.

Plainview Planning explore how digital tools are slowly being introduced into the planning system and how as a company, we are already utilising technology to de-risk the planning process for our clients.

How are Councils adapting to the shift in technology?

The recent report by the National Audit Office explored why the government’s planning system is underperforming and cannot currently meet housing demand effectively. The report also flagged the problems brought by a lack of staff in the planning sector and the associated skills gap.

Whilst the recommendations put forward to try and effect a sea change on LPA department staffing issues will take time to implement, we have been interested by the increasing awareness and practical application of planning technology (PlanTech) by Local Authorities to help them enhance, enable and streamline existing planning department processes.

Milton Keynes provides a prime example of this, and last summer they become the first council to use Artificial Intelligence to start validating planning applications. Their aim is to use AI to assess householder and permitted development applications in the future, to free up capacity and resources so that the attention can be spent on community engagement and pre-application discussions.

Meanwhile, the London Borough of Southwark are the first council to request that applicants submit a 3D model as part of their application. The photo-realistic tool will show 360-degree viewpoints and will help in making the potential impacts of a proposed development more readily understandable.

This month also saw the launch of PLANtraq by The Future Cities Catapult (FCC). This is a prototype tool which has been developed to create more transparency and simplify the post-planning permission process, particularly when planning conditions are attached to decisions.

In helping to streamline the planning system, these digitised systems may also help free up those planners in understaffed LPA’s to get on and plan. But it isn’t just restricted to LPA’s, the launch of the RTPI’s Core CPD Framework highlights Digital Planning as a key skill for all planners.

How Plainview uses technology to increase efficiency in planning

At Plainview we have long been aware of the importance of technology in planning and the benefits of harnessing it effectively for our client projects. Over the years we have developed several systems to ensure we can present development schemes effectively and source the most relevant and up to date planning information efficiently, enabling us to add maximum value to client projects. Examples of this include:

  • GIS and site appraisals – We have an experienced and dedicated GIS team who use bespoke mapping systems, informed with relevant data analysis, to effectively identify site opportunities and constraints and present these in a visual and informative way.
  • Appeal search – Our Tech team have designed a free text search of the appeals database which updates in real time, enabling us to find the most relevant and up to date appeals and precedents for your case.
  • Spatial Analysis Maps and more – Using our mapping systems we can provide spatial justification for development proposals. Our maps include – local designations, historic patterns of development, local precedents, site topography, site sustainability including drive-time isographs.

We are finding increasingly that with the use of effective visuals and tech, we can simulate and test the development potential of a site in the safety of a virtual environment. Sensible usage of these digital technologies can really help make the impact of development proposals more readily understood.

About us

Our clients are already benefitting from our use of digital technologies to inform and support their planning projects. If you have a development project that could benefit from our GIS mapping system or any other services which we provide, then get in touch today. You can submit your site details via or via our landmark page and one of the team will be in contact to see how we can best assist.