Digital tools

Councils selected to test use of digital tools in planning process

A £1.1m fund to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas has been announced by the government. 

The ‘Planning for the future’ White Paper, published in August 2020, proposed reforms to the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process.

The pathfinder programme will look at the digital transformation of local plans, which will increase community involvement and speed up the planning process.

According to the government, introducing a digital system that makes plans map-based and accessible online will allow local people to be able to engage with planning in their local area, which will help get homes built quicker.

Councils will test how existing local plans translate into the new system, including moving away from long text documents to an interactive map.

This will come with an accompanying annotation document and the adaptation of existing site allocation policies into the proposed land categorisation format.

The government said this will enable planners to understand the impact of proposed land designations and associated policy implications on land allocations, as well as inform a wide range of policies across the reform programme. 

Community engagement will continue to play a key role for ensuring that the right levels of growth are identified to meet the needs of the community.

In the new system, digital tools will be key for making planning proposals more accessible and interactive, supporting the ambition for more effective community engagement.  

Commenting, Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher said: “We are moving away from notices on lamp posts to an interactive and accessible map-based online system, placing planning at the fingertips of people.

“Today’s announcement will ensure the planning process will be brought into the digital age. Communities will be reconnected to a planning process that is supposed to serve them, with residents more engaged over what happens in their areas.

“While the current system excludes residents who do not have the time to contribute to the lengthy and complex planning process, local democracy and accountability will now be enhanced by technology and transparency.”


Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), Councillor James Jamieson added: 

“Councils want communities to be able to shape and define the area they live in and support measures to enhance public participation in the planning process through a more digital service. 

“This will help to make the planning system more accessible and efficient, and we look forward to working with government to ensure that all residents can engage in the planning process.” 


The 10 bids from local authorities to be selected are:

  • Ashford Borough Council
  • Birmingham City Council
  • Broxbourne Borough Council
  • Dacorum Borough Council
  • East Suffolk Council
  • London Borough of Hounslow
  • Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council
  • Plymouth City Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  • Stratford upon Avon District Council and Warwick District Council

PSE will be hosting a Digital Transformation event on 14 October. Join us for the full day event by registering here.

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