South Cambridgeshire District Council has announced that is has been awarded funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to improve the handling of feedback regarding its local plan.
The funding, worth £290,000, will go to Greater Cambridge Shared Planning which is a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils. It will allow the councils to build on their ongoing process to produce a digital local plan and will accelerate the processing and reviewing of thousands of community comments, allowing the council to see what has been said about the plan quicker.
Greater Cambridge Shared Planning intends on using the funding to make improvements to process in back-office whilst also trialling digital planning initiatives that could be rolled out by other planning authorities around the country.
Lead Cabinet Member for Planning for South Cambs District Council, Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins, said:
“We welcome the government’s commitment to improving the plan-making process, which sometimes can be slow and confusing to our residents. The aim of this project will be to make it easier for people to engage in our consultations and speed up how these comments are processed, reviewed and published by our officers. We are also excited that Greater Cambridge could act as a frontrunner nationally and that any improvements we make could be used by other councils up and down the country over time.”
Digital transformation is a key goal for all public sector organisations, however not all residents have the ability to keep up with developments like this one. The project being funded by the Levelling Up Department is also going to look into how those less comfortable with technology can be encouraged to engage in local plan consultations.
Councillor Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Infrastructure for Cambridge City Council, said:
“It has been really encouraging to see the level of engagement with the Greater Cambridge Local Plan process from so many people, but dealing with the sheer volume off contributions has placed a real burden on our systems. This exciting project will help us to save officers’ time, understand the issues and concerns raised, and make the consultation more effective, improving the quality of the final plan significantly. I look forward to seeing the initial enhancement to our digital consultation platform and to sharing what we learn from this process with other local authorities.”