The developers of a mobile web-app that could bring greater accessibility and therefore better results to the planning system were at NLA yesterday to demonstrate its worth and invite views from built environment professionals.
VU.City, which makes a visualisation tool for cities, has come up with a scaled-down ‘lite’ version of its product called Your.Vu in a partnership with UCL CASA’s Colouring London, which focuses on the need to increase public engagement with the planning process through open data.
The aim is to attract people beyond the (often) white, middle-aged, middle class sectors of society who normally comment on planning applications through making a mobile-based system that is simple, open and easy to use.
The project is made possible through funding from the Geospatial Commission within the Audience of the Future programme by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Part of the challenge, said Colouring London’s Polly Hudson, had been to ‘gamify’ the built environment, capture data to optimise areas and cities, but without having to start from scratch each time that funding regimes run out. ‘These projects run from grant to grant’, she said. ‘All that work just gets mothballed. How do we keep not wasting all this time and energy?’
VU.CITY’s Paul Oesten-Creasey ran through the free app designed to share with the community that works on a browser in a similar, intuitive way to Street View. It uses data from the Land Registry rather than Ordnance Survey, Gaskin expressing his frustration that London compares unfavourably with places like New York and Amsterdam in this respect, where similar data is more open and freely available. Could government be persuaded to release it?
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is talking about a pilot to provide ‘accessibility where currently there’s only access’ to their planning system, said Gaskin, with the potential for planning applications to be shown with images and ‘sentiment voting’ buttons – essentially a thumbs-up or down for the scheme.
Discussion of the software ranged from the observation from TfL’s Mark Walker that, in his experience, there was a marked difference between people who had conversations about proposals versus those who had just logged onto a website (and shown ‘anger’). Others mentioned the need to reach out to children, millennials and other less voiced sectors of society (whilst still tapping into the knowledge of people who traditionally corral people and responses. And others still cited the potential in future for conveying other data such as affordable housing, energy, air quality or mix of uses. Ultimately, though, said another contributor, it was about one thing in particular: ‘making planning sexy’.