New London Architecture

The Place for PlanTech in ‘Planning for the Future.’

Friday 21 August 2020

Piers Mulroney

Head of Commercial Partnerships & Policy (UK&I)

The ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper is an excellent endorsement of the UK PlanTech industry as the Government has recognised the potential for the UK to become global leaders in digital planning and in PlanTech to revolutionise and democratise the sector. 
Technology needs to be at the core of future legislation. The challenges of the last six months have been an incredible catalyst for change as we have all witnessed how planning authorities and others have embraced the transparency, flexibility and accessibility of PlanTech. VU.CITY has been at the heart of this, through the digitisation of schemes and alongside our Cloud platform, we provide the capacity for users to work from home.
This is just the beginning of the conversation. One of the things we’ve set out to do at VU.CITY is devise a tool that will help the property world deal with the three key issues that the sector is currently under fire for lack of trust, over-complexity and under-engagement.

The White Paper outlines four key areas in which VU.CITY is delivering for Planning for the Future:

Helping everyone feel informed and engaged
Democratising planning and making it more accessible whilst streamlining and speeding up the process sounds counterintuitive to anyone who has been involved in the process before. However, engaging the public early with accessible, engaging information will allow more people to understand the ideas and issues at stake. 
We can see that with the right technology and a degree of community empowerment and education, this could provide the efficiencies that the Government is looking for and more importantly, this will build trust. Last year we assisted Croydon Council in their Local Plan consultation using the latest 3D technology and virtual reality to bring it to life in a new way. 
The White Paper outlines four key areas in which VU.CITY is delivering for Planning for the Future:
Efficiency and simplicity cannot come at the cost of good design. At VU.CITY, we support innovation and new ideas in urban planning. The ever-greater use of technology through planning and design is leading inexorably towards far greater transparency and widening participation and engagement in the future of our built environment. 
It is easy to see how this technology – allowing design and creativity to be tested and reviewed in context - could be complemented by the White Paper’s recommendations around new design codes, set locally and with guidance from a Director of Design and Place at each LPA. It is clear though that resourcing will be vital and work already being done by organisations like public practice, to bring the private sector talent into the public sector will need to be replicated up and down the country. 
The main objective is to get more homes built quickly. Our technology is often used by developers to test feasibility on sites before too much work is done at the pre-application stage. Ensuring that SME developers can do this to de-risk projects will enable more activity in a market which is often the exclusive domain of big outfits. Technology like VU.CITY can drastically reduce those barriers to entry. 
I also like the sound of an open data approach in this sense too, allowing smaller players the chance to understand where the opportunities are and how to mitigate risk through access to Local Plan information, design codes and challenges. 
Although Whitehall and the GLA have issued grants for digital transformation and community involvement in planning, a much more comprehensive investment will be required to achieve the scale of the transformation they desire. This will need to cover the shift from legacy systems as well the investment in new tech and, perhaps most importantly the training and education of the sector.  
Overall, it is heartening to see recognition for the immensely significant role PlanTech can play in the future of planning. For me, this is a hugely positive step that will not only improve planning but will also lead to much greater integration of the development of buildings and space with far broader ‘smart’ initiatives that will make our cities better places for everyone.

Piers Mulroney

Head of Commercial Partnerships & Policy (UK&I)




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