THERE ARE ALREADY NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF CITY-REGIONS WHICH ARE TAKING A SMART APPROACH TO STRATEGIC PLANNING. THE GREATER LONDON AUTHORITY (GLA) HAS BEEN WORKING WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES
AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO EXPLORE THE POTENTIAL OF STANDARDISED
DATA, MAPPING PLATFORMS AND MODELLING SOFTWARE. MEANWHILE, NEW DATASETS AND ANALYTICAL TOOLS ARE CONSTANTLY EMERGING FROM NATIONAL ORGANISATIONS, UNIVERSITIES AND TECH COMPANIES WHICH OFFER INNOVATIVE WAYS FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO PLAN COLLABORATIVELY ON A WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES. A SELECTION OF THESE
APPROACHES ARE DESCRIBED BELOW.
: Integrated infrastructure maps
Information on infrastructure projects can be diffi cult for planners to access. Data on the location, investment and phasing of projects sits on various servers in local authorities, utility companies, engineers and developers, often divided into sectors like transport, energy, water and waste. This makes it diffi cult to ensure that new development is aligned with the necessary infrastructure. In response to this problem, the GLA created a single interactive map for the city-region which overlays data from the LDD with information on current and planned infrastructure projects, drawn from a range of sources. This map makes it easier to understand which areas of the city-region have the infrastructure capacity for new development, prioritise investment and delivery, and anticipate future constraints.
A similar approach has been taken in Greater Manchester to support the development of the new Spatial Framework. Here, the combined authority created an interactive map which overlays potential development sites with key infrastructure networks,
facilitating discussions about how the city should grow.
: Consistent monitoring of development using shared, standardised data
The London Development Database (LDD), managed by the GLA, requires the London Boroughs to submit information on planning permissions into a centralised system, which can then be tracked through to completion. The use of a single database provides the GLA and London Boroughs with a consistent and effi cient way
of monitoring development across the city-region, which in turn makes it easier to understand whether key economic, social and environmental indicators in planning policy are being met.
Outside of London, a lack of consistent data sharing and monitoring protocols makes it diffi cult to understand the cumulative impact of new development at the city-region scale. The RTPI explored ways to address this by analysing commercial data on
the location and scale of planning permissions for housing in twelve English city-regions, and examining whether development patterns were likely to promote sustainable transport patterns and access to employment.
: Virtual models
Gaming software is being used to develop interactive models of entire city-regions, off ering a consistent way to understand and communicate the impact of development proposals on issues like sunlight, visibility, protected views and transport.
: Preparing for a low-carbon future
The GLA has developed a city-region heat map to show which buildings and infrastructure have a high demand for heat, and which generate excess heat. This supports the strategic planning and delivery of heat networks, which will help London to meet ambitious emission reduction targets. It also helps identify and prioritise buildings which require energy effi ciency retrofit.
: Planning and investing in the natural environment
There is considerable evidence on the value of green infrastructure, but parks and open spaces often suff er from a lack of investment. New data can help to address this problem. Cities like Edinburgh, Sheffi eld and Liverpool have commissioned studies to
measure the economic, social and environmental benefi ts of public parks, while new open datasets from the Ordinance Survey can help identify areas which are defi cient in green space.
The Natural Capital Planning Tool, being developed by Birmingham University and others, seeks to create a methodology for measuring the impact of land use change on the provision of ecosystem services, such as fl ood mitigation, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. These sort of tools can help planners shape development proposals to achieve a positive environmental impact, and plan for green infrastructure networks at the city-region scale.
The Climate Just web tool combines national datasets on social vulnerability with places which are at risk of fl ooding and overheating. This creates maps of people and places which could be particularly aff ected by climate change, and could be used to target investment in preventative measures like natural flood management.
: Shaping planning policy with spatial data
Transport for London (TfL) has developed a consistent way of measuring public transport accessibility across the city-region, which makes it easier for local authorities to understand the impact of development on the network, and to recommend appropriate density levels.
: New tools for public engagement
Combined authorities will need to fi nd new ways of engaging the public in complex decisions which transcend the local or neighbourhood level. New tools, apps and games off er opportunities to reach out in diff erent ways. Plymouth City Council
created an interactive online version of their Local Plan which allowed users to comment on policies using social media. The Place Standard, developed in partnership between the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and Architecture & Design Scotland, off ers a consistent way to evaluate the physical and social qualities of a particular place.