David King, HACT
At the Neighbourhood Planners London conference it was clear that Neighbourhood Planning is maturing into a strong movement, delivering real improvements to places. Examples like the proposal for a town square in Kentish Town, or the policy of focusing on principal resident housing in St. Ives are just a few examples of how citizens involved in the planning process can make tangible progress in shaping the places they live in.
All of this have been achieved by volunteers with support that pales in comparison to what Local Planning Authorities and the built environment industry have access to.
This imbalance of resources is understandably an area of grievance with many neighbourhood planners but there could be a way to address that imbalance, whilst enabling good planning as a whole.
Digital technology, when applied with good principles, can level the playing field between different parties. Since 2012, HACT and OCSI have been trying to democratise ‘data’, by creating easy to use tools for people who have never thought of themselves as ‘statisticians’ to create an evidence base for their work.
We’re now working with the Future Cities Catapult to apply this thinking to Neighbourhood Planning. We have some ideas on what could be useful but would prefer to be guided by planners toward the datasets and tools that would be of most help to groups (now and in the future.)