Digital tools to help local people voice their opinions about the planning process are being trialled in 13 areas across England, including areas in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, and London.

Over £1 million of government funding has been allocated between 13 planning authorities using the new PropTech Engagement Fund (managed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), to test new digital initiatives to make the planning process more open and accessible, whilst boosting public engagement.

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning will use the new technology to obtain views beyond the formal consultation process, including social media comments, media articles and blog posts. Watford Borough Council plans to develop a QR code system for residents to allow residents to view and interact with a planning map, and Hounslow seeks to create an online 3D map helping residents visualise and comment on proposals.

The pilot scheme will run until March 2022 and will inform the Government on the best way to modernise the process, in conjunction with the feedback obtained from working with local planning authorities to help further identify where further digital guidance and innovation is needed.

The initiatives are also aimed at groups typically underrepresented in the planning process, such as renters and young people to help voice their opinions on planning in their areas.

Minister for Housing Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said “We want to use digital technology to make the planning system fit for the 21st century and empower people from all backgrounds to get involved in decisions that impact their communities. From scannable QR codes giving people local planning information straight to their mobile devices, to interactive online maps, these digital pilots will help us create a more accessible and transparent system and ensure people are informed, engaged and can have their say.”

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning authority is set to get £98,250, Dacorum Borough Council set to get £100,000, Watford Borough Council is set to get £99,975 and the London Borough of Hounslow set to get £100,000 from the scheme.

The PropTech Engagement Fund was launched in August 2021, and local planning authorities were invited to submit bids of up to £100,000 to run pilots to boost Local Plan consultations, publicise proposed developments or analyse consultation responses. The feedback will be used to help councils adopt digital planning tools nationwide.

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