Milton Keynes Council to use artificial intelligence to validate applications

Milton Keynes Council is set to trial the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to start validating planning applications by the end of the summer.

Brett Leahy, head of planning at Milton Keynes Council, speaking at the National Planning Summit
Brett Leahy, head of planning at Milton Keynes Council, speaking at the National Planning Summit

Brett Leahy, head of planning at Milton Keynes Council, was speaking at Planning's National Planning Summit yesterday afternoon in a session on emerging technologies in planning.

He said that, working with the government-backed Future Cities Catapult innovation centre, the council had received funding to develop the use of AI in planning.

He said: "We have a programme where the AI will do the validation aspect of the application process to free up capacity and resource, so as a local authority we can allocate that capacity elsewhere. 

"We are hoping to have that live by the end of this summer. By the end of this year, we hope to use the AI to assess householder and [permitted development] applications.

"The intent is to free up capacity, because planners are a rare breed. We are freeing up that resource to feed back into things like growth, community engagement, and pre-application discussions."

Leahy also said the council was already planning to take account of new technologies like driverless cars. 

Also speaking at the same session, Euan Mills, the Urban Futures Team Lead at Futures Cities Catapult, talked about the importance of built environment data for planners.

But he said that planning was "one of the least-digitised industries in Europe", with data being still very much analogue and not machine-readable.

He said: "Planning departments are really not making the most of this valuable resource. As planners we need to value data a lot better."

The biggest challenge facing planners in the next two to three years would be how they collect data, he said, and to make sure it is machine-readable and obtained in its raw form.

He said: "Critically, planning authorities need to know more about their local high streets than Google does. At the moment, the balance is the other way round."


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