Government awards contract for online register of housing planning applications

The government has awarded a digital social enterprise a contract to start work on creating an online central register of residential planning applications and permissions.

The MHCLG offices in central London
The MHCLG offices in central London

UK-based civic non-profit firm mySociety has won the tender for the first phases of the work, which will aim to standardise and aggregate data on housing applications and data.

According to a statement from the firm, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government aims to build the digital register and publish it as open data to help the building industry and individuals locate information on homes in planning.

The firm said it will conduct research, consult with experts in the sector and build proof-of-concept tools for testing, before reporting back to the ministry on the best way to progress on the project to create a "flexible and sustainable open dataset". 

In the tender for the project, published last year, the department said that "access to reliable information on planning applications is important for the housing market to work better".

It said the current lack of consistency in data on housing planning applications presented by local authorities "creates barriers to planning application data to enable creation of new-digital-services to support the planning system and housing market".

Chief executive of mySociety, Mark Cridge, said: "Lots of very smart people in lots of organisations have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to improve the planning system.

"We are excited at the opportunity to help the team at MHCLG build upon and make use of much of the good work that has already been done to date, and to develop strategies and techniques for making planning permission data more useful and accessible for the sector as a whole."

The decision by the government to create an online central register of residential planning applications and permissions was announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget.

In November last year, the government said that it proposed to prepare a public online register of current and past compulsory purchase order cases to increase transparency.

Last week, the Greater London Authority (GLA) announced it is looking into producing a 3D model of the capital that is free at the point of use for planners, built environment professionals and the general public to help assess the impacts of development proposals.

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