Councils could face standardised local plan data requirements

The government has announced that it has completed a research project which could lead to councils being required to provide standardised data on local plans.

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

Last year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) appointed digital firm iStand UK to explore the costs and benefit of data standards for planning authorities working on their plans.

In an announcement this morning, the government said it "could" now introduce measures allowing the data to be published and compared.

A government press release said: "We have recently completed research into which data can most easily be made available from local plans and existing planning systems.

"Currently, most local plan and planning application documentation is issued in a PDF format and specific policy detail is not easy to find and inconsistent across local authorities.

"A department initiative could deploy a natively digital product to make essential information accessible to policy makers, citizens and digital entrepreneurs in a consistent and standardised format."

The term "natively digital" refers to data that is originally produced in a digital format rather than converted from analogue into digital.

According to the agenda for an event co-hosted by the MHCLG and iStand UK in March 2018, the two organisations "have been working together to develop guidance and standards that will tell authorities all they need to know about the standards for publishing local plans and local development schemes".  

Planning contacted the MHCLG for more details but it had not responded by the time of publication.

The announcement comes on the day the government is hosting a "PropTech" event about how digital technology can help the development process.

Housing minister Esther McVey said: "It is time for government to unlock the information and data to make these companies thrive, and today I’ve tasked my team to push forward work with PropTech firms to look at how we can release more of the local data held by local bodies to innovative companies to unleash a digital revolution in the property sector."

In 2017, the government launched a scheme to ensure that local planning authorities publish brownfield land data in a standardised way nationally.

Today, the government said that new guidance has been written "to support local planning authorities to implement the new [brownfield land data] standards".

Planning contacted the MHCLG to ask whether this statement refers to the guidance published more than two years ago when the standard was announced, but had not had a reply by the time of publication.

In November last year, the government said it proposed to prepare a public online register of current and past compulsory purchase order cases to increase transparency. Today's statement said that the government would be "opening up data about Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to make this important process more transparent."

McVey said: "New technology will link builders to brownfield sites more easily, enhance how developers engage with local communities, help builders deliver new homes and modernise the way we buy and sell land and houses, cutting the time it takes to get housing from the drawing board to families getting the keys."

In January, the government awarded a digital social enterprise, mySociety, a contract to start work on creating an online central register of residential planning applications and permissions.


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