The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is calling on councils to switch from analogue to digital, a move which it believes will make it easier for citizens to see and engage with developments being proposed locally.
In its Living with Beauty report released last week, the Commission says “councils will dramatically need to increase their use of digital technology to assist earlier and more visual engagement with a wider section of the community”.
It is one of 45 recommendations to government in a call for fundamental reform of the planning and development process. The Commission aims to make it easier to reject schemes on design grounds alone.
The report notes: “It is easy now to show in great detail what new development will look like. Digital tools are better for getting more representative engagement and participation.”
And it adds: “Although planning submissions are meant to be accessible online, we are at present only scraping the surface of what should be possible.
“New technologies such as augmented reality, online surveys and visual comparisons can support hugely improved engagement with a much wider cross-section of the community, earlier in the process and with a more confident and truer understanding of popular needs and preferences.”
By transitioning to a digital world, council could “improve decision-making and option testing and engage with a wider section of the community earlier in the plan-making and development process”.
The Commission proposes that within three years “it should be required that fully digital massing models and images of proposed developments or local codes are routinely available online and in a machine-readable format to the general public for all-round visiting, feedback and voting”.
Mark Farmer, author of the Modernise or Die report and the government’s MMC champion, tweeted his support for the Commission’s recommendations, and gave particular approval to the call for digital planning and building asset knowledge.