Last reviewed 10 June 2021

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher has announced a £1.1 million fund to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas.

The planning White Paper Planning for the future, published in August 2020, proposed reforms to the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process.

The Pathfinder Programme will look at the digital transformation of local plans with the aim of increasing community involvement and speeding up the planning process.

Mr Pincher said: “We are moving away from notices on lamp posts to an interactive and accessible map-based online system — placing planning at the fingertips of people. Today’s announcement will ensure the planning process will be brought into the digital age. Communities will be reconnected to a planning process that is supposed to serve them, with residents more engaged over what happens in their areas.”

Councils will test how existing local plans translate into the new system, including moving away from long text documents to an interactive map with accompanying annotation document, and the adaptation of existing site allocation policies into the proposed land categorisation format.

Community engagement will continue to play a key role for ensuring that the right levels of growth are identified to meet the needs of the community, Mr Pincher stressed.

In the new system, digital tools will be key for making planning proposals more accessible and interactive, supporting the ambition for more effective community engagement.

Local Government Association (LGA) Chairman, Councillor James Jamieson, said: “This will help to make the planning system more accessible and efficient, and we look forward to working with government to ensure that all residents can engage in the planning process”.