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Birmingham hunts for land using startup AI

Birmingham City Council has tasked location intelligence startup Urban Intelligence to undertake a city-wide review of potential land for homes using its AI.

Urban Intelligence’s geospatial analysis software will enable the city to assess 330,000 sites – 284 times more than the 1,160 the council assessed in 2017 – and reduce the time required to produce a final list of sites from 11 to three months.

The news comes as Birmingham City Council considers a new development plan for 2022-42 that incorporates a 35% increase in its housing need. The increase came as a result of a change in the government’s methodology for calculating the number of homes required across the country.

An inspector’s report of Birmingham’s current plan found that 37,900 of the 89,000 new homes needed cannot be accommodated within the city’s boundaries.

The council hopes that Urban Intelligence will be able to uncover more sites that could be used for housing.

Winner of the PlaceTech Startup Prize in 2019, Urban Intelligence uses data science and geospatial analysis to identify and asses the development potential of sites.

Last year, the London Borough of Hounslow awarded Urban Intelligence a contract to do a similar analysis of the area’s sites. The startup analysed all 115,000 potential sites, uncovering 4,200 suitable ones, which enabled the council to meet its requirements within the London Plan to deliver 2,800 homes on sites smaller than 0.25 hectares.

Speaking about the project in Birmingham, Daniel Mohamed, founder and CEO of Urban Intelligence, said: “As the largest local authority in Europe, the city will provide a fantastic opportunity to explore the use of geospatial methods for data-driven urban development at significant scale.”

The company also said that the exploration of novel technologies in the planning sector reflects the broader shift towards digitisation announced in the planning white paper last year.

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