Proptech has the power to speed up planning and increase engagement in public consultations, according to the newly appointed chief operating officer of VU.CITY, which is trialling three products intended to transform the creaking planning system.
Alex Tosetti, who joined the interactive 3D city modelling company in July, told PlaceTech: “There is a strong need for digital technology in planning to make it more efficient, speed up the process and de-risk decisions by helping developers and stakeholders to better understand the impact of proposed schemes without diluting the democratic consultation process.”
Tosetti delivered a 45-minute presentation this month to the UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick to detail the role of proptech in planning. It came as Jenrick outlined proposals to reform the national planning system, including increasing the use of digital technology by local authorities and others to streamline the planning process.
“Slap bang in the middle of [Jenrick’s] white paper was stated the need for sophisticated digital tools to improve the consultation and decision-making process,” Tosetti said.
“This recommendation was most likely informed by the Covid-19 lockdown and necessitated rise in video-led planning committee meetings and virtual consultations, which I expect are here to stay, even once the pandemic is over.”
VU.CITY has mapped four global cities and 15 UK cities including London, 124 sq km of Greater Manchester, as well as Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield, It is now preparing to launch a string of products to digitalise planning.
The products are:
YOUR.VU – a citizen engagement platform for use by local authorities, developers and others to virtually showcase project proposals as part of public consultations. The platform is currently in ‘beta’ stage and scheduled to launch before Christmas, and VU.CITY is in talks with several prospective partners, some of whom are testing the platform in their day-to-day work.
Developer project portal – an as yet unnamed product that will enable developers to manage schemes in collaboration with other members of their project teams including architects, planners and engineers. The team members would all have access to the platform and be able to share real time notes and updates on the scheme as it progresses through design, planning and construction, via a multi-layered dashboard to host architects’ drawings, CGIs, reports and other documents associated with the scheme. The technology would also seek to de-risk decisions by clearly showing the visual impact of a building’s proposed mass, height and bulk on its surroundings.
Two-storey permitted development tool – Among Jenrick’s proposals was a recommendation to amend UK planning laws to allow homeowners to add two storeys to their properties without requiring full planning permission. VU.CITY’s latest platform, which it is preparing for rollout this year, is a tool to show how quickly and easily someone could redevelop their home in this way. The technology would provide a visualisation of a two-storey extension and show its impact on nearby buildings and views.
As well as developer clients, VU.CITY is working with several local authorities, including the London boroughs of Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea, which have expressed an interest in adopting some of the company’s products.
“Councils have really had to get their heads around digital technology over the past few months, which will help improve the effectiveness of the planning system overall, but also increase vital citizen engagement,” Tosetti said.