London’s new hub for planning data is going live

A collaborative project between London’s boroughs and City Hall will launch in November, writes Peter Kemp.

London Planning Datahub — Go Live

Beginning in 2018, we launched a project to build a network of systems to unlock information about development proposals in London, and make it open, accessible and live. By automating how information on planning applications for development are collected and reported to City Hall, we aimed to reduce the burden on London’s Local Planning Authorities and improve the quantity and quality of data available to the public. You can read more about the project and its history here.

Over the last 18 months we have been working with our partners — planning authorities across London and back office system providers — using funding from both City Hall and MHCLG’s Local Digital Fund, to make these improvements a reality.

We’re really pleased to share that the first step in the project is scheduled to go live on 16th November.

For the first time in London we will have near real-time planning data available in one place via the London Planning Datahub. This will help us understand what is changing in our cities, and how we can speed up the supply of housing for Londoners, as well as reduce the costs of providing monitoring information for planning authorities across London.

This blog post will give an overview of the changes London’s local authorities and the development industry can expect as we move toward the ‘go live’ date of November 16th.

Why is this important?

Up until now, the planning system has operated much as it has done since its inception in 1947. It’s clearly time for some changes.

Since 2004, local authorities in London have collectively operated the London Development Database as a register of certain approved planning applications. In practice, this gives only a small snapshot of development proposals that have been permitted, it does not provide full insight into how London is changing or how the planning system is responding to policy changes.

You can read more about the challenges of the current reporting process and system here, and the original vision behind this automation project here.

What will change on 16th November?

Any application for development submitted within Greater London’s 35 Local Planning Authorities on or after the 16th November will have a slightly different planning application form. The form will include many similar questions to the standard 1APP form (the normal planning application form) , with some new questions relating to environmental information, floor area, infrastructure requirements and ownership information. These questions help us understand both how our city is changing, but also the wider impacts of the development on the environment. This will help us plan for future needs more effectively, and reduce disruption caused by development.

In practice, most applicants will experience minimal changes. However, collectively these small changes along with our work to ‘fix the plumbing’ to improve data flow between different technical systems, will have a significant impact on the insights we all can produce from the data.

Maintaining the quality of the data

The quality of the data in the new London Planning Datahub will be reliant on applicants doing two main things:

  • Answering the questions on the planning application form online
  • Keeping the application form up to date online as the application is amended

We’ll be closely monitoring the data entering our systems to track its quality and we have built in technical checks to avoid poor quality data wherever possible. We will work with local authorities and applicants to continually refine these systems, to make sure we get the best quality data possible.

What about the old London Development Database?

The new London Planning Datahub replaces the 2004 London Development Database (LDD) in its entirety. All of the data that was available on the London Datastore from the LDD remains available there — however it will no longer be updated.

Instead, the London Planning Datahub will provide access to the new data, along with all historic data from the LDD. This will be accessible through a visualisation system called Kibana a web based database will be available for everyone to access

When will the data be available?

We want everyone to be able to access the new data as quickly as possible. Our current ‘go live’ plan will see the new data feeds being visible to boroughs at the start of December, and then, subject to quality checks, the data being available to everyone early in the new year.

What data will be visible?

Only data relating to planning applications (not pre-applications) will be collected and made available, this is because it is this data which forms part of a public register. Boroughs have different policies relating to pre-application discussions, please visit their own websites for more information. The data requirements are available here.

What are the key dates to watch?

We’ll be back with updates on the new London Planning Datahub after it launches. We are excited to start sharing insights into planning and development in London with you.

@MayorofLondon CDO & Smart London Board putting data & technology at the heart of making London an even better place to live, work and visit