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Digital Planning for better community engagement. August 2022. Digital Planning logo.

Digital Planning for better community engagement

Are you endlessly intrigued by the impact Digital Planning can have on community engagement? So are we. That’s why when we were offered the chance to contribute at New London Architecture’s (NLA) webinar, DLUHC’s Bridget Wilkins (Head of Digital Citizen Engagement) leapt at the chance.

Held by NLA on Friday 22nd July 2022, the ‘Digitisation of Planning: for better community engagement’ webinar brought together Local Authorities, PropTech developers and communities who have been engaged in recent digital planning initiatives.

We were proud to see the event focus on some successes from DLUHC’s PropTech Engagement Fund pilot projects, giving the floor to inspirational Local Authorities who have excelled in trialling digital planning transformation.

The event was brilliantly chaired by Max Camplin (Board Director, BECG) with DLUHC’s Bridget Wilkins providing opening remarks. Bridget’s summary offered an energising insight into the perceived barriers to digital engagement, and offered an uplifting vision for the future of both the PropTech Engagement Fund and digital citizen engagement more widely.

A screenshot of the opening slide presented by Bridget Wilkins (DLUHC) at the event. Text on the slide reads 52% of citizens want to be more involved in local decision making. 80% 18–34 yr olds have not engaged in local plans.

Event Summary

First up, it was great to hear directly from digital champions Blanka Hay (Local Growth Manager (Policy and Strategy) and Grace Cannis (Senior Planning Engagement Officer) from Richmond and Wandsworth Council.

Blanka and Grace were truly inspiring, providing a behind the scenes look at their work on Round 2 of the PropTech Engagement Fund. We heard that through the Fund they are working to create a range of community engagement resources and interventions that will help inform one of London’s first ‘night time strategies’ in line with GLA ambitions. Key outputs will include:

  • A new digital platform for the draft Strategy
  • High street activity interactive map, for communities to share their night time experiences and get regular news updates
  • Promotional videos that reached their target audience
  • Interactive signposting and activation events focused on safety and inclusion

An important reminder given by Blanka and Grace was that these new digital tools would be combined with more traditional methods of engagement, acknowledging that ‘digital won’t reach everyone’ and we need to work together to create a more holistic solution that brings everyone into the conversation about change.

Screenshot of the virtual slides presented by Richmond and Wandsworth Officers at the event.

We were then treated to a summary from Jessica Marston who is working as Community Street Design Engagement Manager at the London Borough of Lambeth. Jessica showcased the detailed engagement that Round 2 of the Fund had enabled Lambeth to undertake as part of their Low Traffic Neighbourhoods initiative.

We saw how Lambeth’s work alongside VuCity, Cityscape and Commonplace had enabled people to express their views on the design suggestions put forward through an accessible digital interface, where communities could also provide their own recommendations as to what additions they’d like to see on their streets.

As with Richmond and Wandsworth, we heard from Jessica that these new digital platforms and QR codes were combined with in person events and flyers to create a bespoke hybrid approach that ensured a strong reach within the community which enabled a more positive conversation about change.

Screenshot of the virtual event showing Lambeth’s Jessica Marston presenting.

Finally, we learnt about the supplier experience of the PropTech Fund from VuCity, who worked in Round 1 of the Fund alongside Watford & Dacorum Councils to create a 360 consultation experience.

Piers Mulroney (Head of Commercial Partnerships & Policy (UK&I) shared a reflection on the importance of procuring a supplier who is able to deal with both traditional forms of representations received and digital ones. From his presentation, we saw the difference that 3D, smart city modelling can make to the effectiveness of visual representations of proposals.

As summarised by the NLA and the panel -

“We must remember that consultation is, at the end of the day, a human experience. It’s therefore vital that we do all we can to ensure citizens feel a consistent part of the journey through seizing the power of technology and digital tools”.

We’d like to thank these speakers for presenting such engaging content and for offering their unique experiences of the PropTech Engagement Fund, and have linked to any cited PropTech Fund pilots that are live below:

For further reflections you can read the latest NLA blog.

Thank you again to the speakers and NLA for facilitating such an interesting event to promote the digital planning and citizen engagement agenda across the industry. We look forward to working with them and other industry leaders as we continue to evolve our programme.

Where to from here?

We are continually seeking to grow a strong community of practice, focused on connecting, supporting and learning from digital citizen engagement champions across the UK. We’d love to keep you updated on all our work, but what’s more, we’d love to hear from you about what you’re up to and working on within digital citizen engagement.

To stay up to date with all the amazing work going on here in the Digital Citizen Engagement team, please sign up to the newsletter and follow or message the @LDgovUK Twitter account. You can view the Terms and Conditions of our mailing platform here.

Finally, our dedicated webpage for Round 2 of the PropTech Engagement Fund also lets you discover all of the pilot projects being taken forward, beyond those described at this event.

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