Transforming Places Together: digital strategy for planning

This strategy defines a long-term strategic direction for how Scotland’s planning system will digitally transform, embracing the opportunities new digital technologies and data present. It sets out what we intend to deliver, why this is needed and the benefits this transformation will bring.

Mission 1 - Unlock the value of planning data

Our focus on understanding, improving and drawing insight from data signals the importance we place upon this aspect of digital transformation. Unlocking the value of data will be key to realising an open and smart planning system.

Mission 1 - 5 Year Goals

2021 - 2025

Develop a shared data resource for planning and place data, built upon a cloud hosted platform that allows easy access to high quality data across Scotland. This open access to data across the public, private and academic sectors helps drive innovation and the digital economy, as well as providing planners the right data they need to plan effectively and collaboratively.

Build a foundation of data that is robust, trusted and can be exchanged and used across geographic boundaries, vertically (across geographic scales), and which combines data from many policy areas (such as climate, people, work, place and infrastructure) that facilitates the place-based approach. Establish a sustainable long-term approach through standards and governance, developed in partnership.

Define and implement a data ecosystem approach with defined standards, data governance and operating model that provides a sustainable framework for data to be managed as an asset.

Embed a data-driven policy approach where development of policies considers data needs and opportunities at the earliest point, supporting planning policy by continuous monitoring of impact and iterative improvement.

Develop a Realising Potential programme to explore data-driven innovations within planning such as scenario modelling and simulation of future policy impacts.

Mission 1 - Priority Actions

2021 - 2022

Continue development of a shared data platform for planning and place data, built upon a robust cloud hosted technical infrastructure with governance, standards and defined operating model, that ensures data is managed as an asset. This supports automated data integration with planning partners, open access to data through interfaces (APIs), and provides the user with the right data at the right time.

We will begin work to clean and open up priority data for place-based planning and create a shared data resource. We will start developing data standards and clear protocols for use of data within the planning system to facilitate sharing and data that can be exchanged and used across geographic and policy areas. Initial focus will be on data needed for the 4th National Planning Framework across varied themes such as climate, people, work and place.

Continue joint working and collaboration across other policy areas to support analysis and decision making. We see this data resource developing into a key tool in supporting cross policy objectives including 20-minute neighbourhoods and localism, localism and the improvements to our strategic approach to infrastructure outlined in the Infrastructure Investment Plan, by providing the right data and tools.

Specific areas include exploratory work with Mission Clyde as a test bed, using data to support analysis and place-based decision making at a regional level and work to support implementation of the Infrastructure Commission recommendations and the Vacant and Derelict Land Report.

Continue a data discovery exercise that builds upon earlier work to understand the data landscape in planning and identify data required to support a future planning system. The discovery will finalise identification of core data sets used across the planning system and begin to work with partners to define data standards for those core data sets.

Take forward the methodology developed as part of the data pathfinder work for assessing and communicating how to use planning data.

Design, agree and implement a data governance and operating model with partners and planning authorities that ensures planning data is always high quality and standards compliant.

“Data is crucial to an evidence led local development plan. Digital planning will enable authorities to more consistently identify much needed data to inform their policy. The crucial point where this saves time, money and creates better places (where people thrive rather than cost money to help) is that it can lead to reduction in time spent at Local Development Plan (LDP) inquiries arguing what evidence to rely on and discussing objections.”

A public sector planner

Data Pathfinder

Data is at the heart of the planning system, and the foundation upon which decisions are made and places change. Developing a clear and comprehensive understanding of data within the current planning system is crucial in building a solid and sustainable foundation for a future planning system.

Our Data Pathfinder undertaken during summer 2020 in partnership with the Improvement Service and British Geological Survey allowed us to baseline the current state (availability, quality and management) of planning data in Scotland, a landscape that is highly complex, with planners relying on many hundreds of datasets to forward plan and make decisions.

We explored over 2000 planning datasets, refining them to a core set of 30 that will provide a focus for action in our digital transformation programme, establishing consistent standards and governing arrangements for the management of these priority datasets.

The review also provided an emerging framework for effective use of data to support development planning.

Next Steps

  • Understand Our Data
    Begin work with data partners to refine core datasets
  • Work To Standards
    Define and implement standards for core planning data
  • Manage Data
    Develop the right controls and governance
  • Build Insight
    Strengthen methodologies to realise value from planning data



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