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.

Five Missions

At the core of digitally transforming planning are Five Missions setting out our priorities for delivery.

In shaping this Strategy, we have seen and heard compelling evidence that digital transformation is not solely about data and technology, it is equally about people, culture and ways of working. To succeed digital transformation has to reflect all of these components and build a programme that can deliver long lasting change by addressing underpinning challenges that on the surface may not seem to relate to digital, but which are vital for comprehensive transformation. We have therefore identified key missions centred on the themes of data, digital technologies and services, ways of working, people and innovation that together will have a transformative impact on planning.

Detailed in The Transformation section for each mission we have identified the overall objective, 5 Year Goals and the initial 18-24 month Priority Actions to start work on once the programme formally begins in spring 2021.

  • Mission 1: Data
    Unlock the value of planning data
  • Mission 2: Digital Technologies
    Deliver an end-to-end digital planning experience
  • Mission 3: Ways of working
    Create the conditions for digital to flourish
  • Mission 4: People
    Use digital tools to drive collaboration and engagement
  • Mission 5: Innovation
    Embed a culture of digital innovation

Why digitally transform?

We live in an age where we can instantly check news and weather, order goods and services, and receive delivery updates using our devices or voice assistants like Alexa. We should be able to access and engage with public services, including the planning system, with the same level of ease. Public sector services urgently need to meet and surpass expectations of our digital services.

Imagine being able to ask a voice assistant, “What is the current status of my planning application?”, or being able to view and comment on a 3D interactive model of the local development plan for the place you live – having a system which allows you to get involved in shaping the place you are in, not just by commenting on existing applications, but by giving your community the online digital tools that it needs to suggest, promote and collaborate on concepts like 20-minute neighbourhoods to create places where everything people need is within a 20-minute walk.

We recognise that increasingly digital is the way people want to interact with public services, and that expectations continue to speed up. We also know that planning in Scotland faces the challenges experienced elsewhere in the public sector, achieving more with finite resources.

We need to do things differently, to look at how technology and data can help us make the best use of our resources, delivering a streamlined, efficient and high-performing planning system.

So in one sense, the drive to deliver digital services for planning follows the global trend towards digitalisation that continues to pick up pace, delivering services in a way that people want to interact. However the impacts, outcomes and benefits are wide ranging, complex and diverse across stakeholder groups and policy areas. By having clear missions and priorities defining what the digital planning programme will deliver, we can identify the strategic benefits resulting from the transformation. Analysis of the potential impact of digital transformation in planning helps us see the far-reaching benefits it will have for not only the planning sector but in addition the national outcomes for Scotland.

To accompany this Strategy, we commissioned a series of research pieces from the RTPI to explore and determine the supporting evidence for ‘The benefits of investing in a digital planning service’.

This research provided a clear understanding of the economic effects, wider policy impacts and benefits released to customers of the planning systems and planning authority users.

“Intangible value for people to be able to see what is happening with planning – monitoring data – enables people to understand it better, which would benefit everyone – politicians, offices responsible for delivering, communities and industry.”

A property professional



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