The Digital Land team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is working to make it easier for people to find, access and trust the data underlying England’s housing market.
Access to reliable data on where planning permissions have been granted, rejected and built out is an important part of this work. That’s where the mySociety team come in – we are collaborating on a Discovery and Alpha project, to research, prototype, and test ways to make data around planning applications more open, accessible, sustainable, and trustworthy.
At the moment, finding and combining this data is challenging for a number of reasons:
- While local planning authorities (LPAs) have a legal obligation to maintain their own register of planning applications and how they have been dealt with, there is no such legal obligation for provision of the underlying data.
- Different LPAs use different systems that model data differently. As far as we can tell, these systems do not offer raw data access via public APIs.
- Some authorities (e.g. London Borough of Camden, Leeds City Council) extract and publish their planning application data regularly, but the vast majority of LPAs do not.
- Property companies, government, other organisations and individual citizens look to access this data openly and to know that it is trustworthy.
This project has been set up to tackle these problems, and to begin the process of fulfilling a commitment made in the Autumn 2017 budget to create a register of planning permissions.
Our goals for this project are to:
- Prototype: Prototype how to make planning applications available as a collection of data in order to show how a beta system with more complete data could work.
- Inspire: Create, or support the creation of, experimental prototypes of what can be done with this data, in order to demonstrate the potential value of making an open index of this data.
- Plan for scale: Explore options for how to scale from a prototype to a production system, and the challenges that would need to be addressed, in order to show how to turn this into a sustainable solution.
- Share our approach: Document and share our user research work, findings, prototypes and other outputs openly in order to gather wider input and feedback, and so others can learn from this work.
Our team at mySociety is starting the Discovery phase with user research and stakeholder consultations. Our focus initially is to draw on the work and experience of others who have spent time working on planning application data. We are researching existing projects and platforms around planning application data, and learning a lot from people currently doing great work in the field.
We are in our first sprint now, and are in the middle of creating a model of planning application data flows to help situate our work. Stay tuned for more sprint notes and blog posts here!