City-regions could make better places using tech, says RTPI

New technology could help city-regions and combined authorities tackle ‘complex’ economic, social and environmental challenges by enabling strategic planning to be done more effectively, the RTPI has said.

In its new paper, Better Planning: Smart City-Regions, the institute said the recent devolution agenda provides combined authorities to create joined-up plans for housing, infrastructure, heath and the environment at the scale of city regions.

According to the paper, economic, social and environmental trends need to be understood and consensus built between a range of stakeholders in order to be successful. In addition, long-term plans need to be developed in conditions of uncertainty.

Using data and tech will not only improve the performance of infrastructure networks, but “can support local authorities as they work collaboratively to develop plans which cover a wider range of people, places and issues”.

James Harris, policy and networks manager, RTPI, said: “Smart-city initiatives show that big data and new technology can improve the efficiency of infrastructure networks and many aspects of city life. But the benefits can go much further.

“By applying technological innovation to strategic planning, we can help combined authorities develop plans for cities and their surrounding areas, including towns and rural areas. New types of data can help them tackle a broad range of issues such as growing regional divide, housing, health, and climate change.

“By combining the smart city agenda with the potential offered by devolution, we can start to create smart city-regions”.

A number of approaches to strategic planning are already in use, according to the paper, such as integrated infrastructure maps being used in Greater London and Greater Manchester.

The RTPI is set to embark on several projects to explore how city-regions can plan more effectively by using data and technology. Details of these will be posted on the institute’s website.

The RTPI has also said it would like to hear from members who are experimenting with innovative approaches to strategic planning, either in the public or private sector, including tools and approaches that can be used to engage the public in strategic plan-making.