Local communities to see how government plans affect their area

Communities in the East Midlands can now see for the very first time how some key government plans affect their area, thanks to a new pilot website launched by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the membership body of planners in the UK, and software specialists Idox.

The pilot website can be found at www.idoxgroup.com/mapforengland/

Part of the RTPI’s ‘Map for England’ initiative, and containing an initial five ‘layers’ of information (housing affordability for local authority areas, the areas of highest housing growth for the period 2008-33, the proposed route of the High Speed 2 rail network, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and National Park boundaries) the site gives a good indication of how, if more government data was released in a standard format, local communities could see and influence the range of government plans that affect their area.

Peter Shand, RTPI Map for England Project Officer, said: “Astonishingly, this data is not currently in one place for people to see. For the very first time, the new website brings together data so that people can find out about how nationally significant plans affect their areas, and so better influence them. A key point of the project is to show how different factors affect an area. People get a better idea of the choices that are available and the issues the country faces when the information is brought together in map form.”

James Sealey, Product Manager at Idox, said: “Idox know that the manner in which information is presented is key to being able to quickly understand the content. We work with council planning departments up and down the country providing what we call ‘spatially enabled software solutions’ – basically allowing people to see information in the form of a map. The Map for England project extends this countrywide.”

The Map for England initiative

Despite the generally recognised and accepted need to ensure a joined up approach to planning infrastructure and services, there is remarkably still no single place or data source within government that makes all of these maps available to view. The Map for England is an attempt to achieve this.

Additional benefits of a ‘Map for England’ would include:

· Helping to boost growth. Housing, industry and business would be able to make quicker and better informed investment decisions which are more closely aligned to public sector infrastructure funding plans.

· Saving time and money. When writing new strategies, government departments could see the existing plans for different parts of the country and relate their new strategies to them. Datasets drive innovation.

· Helping to co-ordinate infrastructure across borders with Scotland and Wales.

The pilot website will be live until 31st December. In this period people are being encouraged to send their views on the key questions about the initiative and can do so by going to www.mapforengland.co.uk.

Throughout the remainder of 2012, the RTPI will be hosting events across the country to stimulate a debate on the ‘Map for England’.