04 Mar 2021

Geo-Designing the future of place.

Stephen Croney, Esri UK explores Geo-Design and what this means for local communities. Part of techUK's #GeospatialFuture Campaign week

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our relationship with place.  With offices and workplaces closed, many more people have required appropriate space to work from home, and our reliance on local amenities and access to greenspace has grown enormously.  These issues have been felt by all of us in a more personal way than we could have imagined just one year ago.  

Of course, existing and more familiar challenges persist. Our communities are experiencing soaring housing prices, homelessness, long housing waiting lists and many are living in crowded and unsuitable housing. The need to build more homes has never been greater.  

So we find ourselves juggling conflicting pressures as we try to balance the need to build more homes, sustainability, in places that people want to live, at a time when our priorities, for what we want from our homes and communities, are changing.

It’s vital that in the race to meet housing targets, we consider the broader impact on place.  Whilst this presents many challenges, it’s also an opportunity for a new approach.     

The role for Geo-Design

Place-making includes: Housing, Healthcare, Economic regeneration, Jobs, Environment, Transport and many other socio-economic variables.   To take a true place-based approach to designing our communities and meeting the needs of citizens, it’s important we can bring these factors together, make sense of it, and understand relationships.  By doing so we can model and analyse the impacts of our policy decisions, across all areas and can be responsive to changing needs and conditions

Understanding how a new housing development will impact the local area, in terms of; transport, affordability, demand on natural resources, healthcare and jobs is vital to sustainable place making.   What might it mean for population mobility, demographics and many other social, environmental and economic factors?  These considerations are vast and varied but connected. 

That connection is Geography!

That’s why Geography is a central tenet of planning and urban design. Looking at the world through a geographic lens reveals connections and relationships in our systems and allows us to Geo-Design better, more sustainable communities and places.

We are fortunate in the UK, that we have great geographic information – often referred to as Spatial Data, which provides a fabric for understanding our places, with location acting as the common standard on which the data is linked.  

The Geospatial Data Asset

Geospatial Data has a key role across all aspects of the place-making lifecycle. Persisting through Policy, Planning, Construction and Operations, it is the asset that provides the data, for analysis, understanding, and modelling the impact of our decisions at every stage. It also allows us to share the evidence and outcomes with collaborators and stakeholders.  For example; the LandHub from Homes England provides instant access to detailed information about the development plots for sale, enabling housing developers to make faster, well informed investment decisions and accelerate the supply of new homes. 

Collaboration and Engaged Communities

The citizen, of course, is a key stakeholder, so digital tools, like Esri’s ArcGIS, go beyond stakeholder collaboration, by enabling wide collaboration with citizens. This is a great way to engage communities through: interactive maps, 3d visualisations, accessible digital local plans, data portals, and the ability to gather views from the community that can then have an influence on the decision-making process. 

It’s vital that we inform and engage citizens, so they can play their part in building the communities they call home.   Many planning authorities are moving towards digital consultations.  For example this virtual consultation on the Draft Dover District Local Plan.

Geospatial data is the foundation upon which the country can Geo-Design places and build the right homes, in the right places, and foster sustainable communities.  

Read more about Land Hub here

Find out more about Esri UK here

Stephen Croney – Esri UK – Twitter: @SteveCroney |  LinkedIN 

You can read more insights from techUK's #GeospatialFuture campaign here!



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