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Will developers move faster in the government's new digital revolution?

Future Cities Forum has been speaking to the planning firm Carney Sweeney for a reaction to the government's new plans to open up Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) data for the first time and introduce a national index of all brownfield data. The government has just announced plans to release data held by local bodies, to bring about 'a digital revolution in the property sector'.

One of the government's aims in this is to help developers identify sites more quickly that can be used for house building and lead to more homes being constructed. The new technology its says could provide models and interactive maps of planned development and provide a facility for commenting online, by phone and on the go, in the same way as mobile online banking is used.

Housing Minister, Esther McVey, said 'the new technology will link builders to brownfield sites more easily, enhance how developers engage with local communities, help builders deliver new homes and modernise the way we buy and sell land and houses, cutting the time it takes to get housing from the drawing board to families getting the keys.

'The UK property sector is on the cusp of a digital revolution. It is time to harness new technology to unlock land and unleash the potential of housebuilders in all parts of the country and to revolutionise the way in which we buy homes.'

Experienced planners Gerald Sweeney and Paula Carney, both recently left WYG to head up their own consultancy, Carney Sweeney. Gerald commented:

'The Government's drive to offer greater levels of information is a significant step change and welcomed as a positive resource. However, its ability to have a meaningful impact on the short term delivery of more housing and in a quicker timescale, I would have to question.

'What the resource is likely to deliver is a swift means by which to identify all the physical, environmental and statutory hurdles developers and house builders face on a daily basis, before they begin their process of working up a viable and deliverable scheme.

'If we look at the current business model and the timescales associated with the planning process to enable the strategic release of land, then I would suggest that developers and housebuilders have already safeguarded, landbanked and are in the process of promoting sites well in advance of this announcement.

'To me, this resource could start to quicken the process of unlocking future larger strategic sites, which is the next phase in the growth of our cities, not 'immediate land' and immediate results'

The government also believes that CPO data will enable PropTechs to obtain for example energy performance certificates and the square footage information of properties. The brownfield data would simplify and improve the quality of Brownfield Land Registers to help developers to find brownfield land to build on.

The UK PropTech sector it says is a growing industry - potentially worth £6 billion in the UK - which is leading the world in the property building and buying market and the sector already receives 10% of global PropTech investment.

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