The relationship between data and planning is complicated. Big data has become unwieldy as new systems and variables become more complex. With sustainability at the core of new infrastructure and construction projects, town and urban planning has become too holistic for it to meet the scale of delivery.

Geoff McGrath headshot

Geoff McGrath

What’s needed is a clear path towards delivering and shaping best practice across new platforms and technologies. With industry demand for digitisation growing, we need a common solution for addressing the challenges and capitalising on the potential for its impact on project development.

The key to managing this is predictive analytics, which is the identification of trends found in large data sets to help understand future risk and opportunity in open-source platforms.

Combined with AI, predictive analytics can enable planners to model the impact of future interventions on final outcomes. As sustainability standards and footfall rates shift, this is crucial to ensuring new projects deliver for the end user sustainably and at reduced cost.

The right combination of high-frequency data and high-quality visualisation tools, such as digital spatial planning, can also empower communities to engage more closely with new local projects in open and interactive settings during the consultation and pre-application stages.

With predictive analytics, we can usher in a new era of digital accessibility and transparency while retaining some of the old traditions such as displaying physical planning notifications to ensure that hard-to-reach groups are not left behind.

We must also develop data systems that enable intelligence to be shared openly and at pace. Unlike big data, predictive analytics can be incorporated at all stages of a project’s lifecycle.

Now is the time for us to embrace the right data and digitisation solutions to realise our shared ambition of keeping sustainability at the heart of new infrastructure planning.

Predictive analytics combined with high-frequency, geospatial data can help industry keep outputs sustainable, reduce costs and optimise efficiencies from inception to delivery. Ultimately, it will drive the digitisation of the planning process.

Geoff McGrath is managing director of CKDelta