Smart City: Can it lead to Smart Planning?

What Smart Planning could do for cities

Smart City: Can it lead to Smart Planning?

New technology and new ways to collect and analyse data open up opportunities to improve planning practice to make it more effective and efficient. For the first time in urban history, new forms of ‘smart’ or ‘dynamic’ planning are conceivable – with increased possibilities for real time decision making, participation and identification of triggers for intervention. Planning can finally become people-centred and people-focused, working with demand as a primary tool, moving on from the current approach of regulating and often restricting supply (of land, infrastructure, etc.). A totally new conceptual framework for planning is needed, as well as changes to traditionally established practices:

  • Population and demographic data can be updated as a continuous stream
  • Development progress and pipeline could be integrated
  • Market trends can be understood and related to jobs, skills and well-being
  • Housing needs could become dynamic indicators
  • Infrastructure planning (social and technical) could pin-point triggers of intervention based on real and dynamic demand
  • Environmental and sustainability planning can be cross-referenced to other issues and real ‘life-cycle’ planning.
  • Resilience could be the common thread of strategic planning; and
  • Development control and permitting could be simplified or even automated for all simple applications, leaving time for better consideration of strategic applications

Smart City concept

The term Smart City is either vilified or hailed. Considered by many just a fashionable buzzword, by others a pernicious attempt to sell expensive IT systems and by-pass democracy. Much time is spend debating the term. Within this context, we want to ignore the emotions attached to the word and not lose sight of the opportunity. This is why we adopt the following definition elaborated by BSI Group – the British Standard Institution:

SMART CITY Effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens. SOURCE: PAS 180:2014, 3.1.62

Why change?

There is no effective planning system in the world.

Deep reforms of planning are urgently needed as cities are becoming more complex: planning as it is today is bureaucratic and overly complex, it cannot react fast to a changing world, while inefficiencies could lead to bad practice and make people participation difficult. Moreover, each new plan is just an update of the previous one – without real change. While cities are transforming at great speed.

In the UK, the slowness and cost of planning procedures are considered by many a major obstacle to growth. Throughout Europe, plans did not react to the economic crisis and are just starting to respond to the new needs of environmentally responsible development. In fast growing regions, plans are chronically out of date and out of pace with reality.

What do we do now

There is now an opportunity to debate and reflect on the opportunities created by new technologies, and re-think how cities are planned – starting from first principles… to create a new Conceptual Framework for planning the cities of tomorrow.

There may be a need for reform and legislative changes, transition plans, and obstacles of all sorts. But change is inevitable and it may simply happen by stealth – using new technologies with old systems and old thinking, planning a city that no longer exist.

How you can help

If this initiative interests you, please join us through our new Linked In group:

Smart Planning – Conceptual framework

This will be for initial exploration and exploration of interest – it will be eventually followed by a forum website...

Written by



Director at URBAN Silence

URBAN Silence is friendly and fun, but committed to intelligent work

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