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AI in planning: Commonplace and the future

Every year,  millions of planning applications are submitted in the UK with 250,000 hours spent by council officers running verification checks. Can that be drastically shortened with AI?

It is just a fact of 2024- artificial intelligence is EVERYWHERE. No matter where you go online, you see it being used: AI chatbots, AI-generated images even AI voice actors… suffice to say there are a lot of uses for this tech. Not to mention a lot of concerns.

While it’s true that AI has had a long series of hiccups on its way to mainstream use, its success today is down to how companies are using it to further their goals. That includes in planning and development. This naturally raises a lot of questions: How will AI technology change the planning system?

  • Can we automate the planning system using AI?
  • How will local authorities benefit from AI?
  • Can an AI design a whole city?
  • What will the future look like?

These are the things we’re here to answer. In this blog, we’ll give you an overview of AI in planning as well as a look at how Commonplace has integrated AI into our platform to help planners and developers save time and money Read on to discover:

(And no, our technology won’t be giving you a voucher for a $1 car)

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AI for planning and development

For the past couple of years, AI has slowly been introduced to various areas of planning. This has been done with a few goals in mind: to automate laborious manual processes and to save both time and money.  

How does AI work in planning? As a tool, it’s best at identifying patterns, extracting ideas, and providing insights that planners might overlook. By leveraging AI's machine learning, planners can make informed decisions by thoroughly understanding the data at hand and utilising well-structured information.

This year has seen a step up with it being brought more into the forefront of planning processes. For example, the DLHUC’s PropTech engagement fund is already being used by a number of local authorities across the country to see how AI can be used to manage public consultation on Local Plans. These models should be able to save a lot of time by reviewing all consultation responses, automatically categorising them and identifying common trends. With Local Plan consultations often gathering thousands of responses, this frees up time for officers who may have previously spent days manually sifting through all this data.


Will planners be replaced by computers?

With this technology bleeding into almost every industry, many are starting to worry about whether this is going to cost jobs. Our answer? In planning and development at least- no. 

AI is a tool, not an autonomous entity seeking to render humans completely obsolete. It is being used to improve and transform job functions, rather than fully replacing them. Besides automating the more tedious tasks like summarising meetings and lengthy documents, AI can also provide suggestions and initial drafts that can be perfected by human planners. For example, it can look at planning data and say that certain areas would benefit from a park or a cycle lane, but it’s still up to humans to design them. AI is here to streamline to take over.

No matter what people think, AI is coming. Authorities must be ready to integrate it when the time comes.  


TrendsAI (New!)

TrendsAI for planning

So where does Commonplace fit into this? We’ve created and trained our very own AI language model to automatically analyse and categorise free text answers from a project. 

One key thing to remember about AI is that the models are only as good as the quality of data that it has been trained on. To create something truly specialised, our in-house data scientists spent years training our model with millions of planning and development data points. This was to make sure it only gives the most accurate results and that it understands the nuances of planning and development. 

Feature highlights:

  • Theme analysis: Long free text answers? TrendsAI automatically uncovers the key topics and attaches them to answers so you can easily get to the heart of community wants and needs. 
  • Sentiment analysis: With Natural Language Processing (NLP), sentiment towards certain topics can be easily identified, letting you see how people feel at a glance.
  • 90%+ accuracy: Thanks to years of specialised training, our model is specially designed for built-environment consultations and to pull out the most accurate data for you.

Trends AI has been trained and optimised by our in-house data specialists to find topics in 5 different domains:

  • Active Travel
  • Housing (Development / Local Plans)
  • Regeneration / Public Realm / Neighbourhood Maps
  • Post-occupancy / Quality of Life
  • Climate & Environment 

Find out more about our beta here or book a call with one of our experts for a showcase.

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace