Collaboration, Digital, Planning, Policy

Planning Review Scotland – Greater use of 3D

Independent Review of Planning – Recommendations

In September 2015, the Scottish Government put out a call for evidence under the Independent Review of Scottish Planning System. Linknode submitted our response on 30th November and this week (8 July 2016) the Scottish Government Response was announced on the Planning & Architecture blog.

There are two key recommendations in this report that demonstrate foresight and vision in the fields of innovation support for planning. Particularly around the use of 3D visualisations in the planning process.

Empowering Places

  • focus on more effective methods of engaging people, including the use of innovative techniques such as 3D visualisation, at an earlier stage in the planning process (Recommendation 46).
  • appoint an IT task force to explore relevant recommendations from the review, including […] and innovative techniques such as the use of 3D visualisations in engagement (Recommendation 10).

These recommendations refer to the original report “Empowering planning to deliver great places” and are repeated here:

10. An IT task force should be established to explore how information technology can make development plans more accessible and responsive to ‘live’ information.
Digital innovation, such as the use of big data, specialist systems (such as for minerals and aggregates), Geographic Information Systems and 3D visualisations, should be actively rolled out across all authorities. We strongly recommend that we start a co-ordinated investment in technology now to ensure we are responsive to future advances.
43. There should be a continuing commitment to early engagement in planning, but practice needs to improve significantly.
Front loading engagement remains a valid and attainable goal and must be at the core of the planning system. Planning authorities and developers need to promote innovation which empowers communities to get actively involved in planning their own places. Much smarter use of information technology, including 3D visualisation and social media could support a step change in the transparency of planning decisions.

Linknode Relevance

Linknode_logo72.jpgLinknode retain a long history of innovation in the Scottish planning system, from some of the first desktop management systems through the early adoption of web mapping and spatial databases to the implementation of spatial components across the ePlanning streams. This year we have already worked closely with PAS and the Improvement Service to increase access to data and improve engagement points.

Trends in data and mobile usage, 24-7 availability, location-based systems and the personalisation of information access continue. In relation to planning, location is key to providing contextual understanding. We increasingly consume data in new forms with a movement that migrates from textual content to imagery and more recently 3D and video.  We have high quality and availability in our personal lives and expect the same from professionals and custodians delivering public services. A recent blog summary “Which is Better for a Public Meeting” has been exemplified by our field work on Community Engagement in Orkney.

We have already presented to Heads of Planning Scotland in relation to providing independent, flexible and unrestricted rural assessment to communities and we continue to work on our new urban visualisation solution

In order to meet the recommendations above, and deliver new systems to planners, they must be affordable, timely, accurate and have credibility through realism and trust.  By using the real-world as our base for mixed-reality visualisations the only things that Linknode GIality solutions need to manage and model is the change in the planning environment.  We can arrive at a viewpoint and create a live visualisation within a few minutes.  Unlike Virtual Reality systems we do not need to model the entirity of the real-world, it comes for free to us!  This approach enables a wide scope of projects that can benefit from 3D visual engagement – moving from the elite few to the inclusive majority.

Only then can the benefits of greater stakeholder engagement lead to overall better and informed decision making.


In all, this is a good thing for the planning process in Scotland. While we await the White Paper (due to be published in Autumn / Winter 2016) we are already providing our clients with the tools to better visualise and communicate their development will have on the local environment.

You can read more about VentusAR (our product for delivering visualisations in a rural environment) and UrbanPlanAR (for creating visualisations in an urban environment).