Change Explorer: engaging people on planning decisions

Design Futures

Abstract

Change Explorer is a smartphone app that notifies the public when they are close to an area that has plans for redevelopment.

Method

The app demonstrated that there was an appetite for alternative means of engagement in planning consultation.

Takeaways

Change Explorer was featured in the Future Cities Catapult report ‘State of the Art Innovations in Digital Planning’.

Change Explorer, initially designed for wearables, is a smartphone app that notifies the public when they are close to an area that has plans for redevelopment. It allowed people to view and comment on the plans, making it much easier for local residents and visitors to have their say on planning decisions.

Users are presented with a number of options on how they would like to interact with the information, e.g. be sent to a platform where one can give extended comments. Open Lab trialled the application with North Tyneside Council, working with planners and members of the public, and was very successful; it demonstrated that there was an appetite for alternative means of engagement, and younger people engaged much more fully than they would have with a traditional consultation.

The trial involved providing testers Apple Watches during the trial period, and the university’s ability to fund access to technology partly explains the app’s success. Through Change Explorer citizens do not need to download local plans or read planning notices on lamp posts to be informed and engage.

Change Explorer was featured in the Future Cities Catapult report ‘State of the Art Innovations in Digital Planning’.

Publications

Urban planning, public participation and digital technology: App development as a method of generating citizen involvement in local planning processes

  1. Wilson A
  2. Tewdwr-Jones M
  3. Comber R

2019Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science