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Planning Portal’s Virtual Conference

by on November 27, 2020

Collaboration, digitisation, and community engagement. These were the themes that arose time and again throughout all four days of the Planning Portal’s Virtual Conference held on 16 – 19 November 2020.

Following the trend of 2020, this year’s conference was held virtually, with speakers, panellists and Q & A sessions held online, offering insight and the latest updates across the planning and building process. Including the latest Government white paper, developments in policy including biodiversity net gain and building standards, and advancements in technology both for development management and throughout the planning process, the week was jam packed with information and insight.

The event was a roaring success with around 500 delegates tuning in at any one time. Keynote speakers included Joanna Averley, Chief Planner at MHCLG, Victoria Hills, Chief Executive Officer at the RTPI, Rachel Fisher, Deputy Director for Land Use Policy at DEFRA and organisations such as Objective Trapeze, ESRI UK and Savills.

While the topics were varied, incorporating a wide range of viewpoints from both the private and public sector, experts, and organisations, it became clear very quickly that the appetite for progress, modernisation, and digitisation across the planning system is high. The aims of automating processes, reducing invalid applications and ensuring access and transparency to all stakeholders in the planning process were some of the key points. These changes will in turn allow for increased engagement, time saving and reduced pressure on resources.

However, as Charles Kennelly, Chief Technology Officer at ESRI UK, among others, pointed out, when talking about advancing technology throughout the planning process, it is important to ask the question, “does this benefit the citizens?” Often it is possible to see the benefits of this technology to those who are selling the data and infrastructure, but it is not until you can see the benefits for the citizens does it become more widely adopted.

Sarah Chilcott, Managing Director at Planning Portal said, “It was a fascinating but exhausting week, and it is really difficult to sum up what a rich programme we had… What I can say is that there is a huge appetite for change across the board and huge changes to legislation still to come, especially to planning, the Environment Bill and other legislation we haven’t begun to touch upon. There has certainly been an acknowledgement throughout the week of the challenges to come and an acceptance that digital is part of the solution but not in itself the answer to all our prayers… We’re really grateful to all of our 47 amazing speakers… and of course our delegates for their questions and engagement throughout the week.”

Indeed, phrases such as ‘engaging’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘informative’ and ‘really thought-provoking’ have been consistently appearing across feedback we have received from delegates and speakers alike. The dates are already in the diary for next year’s event – please keep an eye out to book your slot!

If you would like more information about the event, or to understand the topics discussed in greater detail, please email

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