Participatory Planning: A Web Application For Citizens’ Proposal And Review Of Planning Applications

Siew Leng Leong National University of Singapore
Patrick Janssen National University of Singapore

Topic Urban planning is complex domain that requires the involvement of many stakeholders, with different perspectives and value systems. One important process is the applications for planning permissions and development approvals for demolition of existing building and construction of new buildings. Three key groups of stakeholders in the planning application process are the government planning departments, the developers, and the citizens. Of these three groups, the developers often have disproportionate influence, while the citizens have almost no influence. This has led to many ineffective planning cases where profit reigns while the historical value and sustainability of the place is neglected. Since the 1960s, researchers and practitioners have been experimenting with participatory planning approaches that give citizens more influence (Davidoff, 1965; Arnstein, 1969). The key aim for these methods is to encourage constructive open dialogue and mediation between the different stakeholder groups. We refer to these types of approaches as “Participatory Planning Permission” (PPP). Problem One of the key issues with existing PPP approaches is their scalability. They are generally only applied to specific one-off projects in the city, where a participatory approach is deemed to be feasible. This is due to the fact that the process is highly labour-intensive, requiring many meetings and workshops. More recently, digital PPP methods have been increasingly proposed for giving citizens a voice in planning application decisions (Falco, 2019; Dorta et. al, 2019; Kubicek, 2010). However, these digital platforms tend to be complementary to physical workshops due to their inability to support constructive open dialogue and mediation (Tomarchio et. al, 2019). Furthermore, these platforms are typically implemented as customized solutions for one-off projects. Proposal This research proposes a novel and scalable PPP approach that is applicable to the whole city. In this approach, planners remain in charge of defining broad planning regulations and guidelines for city neighbourhoods. However, decision making process relating to planning applications is devolved to the citizens. The process will be enabled through a digital PPP platform, where any citizen can upload a planning application for any buildings or sites in the city. The application will be accessible to all citizens, and planning permission will be decided through a voting process where citizen’s voting weightage is based on the distance of their residential address to the proposed intervention. A key requirement of the digital PPP platform is the ability to view 3D models in context. This context must be a detailed enough for all citizens to easily understand the impact of the proposed changes. Experiment This paper focuses on the development of a prototype PPP web application for creating and reviewing planning applications. For creating new planning applications, the web application allows citizens to upload a narrative and a 3D model. The narrative gives the story behind the application, and can include text, images, and videos. The 3D model is an accurate geolocated model of the proposed changes, including both demolition and construction. For reviewing planning applications, citizens are provided with a simple user interface to select planning applications and to review both the narrative and the model. Two modes are provided for viewing the proposed changes in context: from a birds-eye view or from street-view. The birds-eve view uses Google Earth as a context model, while the street view uses 360°images. In the latter case, 360° images are recorded around the proposed change. These images are then viewable within the web application interface, with the 3D model inserted into the image. Additional components are proposed for future implementation, including components for commenting on proposals, ‘forking’ and modifying proposal, and voting on proposals. Results To test the prototype PPP web application, a user study has been conducted. A group of citizens with no architectural or planning experience were asked to review a set of planning applications, of differing types and scales. To assess their understanding of the proposed changes, interviews were subsequently conducted. The result demonstrated that most of the participants had a good understanding of the proposed changes. References Arnstein, S. (1969). A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Planning Association, 35(4), 216–224. doi:10.1080/01944366908977225 Davidoff, P. (1965). Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 31(4), 331–338. doi:10.1080/01944366508978187 Dorta, Tomas & Safin, Stéphane & Boudhraâ, Sana & Beaudry Marchand, Emmanuel. (2019). Co-Designing in Social VR. Process awareness and suitable representations to empower user participation. . Intelligent & Informed, Proceedings of the 24th International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA) 2019, Volume 2, 141-150. Falco, Enzo. (2019). Digital Community Planning: The Open Source Way to the Top of Arnstein’s Ladder. 10.4018/978-1-5225-7030-1.ch067. Kubicek, Herbert. (2010). The potential of e-participation in urban planning: A European perspective. Handbook of Research on E-Planning: ICTs for Urban Development and Monitoring. 168-194. 10.4018/978-1-61520-929-3.ch009. Stelzle, Benjamin & Jannack, Anja & Noennig, Jörg. (2017). Co-Design and Co-Decision: Decision Making on Collaborative Design Platforms. Procedia Computer Science. 112. 2435-2444. 10.1016/j.procs.2017.08.095. Tomarchio, Ludovica & Hasler, Stéphanie & Herthogs, Pieter & Müller, Johannes & Tuncer, Bige & He, Peijun. (2019). Using an online participation tool to collect relevant data for urban design: the construction of two participation exercices. Intelligent & Informed, Proceedings of the 24th International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA) 2019, Volume 2, 747-756.

Keywords: Participatory Design, 360 Image, 3D Model, Context

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