Know the score Land and planning potential is so complex to value that many think a computer could never do it reliably – but could software now being developed transform the process?
Developers can spend significant sums on due diligence before even securing an option on land, in the hope that it might have development potential. This process is repeated for each property transaction on every matter from legal covenants to reviewing the local plan, whenever property comes on to the market, or even speculatively beforehand. But imagine that all the data you need to analyse a site, whether related to local politics or endangered species, was available in a format that your computer could process in seconds, and instead of poring over documents you could quickly understand the site’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s what property technology start-up Urban Intelligence
hopes to provide: for almost five years, the team has been working to digitise planning policy and other data necessary for traditional site appraisals. The resultant SiteScore aims to offer a comprehensive digitised planning policy map of England and Wales, covering everything from conservation areas and article 4(2) directions to special landscape areas and community infrastructure levy (CIL) zones. It is a similar concept to a credit rating, in that it analyses evidence in data about a land parcel to calculate the likely implications for development potential, producing a range of scores that seek to measure sustainability and viability. Using an individual land parcel as its frame of reference, the sustainability
Using automated valuation modelling has enabled a variety of development scenarios to be tested for a fraction of the time conventional methods require 22 Journal January/February 2020
appraisal reviews hundreds of data sources, including among others: ••site overview: ownership; topography; and settlement ••planning statistics: the political allegiance of ward councillors and the council overall; local planning authority statistics; what stage the local plan has reached; appeal volumes and decisions ••planning policy: opportunities such as regeneration areas; constraints such as green belt or article 4 directions removing specific permitted development rights ••demographics: data sourced from the Office for National Statistics on population, age, deprivation, labour market and so on ••local market: house prices; waiting lists; authorities’ progress on their five-year housing land supply ••environment: nearby constraints such as heritage and environmental considerations; Sites of Special Scientific Interest; ancient woodland ••hazards: flood risk; sites subject to the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015; sources of contamination such as landfill sites and noise pollution such as roads, railways and airports ••transport connections: proximity to town centres, railway stations, bus stops,