Today citizen participation – in informal and formal processes with different degrees of detail and intensity – is an integral part of spatial planning processes in Europe. Participation process enhances the transparency, supports the identification of problems especially at the early stage of planning and helps to raise acceptance of the resulting projects among citizens. While participation in most cases still requires the presence of the public, the rapid development of modern technology has opened up new possibilities for arranging the process in more modernised and innovative ways. In many cities online participation is now becoming normal. Although the use of digital tools provides one of the key factors for increasing citizen participation, cities are still faced with various challenges in effectively accessing and using the participatory data. The large amount of datasets, their time span and spatial distribution pose difficulties in analysing work, different data structures that are incompatible to each other - to name just a few.
Facing this situation, the Action aimed to support citizen centric planning with a standardised data specification. Once adopted, a standard would facilitate the exchange and processing of participatory data, thus bringing benefits to all parties involved in a participatory process. Built upon an analysis of existing participatory data and practical experience from working on citizen participatory projects, the partnership developed the Participatory Data Specification (PDS) which should satisfy most common requirements for data collection during participatory projects.
As the final phase of the Action, the city of Hamburg carried out a reference implementation of the PDS with its open source digital participation tool DIPAS as a test bed, for which an API was programmed and implemented for the exchange of participatory data based on the PDS. The source code of DIPAS was released in February 2021 under the GPL licence and can be accessed here.
As initially set out in the Action Plan, this action had two goals: to define a standard for participatory data, and to analyse the existing framework of INSPIRE-Planned-Land-Use regarding its suitability for comparing land use regulation in a detailed level between European cities. However, the latter task had to be given up due to limited resources and capacity. Nevertheless, we still see the relevance of this unfinished part of the Action and would hope to be able to pick the topic up in the future.
This Action and its outputs are only the first steps to fully embrace the benefits of digitalisation in urban planning. In order to achieve that goal a holistic approach should be taken on to optimise the whole chain of planning and building.