Better Regulation - Action 8: Data standards supporting citizen participation and urban planning

  • Cristina (Commu... profile
    Cristina (Commu...
    5 February 2018 - updated 1 week ago
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Evidence-based decision-making consists of city officials’ expertise, citizen opinions, research-based knowledge and data which together may transform urban planning processes in order to co-create the future of European cities in the smartest possible way. A lot of participatory projects already include digital and analogue methodologies, however the resulting challenge is to integrate online and on-site methodologies – e.g. implementing analogue feedback into digital systems in a coherent, standardised way. Besides INSPIRE Planned Land Use data (PLU data) model specification, no guidelines for standardisation of participatory data are defined until now, making it difficult for entrepreneurs to create solutions implementable in multiple member states. Digital tools and new technologies are key factors for increasing citizen inclusion (e.g. Virtual Reality for visualisation, Augmented Reality for holistic experience, open data for transparency, platforms for data collection and sharing opinions and utilization of me-data and my data) when it comes to urban planning, many cities still lack the finance or knowledge to implement platforms for (digital) participatory urban planning. At the same time, (private) actors who acquire data in cities are restricted by legal and economic issues (e.g. right of ownership, business models) regarding sharing the data with public authorities for purposes of general interest. Therefore this action is linked to Action 7, where access and reuse not only refers to data but to platforms for data collection and storage, as well as software based on artificial intelligence. On the other hand, access and reuse of public data by the private sector needs to be addressed if cities are to act both as enablers of economic growth and as considerers of the consequences related to e.g. security issues.

A basic prerequisite for the effective usage of internet technology in communal area is the support of standards. The Communication on ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market (COM(2016)176) aims to ensure that all these devices in the future will be able to connect and share data with each other – independently of manufacturer, operating system, or other technical details. This is to guarantee a fresh approach to standards in 5G, IoT, Cybersecurity, Cloud and Big Data, as well as to ensure that all forces in Europe pull in the same direction, using standardisation as a strategic instrument to EU industrial policy. These technologies need to be made accessible in order for persons with disabilities and older persons to participate in these processes.

In addition to the INSPIRE PLU data model specification, standardised data models, exchange formats and standardised services have to be established for urban planning data and for the internet based access to the data. The design of urban land-use (zoning) plans requires the cooperation of different stakeholders. For the success of planning projects, transparency, data exchange and accountability are of fundamental importance. Hence it is necessary to inform stakeholders as far and extensive as possible and to give them an overview about spatial planning goals and status quo of proceedings. Particularly in urban planning often there are different competing interests and land-uses. These diverse interests and ideas of land-use must be recognised, analysed and balanced to minimise conflicts and to reduce consequential costs, still not compromising up-tempo plan-making processes.


The advantages of standardised PLU data are:

  • Lossless and speedy data exchange between the actors involved in planning processes.
  • Standardised data exchange format for horizontal (intermunicipal) and vertical (planner – municipality – county – federal state) process of coordination of planning.
  • Standardised data format for e-participation platforms, supporting and enhancing data-based information and informal and formal planning participation.
  • Semantic description of planning data as a basis for the establishment of services (query, monitoring, reporting) and visualisation in different software applications.
  • Central storage of urban land-use plans / other plans of special urban planning legislation (e.g. formally designated redevelopment area) in a uniform semantic structure as a database for different software applications and information systems (e.g. for spatial urban monitoring and e-participation processes).
  • Support electronically assisted proceeding on the granting of building permission.

An important prerequisite for the efficient and cost-effective implementation and operation of e-participation platforms is the usage of standards. This concerns the planning data itself as well as the methods to access these data. Participation platforms normally integrate data produced by different providers, e.g. citizens, different communal agencies or private planning companies. Without a standardised format to collect and integrate the data, large effort in data conversion and quality control has to be spent. The objectives of participation of public authorities, public agencies and the general public in urban planning and design processes are:

  • Broadening consideration documents (information function),
  • Increasing participation of general public in the long, mid-, and short term (strengthening democracy),
  • Speeding up the participatory processes (enabling competitiveness),
  • Improving influence in planning processes (legal protection),
  • Raising the acceptance of planning projects.


For the exchange of digital planning data between actors involved in planning processes, as well as for the internet-based visualisation of planning data to potential users, a digital harmonised data exchange format is needed.

Within the implementation of EU INSPIRE directive, an infrastructure for spatial information in the European community for the purposes of community environmental policies and policies or activities, which may have an impact on the environment has to be built until end 2020. This European directive, lists 34 relevant thematic fields, segmented into three packages (Annex I – Annex III). Existing digital data belonging to one or more of these themes has to be transformed in an INSPIRE standardised data model and provided as internet based standardised viewing and download services. One of these themes addresses existing and planned land use: Existing Land Use (ELU), which objectively depicts the use and functions of a territory as it has been and effectively still is in real life, and Planned Land Use (PLU), which corresponds to spatial plans, defined by spatial planning authorities, depicting the possible utilization of the land in the future.

In addition, the objective of this action is:

  1. to define guidelines for providing standardised spatial planning data, which can be implemented in informal and formal participation processes and
  2. develop a transferable model for setting up a participatory urban planning platform. The model will look at financial possibilities (link to Action 13), content (link to Action 2) and capacity building among city officials (Action 3).

The action will increase knowledge in new types of data and how to use it for urban analytics (with the help of research partners contributing to the methods and long term strategic inquiries and impact analyses). Therefore it is necessary to analyse whether the use of the INSPIRE PLU data model is able to comply the described necessity for digital harmonised data models and data exchange format for spatial land use (zoning) plans in cities. It should also be explored as to whether the PLU data model supports the installation of e-government services (e.g. participation und monitoring services) in spatial planning and building action fields. The results could support an addition of the existing INSPIRE PLU data model – but are not intended to create a new model.


One important output will therefore be the identification of specific obstacles and particular requirements (e.g. knowledge, comprehensive understanding and technological obstacles) using the PLU data model with focus on the municipal level. Results will be reported to the INSPIRE Committee. Questions that will be addressed are: Should member states which have not implemented mandatory national digital data standards for spatial land use plans, adopt PLU data model also in a national context? Should the PLU data model be extended or must a specific PLU data model profile be defined for implementing guidelines for e-government, participation and monitoring services for spatial planning and building? Is it necessary to supplement or extend existing EU INSPIRE regulation? Until now legal binding spatial land use or zoning plans represented in digital data formats has not had any legal effect. Is it necessary to define regulation on EU level to ensure digital planning data is legally binding? Should national code lists e.g. for specific national zoning regulations according to national building code, be published in registries in multiple official languages? In this case, it would be possible to compare land use regulations in a detailed level between European cities (e.g. a comparison study of different regulations in cities and countries). The European single market is also strengthened because the different city land use strategies will be transparent.

At the end of the action it will be evident, if INSPIRE PLU data model is useful as a standardised data model and data exchange standard for plan preparation, public participation procedures and legal binding land use plans in European cities or what actions has to be done to achieve this goal. The outcome may be that PLU data is not suitable, in this case guidelines for the development of national data standards for spatial land use plans should be defined in order to guarantee whether this type of plan with its regulations can be interoperable and secure provided as web services.

An additional output of the action is a model for successfully implementing participatory long, mid- and short term urban planning with regard to standardisation of data, capacity building and financing. The side effects are transforming urban planning processes and a changing role of urban authorities by enabling innovation and multilevel collaboration. Results of urban planning based on this model are more democratic since they also build upon both citizen opinions and data on the silent majority.


Aspect 1 - Standardisation of data:

  • Analyse the use of PLU data model in European cities.
  • Define monitoring techniques for PLU data for analysing comparable land use indicators (e.g. density).
  • Analyse existing national and EU regulations, and data models for providing digital legal spatial land use plans on city level
  • Analyse what level of information (meta data / data model) in digital spatial land use plans is needed to establish e-government services (e.g. electronic building application / participatory processes in urban planning / land use monitoring ..)
  • Analyse national regulations to ensure digital planning data are legally binding
  • Analyse weak points in PLU data model
  • Analyse actual level of accessibility of PLU and participative data and develop strategies for improvements (e.g. guidelines).
  • Define monitoring techniques for PLU, for analysing comparable land use indicators (e.g. density) for cities.

Aspect 2 - Participatory urban planning:

  • Identification of used standards for participatory (user-generated) and 3D data in European cities.
  • Analyse what level of information (metadata / data model) in participatory (user-generated) and 3D data is needed to improve citizen inclusion (e.g. participatory processes in urban planning / AR and VR participation)
  • Define of standards for participatory (user-generated) and 3D data regarding the use in particpatory projects.
  • Involve stakeholders/partners: cities (preconditions, needs), businesses (needs, solutions) and academia (research, impact)
  • A possible testbed: the ongoing eGovernment-project DIPAS (Digital Participation System) in the city of Hamburg as a prototype for a participatory urban planning platform
  • Collaborate closely with following actions:
    • Action 2: Digital Neighbourhood Instrument
    • Action 3: Capacity-Building and Spreading of Pilots in Regions and Cities
    • Action 4: Helping cities develop a user-centric eGovernment model
    • Action 9: MyData in digital transition. Elaboration of a European roadmap on “MyData”
    • Action 11: Support agile experimentation of emerging digital technologies
    • Action 13: Co-creating a business model approach for cities


  • Preparation: 2018 Q2 Involving stakeholders/partners.
  • Implementation: 2018 Q3 – 2019 Q3.
  • Assessment: 2019 Q4.

Action leader

Hamburg and Helsingborg.


  • Eurocities / ISOCARP (international society of city and regional planners).
  • Cities & countries: cities involved in the Digital transition partnership / Eurocities.
  • Contact with relevant networks such as the working group on CitizenCity in the Citizen. Focus Action Cluster under the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities developed a societal engagement toolkit and a digital platform for place based citizen engagement.


See also: