In July of this year TuTech started its wide scale test of the-DEMOS Plan tool for participation in urban planning in the city of Hamburg. EU member states are required by law to involve the public in the planning process whenever the environment is concerned and DEMOS-Plan is aimed to directly address this mandatory form of participation. With the actual test phase, which was divided up into two test cases, finished and the first evaluation results in the success of this real world test is very clear and it shows the potential of the tool to address a clearly defined need in the realm of participation and administration.
DEMOS-Plan enables the complete formal participatory process in land use planning to be handled on the Internet. The system takes account of the differing demands of members of the public, companies, government departments and public agencies while at the same time supporting the responsible authority in the administration and consideration of submissions.. More in depth information about the tool itself can be found in my previous article on the matter.
The two test cases in Hamburg demonstrated that all parties involved in urban planning (e.g. the public administration and its different divisions, companies, NGO´s and citizens) were open to and used this innovative tool. For example 80% of all organisations who would normally be supplied with printed versions of all planning material decided to only use the online tool. In the first test case, which was aimed at involving public agencies in the planning process, the involvement of the participating parties was vivid and lead to many important remarks and annotations to the planning material. In the second test, which involved individual citizens, the participation was far stronger than the involvement in paper based planning efforts.
After each of the two tests all involved parties and individuals where questioned using both questionnaires and telephone interviews to evaluate the tool from the technical and procedural side. The overall feedback of the participants using the tool was very positive as far as it made the process more efficient, easier and through the use of the GIS tools more “hands-on”. Some participants, especially from the field of professional organisations, proposed certain enhancements to the system which will be taken into account in the further development of the tool.
Besides the successful trails using DEMOS Plan in the city of Hamburg several other German medium and large municipalities and regions have shown interest in using the tool or are already testing it. By clearly addressing the needs of all involved parties, its functional and procedural design and the innovative use of WebGIS technology DEMOS-Plan has promising potential of improving both participation and efficiency in urban planning.
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg won the second prize for DEMOS-Plan in the 8th eGovernment Competition hosted by Bearing Point and CISCO Systems for Federal, Land and Local Administrations (2008) in the category “Science Prize – Most Innovative eGovernment Application”. Applications from Germany, Austria and Switzerland were evaluated in this category. The jury decided that DEMOS-Plan was both innovative in the procedural and the technical sense:
- With its efficient and easily administered structure, the DEMOS-Plan Internet platform ensures that relevant planning information can be presented clearly and in an appealing design on the Internet. Stakeholders benefit from a much simpler process for the submission of comments and views, while coordinators have access to numerous functions when analysing and weighting responses. The system takes account of the differing demands of members of the public, companies, government departments and public agencies while at the same time supporting the responsible authority in the administration and consideration of submissions.
- Stakeholders can use the participatory platform to submit their comments on the varying planning sections and stages (written assessment, justification, environmental report, etc), referencing them to the respective plans. An electronic analysis grid enables the responsible authority to deal efficiently with all incoming submissions, analysing and weighting them directly on the platform. The platform provides staff with a facility to work together on drawing up responses or preparing papers for decision-making bodies.
- Presenting the complete formal participatory process in this way – without media discontinuity – boosts efficiency, satisfaction and transparency for all concerned.
- The Internet-based geographical information system (WebGIS) is used to enable plans and maps to be displayed in a user-friendly and clear manner. Any base map supplied can be visualised in the participatory module provided that it meets the standards of the Open GeoSpatial Consortium (OGC). The new german standard for digital construction plans “XPlanung” is supported as well. Different categories of planning information based on the OGC standard (e.g. actual use, conservation resources, traffic proposals, etc) can be displayed on a base plan, either individually or in any combination, using an overlay technique. Through its cooperation with a geographical service provider, TuTech can provide comprehensive base plans (e.g. ATKIS, aerial photography) for the whole of Germany.