Using Place Intelligence to help speed up planning for new homes in Bolton

United Kingdom - The UK is building 15% fewer homes today than in 2003. With house prices nearly eight times more than average earnings, and 50% fewer 25-year-olds owning their own homes compared with 20 years ago, something needs to change. Arcadis has pioneered a new digital solution, and is working to Bolton Council to transform how we deliver new homes. Called Place Intelligence, it will relieve pressure on local planning authorities, speed-up the planning cycle and reduce complexity in building healthier, sustainable and thriving communities.


planning assessments


cost reduction

Bolton Council has a housing delivery target of nearly 5,000 new homes by 2025, but with only 460 new homes built in the region during 2019/20, this falls 40% short of annual requirements. To address the situation, the council needed to understand the constraints and work with developers to identify suitable sites where much-needed new housing could be built.  

This process can typically take a long time, relying on a lot of manual data-collection, suffering from the risk of inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in approach. However, by working with Arcadis to use our Place Intelligence solution, Bolton Council was able to assess more than 500 housing sites, exploring their capacity, viability and technical deliverability to quickly produce accurate and dynamic housing plans for the region. 

Place Intelligence more than halved the time required to assess suitable sites, including calculating viability and creating housing delivery forecasts. For Bolton Council, it reduced the cost of conducting housing assessments by up to 80%, and means that the council is now on track to meet targets for building much needed new homes for local people.  

What is Place Intelligence? 

Place Intelligence is a digital tool designed to transform the planning process. It uses a mix of land, technical, commercial and planning policy data to calculate development capacity and model the impact of planning policy decisions, providing Local Authorities with a real time platform to test site viability options. This can be used to create robust, defensible local plans and district wide delivery programmes.

Place Intelligence generates an automated assessment that gives an immediate overview of the total size of any given site, along with how much of that area can be developed, at what density, and even the optimum breakdown of housing across different tenure types, such as the ideal size and proportion of private housing to affordable rent accommodation. 

It also immediately highlights potential risks, such as where a site intersects with greenbelt land or where road noise might need to be considered as part of the development process. Not only does Place Intelligence quantify the exact economic value that can be generated through development, it also demonstrates how specific measures can help to increase environmental and social value as well.

Using Place Intelligence in Bolton 

For Bolton Council, Place Intelligence offered a single source of truth that can be developed and used multiple times. The ability to forecast future impacts gave Bolton Council confidence that it could deliver the required number of new homes across its 5-year plan. It meant the council could create a more balanced portfolio of investment to help drive longer term socio-economic benefits, with the additional security and certainty enabling better collaboration with stakeholders and investors.  

Place Intelligence has transformed urban planning in Bolton. It has brought together the data and insights that decision makers needed to ensure short term wins and longer term success in achieving the council’s strategic vision. 

“In the past, the planning experience has been weighed down by administrative tasks. Meanwhile, the process of getting money from the government to where it is most needed can be very lengthy. Place Intelligence makes decision making and the judgement process more accurate, saving both time and improving the quality of the job.” 
Paul Whittingham, Assistant Director for Development and Regeneration at Bolton Council 


To find out more about Place Intelligence, click here




planning assessments


cost reduction


new homes by 2025

Questions about this project

Jonathan Moore

Digital Product and Client Lead Ask me a question
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