Apart from the tiny minority who attend Community Council meetings, most residents hear about planned developments in their neighbourhood through word of mouth, the local press, or public notices, and often too late to do anything about it. Even when residents are informed in time, they do not always know how to make their voices heard. As a result, community input into the local planning process is very limited.
I wanted to create an online map that would bring together data on significant planned developments in Leith (with links to the relevant documents on the CEC planning portal and public consultations events), the wider planning picture (local development plan, vacant and derelict land, conservation areas etc.) and the local infrastructure (GPs, schools etc.). I have since then added data on the environment (air pollution), local area statistics (population density, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) and more practical information (allotment gardens, recycling bins).
The map has a companion website (My Leith) with additional information on how to participate in the local planning process (contact details of local community councils and elected representatives, guidance on responding to planning applications), and how to become more active in the community (list of local non-profit organisations, sources of funding).
The entire app, from data importing and cleaning, to mapping and user interface is written in R. The prototype was developed over two rainy weekends in November 2015, new data and features have been added to it regularly since then.
What comes next will depend on user feedback. I would like to add planning application data scraped from the Council’s Idox portal.User authentication will allow the community to add data to the map and suggest where new trees should be planted, as part of Greener Leith’s 1000 Trees for Leith project. I have published the source code on GitHub so that others can re-use it to create their own apps.