Unchecked development threatens the UK’s peri-urban green space, but preventing all rural development inhibits economic growth and exacerbates housing shortages. The main obstacles to such developments are the fears for loss of rural character and visual amenity. However, it should be possible to permit sympathetically designed, sustainable developments, if they can be effectively identified at the planning stage and the public are reassured that any adverse consequences will be minimized or negated completely.
Large scale developments are increasingly producing 3D digital concept models as part of their design process. These can be combined with high quality terrain data and highly accurate 3D transformations to produce an advanced method for determining visual impact upon any location within Great Britain. This would enable landscape scale visual assessment to become a routine process in all rural planning cases and moreover enable planning officers to easily verify the applicant’s assessments for themselves. Also, if such a system were made publicly available, it would enable wider engagement and lead to a greater sense of public inclusion in the decision making process. For projects that were well received, planners would have more confidence to approve them quickly and the process would be less prone to procedural delays, or stalled by public inquiries.
We propose to develop such a system as a bespoke server application using a hybrid cloud deployment model to deal with peak resource demands. It would be made available as a set of user services supplied through a web interface. This would reduce the user’s setup time to that required to load their project models and remove any cost of system ownership from their own IT infrastructure. The service would be operated using a ‘freemium’ business model where basic services are free to use, but more advanced capabilities would require fee payments. We anticipate that the project’s income streams would consist of both pay-as-you-go occasional users and higher volume subscription service users.