An idea that allows people to better understand the urban space they’re in – and helps overcome one of the planning profession’s greatest challenges – has won a Brisbane resident $10,000.

Beth Toon and her colleagues at Place Design Group proposed the idea of installing web-enabled links at award-winning locations so people with smart phones or tablets could immediately engage with the planning concept and processes that led to the celebrated space.

The idea is the winning entry in the Planning Ideas Competition run nationally by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) with the prize money provided by the Planning Education Foundation.

PIA National President Dyan Currie said that while Beth’s idea was grounded in existing Quick Response (QR) Code technology, the idea’s strength was in its capacity to evolve as locational and social media technology progressed.

“Beth’s proposal is the spark that will no doubt be adapted as technology changes,” Ms Currie said.

“The idea also more than adequately meets the Competition’s intent by engaging people in conversations about the great places they enjoy.

“Planners know all too well that planning matters. But what we do in arriving at a great planning outcome is not often explained to, or understood by the people who use and enjoy the places and spaces that are created.

“Beth has proposed that static web links be installed at places that have been formally applauded by the planning and development sectors, allowing the public to connect instantly to a web page explaining that particular project. It provides a direct electronic link between planning projects and the people who use them.”

PIA launched the Planning Ideas Competition earlier this year with entries open to the public as well as those in the planning fraternity. News that $10,000 was up for grabs went through PIA’s many communications channels, and the planning ideas poured in from all across Australia.

In her winning submission, Beth Toon said planning is a journey of navigating policies and development requirements – understanding where a community is and where it needs to go.

“The average person enjoying a great new urban space doesn’t normally start thinking about how or why it came about,” Ms Toon said.

“But with a mobile device and the popularity of locational technology, people can immediately engage better with the space they’re in.”

The judges commended Beth’s idea for its potential to evolve with time, technology and changing community expectations. They said it could also unlock many of the other great ideas that and been entered in the Planning Ideas Competition.

Apart from the overall winner, the judges identified three other entries as deserving of ‘honorable mentions’. The Planning Education Foundation topped up the prize pool to award Melbourne-based company Planisphere, Larissa Miller from Sydney and David Corkill from Brisbane $500 each for their ideas. The announcement of the winning entries coincides with World Town Planning Day which is celebrated in 30 countries on four continents each November 8. It is a special day to recognise and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities.

The Planning Ideas Competition was part of the PIA Planning Matters strategy to increase awareness of the value of planning, promote the benefits of good planning to the community and inspire good planning within the profession.
Geoff Mullins PAN COMMUNICATIONS