Social media


Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin have been used in town planning, and related disciplines, for many years. However, platforms such as ChatGPT AI have been used more recently as a way generate and share new ideas quickly. ChatGPT is a natural language processing (NLP) system that uses machine learning to generate data-driven insights.

ChatGPT has the ability to take large amounts of text data and produce potential design ideas quickly. This can also be used to identify potential problems and weaknesses in designs.

Town planning can however be a subjective discipline and it is argued in some forums that tool such as ChatGPT provide/s a more objective opinion. Whilst this tool has been used in internationally planning spheres, it has been noted that this should complement and enhance and not replace the human skills of town planners. More on this is covered within later sections of this handbook.

International case studies are available as to where ChatGPT has been used in urban planning –


Short Films – Aberdeenshire Council (2015)

Whilst this project is now dated it provides an example of an effective digital engagement process. This project involved the production by the Council’s Planning Policy team of six short films with the aim of improving the community engagement process of the Proposed Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan. Within the first two weeks of the consultation process the six films received over 1,500 views. A further 500 people had watched the trailer, which highlighted each film and stated how viewers could comment on the Proposed Plan.

The title of each film is listed below:

  • Function of the local development plan
  • Neighbour notification
  • Development in the countryside
  • Historic environment protection
  • Natural heritage protection
  • Developers’ obligations

These films were published on Aberdeenshire Council’s YouTube channel in a dedicated playlist titled ‘Proposed LDP films’. They can be viewed here. Aberdeenshire Council was keen to develop innovative ways to engage with members of the public during the consultation stages of the local development plan.

The films were styled so they can be used at events and meetings with or without officers, thereby reaching a wider audience, reducing workload, and allowing planners to answer questions not covered in the films.


A+DS blogs

Blogs can be a community resource for information and discussion. Blogs can break down planning jargon and bridge some of the divide or perceived divide between planners and communities.

Amongst others, Architecture & Design Scotland regularly publish blogs, news and events which are visual and link to events and/or other resources.

NatureScot blogs

Similarly, NatureScot have a stand along webpage, linked to the NatureScot’s main webpage where blogs are regularly published –

World Economic Forum vlog

Recently the World Economic Forum published a vlog (video log) on Paris becoming a ’15-minute city’. This is effective as it is simple, with no voice over, limited text and music over relevant photographs of the city.

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Augmented Reality

Explore the Cairngorms

Explore the Cairngorms – in Minecraft – Cairngorms National Park Authority (2021)

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) have recreated the National Park (without its buildings) in Minecraft using open data from Ordnance Survey and Forest and Land Scotland.

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The CNPA considered that in using a platform like Minecraft they could demonstrate how Development Planning & Development Management have a hugely important role in tackling the climate emergency and caring for our environment.

“Players are ‘dropped’ into the Cairngorms National Park and given the mission to collaboratively create a community that represents the sort of place they would like to live in. In order to cut down on chaos and to encourage collaboration, players are asked to take on specific roles at the beginning of the game, for example builder, lumberjack or farmer. Players need to consider whether or not they want to allocate land, apply design principles and so on, or simply take a more laissez- faire approach.

The scale of the map is based on the movement range of a player on foot within the day/night cycle of the game: ten minutes for day and seven minutes for night, with both dusk and dawn lasting about 90 seconds. In effect, the player should be able to cover roughly the same ground in the game as they would in real life over the course of a day. This scaling down means that it brings everything closer together, making the map easier to explore and geographical features, such as the Cairngorm Plateau or Lairig Ghru much more recognisable.

While Minecraft has been used in similar ways elsewhere, this is the first time it has been used in this way or in the context of a National Park and if testing goes well, this innovative approach to engaging young people in the planning system will be delivered to schools in the Park, giving pupils a fun introduction to the world of planning and policy making.” (Source:

Links to training on 'Social media'

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