You Can Call Me AI

Like most real humans, Chat GPT doesn’t really know how the planning system works, although it thinks it does, is plausible to the uninitiated and is going to learn fast. 

Describe the scene at the opening of a planning inquiry in the style of Martin Amis

The overcast morning yawned drearily as the austere gates of justice swung open, reluctantly welcoming a procession of concerned citizens, bureaucrats, and legal enthusiasts into the cavernous embrace of the planning inquiry. The venue, a drab municipal hall adorned with faded civic emblems and stained carpeting, echoed with the collective sigh of resignation.

The attendees, a motley crew of disparate interests and insatiable curiosities, shuffled in, each sporting a distinct sartorial display of subdued professionalism. Men in ill-fitted suits, replete with the sullen faces of reluctant labor, mingled with bespectacled women clutching notepads with an air of anticipatory dread. The atmosphere was thick with the scent of worn leather, a pallid reminder of past struggles fought and victories scarce won.

The weary acoustics of the room trembled as the chairman’s gavel thundered, reluctantly arousing the assembled multitude from their communal stupor. A bespectacled figure emerged from the shadows, his furrowed brow betrayed by a sparse crown of graying hair, a testament to the inevitable encroachment of time upon the human visage. He cleared his throat with a noise resembling a desolate gust of wind sweeping through a forgotten corridor, demanding the attention that was reluctantly offered.

Chairman and gavels aside, it’s not going to be long folks (and of course it is already being used for various specific functions – see this piece), so we need to be on top of how it can be used to improve development outcomes and lead to genuine efficiencies, whilst being on guard against its misuse. Could you spot a Chat GPT generated objection letter? This was its response to the request for an objection letter to a proposed solar farm, free and it took about a second. Imagine how it might then be plausibly tweaked and sent, many times over. How are planning officers going to guard against this?

Subject: Objection to Proposed Solar Farm near [Your Location]

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing to express my deep concern and objection to the proposed solar farm project in close proximity to my residence [or: the [specific location]] in [City, State]. While I appreciate the growing need for renewable energy sources and acknowledge the importance of solar power in combating climate change, I believe that the current proposed location poses significant issues and may have adverse effects on the surrounding environment and community.

First and foremost, the proximity of the proposed solar farm to residential areas raises concerns regarding potential impacts on the quality of life for residents. The visual impact of large-scale solar panels and associated infrastructure in close proximity to homes could significantly diminish property values and negatively affect the aesthetic appeal of the area. Moreover, the potential glare caused by the reflective surfaces of solar panels could be intrusive and disruptive to residents, impacting their ability to enjoy their homes and surroundings.

Additionally, I am concerned about the potential environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the solar farm. The proposed location may be ecologically sensitive, hosting diverse wildlife habitats or fragile ecosystems that could be disrupted or permanently damaged by the installation of the solar panels and related infrastructure. It is crucial to thoroughly evaluate and mitigate these potential ecological consequences before proceeding with the project.

Furthermore, the proposed solar farm could have implications for the local community’s overall well-being. Construction activities may result in noise pollution, increased traffic congestion, and potential disruptions to daily activities. These factors, combined with the potential decrease in property values, may negatively affect the livelihoods and economic stability of the community.

I strongly urge you to consider alternative locations for the solar farm that are more suitable in terms of minimizing the visual impact on residential areas, preserving environmentally sensitive areas, and minimizing disturbances to the local community. It is crucial to involve the affected residents and community members in the decision-making process through open dialogue, public consultations, and comprehensive environmental impact assessments.

I kindly request that you take my objections into serious consideration and review the proposed solar farm project in light of the concerns raised. I encourage you to explore alternative options that prioritize both renewable energy goals and the well-being of the community and environment.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I trust that you will act in the best interests of the community and ensure that any future renewable energy projects are developed with careful consideration of the concerns raised.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]”

I know to us it’s nonsense, no policies no nothing, but if I had been more specific in my request I would have got a more refined draft. And as it stands it’s pretty much par for the course as objection letters go. 

Finally, as a bit of fun, what does Open AI’s Dall-E system think that the scene at a planning inquiry might look like?

The participants:

Not so bad really. But what about the solicitor?

He (an algorithmically assumed white male) is pictured faceless, doodling, writing nonsense:

Or the planning officer?

More white males, one strangely missing a finger on his left hand:

The overall lack of diversity of it all is troubling, as is the sheer lazy ease of generating splurge content – without safeguards (which are needed immediately, not at the speed that the planning system usually works) this could be as harmful for the planning system, in terms of submerging it under prolix and irrelevant content, as word processing technology has been. In fact, in Chat GPT I think I have found the real mutant algorithm. 

Happy bank holiday all. 

Simon Ricketts, 27 May 2023

Personal views, et cetera

A planning inquiry in the style of David Hockney, apparently.

Author: simonicity

Partner at boutique planning law firm, Town Legal LLP, but this blog represents my personal views only.

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