Purpose: The aim of this paper is to present the effectiveness of participatory information and communication technology (ICT) tools for urban planning, in particular, supporting bottom-up decision-making in urban management and governance. Design/methodology/approach: This work begins with a presentation on the state of the art literature on the existing participatory approaches and their contribution to urban planning and the policymaking process. Furthermore, a case study, namely, the UrbanAPI project, is selected to identify new visualisation and simulation tools applied at different urban scales. These tools are applied in four different European cities - Vienna, Bologna, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Ruse - with the objective to identify the data needs for application development, commonalities in requirements of such participatory tools and their expected impact in policy and decision-making processes. Findings: The case study presents three planning applications: three-dimensional Virtual Reality at neighbourhood scale, Public Motion Explorer at city-wide scale and Urban Growth Simulation at city-region scale. UrbanAPI applications indicate both active and passive participation secured by applying these tools at different urban scales and hence facilitate evidence-based urban planning decision-making. Structured engagement with the city administrations indicates commonalities in user needs and application requirements creating the potential for the development of generic features in these ICT tools which can be applied to many other cities throughout Europe. Originality/value: This paper presents new ICT-enabled participatory urban planning tools at different urban scales to support collaborative decision-making and urban policy development. Various technologies are used for the development of these IT tools and applied to the real environment of four European cities. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.