Power to the People
The future of planning in a localist landscape
Author: Professor Chris Balch (edited by Richard Carr, Localis) |
Power to the People
Localis, in partnership with Birmingham City Council and Land Securities, has launched a major report that concludes that neighbourhood plans can deliver a more positive attitude to planning from all involved, and ultimately help drive national growth, from the bottom up, in the years ahead.
Neighbourhood planning offers communities radically increased powers to shape their locality. Within a decade, the government has estimated, over half of all English neighbourhoods will have instigated a plan. By the next General Election over 1,100 neighbourhoods will fall into this category, equating to around 15% of English electoral wards.
‘Power to the People: The Future of Planning in a Localist Landscape’ , produced in partnership with Birmingham City Council, Land Securities and Quod Planning, outlines a series of case studies from across the country, using them to illustrate recent trends in resident participation, and draw out the key lessons for future best practice.
One of the key lessons derived from these case studies is that councils have a crucial leadership role to play, including acting as ‘honest brokers’ between developer and resident interests, and providing an overarching strategic vision for delivering growth. The case studies also suggest that early engagement leads to better outcomes, and that councils and developers should therefore capitalise on opportunities to trigger community involvement.
The report, authored by Professor Chris Balch of Plymouth University, illustrates how residents, developers and authorities all have much to gain from a more open system built upon co-operation. In particular, the report scotches fears that neighbourhood planning will be hijacked by NIMBYs, leading to further delays in the delivery of much needed new housing.
Instead, the report argues that giving people a stake in planning their neighbourhoods not only fosters a greater trust in the planning process, but can deliver incremental development which creates growth but does not lead to untrammeled development regardless of community views. It also suggests that by capturing the views of every element of the community including previously hard to reach groups, the new system has the potential to change perceptions of planning for the better, and produce outcomes more reflective of local feeling.
The report offers a series of recommendations for local and central government, as well as developers and community planners. These include:
- Neighbourhood Planning must be sufficiently resourced ? Central government must work with local authorities to ensure the plans are funded (from either public or private source) in a way that genuinely empowers communities to shape the future of their local areas. The report also suggests that local authorities should consider allocating a specific proportion of development incentives (the Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus) to fund neighbourhood plans.
- Central government must articulate the virtues of planning, and ensure that local authorities are suitably incentivised to quickly formulate their Local Plans following the instigation of the new system.
- Local planning authorities should intervene to resource future community planners with the means to plan, and devolve incentives (principally the New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy) to the lowest possible level.
- Developers should view the process as an opportunity for collaboration, and the creation of a more efficient, less confrontational planning system
- Communities must foster existing local capabilities, and attempt to bring more people into the process.
Alex Thomson, Chief Executive of Localis, said:
“The Government’s neighbourhood planning proposals will put real power in the hands of local communities. This report shows that everybody has much to gain from a more open, collaborative approach to planning, and offers some timely recommendations for communities, developers and local and national government as to how this can be achieved.”