What is neighbourhood planning?
Neighbourhood planning provides local communities with the opportunity to develop a plan or their area and with it, take greater control overthe nature o development and give neighbourhoods the capacity to shape the identity o the places they live, work and play. The new powersintroduced through the Localism Act will allow a neighbourhood to decide where new developments should be located, what they should look like and grant planning permission or the developments they want to see go ahead.
Neighbourhood plans can be created by town and parish councils and in areas where no town or parish councils exist, a Neighbourhood Forum(which must consist o 21 people who live, work or are elected councillors locally) can be created to steer a plan. The exact boundaries o anygiven neighbourhood are subject to public agreement with the local authority and the plans will be subject to a public consultation process.Plans will be submitted or independent examination and i judged to be in conormity with national policy and the strategic objectives set outby the local authority, will be put to a local reerendum. I more than 50 per cent o people voting in the reerendum support the plan or order,then the local planning authority must bring it into orce. Once in place, these plans will comprise the ramework or change in that area or thenext ten years.
‘Meaningful’engagement: making neighbourhood planning work
Placing local communities – via Neighbourhood Forums - at the heart o the planning process can increase civic pride and social participationand lead to more appropriate and inormed design solutions that are more sympathetic to local needs and concerns. Feedback rom the NewDeal or Communities (NDC) programme reinorces this, concluding that ‘some o the most successul projects […] are those where we haveengaged residents in the design process; and some o our least successul projects, including some o the disasters, have been the ones wherewe haven’t.’
It is becoming well understood that giving people a stake and a say over what their environment should look like as well as how itworks is likely to lead to improved wellbeing o residents.However, planning is complex and or community-led planning to be a success, the process o engagement must be meaningul – one thatavoids rustration between potentially conicting parties and ‘consultation atigue’; the all too common scenario where communities believethat they have been manipulated and consequently, eel powerless or ail to see any impact o their contributions to the process. This can leadto communities losing both interest and trust in the process; two elements which are crucial to its success. Communities have all too oten beeninvolved in token consultation, rather than real engagement in a collaborative planning process which gives them a decision-making capabilityrom the beginning, rather than a reactive one ater plans have been made by others.For this to happen, community groups need access to proessional support and expertise to ensure that Neighbourhood Forums are ableto produce considered, appropriate and robust Neighbourhood Plans. This will ensure a sound process with minimal rustration in which acommunity group is properly brieed and inormed and thereore able to better understand how planning and design decisions are made andarbitrated, and what the consequences o these decisions are likely to be.In the best cases, a two-way learning relationship will be established in which capacity is built within local communities around issues o planning and design, whilst proessionals better understand the needs o the people they are designing with and can enable a truly local, yetrobust, design response. Indeed, this process will also demand a new role or the proessionals involved within the process, who will have toadapt and understand the limitations o this role in a process that is being led by local people; the Neighbourhood Forum.
Support currently available for neighbourhood planning
To ensure that neighbourhood planning is truly meaningul and produces the best outcomes – both in helping improve the quality o thelocal built environment and creating a sense o collective agency - structures must be put in place to provide Neighbourhood Forums with thenecessary resources, expertise and support.
Neighbourhood planning and meaningul community-ledplanning
1 Department or Communities and Local Government (2011)
[Online] (Updated 13 October 2011) Available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pd/1985896.pd [Accessed 16 April 2012].2 Ibid.3 Department or Communities and Local Government (2010)
Whatworks inneighbourhood-level regeneration? Theviews okeystakeholders intheNew Deal orCommunities Programme
[Online] (Updated 11 February 2010) Available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pd/1462971.pd [Accessed 16 April 2012].4 The RIBA has explored the role that architects could play within the ollowing publication: RIBA (2012)
Guideto Localism– Part2– GettingCommunityEngagementRight
[Online]Available at: http://www.architecture.com/TheRIBA/AboutUs/InuencingPolicy/Localism/Supportingtheproession.aspx [Accessed 20 April 2012].
Re-thinking Neighbourhood Planning
Re-thinking Neighbourhood Planning
4 The passage o the Localism Act marked a signicant transer o power away rom Whitehall into the hands o local authorities and localcommunities. This devolution o decision-making and promotion o civic activism will provide greater opportunities or communities tomobilise local resources and through new neighbourhood planning powers, help re-shape our towns and cities rom the bottom-up. The introduction o neighbourhood planning has the potential to rethink the way we plan and design. It can help us develop ourunderstanding o community participation within the design process; one which moves away rom meaningless tick-box consultation exercisesto one which is underpinned by a genuine and
partnership between local authorities, communities, developers and proessionals:real community-led planning. By moving beyond existing practices, which are broadly consultative in nature, these partnerships can havelong-term mutual benets and demonstrable social impact. By designing with, rather than or, communities, neighbourhood planning can leadto more appropriate and successul local planning and help create better places. But this kind o collaboration within the planning process – i done in a comprehensive and meaningul way – can also help create stronger, more cohesive communities, generating social capital throughan improved sense o collective agency.For these reasons, as localism moves rom the oor o the House o Commons to the oor o the community centre, we should consider howinitiatives such as neighbourhood planning can and should be supported in order to maximise its ull potential. For neighbourhood planning -and indeed the localism agenda - to produce the best outcomes, there is a need or structures to be in place to enable meaningul communityengagement in the design and planning process.Within this paper, we examine the support currently available or meaningul community-led planning and make the case or a moresustainable means o providing the resources required to make the process work. In this context, we stress a need to consider the long-termsocial impacts o successul place-making and participation in the planning process and argue that meaningul community participation inneighbourhood planning can generate social capital. We suggest that these positive social outcomes should be captured in terms o publicsavings on costs associated with anti-social behaviour and community ragmentation. This capture o social value should be incentive enoughto invest appropriately in neighbourhood planning as a preventative intervention that can be integral to community regeneration, bothphysical and social.We outline the benets o accounting or and capturing the benets o social value as a long-term priority, but also recognise the need oralternative, short-term solutions that can make a more immediate dierence and explore how a true partnership approach involving multiplestakeholders could be a driver or new models o investment. Furthermore, we demonstrate how neighbourhood planning could provide aplatorm or more robust orms o local control and community empowerment, by producing organised community structures capable o assetownership and management. The ambition o this paper is to prompt a radical re-think o how community-led development is understood by policy-makers, arguing ora more holistic approach to planning, which reects the true social and economic value o building a better built environment and strongcommunities. The legislative process is over and localism is beginning to be put into practice. Much like our local communities, we need toensure we plan or the uture. Only through strong, up-ront backing, can long-term goals be achieved.