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Communities should have a say throughout planning process

Words: Laura Edgar
Getting everyone involved in the planning process / iStock-1092744152

A national charity for the civic movement has urged all political parties to commit to giving communities a ‘meaningful voice’ at every stage of the planning system.

Civic Voice believes that this would create an “accessible, balanced and collaborative (ABC) planning system” to ensure that conversations are had with everyone – not just those who are already engaged.

In its manifesto for the forthcoming general election (12 December), the charity emphasises an urgent need for the rebalancing of power within the planning system.

Joan Humble, chair of Civic Voice, cited research by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, published in July this year, which found that the public lacks trust in the planning system. It suggested that that just 2 per cent of the public trust developers and only 7 per cent have faith in local authorities when it comes to planning for large-scale development.

“We can either ignore this research and carry on as we are and continue to face the same challenges in building the homes the nation needs, or we can accept that the system is not working for local people and do something about it," said Humble.

The manifesto, as well calling for an ‘ABC planning system’, outlines a number of other requests, including:

  • The introduction of a preapplication community consultation stage and a limited community right of appeal into the planning system.
  • A strengthening of statements of community involvement so they are set out in accessible English, and explain how are the local authority and developers will be expected to meaningfully engage with local communities on planning.
  • Introducing an ‘Office for Public Participation’ to oversee standards and consistency in public consultations. For major developments it would be an independent ‘honest broker’ to carry out the preapplication consultation with the local community, removing any perceived conflict of interest for the developer.

Humble explained: “Whether right or wrong, people believe that the decisions impacting their local area are not made locally, but by outside interests, who, once the development has finished, move on. By calling for a meaningful right to participate at every stage of the planning system, we can change this. With the use of new planning technology, there is no reason why this cannot happen.”

Ian Harvey, director of Civic Voice, added: “We have a planning system that may not be completely broken, but it certainly needs rebalancing and fixing to work better for communities. Doing so will ensure we build a modern planning system with communities at the heart. With these changes, we believe we can build the homes that we need and ensure that everyone in England can say, ‘we care about where we live’.”

The manifesto can be found here on the Civic Voice website.

Image credit | iStock