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21/11/2018

London boroughs urged to update SCIs

Words: Laura Edgar
The boroughs of London / Shutterstock_161147711

Planning authorities in London should take urgent steps to bring their Statements of Community Involvement (SCI) up to date with requirements laid out in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017.

A report by Neighbourhood Planners.London concludes that every London planning authority except for Lambeth has so far “failed to note” or “chosen to ignore” new measures in the act.

The measures were designed to strengthen neighbourhood planning as a community-led part of the English planning system.

SCIs were introduced in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and they form part of the statutory documents in local plans. Seven boroughs that prepared a SCI subsequent to 2004 have not made revisions since 2006-2008. These are: Bexley, Hillingdon, Kingston, Lewisham, Merton, Redbridge, and Southwark.

This suggests to Neighbourhood Planners.London that the SCI is not seen as being useful for community engagement, as the government had intended.

Other authorities have updated their SCIs once, some twice, to reflect the Localism Act 2011 and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Section 6 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act requires that a SCI should set out a planning authority’s policies for giving advice or assistance for making neighbourhood development orders and the modification of neighbourhood plans. This came into force on 31 July 2018.

Weighing against the case that it is just ‘early days’, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill included the provisions from September 2016 and they were enacted in April 2017. London’s planning authorities could have made it clear on the neighbourhood planning section of their websites what their intentions were for updating their SCI, or outlined what advice and assistance would be offered, according to Neighbourhood Planners.London.

Lambeth is noted as being the only council to comply with the new legislation: it adopted an eight-page addendum to its SCI in August 2018. Other authorities are acknowledged to have published information on the advice and assistance they provide – Brent, Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Neighbourhood Planners.London also says some boroughs have reviewed or are reviewing their SCIs, but none has taken the opportunity to incorporate advice and assistance to neighbourhood forums or tried to meet the measures in the Neighbourhood Planning Act.

The organisation concludes that the government’s aims to use SCI as a vehicle to raise awareness and provide clarity to the public on the duty of support have not been met in London. Further, the evidence suggests that many London planning authorities remain unenthused about the potential of the neighbourhood planning framework.

Expounding on its findings, Neighbourhood Planners.London makes several recommendations, including:

  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should update relevant paragraphs of National Planning Practice Guidance to include the requirement for five-yearly reviews of SCI, and the addition to their content of ‘policies for advice and assistance’ on neighbourhood planning and on arrangements for the modification of neighbourhood plans.
  • London planning authorities should take urgent steps to bring their SCIs into line with these requirements, particularly in cases where SCIs have not been updated since 2006-8.
  • Neighbourhood Planners.London will write to the Monitoring Officers of all those London planning authorities which have failed to a) update their SCIs within the past five years and/or b) failed to include in their SCI the content required by Section 6 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, reminding them that this is information which the public should be able to access readily and without further delay.

The report can be found here on the Neighbourhood Planners.London website (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock

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