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More planning required to overcome nimbyism

Nimby protest against development

Planners need more resources to carry our better consultation in order to deal with resistance to development, argues Hannah David

Reports of angry individuals reacting to a planning application are commonplace in our local and national media. Anyone attending a planning committee meeting is almost guaranteed to witness local objectors vociferously arguing their objections.

Objectors most often fit into two categories – those with a genuine concern that the proposed development is not for the good of the wider community and location, and those who are there to protect their own interests – Nimbys.

Retaining the democratic character of planning is fundamental, but there is an urgent need to address the distortion of the process by the Nimby. If self-interested objections take priority over big-picture planning, there will be few winners.

We need to get communities onside when it comes to development. Planners, decision-makers and developers must take part of the blame for the rise of anti-development attitudes. 

“Good, well-mediated processes produce consensual planning”

Heavy-handed approaches to development (questionable planning decisions that deliver poor-quality and inappropriate schemes; tick-box consultation processes; and a lack of emphasis on design) have engendered a culture of distrust in the system, and resentment in communities.

Working with communities to garner support for development would go a long way to countering the fears these objectors sustain. Good, well-mediated processes produce consensual planning outcomes and collaborative working will require all stakeholders to move beyond the individual interests towards a common goal.

Selfish concern about the perceived impact on property values and amenities is trickier to deal with. It is often unjustified and not a planning consideration. What this more importantly highlights is the desperation that some objectors reach.

Educating our communities about the advantages development can bring and re-looking at the direct benefits that can be delivered through planning gain is a step that local planning authorities can take.

The problem that Nimbyism presents is one that requires us to get behind the planning system as a driver of economic development and a mechanism for excellence in placemaking.

We must equip cash-strapped local planning authorities with the resources that they need to engage in proper consultation.

We must produce plans that draw on the views of local people and project a vision for the future. Well-informed local plans – drawing on a deep knowledge of what people want – should be enforced rigorously through the development process and act as a bulwark against the sectional interests of Nimbys.

Hannah David is director of the Planning Futures think tank

Photo | Shutterstock


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