Neighbourhood Planning at Locality Convention ‘17

Posted on the 24th November 2017

Miss the Neighbourhood Planning workshop at Locality Convention ’17? John Wilkinson, Neighbourhood Planning Officer at Locality gives us an overview of the session, with an update on neighbourhood planning across England.

It was great to be at my first ever Locality Convention and to get to speak to so many people from across the country, not just about neighbourhood planning but about a range of ventures which Locality members and others across the country are working on. That being said, the highlight for me was the neighbourhood planning session that colleagues and I had organised.

Neighbourhood planning – unpick some of the challenges neighbourhood planners are facing

The session kicked off with an update on neighbourhood planning across England from our new Head of Neighbourhoods and Housing, Steve Hoey. Here are some quick highlights from Steve’s update:

  • Around 2,200 groups have started a neighbourhood plan since 2012
  • 410 successful referendums have taken place with an average ‘yes’ vote of 88%
  • In the current 2015-18 support programme Locality have been able to approve over 2,600 grants and technical support packages.

Following Steve’s update, we heard from our guest speaker Geoff Duck. Geoff is a member of the CR3 Forum in Tandridge District, Surrey. The forum was established by four neighbouring parishes – Chaldon, Caterham-on-the-Hill, Caterham Valley and Whyteleafe – all just South of London, but within the M25.

Geoff spoke in detail about the forum’s draft plan, which is nearing submission stage. Though Geoff and his forum have a good understanding of what they can address through neighbourhood planning policy, like a number of groups around the country, they have expanded their efforts to focus on some wider issues.

Within the neighbourhood plan document itself, sections which cover non-land-use issues may be termed ‘aspirational projects’. These are separate from the statutory policies in the neighbourhood plan.

I hope it was clear to those attending that there is no guarantee that such aspirational non-land-use matters will have any influence. Issues such as traffic management or waste disposal (for example) are outside of the scope of land-use planning so there is no requirement for the relevant authorities to consider them. However, as Geoff explained CR3 are ambitious enough to want to tackle matters outside of the scope of the legislation.

After Geoff’s presentation, we opened up the session for questions and discussion. The conversation covered topics like housing tenure, areas with high levels of deprivation, sustainability, CIL and delivery of plans once they have been brought into force.

Then we split into groups to workshop some ideas for overcoming challenges to neighbourhood planning consultation. This is an area a lot of groups can struggle with, but many are coming up with some exciting and innovative solutions.

Groups were treated to a ‘neighbourhood planning consultation challenge cupcake’ and given three envelopes with challenges contained within.

Groups were made-up of those who had direct experience of running a neighbourhood planning consultation, those with no experience and others who were keen to share experiences of similar programmes in places like Ulster and Scotland (where there is no neighbourhood planning level).

At the end of the session, each group reported back to the room about what they’d discussed.

Challenges

  • Language barriers
  • Low response rate
  • Engaging with the older generation
  • Engaging with the younger generation
  • Time poor
  • Cost
  • Can’t leave home
  • Consultation fatigue
  • Not confident to speak
  • Lack of identity (urban forum only)
  • Mistrust in developers/planning
  • Nobody listens/why bother

Groups discussed strategies such as using neighbours when doing door knocking and tailoring the style and approach of the consultation depending on who was being consulted. Social media was an obvious way of targeting a lot of people in a short space of time, but getting content right was still important. Working in schools or at knitting groups were two ways of reaching those at different ends of the age spectrum, but those in the room also felt intergenerational working was a really important way of getting the policy right.

There were many other ideas and conversations that started to stretch beyond just the challenges we’d given them. One thing many people in the room highlighted was the importance of ensuring planning is as inclusive as possible and communicating to people how much of a stake they can have in the future of their community.

John Wilkinson, Neighbourhood Planning Officer at Locality.

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