Kate Parminter: There should be compulsory community engagement before planning process begins

Public consultation meeting photo by Craik Sustainable Living Project CCL FLickrThis week, Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter took place in a debate organised by the Town and Country Planning Association on the subject of planning for people. She emphasised the importance of engaging communities at every stage in the planning process:

Parminter said a number of local authorities still have a problem with local plans and with giving planning permission by appeal. This does not, she said, offer any incentive or encouragement to local communities to “think that a neighbourhood plan is going to work for them because they see in so many areas that it about planning by appeal. Therefore, the mood is not conducive to more planning”.

Parminter said Liberal Democrats are “struck by the need” for formal community engagement early in the planning process. While neighbourhood planning is something that can be built on, it isn’t a formal enough way to engage the community in a large development to ensure that the design is right, that the needs of the community are met, not just the need for more housing.

“I would like to see a form of compulsory requirement put on developers to go through various pre-application engagement similar to charrette-based approaches.”

She added that there seems to be “very much a disparity between the rights of developers and the rights of the local communities”.

Parminter highlighted that during the coalition government, the Liberal Democrats were unable to persuade the Conservatives that allowing a right of appeal for communities was the route to follow, although the impetus for it was growing and the party would push for it.

She said local planning should be continued and built on, community engagement should be strengthened, and a democratic right of appeal should be looked at for the end of the process.

“But crucially, let’s have the right political signals coming from the centre.”

You can read more about the event, and see what the other speakers had to say, here, at The Planner.

Photo by Craik Sustainable Living Project

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  • Adele Morris 23rd Jan '16 - 11:48am

    There is already provision in the Localism Act for pre application community consultation on large developments, however it often consists of public exhibitions and ‘leading’ questionnaires that then form the “statement of community involvement”. I have seen one team of consultants present a scheme multiple times to various community groups and still not change the one thing that everyone has raised as an issue. I would love to see compulsory charrette style engagement (note the word engagement rather than consultation) involving residents, officers, councillors, businesses.
    I’m sorry to have missed that event as I would have taken Helen Hayes MP to task. She might have talked the talk but she is a councillor in the Labour administration at London Borough of Southwark, who are notoriously top down where development is concerned. The planning committee (of which I am a member) never overturns an officer recommendation on a large development, no matter how many policies are broken or how badly it affects the local community.

  • David Evershed 23rd Jan '16 - 1:33pm

    Recent court cases have shown that Neighbourhood Plans can be ignored.

    This needs to be put right by parliament before everyone stops bothering to put the significant local effort constructing such plans.

  • Tony Greaves 24th Jan '16 - 4:01pm

    One real problem is that the really important decisions are taken in the Local Plan process which is so long drawn-out, bureaucratic and technocratic, and involves so many fat documents and millions of words, that its consultation processes are dominated by developers and citizens/residents/local people find it impossible to follow (even if they realise its going on). Add most Councillors to that list. Then when a planning application is made, there is an eruption of public involvement – opposition, anger, bewilderment – and it’s too late. Everyone goes through the motions but in the end the developers win.

    Now the Housing and Planning Bill (starting in the Lords with second reading on Tuesday, after being passed by the Commons) is going to make it even harder with only the “technical details” of large schemes decided by planning applications, and the “principle” of development for housing decided before anyone gets involved, replacing the present outline applications. More top-down planning, localism left for the bits and pieces. Watch out for uproar after it’s all too late (with this Bill and with future development proposals).

    Tony Greaves

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