Getting Help with Planning Issues

We attended a conference in November 2015 entitled “The Future of Local Planning – Delivering Effective Planning Services”
There were speakers from Planning Authorities and Universities with Planning Faculties as well as from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Locality, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Planning Inspectorate.

Steve Evison from the DGLC talked about the evidence that Neighbourhood Plans boost the plans for housing building over and above the figures in Local Plans by at least 10% and for them to look at the need for and provision of Starter Homes. He outlined the provisions in the Housing Bill that was working its way through Parliament and suggested that Neighbourhood Planning was a

  • Catalyst for engagement in other community projects
  • “Death knell for NIMBYism” –Brandon Lewis
  • Catalyst for further work
  • Improving relations between Communities and Planners

Emma Critchley from Locality reminded delegates that the My Community website MyCommunity.org.uk is the portal for community rights information and grant programmes funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Grants for Neighbourhood Plans may be available together with a range of advice and guidance.
Locality is the national network of ambitious and enterprising community-led organisations, working together to help neighbourhoods thrive. The Network support organisations to work effectively through best practice on community enterprise, community asset ownership, community rights, collaboration, commissioning support and social action via it’s website at locality.org.uk.

Robert Davis MBE from Westminster City Council and Ian MacKay from Leeds City Council both talked about the challenges and frustrations of planning in the urban environment within the NPPF and the Localism Act. Assisting Neighbourhood Planning Forums and sharing experiences and resources is key to successful plans. They talked about the collaboration, but trust issues with some groups and the lessons learned, in particular: the involvement of consultants, managing expectations, prudent use of Council resources, and a focus on delivery.

Daniel Stone from the Centre for Sustainable Energy talked about the inclusion of energy efficiency in Neighbourhood Plans and the publication of the Low Carbon Neighbourhood Planning Guidebook.

Michael Edwards from the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London talked about the role of education in helping students to become skilled in constructing robust evidence bases for neighbourhood plans and learning listening skills. The School is also involved in producing new methodologies, step-by-step guides and Plain English guides. They have written a research protocol which should help community groups to work with university teams in the future.

John Romanski from the Royal Town Planning Institute Planning Aid team explained that Planning Aid England offers planning advice and support to individuals and communities. They believe everyone should have the opportunity to get involved in planning their local area and provide people with the tools and knowledge to achieve this. They offer five main services and types of support:

  • Free planning advice and guidance – website and advice line
  • Bespoke support for eligible individuals and communities
  • Outreach and capacity building
  • Neighbourhood Planning
  • Online resources and guides

Finally, Steve Quartermain from the Planning Inspectorate outlined the Government planning priorities

  • Getting local plans in place
  • Investment in infrastructure
  • Importance of house building
  • Protecting the green belt
  • Faster and more efficient decision making

He pointed out that 88% of applications are granted locally and only 3.6% of planning decisions go to appeal. Of these 32.5% of appeals are allowed and 98.8% of local decisions stand.
He also highlighted the big issues in examinations as:

  • Duty to co-operate
  • Planning positively to meet needs
  • Objective assessment of needs, especially for housing
  • Five-year housing land supply and buffer
  • Robust Sustainability appraisal
  • Deliverability of plans and commitment to review.
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