More clarity and resources needed from government, say neighbourhood planning volunteers

Last week, volunteers who produce neighbourhood plans for local housing and the environment came together at a University of Reading event to share their experiences and address the emerging barriers to progress. Gavin Parker, Professor of Planning Studies, explains more.

Our first ever Neighbourhood Planning HIVE event, held on 6 June, was exclusively for those citizen planners active in developing a statutory but volunteer-led Neighbourhood Development Plan. The day was a roaring success with great interaction and learning between participants as well as for the research team. The event centred on four themes:

  • The role and relationship of the Local Planning Authority – in terms of their duty to support citizen planners and the approach taken in this co-produced effort;
  • The evidence base for the plan– what is evidence, how to access or commission this, how to ensure quality and how to use evidence in the plan’s development;
  • Implementation  – how the plan will be used and kept up to date;
  • Support and resources – how citizen planners are assisted, informed, and sustained through what can be a taxing process.

Attendees shared their knowledge, experience and issues involved in the neighbourhood planning process and several overarching matters of concern emerged. The many factors of change that can undermine plans during and after their finalisation loomed large in the debates. More work needs to be done to provide clarity, some certainty and also appropriate resources to sustain neighbourhood planning in the longer term. Unless these issues gain more focused attention from government, neighbourhood planning is likely to founder.

A full report based in part on the HIVE exchanges will be produced over the summer. More information about our research can be found at: www.reading.ac.uk/neighbourhoodplanning

The University of Reading is renowned for its academic research in neighbourhood planning. Research carried out by Professor Parker and Dr Katherine Salter on how neighbourhood planning has progressed and could be altered – including a national survey of neighbourhood planning volunteers – influenced the Neighbourhood Planning Act, passed in April 2017. This act refined the ways in which members of the public can engage with, and develop plans for their local areas.

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