Planning: say yes!

My final act of eighteen months at PAS as the Comms Manager is to write a blog about what I’ve learned about planning. I knew next to nothing at the start – now I’m a little bit wiser… but not a lot.

Of course, it’s the large developments that get the headlines – and certainly get the public’s attention. It’s a tough old business. More houses are needed, but hardly anyone would welcome development in their area. But this you all know.

Being a local authority planner could be seen as rather like being a football referee – as long as the decisions go someone’s way they hardly notice the referee; but the moment it doesn’t…

Politics really does get in the way. In a perfect planning world politics would be taken out of planning and ‘vote for me cos I’ll block this’ would be outlawed. (As Adam Dodgshon has previously blogged about.) But this ain’t gonna happen. Sadly.

One of my favourite words is ‘however’. However, local authority planners can and do wear white hats. (However can be such an uplifting word!)

Local authority planners can be involved in some truly inspiring projects and can bring joy to hundreds or even thousands. I live in a new-build flat and I love it… so thanks developers and thanks local authority planners who helped make this happen. Areas can be literally redeveloped. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all those unused horrible looking brownfield or wasteland sites could be something colourful and beneficial to communities – you can make this happen!

Another of my favourite words is ‘yes’. Even better if it’s ‘Yes!’ From what I’ve picked up, it would be great if more often planners said:

– Yes! to pre-app engagement

– Yes! to embracing technology to keep customers informed (which saves time and money)

– Yes! to actively engaging communities on projects

– Yes! to forming regional groups to learn from each other and share best practice

– Yes! to writing more in the style of Hemingway (sparse prose, rather than wordy and rambly)

– Yes! to using the superb (and free) help on offer from PAS. (I couldn’t resist.)

In summary, it can be a frustrating business, for sure, but if you persevere you can help build something long-lasting. And not many folk can say that.


Neighbourhood Planning – more art than science

One of the lovely things about working at PAS is the mix of work. One day I’ll be right in the detail of resourcing planning departments, the next I’ll be helping deliver our horizon-scanning events on planning reform. Another part of the job that I have slowly begun to enjoy is presenting. In order for me to do it well, I’ve learnt I need to believe what I’m saying. And therefore when I had to present our slot on “neighbourhood planning” recently I began by reviewing my thoughts. And then, as often happens, under some robust questions from a very hot floor in Leeds I realised I know even less than I’d hoped.  Continue reading

Wake up to planning

Is now the time that planning will flicker across the radar of Leaders and Chief Executives? We know that some senior executives and politicians are very involved in planning and take it seriously as a tool for managing development and change within their areas. For others, though, it is boring, regulatory, obstructive, and causes problems.

Planning is changing and it can’t have passed Leaders and Chief Execs by. The publication of the draft NPPF has triggered lots of press coverage in the mainstream newspapers.  Latterly this has reflected the ‘National Trust’ row and commentators views that it is the end of open space as we know it, because amongst other things, the presumption in favour of sustainable development.  Capitalise on any awakening interest and talk to them about both the changes and how planning is working now and in the future.

We’ve been thinking about some of the key (printable) questions in response to the draft NPPF. Continue reading

“A neighbourhood plan won’t stop a place from changing”

Last night I went to a neighbourhood meeting to explore the idea of creating a parish council and a neighbourhood plan where I call home in East London.  I don’t know if it was the same old people because it was my first meeting of this kind in Hackney.  Whether these were the usual suspects or not, they knew what they wanted for their place.  They just didn’t seem convinced that another tier of government or a neighbourhood plan was going to make things happen. Continue reading

Neighbourhoods taking developer contributions for sustainability

A ray of hope came forward on the topic of developers and sustainability in the PAS Neighbourhood Planning event yesterday in Bristol.  I was facilitating table discussions on the topic of how planners can support neighbourhood planning. I was keen to see what planners had to say about sustainability and neighbourhood plans. As it turns out, there are already examples of where communities have been vocal about their sustainability aspirations and they’ve been successful in getting developers to deliver them. Continue reading

Neighbourhood planning and sustainability: mutually exclusive?

Popular opinion amongst planners and environmentalists is that neighbourhood planning and climate change don’t go together. But is that necessarily true and what does it mean for the rest of the principles behind localism and planning? In this post I look at choices and decision-making in the context of localism and sustainability. I think there is a way to nudge people into making the best decision for themselves and the planet. Continue reading

Neighbourhood Planning and Big Society

I did a podcast yesterday. It seemed like a good idea at the time – a briefing for councillors that could be tailored for delivery across the land. We do it once, and save a couple of hundred people the headache. The result, I’m afraid, is grim. For those of you that cannot bear to listen to what Mrs Richardprichard describes as my earnestly adenoidal Kent accent, the interesting thing is repeated below. Continue reading