How can the Government's plans to bring business into the heart of neighbourhood planning work with communities

Darren Hill mail at
Wed Jul 6 12:10:48 BST 2011

How can the Government's plans to bring business into the heart of 
neighbourhood planning work with communities asks Tony Burton, Director 
of Civic Voice

"The [Localism] Bill will enact new rights allowing local people to 
shape and influence the places where they live, revolutionising the 
planning process by passing power down to those who know best about 
their neighbourhoods."

Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark MP, 13 December 2010

Seven months is a long time in legislation. It was only last December 
that the Localism Bill was published amid a fanfare of radical 
decentralisation, communities "in control" and a "power shift" to those 
who know their areas best. New radical rights to draw up neighbourhood 
plans were unveiled and communities pricked up their ears and wondered.

One Budget and seven months of lobbying later things are looking very 
different. The rights to draw up neighbourhood plans remain. They can 
also cross council boundaries and fit what communities want rather than 
the accidents of administration. But the very purpose of planning itself 
is now being called into question. With the Localism Bill now being 
hotly debated in the House of Lords it is time to reflect on what the 
changes might mean.
 From a focus on communities we are now seeing business put 
centre-stage. Planning policy is to be "pro growth", the default answer 
to development is "yes" , all planning decisions must take account of 
"local finance considerations" and neighbourhood forums can be 
established to prepare plans with the sole purpose of 
"promoting....businesses". Ministers have even backed a series of 
business-led neighbourhood plans which trust Business Improvement 
Districts from which even many businesses are excluded (let alone 
communities) to take the lead in their area. Will it be Tesco and not 
the community which takes the lead in the new era of localised planning?

Yet, anyone who has thought for even a moment about how to improve their 
area knows that the best outcomes can only be achieved where business 
and communities come together. Communities need the economic nous and 
investment only business can provide and business needs the knowledge 
and dynamism of communities which can also provide its market and its 
workforce. Locally there are fabulous examples of civic societies and 
local chambers of commerce working hand in hand to improve their area, 
give it a better identity and make it a better place to live and do 
So where do we go from here? How do we tackle the mismatch in power and 
resources, build the trust and provide the support which creates a new 
alchemy between communities and business for the benefit of us all.

Level the playing field - all neighbourhood plans should be for the 
social, economic and environmental well being of everyone living and 
working in an area none for business alone

Provide the support - communities need much more support and advice and 
the business community would do well to consider Ministerial urging to 
establish a foundation to support communities develop their knowledge of 
land economics and the development process

Front-runner communities - a programme of community front-runner 
neighbourhood plans is needed to pilot the new approaches and go 
alongside the local authority and business-led front runners already 

Make development plans sovereign - communities need guarantees that the 
time and effort they invest in a neighbourhood plan will not be wasted 
by seeing planning permission given for development which rides 
roughshod over their efforts - appeal rights for departure applications 
should be curtailed and a community right of appeal introduced where a 
local authority grants consent for a conflicting development which has 
not won community consent
Protect local services - the role of the planning system in supporting 
diversity in the High Street and a town centre first approach should be 
strengthened by requiring express planning consent for changes of use 
away from valued local shops - such as greengrocers and butchers - and 
services - such as post offices and pubs

Despite the cracks, the glass remains steadfastly half full on localism. 
Savvy businesses too know that their success increasingly relies on the 
trust and support of their communities. The opportunities are too great 
to turn away now.

Civic Voice is the national charity of the civic movement. Established 
in April 2010 it champions and supports the network of hundreds of 
volunteer-led community based civic societies across England. Civic 
volunteers are the most numerous participants in the planning system. <>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list