William Eichler 04 October 2021

Think tank calls for more community involvement in local plans

Think tank calls for more community involvement in local plans image

A think tank has called for the setting up of two new national funds to help local communities have more of a say in local plans and to ensure these plans are sustainable.

In a new report, Localis argues that community engagement through better neighbourhood plans, the use of new design codes, and better digital channels of communication between councils and residents, will be vital to achieving national housing targets.

Published in conjunction with the developer Countryside, Building Communities: planning for a clean and good growth future proposes the establishment of a Capacity Fund for neighbourhood planning and a Carbon Offsetting Fund for development.

Overseen at national level, these funds would help address the challenges of generating popular consent for local housing growth, and making new developments both sustainable and commercially viable.

Among other recommendations in the report, Localis and Countryside also called on the Government to amend the Infrastructure Levy to be paid at the point of commencement on site and to include a ringfenced proportion for affordable housing provision.

They also recommended that Health Impact Assessments are included as a requirement in the National Planning Policy Framework and called for a centralised portal where residents can access development plans and decisions for their area.

On top of these recommendations, the report also called for an acknowledgement of the need for a regional approach to new building through the creation of new boards for regional spatial planning.

Localis chief executive, Jonathan Werran, said: ‘Whatever appears in the final planning bill, we have to increase trust and generate genuinely popular consent for local housing growth. This is to ensure that the abundant build out of affordable new homes of mixed tenure, and with it the creation of lasting new communities, remains a sustainable, place-sensitive and commercially viable process.

‘Each actor – central Government, our councils, our communities and developers - will have their part to play in reforming the planning process so that it finally delivers at the required pace and scale the new developments that are both wanted and attainable, and which suit their local culture, economy and environment.

‘To this end, Localis’s report recommends the setting up of two separate national funds to provide firstly greater capacity for neighbourhood planning and the roll out of new design codes, to ensure homes are beautiful and locally popular, and, secondly, to pay for carbon offsetting to deliver green homes fit for the age of net zero.’

Andrew Taylor, group planning director, Countryside, commented: ‘We are delighted to have worked with Localis on this report in supporting the pledge to keep communities at the heart of planning.

‘With community-based participation at its centre, an effective placemaking process can capitalise on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential. This results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people's health, happiness, and well-being.’

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