IN the past, if the public wanted to protest about a new development the choices were limited. However, two recent pieces of reform are aiming to change that.
The Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) have both been designed to give more power to the people when it comes to developers being granted planning approval on new schemes.
As it stands, there are some significant flaws in the planning system. Planning doesn't give members of the public enough influence over decisions that make a big difference to their lives. Too often, power is exercised by people who are not directly affected by the decisions they are taking. This means that people often resent what they see as decisions and plans being foisted on them. The result is a confrontational and adversarial system. With this in mind, while plans sound good in theory, can they ever truly work in practice?
The Localism Act gives a new right for communities to draw up a 'neighbourhood development plan'. Neighbourhood planning will allow communities to come together through a local parish council or neighbourhood forum and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go. They will have powers to grant planning permission, which should make development quicker. .
To support communities in achieving these objectives the NPPF was then released, meaning successful developers will now have to deploy a community-focused local approach.
It will no longer be enough for developers to just demonstrate how many people they have successfully communicated with. They are now expected to develop full and robust community engagement procedures, to ensure they have responded pro-actively and captured the opinions of all consultees.
With more power in the hands of people, developers will have to do much more than simply go through the motions to convince people their development deserves a space in the community at all. There is no set and fast formula for how localism will play out but one thing is for sure, there are going to be a lot more peoples' opinions to factor into the decision.
Bradley O'Mahoney in conjunction with Constructing Excellence North East is holding a seminar on The Localism Act and Community Engagement on Tuesday June 26. For more information please contact Leanne McAngus at email@example.com
Daniel O'Mahoney, Newcastle-based Bradley O'Mahoney Public Relations