October 6, 2020
Deja vu planning
As always seems to be the way with legislation, the devil is in the detail and now that the high level arguments that surrounded the Planning Act are out the way (the most amended piece of legislation in the history of the Scottish Parliament) the real arguments can begin about the detail and where that devil is hiding. Local Place Plans have been heralded as the way to give communities much more traction in the planning process. We argued that to all intents and purposes, this was an old idea with a new name. Yet to be persuaded otherwise.
Background to Community Action Planning
Community led action planning is a tried and tested way of setting out a vision for a community with an accompanying set of actions to be delivered over time.
It is a participatory tool aimed at not only developing that plan, but, in the process, building the capacity of the residents of a community so that there is the skills, confidence, resources and resilience to implement that plan with minimal external support.
It is not meant to articulate what a community is like, but to stimulate change and action. The action plan will be set out in response to the needs, challenges and gaps in a community and the implementation plan will be rooted in the assets of a community.
Under an aspirational statement about what people want the community to be like in an achievable future, there is detail about what will be done, who will do it, how it will be resourced and how it will be undertaken.
It is often led by one group, (often an over-arching community anchor organisation, development trust or community council) but delivery is the responsibility of the whole community and not that one organisation. As a result, a good plan will see existing organisations stepping up to the plate, and new organisations forming.
There has been a range of iterations of the process including community led action planning, consultant led community research, development frameworks and master planning, landscape appraisals, townscape appraisals and co-design charrettes
The most recent re-articulation of community plans are Local Place Plans. In 2017 The Scottish Government introduced the Planning (Scotland) Bill. The Bill introduces a new right for communities to produce Local Place Plans.
The objective of a Local Place Plan is to “significantly enhance engagement in development planning, effectively empowering communities to play a proactive role in defining the future of their place”.
Spatial or ‘development planning’ includes things like housing, public facilities, business growth, use of land or buildings, roads, flooding, energy, recreation, paths and other infrastructure which impact on people. A good plan should ideally merge these approaches, containing both community consultation and project development, but also a vision for the physical place using design techniques.
Whatever the current strategic drivers, it is vital to develop effective, efficient ways to enable local people to drive change in their own communities.
The Making Places initiative was a (now closed) Scottish Government fund to resource communities to undertake Local Place Plans. Though they are community controlled there is an acknowledgement that communities often need sensitive support and facilitation to undertake this work.
A blend of local knowledge gained through lived experience, combined with objective specialist technical support, can build both consensus and clear evidence to achieve robust community action plans that will make a difference over time.