Reforming Planning in England – putting people at the heart of decision making

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The Raynsford Review of Planning in England, the final version of which will be officially launched this evening, says there’s a need for planning to “strike a balanced settlement in which the development needs of our communities are met in the most sustainable ways, and in which all parts of the community have a real voice in the decision-making process.”

Similarly, there have been calls to ensure that the voices of communities are adequately heard within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.

Community consultation isn’t the only subject of the Review of course, but the report findings suggest that communities feel frustrated at their exclusion from affecting decisions that shape their area and wider infrastructure, as well as mistrust of the process and decision-makers.

That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of good examples of developers who have put communities at the heart of consultation, but with so many stakeholders making demands on a project, community wishes can easily be overshadowed by the needs of stakeholders and we’re back to a disenfranchised community reluctant to engage in further well-intentioned consultations.

The Review makes 24 recommendations for the English planning system, including a more people-centred planning system, and next year, further work will be undertaken to see how these recommendations can be taken forward. But would a change in planning law really make a difference?

Without wanting to be cynical, legislation doesn’t create change, it’s people that make change happen and trust plays a big part. That said, well thought out legislation can create a framework that encourages all parties to do things better and that can only be a good thing for our developing towns and cities. But we’ve yet to see how the review develops and if any changes to the planning regime really do help people feel they have a real voice.

Full details of the Raynsford Review can be found here:

Deb Campbell, Account Director