Further to the last post another area where some real community engagement is needed is over architecture. All too often the views of local people are ignored and councillors are bounced into accepting some brutalist design from architects actually encouraged by planning officers to come up with something ugly. This makes it harder to get popular support for the new homes that are needed.
I went to a conference of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment in February – which I wrote about here. They do excellent work and I am delighted that they have been given a grant of £800,000 grant by the Department of Communities and Local Government. The Foundation will be receiving one quarter of the total amount in the grant from the Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning Scheme. Although modest given the extent of the challenge the money for "interaction with local communities in the United Kingdom" should provide not just a powerful check on ugliness but an effective midwife to beauty. turning Nimbys into Yimbys is not just about money. It is about an offer of attractive new buildings that the local community would actually enjoy looking at.
The DCLG has set up the Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning Scheme to encourage organizations to provide guidance for communities in the planning system for their local area free of charge. The Government wants to create more of a discussion between the planners and the people of the area so the development that takes place will be a better reflection of the needs of the local community and inspire a greater civic responsibility.
The Prince’s Foundation has much experience in working with local communities in the planning process, with a wide range of national and international projects that seek input from the local people. The Foundation thinks this community engagement is an important part of the design process, to ensure that the new creations are loved and used by its inhabitants.
Hank Dittmar, the Chief Executive of the Prince’s Foundation, said:
“The Prince’s Foundation has long been an advocate of the importance of community engagement and we are delighted to have been awarded such a significant proportion of the Communities and Neighbourhood Planning Grant.”
“Empowering local communities is now a welcome part of the planning process, and this grant will enable The Prince’s Foundation to use its extensive track record to help people plan in a positive way for growth and better neighbourhoods.”
The grant will enable The Prince’s Foundation to offer three different planning tools at no cost to communities who usually wouldn’t be able to afford this opportunity. The first tool is a Community Planning Diagnosis which is a two day workshop where community representatives meet to discuss scoping, proposals for change and analysis of potential funding, facilitated by The Foundation.
The second is a Planning Reset, where local communities are engaged with developers and local authority in scenarios where planning proposals are in dispute because of the lack of previous communication with the community or lack of consideration of environmental or traffic implications.
The third tool offered by the Foundation would be an Enquiry by Design which is used to promote a rapid decision making process for large scale planning issues, like neighbourhood planning, with the local authority, developer, landholder, community representatives and technical consultants at the outset of the design process.
The Prince’s Foundation is enthusiastic for the opportunities this grant will give to reach out to more communities in the UK. Through these three planning tools, we hope to have people feel a connection to their built environment around them.