A new report from ResPublica and The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) calls for greater formal recognition of community priorities and requirements in the planning process, which would include social aspirations, environmental values and financial stakes. The discussion paper argues that involving communities in neighbourhood planning on a collaborative, rather than purely consultative basis will not only lead to a more successful and meaningful process, but can also generate social capital and value: stronger and more cohesive communities.
Launched today by Minister for Local Government Greg Clark MP, the ResPublica and RIBA report says that neighbourhood planning should be led by the values of local people. Residents should be able to decide their local priorities in a collaborative process enabled by experts such as architects, together with local businesses, developers and the local authority, and formalised in a "Neighbourhood Value Agreement."
The report urges government to consider the potential for a "Community Right to Invest in Real Estate" and recommends a consultation should be carried out into how local communities can capitalise on future gains of the property development sector.
The report is critical of past neighbourhood consultation processes, which it describes as "tokenistic" and "tickbox exercises." To avoid frustration and distrust in planning objectives from local residents, the report advocates a process which involves support and advice for communities from impartial experts.
The report also says that successful place-making and participation in the planning process can be "captured" in terms of public savings on costs associated with anti-social behaviour and community fragmentation.
The report recommends that:
- The benefits of good design and meaningful community engagement should be recognised as a measurable social outcome
- Government should appoint an independent panel of experts to define the metrics and structures required to capture the social value created though the neighbourhood planning process
- An evidence base from Local Authorities should be used by the Government in order to extend the "community budgets" programme and to create a new "Total Neighbourhood" approach
- The government should make a "Neighbourhood Partnership Agreement" between residents, local business, local authorities, developers, and design professionals a statutory requirement for every Neighbourhood Plan
"The costs of bad planning and design are vast. Meaningful community-led planning helps to achieve better design solutions with greater social and economic value and this will only happen through skilled collaboration between communities and design professionals, such as architects," commented Harry Rich, RIBA Chief Executive. "As this report clearly sets out, more support and funding changes will be needed to pave the way if the government's Localism aspirations are to become an achievable reality."