With the support of the Minister for Local Government Greg Clark MP in the UK, ResPublica and RIBA have launched a discussion paper that changes the fundamental system of neighborhood planning by proposing that communities should have a much greater influence and more power in the design process of urban planners. The paper, fittingly titled “Re-thinking Neighbourhood Planning: From consultation to collaboration“, discusses the value of “real community-led planning” in which professionals, developers, local authorities and communities create partnerships in preparation for planning and design work. The report supports community engagement and outreach, investing in the belief that partnerships and collaboration will bring trust and understanding to the relationship between planners and the communities that their policies affect. More on this report after the break.
This report responds to the recent passage of the Localism Act, which transfers power away from big government to local authorities and communities. Localism gives legislators and authorities the opportunity to take a closer look at the neighborhoods that they govern and bring a more tailored response to the needs of different communities. It inspires attentiveness among governing bodies and, as the report points out, is more likely to create stronger and more cohesive communities that can then develop social and economic success. To ensure this meaningful engagement, the report provides suggestions for creating collaborative environments where communities can see the impact that their participation in the process has had. The report also makes it a priority to provide neighborhood forums with resources and support necessary to make the planning programs possible. This includes government funding, the participation of various organizations that provide guidance and expertise for decision-making, and planning for fundraising on a local level that will provide communities with a means of gaining funds in the long-term. The discussion also breaches the topic of social value that comes with participation and collaboration. By offering communities a voice and a forum, it improves community’s internal relationships, as well as its relationships with the governing and planning agencies. And, by offering communities a chance to build their own policies and environments, it creates a sense of responsibility for the maintenance of those spaces. This is termed by the report as “social returns on investment” as a way to measure the social value of Neighborhood Planning and its sustainability within the community. In order to emphasize the possibilities of the Localism Act, the paper suggest two ways in which Neighborhood Planning can be taken to the next level:”A Community Right to General Assets” and “A Community Right to Invest in Real Estate”, both of which suggest ways in which people within a community can become part of the investing and decision-making body. The discussion paper outlines these four proposals as a way to spur on the effectiveness of the Localism Act. It gives a broad look at how community members can work within the realm of the politics and planning of their environments. There are many positive outcomes of collaborating on design and policy through community meetings, design charrettes – even simple methods of outreach such as a suggestion box; anything that gives people a sense that they have a decision-making power and voice in their community. But this report takes a step beyond that and suggests that communities should also have the opportunity to get the return on their investment in more than a social way. It suggests ways in which communities can receive economic returns on their investments, as well. The return to local government is promising and reaffirms a sense of community that big legislative bodies and widespread policies can take away. Download the report here. Via RIBA; Architecture.com Image courtesy of Flickr user Alan Stanton; Licensed under Creative Commons