Published 11th September 2019

‘People Powered Planning’ highlights positive impact of community organising

Launched on 9th September, the new Demos report on community engagement in the planning system – People Powered Planning – highlights the positive impact of community organising in the early stage engagement and consultation of the housebuilding process.

Ben Glover, the author of the report, reflects that throughout Demos’ qualitative research process, they heard that community involvement, engagement, and consultation in the housebuilding process did not happen at a sufficiently early stage. “This means residents often feel the most important decisions about a development have been taken before they are invited to comment, leaving them powerless and unable to influence the shape of the development.”

A key recommendation from the report is that pre-application consultation should be mandatory for major housing developments in England. It also draws attention to the benefit of responsive engagement, including community-led approaches to planning and development. …How to achieve this?  One solution the Demos report highlights is community organising; using the work of community organiser Keith Brown with the Nationwide’s Oakfield development in Swindon as a case study.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Tony Alexander, the Commercial Lending Director of the Nationwide Building Society, said “We found that genuinely involving the local community gains their support for local developments” going on to praise the work of Keith Brown “the great community organiser” as “invaluable”; recommending that “all developers should employ organisers.”

The consultation aimed to better understand exactly what local people wanted from the housing development and what were the most important features of a potential new home for them

Case Study:

In 2017 Nationwide, the world’s largest building society, identified a potential piece of land for a housing development site in Swindon. The land had been left unused by potential developers for ten years.

Nationwide hired a community organiser to consult local people about what kind of housing they wanted for the site. The organiser spoke to people face-to-face across the local neighbourhood, knocking on 600 doors in total. The consultation aimed to better understand exactly what local people wanted from the housing development and what were the most important features of a potential new home for them.

The community organiser heard that parking space and recreational areas were the most important features of the new development for local residents. As a result, the new homes are designed with a relatively high number of parking spaces (1.7 per property) and the development includes routes for dog walking and safer roads.

The consultation period lasted for 18 months and only when this process was complete did Nationwide apply for planning permission. The community organiser will continue to be active throughout the development of the site.

People Powered Planning: How to better involve people in planning to get more homes built by Ben Glover [Demos September 2019].

Read the report here.

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