Rebalancing the planning system: Giving communities a meaningful voice


According to a survey (July 2019), published by property firm Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, it found that that just 2 per cent of the public trust developers and only 7 per cent have faith in local authorities, when it comes to planning for large-scale development. The Grosvenor report was published just 24 hours after the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission's (BBBBC) interim report stated, that the problem with the current planning process is that it “tends to lock people into confrontational views without enabling a constructive dialogue about what’s best for the future” and that the “overwhelming consensus of what we heard to is that citizen involvement comes too late in the planning process to effect anything more than a small adjustment”. Civic Voice wants to change this.

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Both the BBBBC and Grosvenor reports build upon Civic Voice’s own research in March 2019 which asked its members, ‘Who has the most power in the planning system?’ This research concluded that national government (43%) and developers (40%) were viewed by members as the stakeholders holding the most power in the current system. Local people feel as though the decisions that affect their local community are made by people that do not live there.

If the above reports were not damaging enough, recent reports in the media have highlighted a particularly worrying case in Watford whereby the current planning system has allowed the conversion of an industrial building to flats, all of which would be less than half the minimum size for a 1 bed flat and half of the flats would not have windows. A system which cannot prevent poor quality homes such as these being delivered is surely one that should be questioned? Is it any wonder the public think that the current planning system is not working?

There is a long road to recovering trust and placing it on new foundations of transparency, honesty and dialogue. A long road to go on to recover public confidence in the planning system. Our work alone will not be a panacea - not enough on its own to create trust. But it is necessary – because we need a national conversation to ask, ‘Why, 50 years after the Skeffington Review are, we still having these discussions? Why do some people think things have gone so badly wrong?

The mood and environment within the built environment are changing. Join your local civic society as we rebalance the planning system to give communities a meaningful voice at every stage of the planing system.

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