Press Release: Help Civic Voice raise to undertake a public poll on power in the planning system

Civic Voice – the national charity for the civic society movement – is today launching a fundraising campaign to help support an independent opinion poll, to help understand the public’s perception on who they think has the power in the planning system.

We need your help to raise £5,000 to support this opinion poll in what we expect to become an annual survey to measure the general public’s opinion and perception on how Government policy is helping to push planning powers down to communities.

You can donate to the fundraising campaign here.

The results will be published on April 21st at a Parliamentary meeting when policy makers and MPs gather to discuss How do can put public participation in placemaking at the heart of local decision making? Register here.


As part of a 2019 campaign to rebalance the power in the planning system, we surveyed 750 of our members (see chart opposite) and they felt that the power in the planning system was split between “House Builders” and “Central Government”. Do you agree?

When we shared these results at a Parliamentary event, one-well known housing developer said to us at the time: “Well your members would say that, they are the usual suspects, but others will think differently”.

Building on from this feedback, we want to appoint an independent polling organisation to give us a more thorough, extensive and completely independent survey to find out from the wider public; Who do they think has the power in the planning system?

Will a wider poll of the public think the same? We don’t know, but we want to investigate it with your support! By crowdfunding for this, it will be a truly independent survey – not linked to any think-tank or any profession. Just a genuine opportunity to find out what the public think!

At Civic Voice we believe that power is closely associated with trust and according to a survey published by property firm Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, the public lacks trust in developers and the planning system. The survey, conducted in March 2019, by YouGov survey comprised 15 closed questions, to which 2,183 members of the public responded. 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. Whilst not a complete revelation, when combined with the Veracity index from Ipsos Mori (see image below), you can see that when asked what professions we trust, the public view local councillors in the bottom half. These are key individuals when it comes to making decisions about planning applications.

Veracity Index 2019


In our view, power and trust are both connected. The challenge is fitting this into such a complex system, it is hard to know who really has the power – and who should have the power – but we have ended up in a situation whereby communities now believe that the people who hold the power, are also the people they do not trust! Is it any wonder we see confrontation when trying to decide where to put the homes of the future.

Trust and power are closely connected. Trust is important because it is the basis around which all human relationships revolve. Without trust there can be no relationship. … Trust is important because if you don’t trust someone then it can be difficult to create an environment where you want to respect and follow a decision. You might be asking, why are they suggesting this way? Asking ‘what is in it for them” and ‘how are they getting one over on me may be sensible’.

Our long-term vision is to devolve power in the planning system to the Civic Voice Manifesto Jpeople who live and work in an place. In a modern society, we should be able to trust citizens to make the appropriate decisions, when presented with the evidence – and take it away from local party politics. To achieve this, we need to redefine the planning system, embrace planning technology and accepted that citizens must have a greater voice beyond the ballot box. We need to evolve how we do things so that decision making through publication participation is at the heart of placemaking and decision making. We believe we can achieve this through an ABCD Planning System: Accessible, Balanced, Collaborative and more Democratic.

What will it take for more local authorities to have trust & confidence in the role of community groups and people who live in a place to make local decisions? Is it because councils/councillors think they might lose power? It is because the political structures that exist will be weakened. Will people see issues and not politics?

We believe that moving power from Whitehall and The Town Hall to a local Community Hall will increase trust, restore balance and make the system more accessible for all.

First, we need to raise £5000 to cover the cost of a public opinion poll. Please help us by donating here.