Anyone that was at the Civic Voice conference will know that Joan Humble, Civic Voice Chair, said in her speech that Civic Voice encourages civic societies to learn from groups such as Leeds and Sheffield who regularly engage with architects and developers, encouraging them to present their proposals to the civic society for feedback. Joan highlighted that more civic societies should be trying to make this happen and establish community design reviews! Joan’s statement was in the context of the recent changes to the NPPF, and how can we achieve more meaningful engagement.
“Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.” (para 128). (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/779764/NPPF_Feb_2019_web.pdf )
Taking forward Joan’s comments, many civic societies have responded to our Building Better survey and suggested further ways for Civic Voice to help formalise the role of communities in the planning system. We have developed one of the ideas suggested (below) and we would welcome feedback.
When the Civic Voice Regional Forum met in September, one of the key messages to the Civic Voice board was that Civic Voice should be highlighting as many examples as possible of “effective community engagement” and not recommending a single approach. We have an APPG for Civic Societies meeting now taking place on March 27th that will discuss, Public Participation in the Planning System. We now need civic societies across England to suggest good examples of effective community engagement between developers and the community.
We know that many local Civic Society committees hold meetings with developers and they, the committee, give their views on the proposed development. The Regional Forum believe that standardising a Civic Movement Design Review, building on from what civic societies already do, is an opportunity not to be missed for civic societies as it can be a positive way of engaging and influencing proposed new development for the better. Our ethos is to encourage the community, through groups such as civic societies, to proactively and positively engage with developers and their teams. Civic societies contributing to the planning process is a cost-effective and efficient way to facilitate community-led design.
The work of civic societies across the country is exactly what the country needs to deliver 3million+ homes. What we need now is to formalise the work of the civic movement so that we become more organised on planning and housing. We know that some societies are in need of support to develop skills and expertise to manage increasingly complex planning applications. We want to support civic societies, neighbourhood forum and other community groups to do this. We take the lessons and examples directly to Minister and the Government.
This appears to be a positive step in the right direction and something Civic Voice will be highlighting so that other communities can have examples of effective meaningful engagement.