Church wants to see more popular participation in local planning

By staff writers
September 8, 2007

Local people’s access to the planning system should not be sacrificed simply to speed up decision making and planning legislation should tackle the proliferation of gated communities, the Church of England has warned the Department for Communities and Local Government.

“Good community relations are a vital part of planning sustainable settlements and their consideration should always be part of the planning process”, it says in a recent submission to the government.

Responding to the White Paper 'Planning for a Sustainable Future', the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church of England’s Bishop with responsibility for Urban Life and Faith, and chair of its Urban Bishops’ Panel, stressed the importance of accessibility in the planning system.

“If there is to be public confidence in the planning system, accessibility is a key issue”, he declares.

The Anglican bishop has welcomed the White Paper’s commitment to Planning Aid but added: “We do not believe, however, that accessibility should be sacrificed for speed. We hope consideration will be given to how effective full participation can be ensured at the ‘open floor’ stage of inquiries.”

The submission on the White Paper from the Urban Bishops’ Panel argues: “We have recently welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement regarding participatory budgeting at neighbourhood and local authority level and would hope that some consideration can be given to similar participatory processes being in place for community planning. Speed of decision should not be at the expense of consultation or the engagement of the community in the planning process.”

At the heart of any large scale planning needs to be commitment to a sustainable community life. The bishops’ submission stresses the need to strengthen section 106 on planning gain and other provisions for community facilities as part of the strategic overview of the viability and potential of any new development.

“While we applaud the government’s commitment to ‘creating sustainable mixed communities’, we believe that planning legislation should tackle the proliferation of gated communities and similar developments, which have no spatial or social relationship with local communities,” the bishops say.

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