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Putting the public at the heart of planning in London

Centre for London is starting a new programme in partnership with ft’work to strengthen public participation in the planning process.

London badly needs to build more and better homes. The quality and success of development projects depends on the ability of people to be meaningfully and continuously involved in the planning process. Projects work in the long term when they are genuinely engaged with their communities. The Mayor has made ‘good growth’ the overarching framework for development in London. But good growth requires a democratic planning system that is locally embedded and locally led.

Public involvement in planning is not new. The Localism Act (2011) was pivotal in devolving more power to local councils and communities. The introduction of neighbourhood forums under the Act empowered communities to play a direct role in shaping their areas through neighbourhood plans. Currently, London only has 12 completed neighbourhood plans, out of the 542 that exist in the UK. Nine of London’s 33 boroughs are “neighbourhood planning deserts”  with no neighbourhood forums at all. While all local planning authorities are required to have a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) that outlines their approach to engagement with communities, only three per cent of SCIs locally include an explicit commitment to collaboration and co-creation with residents in relation to planning.

Nonetheless there are models we can learn from. Regeneration projects in the London Borough of Newham are rooted in a process of co-production that enrich the collaboration between the local authority, residents, community representatives and architects. Moreover, community land trust campaigns such as those seen in Lewisham demonstrate that community-led initiatives can tackle critical issues such as London’s affordable housing crisis. Lastly, resources such as the Voice Opportunity Power toolkit offers practical guidance on how to engage young people in shaping the way places are built and managed.

The London Mayoral Election next year presents us with the opportunity to assert public involvement in planning as an important policy issue. Together with ft’work, we are building a coalition with architects, developers, local communities and those interested in promoting a more participatory planning system throughout London. To find out more or to share your experiences and knowledge please contact our Researcher Nikita Quarshie.

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Nikita Quarshie is a Researcher at Centre for London. Read more from her here