London needs to better involve the public in planning – this is what the next Mayor can do.
As London approaches a mayoral election, all the candidates agree on one thing: London needs to continue building. We need more affordable homes, and we need to remodel and regenerate our high streets, town centres, homes and workspaces as our working, shopping and eating habits change, if we are going to become a fair, green, thriving city.
But planning the changes that our city needs cannot be done without overhauling public participation. Too many Londoners feel shut out from the process of urban change, and too many new developments fail to properly involve local people. The result is an erosion of trust, and new buildings and places that could be so much better.
The London Plan has the potential to galvanise and support effective community involvement and so create a better city, but the next Mayor must do more to put these ideas into action. This manifesto proposes five ways for them to do that.
1. Demonstrate leadership and champion democracy
How: Publish a draft Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement that builds on the strong ideas in the current London Plan and is itself subject to the exemplary public involvement that it embodies, and establish Mayoral Community Advocates who can support public involvement at every stage of the process.
Why: Having a say in how our areas look, feel and operate is a democratic right, and must be upheld even more so for people who currently feel cut off from decision making. There are excellent intentions in the London Plan, but they must be given proper weight, and more work is needed to put them into action.
2. Fund and build skills
How: Provide funds for a multidisciplinary training programme for local authority officers, councillors and community champions to ensure they work effectively with local people to develop and enhance plans. Establish support funds for community organisations alongside the resourcing of local authorities.
Why: Effective, collaborative engagement that is consistent across all of London requires time and resources. It’s hard for local authorities to do this with their current funding and staffing.
3. Establish a knowledge base
How: Commit to regularly reviewed and updated place-based audits and engagement processes that value and understand what already exists. These should be carried out with local people so there is local knowledge and experience at their core.
Why: Local people, organisations and businesses understand the richness and potential of their areas. Their knowledge provides a valuable baseline for positive change: engagement should build on this existing knowledge rather than trying to recreate it.
4. Create incentives
How: Develop and launch an accreditation scheme for London local planning authorities and developers that sets standards and recognises and rewards good public and community engagement, similar to the Good Work Standard.
Why: Establishing benchmarks with what good public and community engagement in planning looks like promotes best practice, provides an incentive for developers to deliver – and fund – good community engagement and supports long-term stewardship.
5. Provide scrutiny
How: Setup a scorecard to help London’s councillors assess the quality of community engagement in applications presented to them at planning committees.
Why: Rebuilding trust between communities, local authorities and developers requires greater openness. Supporting good and transparent decision making is an important part of this.