By Edward Vaudin, Town Planning Assistant, Planning House
Think about where you live, where is your local shop? Where is the nearest park? Where can you get something nice to eat? Are these places easy to get to? You would probably like to improve things where you live, maybe there needs to be more shops or things to do. Once you start thinking about these improvements, where would you put them? Where can they go?
Apply this to other aspects of your local area like new homes for the growing population and you will start to realise how many important questions need to be answered about the places we live; these places have communities that have and will exist for years to come.
People are in general passionate about where they live. However, are they fully aware that the decisions made on ‘what goes where’ could impact the community for generations?
Over time, different people have voiced their ideas, some have succeeded, and some have failed, but throughout we have come together to work on a system that supports everyone, everywhere. As much as I find people passionate about the places they live, they see planning as somewhat of a mystery or a barrier. So, what is the system? What is town planning?
Town planning is what controls how we build our neighbourhoods, our towns, our cities, how we build our surroundings. Importantly how we shape our communities. Town planning sets guidelines to make sure developments do not have adverse effects on their surroundings. It also protects listed buildings – buildings that we have deemed important to heritage, culture and history. It is also important to protect our green spaces and countryside. Imagine if there were no rules on where you could build! Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty could be disrupted with inappropriate development and habitats could be destroyed, driving away nature.
National planning policy is laid out in the National Planning Policy Framework; it provides guidance for how local plans should be made and how to approach supporting local needs by promoting sustainable development in terms of economic, social and environmental needs.
Of course, planning is a complicated machine with many cogs turning away at different speeds, meaning planning is controlled by different bodies at varying levels dependant on where you are. Town planning is mostly handled at a local level of government. Typically, local government has three tiers:
-District, Borough and City Councils;
-Parish and Town Councils.
Most planning matters are handled by the second tier of councils; this can vary from place to place. Areas that have parish or town councils can provide more location specified plans called neighbourhood plans which form part of policy that are used to make decisions in planning.
Communities generally have Councillors to represent people and their aspirations in terms of how a place develops. Councillors may sit on planning committees to make decisions on planning applications and local plans, but all of us are responsible for shaping the area we live.
In my opinion engagement is the key to shaping communities without it the Town Planning system fails to be effective. If you’re asked for your views on a proposal or an emerging local plan take time to think of your vision for the area and needs of the community and have your voice heard by participating.
PLANNING HOUSE can be contacted on 07944844882 / firstname.lastname@example.org or by visitingplanninghouse.co.uk