New rules to help communities block wind farms and supermarkets risk becoming a mere ‘tokenistic tickbox exercise’, architects fear.
The Localism Act gives communities the opportunity to draw up ‘neighbourhood plans’ that councils would have to abide by.
It was hoped the new rules would help stop unpopular development in areas important to the community, such as local parks and green spaces.
The Government also used the localism agenda as a way to justify the controversial National Planning Policy Framework, that the Daily Telegraph and National Trust campaigned to have made into a more community-orientated document.
But the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) believe ‘neighbourhood plans’ will do little to empower local people unless there is more work done to actually engage and educate the community.
The report, written with the think tank ResPublica, describes past neighbourhood consultation processes as ‘tokenistic’ and ‘tickbox exercises’.
To ensure the new rules actually engage communities, the study recommends every council should be forced to bring together businesses, planners and design professions to help neighbourhoods create meaningful plans.
There could even be a ‘Community Right to Invest in Real Estate’ that would give the neighbourhood an incentive to allow development because they will benefit from it financially. This has been particularly successful on the Continent in developing wind farms.
Harry Rich, RIBA Chief Executive said neighbourhood plans will only be effective if local people are educated about good design.
”The costs of bad planning and design are vast. Meaningful community-led planning helps to achieve better design solutions with greater social and economic value and this will only happen through skilled collaboration between communities and design professionals, such as architects. As this report clearly sets out, more support and funding changes will be needed to pave the way if the Government’s Localism aspirations are to become an achievable reality.”
However Greg Clark, the Planning Minister, insisted that professionals, including a charity set up by the Prince of Wales, are already working with councils to ensure neighbourhood plans work.
“Local councils are required to help each neighbourhood develop their plan and over 200 communities across the country are now actively drawing up their plans,” he said.
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