Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Rick Long MRTPI (L 59)

I am a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and have been an active Planning Aid volunteer since 1992.

During that time, I have seen the effectiveness of the Planning Aid service continue to develop in supporting those communities who are unable to access the planning system by employing consultants or solicitors. I have represented and advised numerous individuals and communities, and particularly over the last ten year, volunteers have been supported by a core team of properly resourced staff who have built up the capacity of the regional service to enable Planning Aid to be proactive in supporting communities in preparing positive development proposals for their areas, rather than the service being a soley reactive advice line to object to development.  My own experience has included representing and advising communities in the west and east end of Newcastle who were facing wholesale redevelopment of their local areas and potential demolition of their houses. The support provided to these communities from Planning Aid was only possible through a properly co-ordinated and resourced programme, agreed with the Local Planning Authority, which recognised Planning Aid's unique role as a competent independent body.  It would not have been possible through the network of volunteers alone, the model that the Coalition Government now seems to be proposing for Planning Aid.

I support the principle of localism and neighbourhood planning, insofar as I take it to mean the ability of local people to directly participate in the planning system and directly shape the way that their local areas develop.  It is important to ensure that all communities are able to participate, not just a few, and Planning Aid must continue to be a critical part of the measures to ensure that neighbourhood planning will be promoted in those deprived areas where it is needed most. In this respect, it is very difficult to see how a planning system that would be simpler and more open to local people could emerge from the decision to abolish Planning Aid , given its track record of providing support to local people. Without Planning Aid , only those individuals and communities with the loudest voices and most resources will have any voice and influence in the planning process.  Planning Aid is the one recognised body with a track record of effective delivery in enabling communities  that might not have access to professional support to engage in the process.   It seems clear to me that for neighbourhood planning to be successful, there is a need for capacity building in neighbourhoods and for communities to have access to advice, training and funding. With that in mind, the decision to end the funding of Planning Aid is extremely short sighted and very damaging.  This decision should be reviewed immediately to ensure that the capacity and momentum that Planning Aid has been able to build up over the last ten years is able to continue and evolve.   

February 2011