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Places, People and Planning - Position Statement

Places, People and Planning - Position Statement

Nicola Woodward 11 Jul 2017
Doing it for the kids…
Picture the scene, it’s the 29th June 2017, the schools are breaking up for the summer, so the weather has taken a turn for the worst, but have our thoughts turned to summer and lazy days soaking up some rays? Not us Scottish planners.  The ‘Places, People and Planning - Position Statement’ has just dropped (view here) and we have until the 11th August to comment, 11 days before the kids return to school for next term… no rest for the wicked I suppose…
The Position Statement is clear that Scottish Government wants to give people an opportunity to plan their own place.  In particular, increasing the involvement of young people is a commitment, including changes to the existing requirements for engagement to ensure that children and young people are specifically encouraged to be more involved in planning.  Also there is a commitment to achieving a real shift away from consultation towards more meaningful community empowerment within the planning system.
Thinking about what to do with kids during the long summer holidays made me think about this proposition that they should be more involved in the planning process.  Although I am pretty sure that given the choice, writing a Local Place Plan over the summer or responding to a consultation on a Local Development Plan wouldn’t be top of their list in terms of summer fun!  But why not… plan-making doesn’t have to be boring!
So, what is the current “position” on this?  Well, Young Scot ran an online survey as part of the Planning Review process and this has also been published (view here). It isn’t surprising that the response rate was low, only 104 usable responses. Incidentally the population of 11-25 year olds in Scotland, the target audience for the survey, is around 960,000 (NRS 2016 mid-year estimates).  Herein is the real challenge… how do we convince young people that they actually want to be involved, as much as the Scottish Government wants them to be?
So here it is my proposition, for what it is worth…  (can anyone else hear the collective groan of 11-25 year olds across Scotland?).
Local Place Planning Summer Camp… 
Base camp should be in the heart of the community, an empty shop on the high street or in a community centre for example. Activities are set for each week of the summer holidays that are all about evidence gathering and the development of proposals for the place.  As an aside it strikes me that a parallel process should also be run with older people who have the time and inclination to be involved in such things. 
Starting with the accepted facts – population, age demographics, household numbers, household sizes, employment rates and travel to work information supplied by the Local Council - the “campers” can start to think about what is needed for the future of their place. 
Health checks of local facilities and services including who uses them and what improvements are needed to increase use will provide local ‘on the ground’ knowledge.  Parking surveys, looking at safe walking routes, and thinking about public transport could all be part of this activity.  Thought should be given to social, economic and environmental matters. 
Topics such as Environment, Facilities and Services, Housing, Jobs, Transport should have a week-long programme each.  If an empty shop unit is being used as base camp then the work in progress should be displayed in the windows (if not, another public place should be found) and posted on social media.  Comment should be sought and discussion should be ongoing. 
The whole process should culminate in a plan-making extravaganza where the gained knowledge is shared and policies, proposals and actions for the place plan debated.  This should be run by the “campers” but involve wider community interest groups including community councils.  It should be facilitated by the Local Council and should involve their policy planners. 
The end product should be a draft local place plan that can then be consulted on in local schools and with local residents and other stakeholders.  The consultations would be led by the young people (and if there was a parallel process the older people) involved in the preparation of the draft local place plan.
Clearly for the plan to have legal status it will need to be tested in terms of impact and for conformity with the adopted development plans. This should be undertaken by the Local Council and any necessary revisions debated in an open forum.  Whether local place plans in Scotland would need to be examined and have a local referendum such as is the case for the English neighbourhood development plans would also need to be given proper thought through the ongoing planning review process that is leading up to the draft Planning Bill.
- Nicola Woodward is Head of our Edinburgh office, mother of an 11 year old daughter (who wants to be an elephant doctor not a planner) and is a former Head of Planning Policy which explains her need to share her love of plan-making!