Community planning: Policy & Law: UK

  • overview
  • features
  • further information
  • Increasing Government encouragement for public involvement in planning and community empowerment is evident in policy statements and legislation.

  • How the public should be involved and empowered is mostly left to local decision makers and practitioners.

  • This has resulted in a wealth of innovative approaches led by practitioners, community organizations, local authorities and national and local agencies.

Interesting features and initiatives

2010 Localism - enter neighbourhood planning
New Coalition government introduces Localism Bill which:
  • Establishes a new statutory tier of Neighbourhood Plans;

  • Empowers local communities to produce and implement Neighbourhood Plans;

  • Requires developers to consult local communities before submitting proposals for planning permission.
See Neighbourhood Planning
A guide to the community-led Neighbourhood Plans introduced by the UK Government’s Localism Act 2011

2008 New System for Public Involvement in Major Projects
New legislation – the 2008 Planning Act - fundamentally changes the rights and opportunities of communities to be involved in major national decisions – such as those on airports, power stations and roads.

The new system provides communities opportunities to be involved in major projects at three stages.
  1. Through public consultation by Government on new national policy statements
  2. The proposers of any new major projects are required to consult the public fully and a new Infrastructure Planning Commission can reject a scheme on the grounds that consultation has not been rigorous enough.
  3. The Infrastructure Planning Commission will hold hearings into schemes and communities have the right to make representations to the Commission – although not the right to appear at the hearings.

Focus on community empowerment
The Government’s current overall approach to involvement in England is set out in a White Paper - Communities in control: real people, real power.  In this, the Prime Minister states that: ‘we want to move to the next stage in the process – enhancing the power of communities and helping people up and down the country to set and meet their own priorities. In this way we strengthen local democracy by increasing participation.’

The White Paper continues:
‘we want local people to have more of a say in the planning system so we will provide more funding to support community engagement in planning and we will ensure planners develop stronger skills in working with communities.’

housing for the Future
Communities in control:
real people, real power

download pdf

£5m worth of new empowerment funding to be provided
The Department for Communities and Local Government states that: ‘Planning is already one of the most democratic processes with the majority of decisions taken by elected local councillors. But too often decisions become contentious because of the perceived lack of public involvement in decisions that leave under-represented groups frustrated and disenchanted. The planning empowerment grants announced today will help tackle this sense of injustice by encouraging councils to secure greater legitimacy for decisions by placing some power in the hands of local communities.’
Key Principles for Community Engagement spelt out
Planning Policy Statement 12: Local Spatial Planning states that:
‘Community Involvement should be:
  • appropriate to the level of planning;
  • from the outset – leading to a sense of ownership of local policy decisions;
  • continuous – part of ongoing programme, not a one-off event, with clearly articulated opportunities for continuing involvement;
  • transparent and accessible – using methods appropriate to the communities concerned; and
  • planned – as an integral part of the process for making plans.’
It goes on to stress that:
‘The Local Council and the Local Strategic Partnership should take a strategic approach to community involvement.’

housing for the Future
Policy Statement 12:
Creating strong safe and prosperous communities through Local Spatial Planning -
download pdf (1.1MB)

2007 More community involvement in housing provision
Housing Green Paper sets ambitious target of 3 million new homes by 2020, with at least 45,000 new social homes a year by 2010-11

The Green Paper states that: ‘Local authorities and local strategic partnerships must reach out to their communities. If local people and their representatives are to be effectively involved in the debate about housing growth, they are entitled to be equipped with the evidence about local housing pressures, demand, and supply and to know the processes that shape decisions on housing locally.

The Green Paper also set out the criteria for eco-towns stating that: ‘Ecotowns will be judged against the criteria including community involvement.’

Homes for the future
Housing Green Paper, CLG, Cm7191:
Homes for the future: more affordable,
more sustainable

download pdf (1.7MB)

Quality of public participation to be improved
The Planning White Paper – Planning for a Sustainable Future – sets out five core principles which underpin the Government’s proposals.  These include:
  • there must be full and fair opportunities for public consultation and community engagement;
  • the planning system should be transparent and accountable

It stresses that: ‘a fundamental aspect of the planning system is that it is the means by which people have their say in proposals for development which have the potential to impact on their homes, communities, access to amenities and quality of life.’

It proposes a new system for dealing with major schemes of national importance, See Housing UK - ‘your opportunity’ at National Level

Planning White Paper proposals include:
“improve public participation across the entire process by providing better opportunities for public consultation and engagement at each stage of the planning approval process; improving the ability of the public to participate in inquiries by introducing a specific “open floor” stage; and, alongside the introduction of new system, providing additional funding to bodies such as Planning Aid.”

housing for the Future
Planning for a Sustainable Future, CLG, Cm 7120
Download pdf (1.4MB)

A Duty to Involve introduced
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, introduced a duty for local authorities to involve representatives of communities in any of its functions if it considered this to be appropriate.

2005 Community involvement made a central feature of the planning system
Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development states:

“Community involvement is an essential element in delivering sustainable development and creating sustainable and safe communities. In developing the vision for their areas, planning authorities should ensure that communities are able to contribute to ideas about how that vision can be achieved, have the opportunity to participate in the process of drawing up the vision, strategy and specific plan policies, and to be involved in development proposals.”

It goes on to say that:
‘Community involvement in planning should not be a reactive, tick-box, process. It should enable the local community to say what sort of place they want to live in at a stage when this can make a difference.’

housing for the Future
Planning Policy Statement No 1:
Delivering Sustainabl Development, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2005

Download pdf (476KB)

Expansion of planning aid
Government funding for planning aid service providing community planning assistance for communities throughout the country (£6 million over 3 years).

2004 New planning system requires Statements of Community Involvement (SCI)
The Government states that: ‘Strengthening community involvement is a key part of the Government’s planning reforms.’

housing for the Future
Community Involvement in Planning:
The Government’s Objectives, ODPM,
Download pdf (260KB)

New planning system set out in the The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, 2004. Planning system to comprise of: National Policy Statements; Regional Spatial Strategies; Local Development Frameworks; Planning applications.
See Planning Policy in Housing UK.

Key points:
  • Requirement for consultation on Regional Spatial Strategies (section 6) See also PPS11 Regional Spatial Strategies
    Download pdf (2.5MB)

  • Requirement for planning authorities to prepare a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) setting out standards for consultation with the public on major development projects (section 18)

  • Overall objective of contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development (section 39)

2003 Sustainable Communities Plan
Sets out a long-term programme of action for delivering sustainable communities in both urban and rural areas. Aims to tackle supply issues in the South East, low demand
in other parts of the country, bring all social housing up to the Decent Homes standard, protect the countryside and improve the quality of urban spaces.

It describes one of the key characteristics of sustainable communities as being places where there is: ‘Effective engagement and participation by local people, groups and businesses, especially in the planning, design and long term stewardship of their community, and an active voluntary and community sector.’

housing for the Future
Communities; building for the future,
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Download pdf (2.1MB)

2000 Community Strategies by Local Strategic Partnerships
“Every local authority must prepare a strategy (referred to in this section as a community strategy) for promoting or improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area and contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom.”
Local Government Act 2000 (para 4 (1)

Note: the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 changed community strategies into ‘Sustainable Community Strategies’.

1998 UK signs the Aarhus Convention
See Aarhus Convention summary

The Convention states that: ‘In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.’

1969 Principles established
People and Planning (the Skeffington report) provides principles for public participation. The Government sponsored report states that ‘People should be able to say what kind of community they want and how it should develop: and should be able to do so in a way that is positive and first-hand. It matters to us all that we should know that we can influence the shape of our community so that the towns and villages in which we live, work, learn and relax may reflect our best aspirations.’

People and Planning

1947 Public involvement in planning established in law
Town & Country Planning Act establishes principle of public involvement in planning process. The then Minister of Town and Country Planning told the UK Parliament that “In the past, plans have been too much the plans of officials and not the plans of individuals, but I hope we are going to stop that.” The 1947 Act introduced the requirement for a local authority to publicise a draft development plan and a right for the public to object to and make representations on a plan.

Town and Country Planning Act 1947, 10 & 11 Geo. 6. Ch. 51, HMSO


housing for the Future
The Handy Guide to Planning
download pdf (768KB)

Your place, your plan

Your Place, Your Plan: A community guide to planning, TCPA, Town & Country Planning Association, 2011

A handy short introduction to neighbourhood planning with useful sources of information.
download pdf (987KB)

On this website:

Neighbourhood Planning
A guide to the community-led Neighbourhood Plans introduced by the UK Government’s Localism Act 2011


Planning Aid

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Last updated on: 01 January 2009