The Glass-House was there to speak about the experiences we have had with groups working on Neighbourhood Plans over the last year and to explain the support we can offer.
There were plenty of common difficulties facing groups in forming Neighbourhood Forums or progressing plans. Interestingly, many of these chime with the initial concerns voiced at an event I attended back in January. Key concerns are:
- In large areas, the vision can be diluted and disintegrate into the small, individual issues that people are concerned with
- New groups who formed in response to Neighbourhood Planning have found it difficult to develop formal structures and ways of working. This is a shame as there are organisations out there who can help with this
- Some neighbourhoods cross ward boundaries or collide with other areas which have active and robust groups – causing administrative and management difficulties
- Some have found a total lack of information available or conflicting information about Neighbourhood Planning in their area
- Difficulties with getting young people involved as planning doesn’t seem like a real issue that will affect them and is viewed as boring
- The administrative and organisational structures in place don’t support this kind of work – some boroughs are unwilling to devolve responsibility to their communities
These groups felt strongly that further guidance was needed to allow them to progress such as:
- Templates to develop a plan –these could be put together through workshops with groups whose Neighbourhood Plans have started to take shape
- A framework or set of standards which indicate how a Local Authority can best support communities to produce Neighbourhood Plans
- A plain English community guide to the National Planning Policy Framework
This event highlighted to me just how much uncertainty remains about the future of Neighbourhood Planning. Many of the groups are progressing brilliantly: groups who have the full support of their local councillors and Local Authorities seem to be the ones making the most headway; but it has not been easy and there is still a long way to go. While The Glass-House believes the open process and lack of guidance represents an opportunity to be creative and for communities to truly shape their places it is clear that more support is necessary to achieve real progress with Neighbourhood Plans.