Governance, participation

This is one of a number of pages/topics about the work of Just Space groups preparing positions and demands for what goes in the next London Plan. A list of the topics is here.

This working group will span issues about how London is governed, how democracy works (or fails to work) at various levels, especially in relation to planning and urban development processes (provisional words).

Some of the materials from the July community conference will be relevant. This is the section of the vision statement which came out of the conference:

“The preparation of previous London Plans has been a process dominated by property development interests, with a reluctance to pay serious attention to community needs. The participation of voluntary sector and community groups has been a fraction of the contribution that could be made. The Mayor has not even produced a Statement of Community Involvement for the London Plan.

We want to be effectively involved in the creation of the next London Plan, not just “consulted” on a draft plan produced in detail in semi-secret.

Involvement has to be over a period of time to allow understanding, consideration, debate and the search for consensus. Therefore we seek agreement with the GLA on a programme of effective and continuous community engagement that includes:

Community groups involved in the early formative stages of the preparation of the London Plan, working together with planning officers and decision makers in a spirit of co-production. This includes reaching out to community groups who do not play an active part in most consultations.
The resourcing of community groups so they have access to plain language information, networking opportunities and research support. This includes community technical aid from architects, planners, engineers, and other specialists.
The evidence base studies and impact assessments underpinning the London Plan to be accessible, open for public deliberation and to reflect the real issues on the ground including impacts on health and well being, equity and on the social and cultural aspects of communities. Community groups to be supported to gather their own evidence through citizen science initiatives (use of technology, participatory mapping and online platforms).”

Briefing for 4 Feb conference:

Just Space Working Group: Public Participation and Community Involvement in Planning 

Community Involvement in Planning

Participation of local communities in any planning activity is crucial for ensuring public support. The rights of local communities to participate are recognized by planning authorities and the courts but in practical terms this is often undertaken too late and involves top-down consultation rather than a genuine effort to have local communities’ input in decision making processes. For participation to be effective, it should value local knowledge and experience in the formulation, design, and implementation of any proposal, plan or decision. Thus, it should enable local communities to make informed decisions about the issues that affect their lives, neighbourhoods, and their city as a whole. For effective participation, communities should be involved from the very beginning; treated as equal co-producers of the plan; be provided with a full range of options for development; agree to the criteria by which choices are made; and agree how community views are to be weighted in the decision, or if they are not to be considered given cogent reasons why not.

The London Plan

Just Space has participated in all London Plan Examinations in Public (EiPs) since 2007, for example supporting 64 different representative residents’ and public interest groups to present evidence at the 2010 EiP hearings. Some aspects of Just Space proposals have been incorporated into the London Plan as a result; however, Inspectors have been variable in their willingness to admit community-based evidence at this stage. Moreover, while the Mayor has consulted informally with business groups and developers, who together with a range of institutional stakeholders have had an early role in shaping the Mayor’s strategic priorities and direction, there has been no attempt to ensure the early participation of community groups. The EiP process, while valuable in itself as a quasi-judicial-style hearing on the soundness of the London Plan, is too limited a forum for effective participation. We indicate below how our proposed principles of effective participation might be applied to the London Plan preparation process.

Specific Proposals for Discussion

  1. A Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)

A Mayor’s SCI would apply to:-

  • the Mayor’s Strategies, Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), research and toolkits
  • the Planning Frameworks for Opportunity Areas and Regeneration Areas
  • the Annual Monitoring Report (AMR)
  • major planning applications referred to the Mayor’s Decisions Unit;

and would set a strategic expectation for standards of effective community involvement across London’s planning system, including boroughs, neighbourhoods and development sites.

The SCI should include: preparation of a database of consultees, and set out how the database will be developed and added to; a statement of engagement methods appropriate to the needs of different groups and different levels of involvement; the resources that will be available to ensure everyone who wishes to have the capacity to participate, such as administrative support and access to technical advice and training [perhaps following the example of technical support for Neighbourhood Planning under the Localism Act]. Monitoring and review of the SCI through the London Plan’s monitoring mechanism of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and AMR should include a voluntary and community sector perspective.

We consider community participation and the facilitation of the localism agenda an essential strategic issue for the Mayor and the London Assembly. It is a London-wide issue not just about process, but is a policy and institutional issue on which the legitimacy of plans and decisions depends.

  1. Early and continuing involvement in London Plan

The GLA should collaborate with London Boroughs to generate an open register of representative groups of residents, and community-based and public interest organisations who should be informed about the London Plan process and involved in early processes of participation and consultation related to its preparation. There should be a level playing field of participation of all stakeholders in the London Plan – stakeholders should have equal access to informing the London Plan preparation process from its earliest stages; to achieve this, appropriate technical support and information, as well as resourcing of community groups, should be provided to enable their effective participation. Effective early public participation in metropolitan strategic planning presents its own challenges of scale and technical knowledge but there are examples of how to achieve this, including: city-wide delegate forums leading on from local public meetings; surveys to canvas public opinion; sector-based or topic-based open meetings; high level meetings with key stakeholders across all sectors; orchestrated city-wide early consultation on priorities to feed directly into the planning process; general public meetings for information; Inclusive Management processes e.g. stakeholder steering committee that includes representatives of different interests across sectors and areas to inform the planning process and enable ongoing debate of priorities throughout the process.

  1. Planning Decisions

Statements of Public Consultation should be submitted with development proposals and should explain how the principles of effective involvement have engaged communities and relevant user groups, and how the results have been integrated into the proposed development. Relevant community and user groups should be enabled to submit their own statements regarding public consultation on development applications.

  1. Some Key Principles of Effective Community Involvement

Inclusive invitations; Regular provision of information and feedback; Continuity, collaboration and co-production; Early Involvement; Presenting realistic and feasible options including proper assessment of current land uses and the full range of impacts; Transparency and confidentiality; Measuring, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of community involvement.

 Summary

Should the Mayor:

  1. Enter into a Social Compact with Londoners setting out the principles of effective involvement
  2. Develop a Mayor’s Statement (or Principles) of Community Involvement
  3. Include a KPI on Community Involvement in the London Plan
  4. Identify and provide resources to facilitate the informed involvement of communities and user groups
  5. Ensure that principles of early and effective participation are applied to the preparation of the London Plan and continue throughout its implementation.

 

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