On Friday 9th February, following our breakfast briefing with Carson Mc Dowell LLP, we attended an expert seminar and roundtable discussion hosted by the Consultation Institute and NICVA on ‘Improving public influence on planning issues and developments’.
The event provided an opportunity for representatives of voluntary and community sector organisations to learn from leading experts in the field of community consultation and public engagement in planning.
TCI Engagements Quintin Oliver, and Geoff Nuttall, NICVA, welcomed and introduced everyone. Penny Norton (author of ‘ Public Consultation and Community Involvement – a 21st.Century Guide’) highlighted the key challenges and components of achieving successful and effective consultation and community involvement in the planning process, based on the findings of over 100 case studies.
Rhion Jones, of the Consultation Institute, looked at three big challenges for the voluntary and community sector, focussing on obtaining early access to the debate, avoiding being seen as objectors and NIMBY-campaigners and working with elected representatives. He noted that the Aarhus Convention has become an important benchmark in consultation and that the Gunning Principles are key.
Following the presentations, attendees participated in a roundtable discussion to consider barriers to effective dialogue in the planning process, and to identify potential solutions. Philip Mynes from NICVA captured all suggestions and posted an article on the NICVA website as a resource to inform others considering the issue.
Some of the barriers identified included a lack of information being made available to stakeholders (which leads to a lack of understanding), a lack of trust in the planning system and that the planning process itself is flawed and leads to an adversarial, developers vs. residents’ context.
Some of the solutions included re-considering the threshold for pre-application community consultation, applying greater standards for pre-application community consultation which are enforced by local authorities, and an ‘award scheme’ for planners and developers when good consultation practice is identified.
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