Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Community Involvement in Planning


Community Involvement in Planning - An Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) event for local communities

This was a quick overview of how communities can be involved in planning.  The government is currently tearing up the planning guidelines, replacing thousands of pages with just fifty, in its new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  Throughout the short document the words ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ are continually found.  What ‘sustainable development’ means is not clear and it may well mean economically sustainable, although it seems green roofs and the like are also recommended to ensure the colossus gets through planning.  The main point is that if there aren’t any new plans for an area designating land for various uses, the presumption is in favour of sustainable development.  Developers can probably ride roughshod over the area as long as it will make them money and not devastate local businesses.  Many environmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth, are alarmed at the changes and are still working to change the document.

So it is important that we take a look at such boring documents as the ‘Sheffield Development Framework (SDF)’ and check which areas have been given ‘preferred predominant use’ and ‘acceptable uses’.  If you don’t check now it may be too late when planning applications are made that comply with the designated use.  The SDF is in its final stages but the ‘City Policies and Sites Development Framework’ is at a draft stage so you could find your remarks have more of an impact on the final document.

Natural England is able to fund ‘Green infrastructure’ projects.  Communities are able to draw up their own ‘Neighbourhood Plans’ through a Neighbourhood Forum.  This is essential for any area not covered by any other local plan, as once again there will be a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ where no particular land use has been designated.

Planning applications are usually issued and the public are given 21 days to comment.  One valuable piece of advice is that if you haven’t time to write your full comments before the deadline then send in a quick overview and explain you’ll elaborate at a later date.  Extended comments are usually accepted whereas late submissions can be ignored.

Maureen Edwards