image courtesy of david murray associates
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” - Jane Jacobs
At last month’s Scottish Planning and Environmental Law conference, our director Pippa was delighted to have had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion on the implications of the community empowerment agenda for spatial planning. For her part, she argued that community empowerment doesn't mean only having a say in what should happen where, but also having the power to deliver that development.
The community empowerment agenda is very wide ranging but, from a planner’s perspective, key provisions relate to land ownership, land use, and place-making more broadly. Here, there is a clear connection with the new Planning Act, one of the aims of which is to deliver a more accessible planning system, in particular through the introduction of Local Place Plans (LPPs); allowing communities to prepare their own plan for the places they live, which the planning authority must take into account when preparing Local Development Plans.
Currently proposals for the allocation of land for development generally come from landowners (or those with an option on the land), in whose gift it is to then see that development delivered. LPPs will now give communities the opportunity to put forward their own proposals for land in their community but, unless they also have the power to see those proposals delivered, the value of LPPs is limited. However, where LPPs are combined with community rights to buy land, their role becomes much more significant.
Of particular interest in this context is the new right to buy land to further sustainable development which, once in force, will give community bodies the right to buy land where they can demonstrate that doing so will further sustainable development. The concept of sustainable development is of course central to Scottish Planning Policy, in which it is described as delivering the right development in the right place, and it’s hoped that this new right to buy will empower communities to contribute to doing that on sites where it is not happening at the moment.
And, anecdotally at least, there seems to be a lot of interest from community based organisations about the potential use of this new right to buy in situations ranging from, for example, a residents’ organisation looking to purchase amenity land to maintain this to a higher standard and improve residential amenity, to larger development trusts looking to deliver community-led housing developments, in particular for affordable housing.
Alternatively, one particularly interesting feature of the right to buy to further sustainable development is that it allows communities to nominate a third party purchaser, for example a housing association, who has the skills and experience to deliver or manage the development that the community wants to see on the ground.
This is of course something that happens already – to give an example with which we have been involved, the Torry Development Trust in Aberdeen is working in partnership with Grampian Housing Association to redevelop the former Victoria Road School for affordable housing and community facilities, and it will be interesting to see if more such schemes come forward in future.
So, while it’s important not to forget that the community empowerment agenda is about more than just community ownership of land or buildings, that, along with community-led development, are big elements of this. With this in mind, it’s hoped that the new Planning Act - in particular the provisions for LPPs - will empower more people to engage positively with the planning system in order to see the right development delivered in the right place, with something for everybody in this.
Meantime, if you would like to find out about how aurora planning can assist you in any aspect of the planning process, please visit www.auroraplanning.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And, to receive future blogs and updates by email, please click here.
Thanks for reading!
Pippa and Maggie