Planning students 'should help deprived areas create neighbourhood plans'

Planning students should be required, as part of a practical element to their course, to assist disadvantaged areas to produce neighbourhood plans as part of an effort to drive up the numbers of such plans in poor communities, a think-tank has recommended.

Deprivation: think-tank says neighbourhood planning has role to play in improving lives
Deprivation: think-tank says neighbourhood planning has role to play in improving lives

The ResPublica think-tank said that an analysis it carried out of government statistics found that the "vast majority" of the more than 200 neighbourhood plans approved at referendum and the 1,900 being prepared "are in already prosperous areas, meaning deprived areas are missing out".

The think-tank said that the ten local authority districts "with the highest proportion of neighbourhoods among the 10 per cent most deprived in England had five or fewer designated neighbourhood plan areas in their district as of June 2016. Three had none at all."

Meanwhile, local authority areas with more than 20 designated neighbourhood plan areas included Cheshire East, County of Herefordshire, and Wiltshire, all of which were outside of the top 150 local authority areas with the highest proportion of neighbourhoods among the 10 per cent most deprived in England.

ResPublica said that measures to rectify the situation could include a requirement for university undergraduate and graduate students taking courses in planning to, as part of practical element to their course, "assist deprived communities who have expressed an interest in setting up a neighbourhood forum and engaging in neighbourhood planning."

It also said that "cuts to planning aid which have reduced the capacity of organisations like the Royal Town Planning Institute to help groups create and progress their neighbourhood plans should be reversed, with the funding specifically targeted at deprived communities."

Caroline Julian, deputy director of ResPublica, said: "People in areas they find unappealing are less likely to see themselves as positively as they could do – harming their ability to find good jobs and live productive lives. Politicians must reach out to people in these areas and empower them to take action through neighbourhood plans."

An analysis published last week by Planning found that more than 335,000 people have voted in neighbourhood planning referendums, with nearly a third of eligible residents turning out to vote on the plans.


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