Issue 13

PLANNING FOR A FAIRER SCOTLAND

By Craig McLaren, Director of Scotland and Ireland, Royal Town Planning Institute

Planning has always been about equity. The genesis for formal planning was tackling the terrible living conditions suffered in cities across the UK at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries. Planning, and then more formalised planning systems, were established to improve health and to create places that allowed people to stay well, rather than suffer because of where they lived. Planners work for the public good - the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Royal Charter says that it must promote the art and science of planning for the benefit of the public.

Planning is all about creating great places for people however the profession and function of planning is often seen as all about regulation and process, forgetting about the real value it brings in providing a vision for a place, for engaging people in developing it and in delivering the outcomes that community needs and wants. Given this planning can help support social justice in a number of ways. I'd like to highlight four of them.

…place making. That is creating great places for people that allow them to feel safe and healthy…. Places where connections are made to allow people to access the services and opportunities they require through public transport and other links.

Firstly, and probably most obviously, there is place making. That is creating great places for people that allow them to feel safe and healthy. Places that encourage people to walk, cycle, and enjoy. Places that promote healthy lifestyles and inspire mental wellbeing. Places where connections are made to allow people to access the services and opportunities they require through public transport and other links.

Secondly, good planning can help us to better link opportunity and need. The solutions to issues (and, indeed many of the problems) faced by a place aren't always within that neighbourhood, village or town. We need to make sure that we know the possible consequences of decisions beyond the here and now and the immediate geography of that place. Planning provides the mechanism to do this. Good planning can also allow us to establish when employment opportunities will arise for communities (be that at the planning, construction, open for business or aftercare stage) and put in place the training and support required to allow local people to be job ready when each stage commences.

Thirdly, planning can help to 'make the market'. We need to get better at joining up decisions and investments on infrastructure with development opportunities. We could, and should, be more creative in using infrastructure to open up ‘non-viable’ sites and areas suffering from so called ‘market failure’. This could focus on the places in need of regeneration to provide so that which would or considered ‘sub-prime’ by developers and investors

Community engagement in planning works best when it is based around building a positive and holistic vision on the future of a street, neighbourhood, town city or region, rather than a ‘one-off’ reactive debate on a specific development.

And finally, planning is an important mechanism for engaging with communities. Community engagement in planning works best when it is based around building a positive and holistic vision on the future of a street, neighbourhood, town city or region, rather than a ‘one-off’ reactive debate on a specific development. Given this, it is more effective to invest time and resources in community engagement at the early stages of development plan preparation. This will enable planners and the planning system to champion local visioning and local action on place development and improvement through, for example, Charrettes.

To make all this work planning needs to be seen as a positive tool. The planning system must be allowed to be both delivery and outcome focussed. There is a need to address the implementation gap that currently exists between process and delivery and in providing predictability and certainty to enable things to happen.

Planning must also be seen as and used as a more corporate function within local authorities and Scottish Government. It needs to be able to promote collaboration and influence policy and resource allocation across organisations to maximise benefits for places. This requires spatial planning to link effectively with community planning, and vice versa.

It requires the planning system to be able to be more proactive and frontloaded. This requires a truly plan-led approach that promotes the primacy of the Development Plan through upstreamed community and stakeholder engagement that builds consensus and provides clarity on responsibilities for delivery.

And the system has to be resourced to add value. It must have the resources it needs to deliver (money, staffing, information, intelligence, and systems); be organised to be fit for purpose and efficient; and have skills required.

Craig McLaren is Director of Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Town Planning Institute

By Craig McLaren, Director of Scotland and Ireland, Royal Town Planning Institute

Issue 13

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