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Localism and the local authority or planning authority

By • Oct 6th, 2011 • Category: Feature

If you’re a local authority or planning authority (that includes county councils, district councils, borough councils, unitary authorities, national parks or broadlands authorities), the Localism Act could signal a bit of a juggling act for you.

Localism and local and planning authoritiesOn the one hand, budgets – and inevitably staff – are being cut, and greater efficiency savings sought.

On the other hand, the government is trying to encourage authorities to finalise their Core Strategies (or Local Plans) as swiftly as possible, while bringing in new initiatives such as Neighbourhood Planning and Right to Build Orders with the message that planning authorities need to support communities in all of this.

How are you going to achieve this? Have you got the capacity to support your communities if they decide to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan? How can you best support them? Are there any additional skills or support you might value?

We’ve got a wealth of experience in supporting the relationship between communities and authorities through our work in Community Led Planning. There are valuable lessons to be learnt and we would like to share these with you.

For more information on the support we can provide please contact Debbie McGrath on 07540 723305 or at debbie.mcgrath@towns.org.uk

Localism Q&A

Here are some questions you might be asking.

Our relationship with our local community has been compromised following some tricky planning applications. We’re keen to support the community in Neighbourhood Planning but are worried that they don’t trust us. What can we do?

Regaining community trustThis is not an unusual situation and is one that can be rectified. Experience has shown that in such cases, having an independent ‘facilitator’ can be really useful in terms of understanding the views of all concerned and supporting a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared goals.

How can AMT help?

AMT undertook a piece of work with ACRE to explore how local authorities can make the most of Community Led Planning (the forerunner to Neighbourhood Planning).

With the input from a range of authorities from across the country, a whole series of examples of best practice were collated.

You can view the report here: Making the most of Community Led Planning – a best practice guide for local authorities

If you are unsure of how to approach your community, please do contact us and we will be happy to support you.

How can we best support our local communities to take advantage of the opportunities offered through the Right to Challenge and Assets of Community Value?

Longridge Station - community assetThe Localism Act aims to strengthen the hand of communities in bidding for and running local services.

This raises some challenges in terms of how ready communities are to take up these opportunities.

Some councils are already setting up working groups to explore new approaches to commissioning, performance management and preparing for the new community rights.

Shropshire, for example, are establishing a contracting vehicle to enable small and medium sized community organisations to bid for contracts as well as exploring a collaborative approach with the private sector to tendering and increasing sustainability.

Other authorities are developing guidance on which services they would be content to let the local tier of government take on, with routes to do this without going down the ‘challenge’ route.

How can AMT help?

Supporting your community in developing their knowledge and capacity in order to take up the new rights is critical. AMT is working with a series of organisations to understand how this might happen in practice. Please contact us for more information.

A number of the towns in our area have produced local community plans. How can we make the most of these in our authority?

Transition Towns Totnes planningHaving community plans at the very local level is a valuable asset and one that you should aim to utilise. They can provide an understanding of the sort of community activism at play as well as generating intelligence about local needs and priorities across a geographical area.

This in turn can help you to work out which communities might want to take advantage of the new localism policies and for what purpose.

By making use of this data, you might reduce too the need for other, more expensive consultation activities.

How can AMT help?

AMT has experience of working with both communities and authorities and can help both parties to make the most of their resources to the best effect.

What next?

  • Whether you have these questions or others, please contact Debbie McGrath on 07540 723305 or at debbie.mcgrath@towns.org.uk to find out how we can help.
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is As Online Communications Coordinator, Katie is responsible for the running of the AMT website and has taken the charity into the world of social media. Her particular focus is to expand and promote AMT's database of more than 400 case studies of town and community projects - regularly cited as one of the most valuable aspects of AMT Membership. Katie's previous experience ranges from PA to an internationally-renowned architect in London to Manager of the Responsible Tourism Awards for responsibletravel.com in Brighton. Katie works on Tuesdays and Thursdays and can be contacted at katie.fewings@towns.org.uk
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