Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Re-Connecting 'People and Planning': Parish Plans and the English Localism Agenda

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Re-Connecting 'People and Planning': Parish Plans and the English Localism Agenda

Article excerpt

This article examines the influence that community groups are able to exert over planning policy, framing a local analysis of engagement between parish councils and local planning authorities in England within a broader view of collaborative rationality and communication through formal and informal networks. The article focuses on how the 'neighbourhood'-based networks of community action reach out and connect to formal policy actors, arguing that the connectivity achieved by parish planning groups and local government prior to the enactment of the Localism Act 2011 gives a strong indication of how future neighbourhood planning in England will function.

Keywords: communities, parish plans, neighbourhood planning, connectivity, England

For the past 20 years, incoming national governments in the UK have 'proclaimed that it is time to re-empower local government and put power closer to the people' (Haughton, 2012, 96). This has not been a uniquely British project, but is one shared the world over by societies grappling with the need to reinvent the role and modus operandi of government during a period in which, in many places, established social orders have given way to a pluralisation of worldviews and liberalisation of lifestyles (Misztal, 1996, 54). The old orders tended to be rooted in adherence to the conventions of a 'political class' and traditional ideas of citizenship, social contract and allegiance. 'Good government', in these contexts, was thought to be a matter of 'administering' to largely homogeneous societies in which needs and aspirations were broadly similar (Foucault, 1982). Such administration was undertaken at a level increasingly remote from the lives of ordinary people (Habermas, 1984, 86) and characterised by adherence to a professionalised and closed model of government. But increased social complexity - fuelled by a global diffusion of contrasting cultures and identities - eroded universal accord with the manifestos and policies of established political groupings, culminating in a challenge to traditional forms of authority. Against this backdrop, governments have sought to 'reconnect' to the citizenry, accepting that planning and service delivery have become increasingly complex and cross-sectoral endeavours, dependent on collaboration between state and non-state actors (Marsh and Rhodes, 1992). But such collaboration is not easy to achieve. Those operating in the traditional 'public' (i.e., within government) and 'non-public' realms (i.e., voluntary, private and community actors) have tended to form their own discrete groupings, with the former coalescing into 'policy communities' and the latter into 'interest groups', with only weak connectivity between the two (Marsh et al, 2009, 621). It has therefore proven difficult to 'put power closer to the people' because much of that power remains with the political, expert and administrative classes, often for reasons that relate to the strategic function of government and the need to ensure that local actions and decisions contribute to broader societal, environmental and economic goals (Davies, 2008).

This article analyses England's recent (and ongoing) experience of reconnecting to the citizenry. In particular, it focuses on how community groups may be able to exert increased influence over planning policy, framing a local analysis of engagement between parish councils and local planning authorities in England within a broader view of collaborative rationality and communication through formal and informal networks.

The article explores the dynamics of community-based planning within an area of anticipated housing growth in South-East England. It has two points of focus: first, how community groups at the parish level develop the capacity needed to take forward community-based planning exercises (i.e., how they come to engage in the planning process) and secondly, how they connect to local government and seek influence over planning decisions and frameworks, including the frameworks or strategies of different service providers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.