Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Governing Our Neighbours: Participation and Conflict in Neighbourhood Planning

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Governing Our Neighbours: Participation and Conflict in Neighbourhood Planning

Article excerpt

Community-led plan making at 'very-local', neighbourhood, scales

There is a long tradition of making plans at neighbourhood scale amid a localising governance trend (Davoudi and Madanipour, 2015). Such plans are to varying degrees led by, or involving of, citizens within such neighbourhoods. In England, for example, there is a long tradition of 'parish planning' in rural areas which is community-led (see Gallent, 2013, Chapter 2; Parker and Murray, 2012). However, there is a 'limited understanding of how the plans have been formulated and what gaps and limitations they may conceal' (Parker, 2008, 68; cf Owen et al., 2007).

In England, plan making at this scale was transformed in 2011 when neighbourhood plans were accorded legal status. Such plans were designed to be community-led and they have proved popular and come to exert much greater authority over land-use policy than initially thought (Agbonlahor, 2015; Lock, 2015). Such statutory authority is a significant departure from previous parish plans. Such power also potentially greatly incentivises citizens to get involved and increases the significance of their inputs. In addition, as citizens are in control of the design and implementation of plan making, rather than merely being involved, this can be seen as a significant departure from previous attempts at very-local planning.

This paper mobilises an in-depth case study of one neighbourhood plan, using it as a probe into the practicality of the demands of agonistic planning theory as the dominant contemporary planning paradigm (Bäcklund and Mäntysalo, 2010). We also use literature in the deliberative democratic tradition to fill in some of the voids in agonistic planning theory with regard to how agonistic space might emerge (Pløger, 2015).

Our case study thus focuses on the micro-dynamics of what it takes to conduct agonistic planning work at the neighbourhood scale; how far such theory is realisable in everyday practice; and whether community-led plans are more or less likely than state-led processes to meet the demands of an agonistic public sphere (Mouffe, 2005). The paper thus provides an example of 'theoretically insightful planning research that can tap into the legal-practical possibilities and difficulties of renewing existing institutional structures and codes of local planning, in the effort to make them more supportive to agonistic planning' (Bäcklund and Mäntysalo, 2010, 348; see also Healey, 2015Т 3:5-l6).

Localism and neighbourhood planning

A localism agenda became more apparent in UK governance in the early 1990s, arising in response to concerns for subsidiarity, participation and citizen engagement. More recently it was seen as a response to the failures of centrist, big-state practices and, very recently (since 2010), as a way of central government bypassing the local state (Parvin, 2011). In the planning field this was demonstrated through substantial reductions in finance to local authorities; a dismantling of some powers for local government such as changes to permitted development rights; and the creation of mechanisms such as Community Right to Buy, Community Right to Build and neighbourhood plans (NPs), which directly empowered communities. NPs were thus part of a vision 'to hand over power and responsibility so that local communities have real choices, and experience the real consequences of those choices' (Greg Clark, localism minister, 3 December 2010). In effect this marked a shift from localism defined by devolution from the centre to local government and communities in the 1990s and 2000s, to one which bypassed the local state and sought to empower citizens directly from 2010 onwards.

The legislative framework for NPs was set out in the Localism Act 2011. It permitted either a parish or a town council, or a neighbourhood forum (comprising twenty-one or more self-selecting local 'stakeholders' where no parish or town council exists), to prepare a statutory plan for an area. …

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