Civic Voice’s Initiative – ‘Public Participation in the Planning System’

A Voice for Conservation Groups

Image of the rear of Saughall Massie Community Fire Station.
The back of Saughall Massie Community Fire Station built on Greenbelt; ‘beautiful’ or merely a ‘pastiche’?

Civic Voice (CV) is the national charity for civic and conservation movements with 256 groups located in 70% of local planning authority areas. They are the Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Civic Societies with 76 MPs as members.

Civic Voice claims it has more influence (and no reason to doubt it) with government than CPRE  (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) with the public being probably more aware of the former through more exposure in the media than the latter organisation, but both equally holding the government to account.

At a recently held meeting at Wigan Library delegates discussed the Civic Voice initiative, ‘Public Participation in the Planning Process’, which has a role in the Government’s proposed plan for ‘Building Better and Beautiful Homes’. Opinion had it that a successful planning system needed to radically: “Improve design quality, increase the voice of the local community in the planning process and be involved at a much earlier stage” and in general, the Civic Movement to make the case for higher quality developments.

Surveys carried out by CV reported that in answer to the statement ‘Is it easy for residents and community groups to influence the planning process?’, 85% disagreed and 70% believed civic societies/ community groups should have a more formal role in the planning system.

Further responses were:

  • 71% said we were not building enough homes
  • 69% would support more housing if of a higher quality
  • 80% said developers do not engage early enough if at all!
  • 73% felt that LEAs did not engage with the local community
  • 86% (encouragingly) believed that new developments can be “beautiful” but 63% said, “not to the extent of being merely pastiches!

Ian Harvey, Executive Director of Civic Voice said:

The quality of our cities, towns and villages is vital to the achievement of so many objectives which are shared across the political spectrum: economic growth…..Most people want to have a say and many want to play an active part in making sure that the design of their city, town or village is as good as it can be.  We need to see more meaningful engagement in the planning system if we are to ensure the nation can deliver the homes that the country requires in a timely responsive manner.  We look forward to debating these issues……and that civic societies across the country shape the quality of housing in 2019 and for the years to come.

Ian Harvey

I would suggest that The Wirral Society makes a very worthwhile contribution to the debate with its annual Civic Design Award.

Terry Edgar, Vice Chairman, The Wirral Society