Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation at the Department of Communities and Local Government, speaking at the TCPA Annual Conference on 30th November 2010 in a speech on Participation in Planning said:
“Planning isn't a job - it's a vocation. All of us hope we leave a legacy in our professional life. Planners certainly do leave a legacy. They shape the workplaces where we spend thousands of hours each year; the homes we go home to the evening, and the schools where our children learn. At its best, their work is much more than functional. It inspires and elates…..”
He should have added at its worst it destroys and depresses. However, he went on:
“This government has ambitious proposals to make the system fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Above all, we want to change the philosophy behind local planning. We want to move away from a system with significant elements of imposition from above, to one with participation and involvement at its heart - not just warm words, or a commitment in principle, but real opportunities for people to have a say. And away from a system that seeks to resolve the different needs of different groups at a local level by imposing choices from above, towards one which enables a mature debate at local level.”
“Our proposals are designed to enable this kind of mature debate about local planning everywhere. Because the problem is, although participation has been recognised as an essential element of good planning since the Skeffington Report in 1969, and although there are some examples of developers and planners getting it very right indeed, there are too many instances of participation being a an unimaginative add-on to the planning process.”
“We want to embed participation in the way the system works. Instead of having decision-makers consult local communities, we want to enable local people to make more decisions themselves. We want to hand over power and responsibility so that local communities have real choices, and experience the real consequences of those choices.”
Fine words and good intentions but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we shall have to wait to see how the coalition's good intentions actually work in practice.