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Early community involvement and front loading
The publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) means that PPS12 is now cancelled. DCLG are reviewing all their planning guidance, including this manual. However in the meantime, until it is officially withdrawn or revised, it remains extant.
Please note that the contents haven’t been changed to reflect the NPPF.
PPS12 Paragraph 4.20 states:
"The production of core strategies should follow the government’s principles for community engagement in planning. Involvement should be:
- appropriate to the level of planning from the outset – leading to a sense of ownership of local policy decisions
- continuous – part of ongoing programme, not a one-off event, with clearly articulated opportunities for continuing involvement
- transparent and accessible – using methods appropriate to the communities concerned
- planned – as an integral part of the process for making plans."
Planning Policy Statement 12 - on the Communities and Local Government website
Local authorities should consider front loading principles as part of the plan preparation process. When starting the production of the plan, they will want to consider:
- community involvement and the objectives from the sustainable community strategy
- the targets from the local area agreement
- regional spatial strategy and national policy.
The term 'front loading' refers to the idea that if strong emphasis is placed upon work at the early stages of the plan making process, later stages will run more smoothly. This involves a local authority ensuring a robust evidence base is collected. It also requires the early and effective involvement of key delivery stakeholders and the community. This should ensure that there are fewer objections to the plan, or issues arising at a late stage.
Front loading also offers people and organisations an opportunity to influence plan content by sharing their knowledge and views with planners. Where consensus is difficult to achieve, front loading allows the maximum opportunity for participants to understand each others’ positions and to negotiate.
This means that any issues are clearly understood by the time documents are subject to examination. While this increases the workload in the early stages of plan making, overall it should increase the efficiency of the process and the quality of plans a local authority produces.
You should examine the importance of early and effective community engagement through scoping of the sustainability appraisal and engagement with key delivery stakeholders. This should take place before, during and after options are selected and taken forward into a plan. It is vitally important that authorities undertake early and effective engagement with a range of key delivery stakeholders. This is a key component of the front loading principle and will be important to the delivery of the plan.
The local community and stakeholders should be engaged from the outset. These include:
- national organisations
- government agencies (including SEA consultation bodies)
- regional organisations
- utilities companies
- local organisations and local community groups.
See also: List of consultees
Statements of community involvement have been useful in raising the profile of community involvement in planning, as well as putting in place strategies for community involvement that work across the planning functions of a local authority. Development plan documents should be prepared taking into consideration a process of continuous community engagement, in accordance with the statement of community involvement, and utilising a range of participation techniques.
The good practice example from South Tyneside on community engagement provides some interesting information about how they have gone about early and effective involvement of the community in the local development framework process. It includes useful information on joint working and the corporate approach to community engagement involving the local strategic partnership. In South Tyneside the council use leaflets that explained the process in a way that is both understandable and accessible to the community.
It is important to remember to remain in close contact with your government office during the plan preparation process as this should help to ensure the plan is sound. It will also help prevent any surprises at the formal representation stage when then government office submits their representation.
PPS12 Paragraph 4.22 states:
"The local authority and the local strategic partnership should take a strategic approach to community involvement."
Got a query, comment or complaint? Check the Frequently Asked Questions section for answers.
Good practice example
Chelmsford: evidence base and frontloading
How Chelmsford borough council built an evidence base to support their core strategy and town centre area action plan.
South Tyneside: engaging the community
How this small council managed to foster involvement from the local community in developing their core strategy.