The neighbourhood planning project is about the people who live in those neighbourhoods being in charge of the planning process. That means they decide where new developments should go and what they should look like. The Department for Communities and Local Government team was how to engage the volume of potential “users” e.g. parishes, community groups, local areas and individuals and support them in taking up this right in the absence of any real levers.
The team in DCLG used a “mobilisation” approach. This meant listening to communities, asking them questions directly and supporting them to make their plans through a network of volunteer champions. The team made sure the public knew who they were and how to get in touch, using Linked In and a public team bulletin. At first, they were worried they would be overwhelmed with large numbers of emails. However, they actually found that the open approach helped them understand better what was going on, build trust and deal with difficult issues early, meaning this didn't happen.
The team also attended local meetings and ran networking events. They used a number of digital tools to keep in touch with larger audiences, including. Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest. They also made their data available to everyone, for example by displaying geographical data on an interactive map.
Ministers really liked this open approach and the first seven neighbourhood plans came into being in April 2014. Another 1,000 are now in train.
Read more about the planning neighbourhoods together.