The future of consultation in planning

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My book Public Consultation and Community Involvement in Planning: a twenty-first century guidelooks in detail at the way in which consultation has changed so far this century.  From an increased use of co-production resulting in a more qualitative approach, to significant advancements in online consultation, change has been substantial.

Looking ahead, is consultation likely to see such significant change in the next twenty years as it has done in since the Millennium? I address this in my third book, Communicating Construction: insight, experience and best practice which is due to be published in March 2021.

With the speed of change we are seeing at the moment, specifically the publication of the Government’s Planning White Paper Planning for the Future, there is a danger that this will soon be out of date!

Political will is likely to dictate future change. At the time of writing, a Conservative government is responding to both the lack of housing and change on the high street by increasingly introducing permitted development rights. The absence of planning consent in such cases removes the need for local consultation and consultation requirements are reduced. Simultaneously, the former Labour planning minister Nick Raynsford, was appointed by the TCPA to review the planning system and the recommendations within his report, Planning 2020, are for significantly more consultation and community involvement in planning. The future requirement to consult appears to depend on what is currently a very precarious political balance.

Politics aside, and regardless of a legal requirement to consult, consultations are increasingly scrutinised though the courts, necessitating a good awareness of consultation law among all communications teams.

As a result of these trends, and thanks to some excellent training and guidance provided by the Consultation Institute, consultation is becoming increasingly professional. Quality assurance, consultation industry standards of practice, professional accreditations and CPD have contributed to this. In future I would hope to see the creation of a ‘good’ consultation kitemark for the industry, increased training for planning consultants on consultation, and a formalised means of best practice across industry, specifically on subjects such as online consultation, evaluation and analysis, and the use of co-production. This, together with adherence to the strategic process, will help address the challenges that we currently face.

Extract from Chapter 2 Planning: effective communication through consultation by Penny Norton in Communicating Construction: insight, experience and best practice, to be published by Routledge in early 2021.

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