Saturday, 13 June 2009

What are Community Councils? Part 1

So what are Community Councils?

In the Scotsman on 15 November 2007 Professor Norman Bonney, Vice-President of the Association of Scottish Community Councils, wrote:

"Scotland’s 1200 community councils are one of the most neglected and underdeveloped institutions of representative democracy in the Scottish political system. Across Scotland – in islands, Highland villages, small burghs, suburbs, private and public housing estates and in central city areas - groups of citizens meet monthly to seek to remedy problems requiring attention in their neighbourhoods, draw the attention of local authority councillors and officials and Scottish and UK parliamentarians to them, and engage in a variety of activities that enhance life in their local communities."

The Highland Council web site tells us that:

Community Councils were established as a result of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. They do not have statutory duties or powers, and are essentially voluntary bodies established within a statutory framework.

The key roles of Community Councils are:

  • To represent the views of the community to The Highland Council and other public bodies operating in their area

  • To act to further the interests of their communities

  • To be consulted on planning applications within their area (The Town & Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Scotland) Amendment Order 1996)

  • To consider exercising their powers to object to the granting, renewal or transfer of liquor licences. (The Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976)

Friday, 12 June 2009

What are the Main Issues?

APT Sec is currently trying to find a user friendly definition of what the term 'Main Issues' means as far as planning goes.

However I do have some information on what a Main Issues Report is

As part of the new planning system, authorities must prepare a "Main Issues Report". The new Planning Act and Regulations are clear on what the Main Issues Report must contain. They are to set out the authorities' proposals for where development should and should not occur. They are not intended to be draft versions of the Local Development Plan, but should concentrate on the key areas of change and ideas for future development.

APTSec has read (in a publication prepared by a leading firm of chartered surveyors) that "...The 'Main Issues Report' will be subject to very broad consultation, with a view to the authority resolving concerns and clarifying policies prior to the preparation of the proposed Plan. The Main Issues Report aims to highlight and promote discussion on key areas of policy change, and to allow discussion of the merits of different sites which could be taken forward for development."

Planning Aid Scotland has stated:

"Planning Aid Scotland always aims to encourage communities/individuals to get involved with planning at Development Plan stage (as well as after applications are submitted i.e. Development Management stage); with the aim of guiding them to consider the wider issues of planning (e.g. climate change, health, future housing allocations, transport links etc.).

This is what the Government is hoping for at the Main Issues Report stage of preparation of the new Local Development Plans (Main Issues Report is mentioned in Highland Council’s Development Plan Scheme) – an opportunity for members of the public at this early stage in the plan preparation process to put forward their thoughts about any planning matter, from land allocation to wording of planning policies."

Highland Council is planning to hold a period of 6 weeks consultation on the Main Issues Report for the Highland wide Local Development Plan starting on the 14 August 2009.

What is Community Planning?

The Royal Town Planning Insitute's working definition of community planning (20-Apr-07) :

“Community planning means the strategies, techniques and capacity building required to encourage and enable communities to take a full and active role in both the statutory and non statutory planning processes”.

An introduction to community planning and the benefits of getting involved and how to decide what approach to use can be found in the 'about community planning' section of

Key concepts for community planning include:

Added value – through the contribution of participants;

Co-operation – breaking down barriers to ‘non co-operation’ and fostering close working relationships between all stakeholders;

Engagement – of all stakeholders;

Equal value – of the contributions of all stakeholders;

Empowerment – of all stakeholders to enable them to influence the decisions which affect their communities;

Evolving – combining the best of the past with the best of the new;

Integration – of a wide range of policy areas eg physical, social and economic;

Learning – through involvement;

Organic – growing from the bottom up rather than imposing solutions;

Outward looking – taking a holistic view;

Process – as important as the end products;

Realistic – taking into account the resources available and what can practically be achieved.

Sustainable – contributing to the building of sustainable communities

Community Involvement

"Community involvement has been shown to make a positive contribution to planning and development processes. At its best, community involvement can enable: processes to be speeded up; resources to be used more effectively; product quality and feelings of local ownership to improve; added value to emerge; confidence and skills to increase ­ for all; conflicts to be more readily resolved."

Department of the Environment England, Summary of planning research programme, 1994



"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

Thomas Jefferson, architect and President of the United States, 1820 Letter to William Charles Jarvis

Quote taken from web site

Community - What is Community Empowerment

According to the Communities and Local Government website:

Community Empowerment is about people and government, working together to make life better. It involves more people being able to influence decisions about their communities, and more people taking responsibility for tackling local problems, rather than expecting others to.

The idea is that government can't solve everything by itself, and nor can the community: it's better when we work together.

There are three key ingredients to community empowerment:

  • Active citizens: people with the motivation, skills and confidence to speak up for their communities and say what improvements are needed.
  • Strengthened communities: community groups with the capability and resources to bring people together to work out shared solutions.
  • Partnership with public bodies: public bodies willing and able to work as partners with local people.
The vision for empowering communities was set out by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett MP, in two key speeches: the Scarman Trust Forum Lecture on 11 December 2004 and the Edith Kahn Memorial Lecture on 11 June 2003

What do you think about the idea of community empowerment?

(PS you do not need an account to post a reply - just use 'anonymous' to post. Please let me know if anyone is experiencing problems leaving a message)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Reith Lectures

The Reith Lectures are a series of annual radio lectures on significant contemporary issues, delivered by leading figures from the relevant fields. In the 2009 lectures Professor Michael Sandel considers the expansion and moral limits of markets.

The Harvard Professor of Government delivers four lectures about the prospects of a new politics of the common good. The series is presented and chaired by Sue Lawley.

Professor Sandel considers the expansion of markets and how we determine their moral limits. Should immigrants, for example, pay for citizenship? Should we pay schoolchildren for good test results, or even to read a book? He calls for a more robust public debate about such questions, as part of a 'new citizenship'.

The first of 4 lectures by the Professor was broadcast on: BBC Radio 4, 9:00am Tuesday 9th June 2009

Duration: 45 minutes

It is available to listen to on i player and as a podcast.

APTSec found the lecture thought provoking and found the question and answer session that followed the lecture enlightening.

What the Government says about Planning


You will find the words above, printed as a capital letter heading, in the document,

Community Engagement - Planning with People; also known as Planning Advice Note PAN 81

Planning Advice Notes ( PANs) provide advice on good practice and other relevant information. This PAN provides advice to planning authorities and developers on how communities should be properly engaged in the planning process.

In the summary to the PAN you will find the following words:

This is the first time that the Scottish Executive has issued advice to planning authorities and developers on how communities should be properly engaged in the planning process. This PAN has been produced with the support of a steering group made up of representatives from planning authorities, Planning Aid for Scotland, the Royal Town Planning Institute, local community groups and the development industry.

Scotland's planning system is undergoing its most radical overhaul in 60 years. Scottish Ministers are determined to make the planning system more inclusive and accessible to people, with greater openness and accountability in the decision-making process. This cannot be achieved without reforming how planning involves people - but more importantly how people are involved in planning. It also requires real culture change - from everyone involved in the planning process.

Many people believe there are barriers to engagement in the planning system including: lack of awareness of available opportunities; inaccessibility of documents; complex procedures and practices; lack of expertise; consultation fatigue; belief that views are not taken into account and distrust of local government.

We need to change all of this. We now have a golden opportunity to create a planning system which Scotland can be proud of - modern, efficient and, above all, with communities at its heart.

This PAN shows how everyone can take part in shaping the future of their area, providing information and advice on how best to listen, engage and understand what people want for their area.

APT strongly recommends reading this PAN 81. Among other things it is a good way of getting to know who is who in the planning system and what the roles and responsibilities are in the new planning system.

Delivering Planning Reform

Throughout April and May 2009, six road shows were held across Scotland with the aim of raising awareness of:

The contribution planning can make to sustainable economic growth,

The legal framework within which planning will operate, and

The central contributions that culture change can make.

The Scottish Government, Heads of Planning Scotland, key Agencies and representatives of the private sector presented to local authority chief executives and elected members as well as front line planning and agency staff.

More information on the subject of Delivering Planning Reform can be found on the Scottish Government web pages at:

A total of 80 elected members and 233 officials attended these events across Scotland. A day event was held in Inverness at the Riverside Hotel on 14 May 2009 and 8 members and 28 officials attended.

Key Messages from Stakeholders on Planning Reform were given in a note of events as being:

Agencies : Scottish Water are a role model of where agencies need to be.

Planning Authorities : Prioritisation of resources needed on proposals that, when implemented, offer the greatest level of economic betterment for the area (link to dedicated resources and processing agreements).

Councillors : Need training to understand development plans and what developers are trying to achieve.

SG : Should give stronger steer on the project management of development plans that focussed and relevant.

Private sector : Maintaining a good track record of involvement and delivering is important.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A thought for you

New Plans will need to make sure that development takes place in the most sustainable way.

Sustainable development is most commonly defined as:

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

One dictionary definition of the word 'sustain' is:

"to keep (something) going over time or continuously"

It will be interesting to see what the new 'Highland wide Local Development Plan' has to offer.

Why get involved in any consultation on Development Plans?

As Local or Area wide Development Plans set the context within which new development can happen, it is important that everyone affected (and I am sure that we all will be in one way or another) has an opportunity to input It is also important that the Local Authority provides plenty of opportunity for people to make their views known and to get involved; therefore that everyone who wants to have an input into the preparation of the Local or Area Development Plans has the opportunity to do so.

What is a Development Plan?

Development Plans are prepared for every local authority in Scotland. They set out an authority’s policies and proposals for the use and development of land in its area, including the appearance of cities towns and rural areas. They are concerned mainly with the use of land and guide future development to the most appropriate locations. They must provide clear guidance on what development will or will not be allowed and where. They address a wide range of policy issues, including housing, shopping, business, industry, transport, recreation, built and natural heritage. Planning Applications decisions must be in accordance with the Development Plan unless material considerations (i.e. significant issues relating to the use and development of land) indicate otherwise.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Planning and People

The impact of development, much of which is irreversible, on the lives of individuals and communities can be very significant depending on its nature, scale and location.

Everyone has the right to comment on a proposed development that is likely to affect them.

The planning system is there to promote, facilitate and regulate development in the public interest.

Over the coming months this blog will share with you our experience of the planning process as The Highland Council begins its consultation on a new Highland wide Plan.