We recently went to a disastrous local planning workshop.
Why was it so bad?
First, it was during the working day, for the convenience of the professionals. That meant the community participants were massively skewed to those who were anti-change and anti-growth. Hint: those who are most pro-homes and pro-growth often find it hard to clear a weekday morning at short notice. They often find email easier than meetings. They like preparation, not patronizing exercises with felt-tip pens.
Second, the plan was incredibly general, about use of sites. Because none of the community members knew what the resulting new buildings would look like, they felt the safest thing was to oppose all change. It is much easier to get people to support change with specific proposals for attractive designs. Asking people to write blank cheques is the hardest possible way.
Third, there were no specific proposals for any community benefit, in a part of London with high poverty rates but high commercial rents. It would be very easy to improve the lives of many for very little cost, given the economic potential at stake. Yet there was no effort to do that.
Fourth, the professionals had already been briefed, but the community representatives were surprised by various pieces of news during the session, giving them no time to consult with their communities. Again, the safest reaction was to err on the side of caution.
It almost seemed like the authority involved was bending over backwards to get as much opposition as possible.
Except that it wasn't: it was trying to be pro-growth. It had just failed to do anything to let that happen, and done a host of things to stop it.
We can all do so much better than this. If you're a local authority who wants more homes and more growth, we're happy to help for free. Please get in touch.