The ground-breaking Skeffington Report, ‘People and Planning. Report of the Committee on Public Participation in Planning’ was prepared by Arthur Skeffington MP and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It was published by HMSO in 1969.
The Skeffington Committee was appointed in 1968 to assess how the public might become more involved in the creation of local development plans. This was a response to the belief that the Town and Country Planning Act created a largely ‘top down’ system, and followed the 1965 report ‘The Future of Development Plans’ prepared by the Planning Advisory Group.
Prior to this, public consultation had largely been a gesture only, involving the ‘usual suspects’, already familiar with the planning process and how to participate. At a time of slum clearances, town centre redevelopments and major road building programmes, this had resulted in poor community involvement and the emergence of a number of protest groups.
The Skeffington Report proposed that local development plans should be subject to full public scrutiny and debate. However, the recommendations of the report were not immediately taken up. They were seen as being rather vague and were misrepresented as simply advocating better public education and better communications so that it could be claimed planning decisions were well supported.
However, in the longer term, the principals that it set out became more widely accepted. Planners and developers have become more pro-active, and previously unrepresented and ‘hard to reach’ parts of society have become better engaged. This has begun to establish planning as a genuinely democratic process, involving mediation between a wide range of competing interests.
This culminated most recently in the introduction of the Localism Act and the emergence of policies such neighbourhood planning described by DCLG as, '...a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work'. Neighbourhood planning is intended to allow local communities:
- To influence where new developments should take place.
- To influence what new developments should look like.
- Under certain circumstances to grant planning permission.
However, the change is a gradual one, and even neighbourhood planning has attracted criticism for empowering a particular section of the community, already used to wielding power.
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