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MSFG Guide to the Planning System

Making Plans: How you can use the planning system to make space for girls

June 21, 2023
June 22, 2023
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Our latest production is what we hope will be a very helpful resource on planning, which has been produced for us by Sarah Lewis. MCD, MRTPI.

Sarah has worked as a town planner for 25 years, most recently as Planning Practice Officer at The Royal Town Planning Institute, where she authored much guidance for planners including the RTPI advice note: Children and Town Planning.

Sarah became interested in Make Space for Girls when as the mother of two girls she found herself giving them the same advice about personal safety that her mother had given her many years before and realised that the issues around gender equality in the public realm still hadn't been addressed. 

What she's written is a straightforward guide for members of the public who want to get involved in their local planning system and influence it for the better.

Why get involved in your local planning system?

Sometimes you only find out about a proposed skatepark or MUGA coming to your local park after all the important stuff has happened. The council has taken the decision; the site has been chosen; the funding has been allocated and a preferred contractor found.  And by this stage it is generally too late to argue for a more inclusive space.

So how can you get involved at a sufficiently early stage to influence these key decisions? The answer: understand your local planning system and get involved.

This sounds like a daunting task. The planning process is incredibly complicated: people study planning for years at university; councils have entire departments dedicated to planning; developers spend huge amounts of money on securing planning permissions. How can I possibly understand enough to make my voice heard?

The good news is that planning processes are designed to involve local people. All the planners we have ever met are creative and committed professionals who genuinely want to understand what local people would like to see and to make decisions that support their communities’ needs.

Getting involved doesn’t have  to mean writing angry letters to the local paper or camping out in trees. It means:

  • Understanding who does what in your area. If it’s a London or metropolitan borough council, it is quite straight forward: but in a multi-tiered council it is more complicated. You need to know which council (parish, district, county) takes responsibility for which decisions so you can direct your thoughts on creating more inclusive spaces to the right people;
  • Understanding the different policy documents that are involved. Planning decisions are driven by layers of planning policies - they have to be so that everyone knows what the rules are when it comes to balancing all the competing demands (accommodating the roller blade crew while protecting the local wildlife).
  • Knowing when these documents are being looked by by officials and so you can intervene to make your views known            

This guide explains all of this and much more to help you get your voice heard.

And if you do get involved in any local planning decisions to support your local council to create more inclusive spaces, do let us know. We'd love to hear how you get on.


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