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Students in Neighbourhood Planning

What is neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning was introduced by the Localism Act 2011 as an additional, optional element of the statutory development plan in England.  Local people are able to influence the development in their areas.

The RTPI and Planning Aid England have been at the forefront of this process, supporting communities and offering advice and guidance on all aspects of this new process.

Why should Planning Schools and students be involved

Future professionals will need an understanding of the process and skills, such as community engagement and explaining planning issues, needed to work with the growing number of 'neighbourhood planning groups'.

Volunteering for neighbourhood planning is one way to develop and practice skills of community engagement which are key aspects to being a Chartered town planner.  Getting this type of work experience is an opportunity that can help graduates stand out in the job market.

Future career benefits

Experience of planning in the community can set graduates apart from their peers when it comes to job applications and is often viewed favourably by various public and private employers across the planning sector.

Likewise, producing a piece of data gathering work or conducting and analysing a survey will be an asset on your CV. Employers will look favourably upon candidates that can demonstrate real world skills.

Options and examples

It is possible for students to volunteer for Planning Aid England to help communities or individuals on a range of local and neighbourhood planning issues.

Alternatively students could directly assist neighbourhood planning groups.  A range of approaches can be seen from the case studies below.

Creating a volunteering offer

Some instances of student involvement have grown out of informal arrangements.  Engagement has often been most successful when a structured offer is in place for a particular piece of work. An example of how this can be constructed can be found on the Just Space Network website.

Student volunteers might be able to be undertake tasks such as:

  • Mapping local businesses, street furniture and green spaces
  • Producing questionnaires for the community consultation on draft plans
  • Facilitating early meetings on helping the community understand neighbourhood planning

It is important that when approaching a neighbourhood planning group to be clear as to the contribution including:

  • the particular tasks which can and cannot be undertaken by trainee planners;
  • the skills that could contribute to the aims and objectives of the group;
  • what the timescales are for involvement and getting agreement for the output upfront;
  • that assistance should be offered for free;
  • whether the assistance will be used for a university project or public research.

Remember that many local people volunteering their time on neighbourhood planning will be grateful for an extra pair of hands. Students can bring enthusiasm to projects.

Scope of involvement

It is of course important to note that planning students cannot replace the expertise that an RTPI Chartered town planner or a local planning authority should be able to provide in terms of formal land-use planning policy writing or other technical elements of a plan.

Further information and finding communities

If you want to find more out about neighbourhood planning and opportunities for you to get involved, you can contact Planning Aid England.

You can also visit the Department for Communities and Local Government neighbourhood planning webpage for more information.