Yesterday we published an article “Planning issues in Nairn - will the Community Empowerment Bill have a significant effect?”
That article has prompted some interesting comments. It also inspired Highland Councillor Richard Laird to comment on twitter: “Community planning is different from development planning. Development planning isn't covered by the bill”. This observer replied that he did not think he was alone in thinking that the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill would cover planning issues as we understand them in Nairn. An understandable mistake perhaps and then slightly ironic that the subject that has perhaps most contributed to a feeling of disempowerment in Nairn in recent years (until Nairn residents took to the streets) would apparently not be covered by the community empowerment mechanism going through the Scottish Parliament. We decided however, to put it out to Gurn think tank members who are serious students of these matters for their thoughts.
After some research from our team the Gurn would respectfully suggest that Richard is partly but not entirely correct. What follows might seem esoteric to some and perhaps a bit of an indulgence but we hope some of you interested in these matters might find it interesting. We would suggest:
The Community and Empowerment Bill is aimed at enhancing and empowering communities across the piece, in accordance with the principles of local democracy. So the CERB is about local involvement in all decisions on each and every aspect of the functions and operations of local government. That's why it has, for example, a section on Common Good, a section on the Right to Buy, and even a section on Allotments! All these are, as it happens, directly associated with "development planning".
Community planning at a conceptually level is largely about planning the delivery of public services. Its role is embodied, and articulated (see here http://highlandlife.net/highland_public_services_partnership/community_planning especially about halfway down the page) - in the "Single Outcome Agreement" (SOA). The text is available off the HC website It sets out a list of subject areas, or 'outcomes' which both local and national government are committed to delivering. Some are of course to do with childcare, health, public safety, and the elderly. BUT there are two areas (or 'outcomes') in particular - Economic Recovery and Growth, and Environmental Outcomes - which relate directly to development planning.
It therefore follows that an effective Community Planning Partnership ought to (a) address all the areas covered by the SOA, including those two; and (b) that a CPP should, as the MSP report says, have effective mechanisms for consulting communities and getting their input.
So while Richard is right up to a point in suggesting there is a difference between 'community planning' and 'development planning', this is a largely semantic distinction. Community planning embraces everything which the local authority does with and for (but hopefully not just to) its constituents. So it includes the infrastructure, facilities, housing, and the range of public amenities which development plans are supposed to deliver (see for example paras 2.5 and 2.11 of the SOA and also elsewhere such as 3.5.1 and its tables, which are dressed up in the jargon of "building successful places"). Hence community planning is not the same as, but includes, development planning.”
Here in Nairn we would contend that it is all about a joined up approach and that means communities having an engagement at all levels of Community and Development planning. We would suggest that those who are working locally to try and develop a more Nairn-friendly mindset (especially from the local authority) see great potential in the the CERB and believe it is a tool which could put Nairn back into decision making processes in a meaningful way. At the moment we would suggest that the community is often bypassed on the simplest of decisions such as playground slides as the recent controversy on the Links suggests.