March 2012 – Planning Aid Update

Planning Aid London (PAL) and Planning Aid England (PAE) have continued to provide an excellent service during 2011. However, the Planning Aid service will be affected by funding gaps from April onward.

Planning Aid England’s (PAE’s) recently released some Facts and Figures about the service between June and December 2011. The statistics included Planning Aid for London’s (PAL’s) contribution to the planning advice service, training and capacity building and plan making and support. PAL’s planning advisors dealt with 430 enquiries (15% of the enquiries handled across England). PAL has also seen consistent web traffic over the three quarters, approximately 4,000 page views per month.

In the first three quarters of 2011, Planning Aid for London has seen a dramatic increase in demand for training and outreach services.  After experiencing high demand for the three training events held in Q1 (95 participants), PAL increased the number of events held in Q1 (116 participants) and saw stronger demand by Q3 (434 participants).  The story was much the same for PAL’s community outreach programmes, going from 5 events with 122 participants in Q1 to a combined total of 33 events with 1134 participants over Quarters 2 & 3.  Much of this can be chalked up to the growing need for information about planning policy changes, including the Localism Act.  With the adoption of the Localism Act, PAL has seen an increase in enquiries from community groups interested in the new planning powers and expects this demand to continue into the future.

Planning Aid England has also seen growth in demand for their training and support services. PAE’s Handy Guide to Planning, Planning Pack, supporting materials for the Are You Fit for Neighbourhood Planning? product, and a new interactive website are all increasing the availability of PAE’s services to better suit communities’ needs.

Unfortunately, as the Supporting Communities and Neighbourhood in Planning funding will not be renewed for a second year on 31st March, this increase in demand for planning assistance potentially will be met by a reduction in services.  Planning Aid England will be closing its doors for a few months beginning in April while it seeks alternative sources of funding for the Planning Aid service. The other organisations which had provided subsidised services under SCNP funding – The Prince’s Foundation, Locality, and the National Association of Local Councils/the Campaign to Protect Rural England (NALC/CPRE) – have already announced that they do not have the capacity to offer assistance to communities. 

PAL is the only organisation still providing support to communities in need of neighbourhood planning advice and will continue to provide this service through its qualified volunteers after 31 March.

The organisation will continue to rely on donations and the time of volunteers.

For more information, or to offer your assistance go to http://www.planningaidforlondon.org.uk/

Skyler Yost

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