4. Steps to be taken before preparing the Local Place Plan
4.1 The consultation paper explains that, from examples of community led plans, it is apparent that community bodies have taken engagement with their communities seriously and have taken positive steps to engage with their communities to ensure that they have evidence of their community's aspirations and views.
4.2 Views were sought on whether there should be statutory requirements on community bodies to engage with their local communities in preparing the LPP, or if engagement options could be better explained in guidance instead.
Question 4: Do you think a requirement for the community body to engage and seek the views of people to assist in the preparation of an LPP should be set out in law?
4.3 Responses at Question 4 are set out in Table 4.1 below.
|% of individuals answering||72%||23%||5%|
|Community Council or Trust||25||10||1||36|
|Local Authority, Community Planning Partnership or Transport Partnership||31||0||0||31|
|Other - Private Sector||6||2||0||8|
|Third Sector or Voluntary Group||17||4||2||23|
|% of organisations answering||83%||13%||4%|
|% of respondents answering||80%||16%||4%|
4.4 A majority of respondents – 80% of those answering the question – thought a requirement for the community body to engage and seek the views of people to assist in the preparation of an LPP should be set out in law. Of the remaining respondents, 16% did not think so and 4% had no view. The majority of organisations that did not think a requirement should be set out in law were Community Councils or Trusts.
4.5 Around 165 respondents provided a further comment.
Views of those supporting a statutory approach
4.6 Those who thought a requirement should be set out in law sometimes referred to such an approach being essential, fundamental or vital, and that the approach should be prescribed in order to aid transparency, and promote consistency across LPP areas. Other reasons given for favouring the statutory approach included that without wide engagement LPPs cannot fulfil their intended role in helping to increase collaboration and reduce conflict. It was reported that, while community bodies typically do excellent consultation, in the worst cases there can be a lack of transparency as well as conflicting aspirations within a community.
4.7 It was also suggested that a statutory requirement would help ensure that the timescale for production, potential resource implications, engagement with the public and potential for collaboration with community planning partners are considered early. It would also provide a clear steer that LPPs are to be based on a robust evidence base which reflects the views of the local community.
4.8 It was seen as important that the LPP process is rigorous in upholding the rights of all people to have the opportunity to have their say and engage on land use matters in their local area. There was a concern that, without the requirement being set out in law, there would be a risk that LPPs could be prepared by only a few individuals, or by only a small group of people with a focused agenda. There was also a concern that, while many community bodies will be well intentioned, bias is likely to exist. This was connected to a danger that community groups could prepare LPPs that oppose, rather than include, the needs and views of marginalised groups.
4.9 Further, it was stressed that engagement is not a task that a community body should take lightly, including because it is an integral part of the legitimacy of an LPP. In essence, the requirement to seek the views of those in the community should be enshrined in legislation to ensure it is taken seriously.
4.10 However, it was acknowledged that some forms of community engagement can involve considerable resources which may be difficult for community bodies, even if some assistance were available. Although supporting a statutory approach, some respondents commented that any requirements should not be excessively onerous or prescriptive or should be as light-touch as possible. There was also a call for minimum standards, which are easily understood and measurable, in order to ensure extensive and fair consultation.
4.11 There were a small number of comments about safeguards that could be appropriate, including:
- That the legislation could set out a process for another body or an individual to request engagement during preparation of an LPP. It was suggested that this could provide the surety of inclusion without administrative burden.
- That a further step should be put in place to ensure that the views expressed by local people are accurately represented in the LPP. There should also be a requirement to record and demonstrate how inputs provided through an engagement exercise have been reflected in the final LPP.
- Any minimum requirement should include providing feedback to all those engaged about how their views and experiences have influenced decision making.
- A question as to whether it be possible for there to be an appeal against an inadequate process being followed or whether a lower level of engagement would give a local authority grounds to reject an LPP?
4.12 While many of the comments focused on community engagement, it was also suggested there should be a statutory requirement for community bodies to engage with planning authorities in developing their LPP. It was thought that this would align with the collaborative spirit of legislation and help to guide LPPs in relation to relevant policies, plans and strategies to which the community body should have regard.
Views of those not supporting a statutory approach
4.13 Those who did not support a requirement for the community body to engage and seek the views of people to assist in the preparation of an LPP being set out in law sometimes raised similar points to those who had agreed. It was suggested that a very light touch is needed, that a statutory requirement would be too prescriptive, and that guidance would be preferable to regulation.
4.14 The importance of some form of engagement was accepted, but it was also noted that different community bodies have different strengths and weaknesses including in relation to particular expertise. It was also noted that those working with and for community bodies are generally volunteers and the amount of time they are able or willing to give may be limited. There was an associated concern that a legal requirement would be counterproductive in that many volunteers would cease their involvement due to concerns about too much work and too much accountability.
4.15 Further concerns about the practicality and viability of any overly prescriptive approach included that it is difficult to reach everyone in an area within a given timescale and that costs can be considerable.
4.16 In addition to the preference for guidance rather than regulation, suggestions for alternative ways forward included that:
- Any requirement should not be statutory if the community body is formally constituted, for example in the case of community councils. A connected point was that community councils, and some development trusts, already have a statutory duty to consult. It was suggested that any decision to regulate should be done by extending the form of obligations already in place for community councils and community trusts to cover any other type of community body compiling an LPP.
- The early-stage statutory burden should apply to the community body rather than to the LPP. The community body should, for example, have regard to the National Standards for Community Engagement when either constituting itself for the purpose of preparing an LPP, or in the case of a pre-existing body, when taking the decision to prepare an LPP.
4.17 While the focus of most comments was on the impact on community bodies, it was also noted that any requirement to engage with other stakeholders will also impact on those stakeholders themselves. It was noted that stakeholders, particularly if operating across many areas of Scotland, may not have the resources to provide support to every LPP. It was suggested that communities should have the flexibility to take a proportionate approach towards engaging appropriate people and stakeholders.
Question 5: If a requirement to seek the views of people is put into law, what should any minimum requirement be?
4.18 Around 170 respondents answered Question 5.
4.19 General observations included that the aim should be for communications to reach the majority of the population to inform and spark people's interest and provide an invitation for them to get involved in the process. It was seen as vital to create an inclusive approach from the start, but the importance of limiting the administrative burden on community bodies was also noted.
4.20 Respondents also highlighted standards or requirements in other contexts which they considered to be relevant to the development of LPPs. Comments included that:
- Legislation for consultation and engagement on LPPs should be consistent with provisions in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
- The National Standards for Community Engagement should be taken into consideration as good practice when setting a minimum requirement. There could be reference to good practice for community engagement as defined by the Development Trust Association Scotland.
- The Community Right to Buy process could provide a template for minimum engagement requirements for LPPs. It was reported that the process generally requires the backing of 10% of the local community as sufficient evidence of local buy-in, although Scottish Ministers can accept a lower proportion in some circumstances.
- Any approach should be similar to that required for LDPs. It was noted that, if LPPs are to be adopted into LDPs, then there would be a requirement to have the elements within them consulted on. An associated concern was that if the community body has not done this, then the onus will fall onto the local authority.
- The requirements should be broadly in line with the pre-application consultation requirements which developers are required to follow in line with The Town and Country Planning (Pre-Application Consultation) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021.
4.21 There was also reference to the use of the Place Principle and support for the use of the Place Standard tool, with further comments including that this approach is now recognised by the World Health Organisation. Digital engagement tools, such as Placebuilder, were also mentioned.
4.22 It was suggested that any requirements should be dependent on and reflect the specific nature of each community seeking to create an LPP. It was also suggested that the nature of the community engagement should be flexible and determined by the community body, taking into consideration any Community Consultation Engagement strategy documents produced by the Scottish Government or by the local authority covering the LPP area.
4.23 A different perspective was that the regulations should include a duty to consult specified communities of interest in order to ensure that decision-making is sufficiently supported with a framework that communities can apply to their individual processes.
4.24 Whatever the requirement, and as at other questions, there were a number of references to the need for resources being available to community bodies. One perspective was that it will be important for bodies to be enabled to carry out engagement independently of local government. Another was that, where supported by the necessary resources, local authority community and planning teams would be in a position to provide positive support.
4.25 There were also references to the role and focus on guidance, including that the Renfrewshire Council 'How to' Guide provides a starting point, but could be further refined to be of practical use. It was also suggested that guidance should include advice and case studies on planning engagement models.
Setting out the plans for engagement
4.26 In terms of clearly setting out the planned approach, it was suggested that the legislation should require that, prior to preparing LPPs, community bodies should publish a programme of community engagement, so that those interested can understand the engagement process and key stages for their input. One suggestion was that this programme of engagement should then be submitted to the relevant planning authority for their approval and should be publicised and duly notified (through local papers, social media etc.).
4.27 A connected point was that a statement and evidence of conformity with the scheme should be submitted to the planning authority alongside the LPP. Others also suggested that there should be a requirement to report on the consultation and engagement that has been undertaken and a Local Authority respondent reported that, because of the Public Sector Equality Duty, they would need this evidence when preparing an Equality Impact Assessment to validate an LPP. A specific suggestion was that the proposal should be re-phrased to state that what should be required in law is for the community body to "demonstrate how they have engaged with and sought the views of the local community and other stakeholders".
4.28 It was suggested that the guidance should require that a consultation statement be included with the submission setting out how, and with whom, consultation has been carried out and how this process informed the LPP. Specific suggestions included that the LPP should:
- Highlight how the community body advertised engagement and consultation opportunities to the wider community within the LPP area.
- Set out the engagement mechanisms utilised at milestones, including the reasons for using particular tools and level of responses / engagement at each stage through each mechanism.
- Note any key agency consultation.
4.29 One suggestion was that, if a planning authority considers that insufficient engagement has in fact taken place it should be able to instruct the community body to undertake further engagement.
When engagement should be required
4.30 Some respondents addressed when within the timeframes of developing an LPP a community body should be required to engage, with references to both being engaged in the preparation of an LPP and/or being consulted on a draft LPP. Please note that consulting on the draft LPP is the focus of Questions 6 and 7.
4.31 References to community bodies consulting on a draft LPP sometimes framed this as being the minimum requirement and it was also suggested that, rather than specifying minimum requirements for consultation and engagement, there should be a minimum statutory requirement on the community body to consult the community once a draft LPP has been prepared and before submitting it.
4.32 An alternative view was that there should be community engagement opportunities prior to preparation of the draft LPP document and with a focus on gathering people's thoughts and ideas. It was suggested that consulting only at Draft Plan stage could be counterintuitive as the issues and solutions have been well formed at this point and respondents are largely responding to these established issues rather than being given a chance to suggest their own. A requirement for 'a call for issues' type consultation early in LPP preparation was proposed.
With whom community bodies should engage
4.33 A number of the comments (both at Question 5 and Question 4) identified communities of interest - groups or individuals - who respondents considered should be covered under any requirement. The most frequent references were to the general public, residents or those living within the boundaries of the LPP. It was suggested that it is residents who will be most impacted by decisions and actions related to places, and that those most affected by any plan should have the greatest importance in any decision making.
4.34 One approach suggested was that there should be a requirement for a minimum proportion of the community to be consulted or to have been approached for comment. It was suggested that a benchmarking approach could help inform requirements. As noted above, it was reported that the Community Right to Buy process generally requires the backing of 10% of the local community as sufficient evidence of local buy-in.
4.35 However, an alternative perspective was that a minimum response rate should not be specified, and it should be down to the community body to decide if they have a mandate to take the LPP forward, taking account of both the qualitative as well as quantitative information they have.
4.36 Other comments considered the profile of those engaged with, with suggestions including that representations should be expected to approximately reflect the demographic profile – for example relating to age, gender, ethnicity or employment status – of the area. It was noted that the key thrust of the 2019 Act was to ensure community engagement in the early stages of the planning process and that it is critical that LPP engagement should be framed to ensure inclusivity and that sectors of communities are not disadvantaged.
4.37 In support of this approach, it was suggested that guidance should highlight the importance of ensuring that engagement takes place in a way that is fully accessible and supports participation across the community. It was noted, for example, that consideration needs to be given not only to how people are made aware of the LPP development, but also how to ensure that people with a range of different requirements can express their views. It was also noted that the resource implications of such engagement should be recognised and supported.
4.38 Specific suggestions included that steps should be taken to facilitate engagement with organisations for disabled people, organisations of disabled people, and with individual disabled people and with similar groups for minority ethnic people as well as individuals who may not be members of such organisations but are likely to have relevant views. Community bodies should be required to indicate what steps have been taken to engage with disabled people and minority ethnic people and how issues raised were considered by the community body.
4.39 There was also specific reference to:
- Travellers, or Scottish Gypsy / Travellers specifically.
- Showpeople. It was reported that while Showpeople make significant social and economic contributions to their local area, community councils often fail to consider these communities as residents in their own neighbourhoods. In terms of consulting Scottish Showpeople, the recommendation was for a minimum statutory requirement that contact should be made with all relevant representative groups and landlords in each locality with enough time for people to respond meaningfully.
- Gaelic speaking communities. There was a concern that the proposed regulations do not ensure that their needs will be accounted for in LPPs. It was suggested that, at the least, this should be referenced in the final version of the regulations.
4.40 Children and young people were a frequently raised group. There was a connected concern about the potential for the views of children and young people to be consistently overruled by other members of the community.
4.41 It was suggested that community bodies should be required to promote and facilitate participation by children and young people, in common with the new statutory requirement for local authorities to do so when preparing new LDPs. In this context, the impact of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child legislation and duties in the 2019 Act were noted, as was the need to involve the whole community, children and young people from diverse backgrounds and disabled children, including children with complex needs and their families. It was also reported that groups such as younger children, young people experiencing poverty or from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be excluded from opportunities to share their views.
4.42 In terms of approaches it was suggested that:
- It is essential that guidance is provided for community bodies in how to deliver meaningful engagement with children and young people. It should recognise that the methods used for gathering the views from adults may not be suitable for children and young people.
- There could be a requirement to consult with schools and youth organisations.
- Appropriate co-creation methods should be used to effectively engage with children and young people. The Place Standard Tool for Children and Young People was highlighted.
4.43 Other types of organisations or people that respondents wanted community bodies to engage with included:
- Statutory consultees, all statutory community bodies, or community planning partners. The local planning authority (as discussed at Question 4).
- Local community organisations.
- Third sector organisations.
- Landowners and managers. Reasons given included that they have an interest in, and make key and long-term business decisions about, how land is used.
- Home builders. Reasons given included that they may have land interests and may be able to help with delivery.
- Businesses active in the area. Relevant representative bodies or fora, such as the Federation of Small Businesses or those involved in Business Improvement Districts.
- Those who visit or work in the area.
- Development trusts.
4.44 Other suggestions included that it would be of assistance if national guidance set out a list of bodies or groups with whom it would be appropriate for community bodies to engage. In terms of other elements that could helpfully be covered in guidance, the following were identified:
- How views are to be sought.
- The timeframe for seeking views.
- How those to be consulted with should be identified.
4.45 On this latter point, it was suggested that home builders with interests in the area might be identified through reference to the Housing Land Audit, through the local authority and through Homes for Scotland.
Particular approaches suggested
4.46 A wide range of comments and suggestions addressed the detail of the engagement which community bodies could or should undertake. There was a call for a multi-channel approach, with creative and imaginative forms of consultation. In terms of specific elements to be covered or activities to be included as part of the engagement, suggestions included:
- Carrying out local publicity, including a notice of intention to prepare a plan. Approaches could include using the local press or the use of social media platforms.
- Establishing a dedicated on-line presence, with options including space on the local authority website, a dedicated website or use of well-known and used social media platforms.
- Carrying out online and face-to-face engagement (COVID-permitting), including carrying out surveys, and holding meetings or consultation events, or running focus groups. Also making presentations to local community groups or running drop-in sessions.
- Providing opportunities to review draft LPPs online and at community venues.
4.47 Reflecting some of the issues raised above around diversity and ensuring everyone has an opportunity to contribute, it was suggested that digital approaches should not be the default nor the only option available to people. It was also noted that any meetings should be open and accessible, and information should be made available in accessible form.
4.48 There was also reference to how any outputs from engagement could be used, with comments including that:
- Thought will need to be given to how public consultation responses are considered within LPPs. LPP authors may not have the technical expertise to identify a preferred option from a complex set of consultation responses.
- LPP authors should be required to prepare a statement on consultation responses received and how they were addressed.