5. Steps which must be taken before submitting a completed Local Place Plan
5.1 The consultation paper explains that the Scottish Government is also considering whether some form of consultation on the proposals that have been worked up into the LPP should be included, and the form of any such requirement.
Question 6: Do you agree with the proposal that 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 an LPP?
Please comment on your answer (particularly if you do not agree).
5.2 Responses at Question 6 are set out in Table 5.1 below.
|% of individuals answering||83%||13%||3%|
|Community Council or Trust||28||5||2||35|
|Local Authority, Community Planning Partnership or Transport Partnership||29||0||1||30|
|Other - Private Sector||7||0||0||7|
|Third Sector or Voluntary Group||22||2||0||24|
|% of organisations answering||89%||7%||5%|
|% of respondents answering||87%||9%||4%|
5.3 A large majority of those who answered the question - 87% - agreed that there should be a minimum statutory requirement to consult the community once a draft LPP has been prepared, while 9% disagreed and 4% had no view. Those who disagreed were predominantly Individuals and Community Council or Trust respondents.
5.4 Around 135 respondents provided an additional comment at Question 6. Some responses repeated themes raised at Questions 4 and 5, or simply referred to answers at the earlier questions.
Views of those supporting a statutory requirement
5.5 Some respondents considered a requirement to consult the community on the draft LPP as sensible or obvious, or highlighted the need to ensure the proposed LPP reflects the views of the wider community, including those who may not generally be heard, and not just of those who prepared it. It was noted that some members of a community may not fully engage with an LPP until proposals have been formulated.
5.6 A statutory approach was argued to make clear the responsibility of the community body to ensure the consultation process is robust. However, it was also thought that any requirements to consult on the draft plan should be light touch or should be such that they do not deter community bodies from preparing an LPP.
5.7 Distinguishing between engagement as part of the production of an LPP and a subsequent consultation on its content was suggested to be important, with the latter consultation providing an opportunity for discussion on how issues highlighted during initial engagement have been taken forward. It was thought this will be particularly important if the LPP is not prepared as part of an overarching Locality Plan.
5.8 However, the potential for disagreement within communities was also referenced, and it was noted that there may be strong feelings on different sides of an issue even within the smallest community. It was acknowledged that the consultation process may risk a focus on negatives rather than positives in the LPP and that those who have invested their time in preparing the plan may be resistant to negative comments. It was argued there must be rights to formally object to an LPP and to appeal against adoption of a plan.
5.9 In this context it was suggested that a more rounded approach to collaborative community working, rather than consultation per se, that would ensure that sections of the community are 'engaged' in the process and not just consulted.
5.10 The potential for consultation on the draft to increase robustness of LPPs was also highlighted. It was argued that this can give the planning authority confidence that the plan accurately reflects community aspirations and can aid scrutiny of the LPP at Examination. Without such demonstration of support from the community, it was suggested the potential for the planning authority to face future challenge may be increased.
5.11 Similar statutory requirements were noted to be in place in other areas and to work well in providing a further opportunity to ensure that plans accurately reflect local issues and priorities. It was suggested that consulting on the draft LPP would be in line with the practice of consulting on draft LDPs and with new requirements for applicants for planning permission.
5.12 Specific suggestions with respect to the requirement placed on community bodies included:
- Rather than specifying minimum requirements for consultation and engagement, there should be a statutory requirement on the community body to consult the community once a draft LPP has been prepared, to set out what steps were undertaken to engage with the local community, the results of the consultation, and how this has informed the LPP.
- Flexibility must be permitted in the method of consultation, with the most appropriate methods chosen to reach the local community, and recorded to provide evidence of the breadth and depth of consultation. How to consult should be in guidance not regulation.
- The minimum statutory requirement outlined in the consultation document should be strengthened, with consultation early in the development of LPPs to inform their drafting, involving a wider range of stakeholder views than is currently proposed, including statutory consultees if relevant.
5.13 It was argued that options to make changes to the LPP need to be clearly communicated early on in the consultation and development process, and that it will be important that the community body is able to manage expectations.
5.14 With respect to the level of response or support that might be achieved, it was suggested that there should not be a requirement to demonstrate a certain level of support for an LPP, as this would assume a level of democratic involvement which may not be deliverable. A small response to an appropriate consultation should not undermine the LPP.
5.15 Respondents also commented on action in response to feedback received on the draft plan, including a suggestion that there should be guidelines to ensure appropriate changes are made as a result of the consultation. It was suggested that analysis of representations received and how they have been considered should be included in additional documentation submitted with final LPP or that, if there is no required process for modification of the plan, then the output of the consultation must be made available to the planning authority alongside the final LPP.
5.16 Community consultation on whether an LPP should remain on the register at the start of a new LDP cycle was also suggested.
5.17 While agreeing that there should be a minimum statutory requirement, some respondents qualified their approval or noted issues that might arise as a result including:
- A risk of 'consultation fatigue'.
- That limited time may be available to community bodies for consultation on the draft LPP and that a period for consultation and revision should be built into the timeline for LPP production.
- That community bodies will require resources, with suggestions that consultation on the draft LPP should be required only as long as it is within the resources of a community body or that costs should be covered by the local authority. An alternative proposal was that the local authority should provide resources to publicise a draft LPP and collate the responses, with the community body helping to engage the community in the process and taking the responses into account.
Views of those not supporting a statutory requirement
5.18 Some points made by respondents who did not think there should be a minimum statutory requirement to consult on the draft LPP reflected issues raised by respondents who had agreed.
5.19 It was argued that:
- There should be a requirement to consult throughout the LPP process – both during preparation of the LPP and on the draft. Communities of interest as well as of place should be engaged with.
- If legislation were to require the community body to agree an engagement plan with the planning authority prior to commencing an LPP, there would be no need to consult the community again once a draft LPP has been prepared.
- A community body should consult on the draft LPP, but it should not be a minimum statutory requirement. It was suggested such a requirement would not be appropriate for a volunteer body and that it would be preferable to set out best practice for engagement with the community in guidelines. The importance of a light touch approach was emphasised.
- Community councillors are elected to represent the community and community councils should be trusted to so.
5.20 It was also reported that community councils and some trusts already have a legal obligation to consult and may choose to do so at this stage. If it is decided to regulate, it was suggested that this existing obligation on community councils could be extended to other types of community body producing an LPP.
5.21 Resources were again highlighted, with a suggestion that the local authority should fund a consultation on the draft LPP.
Question 7: If a requirement to consult across the community on the content of a draft LPP is to be put into law, what should any minimum requirement be?
5.22 Around 170 respondents answered Question 7 with some respondents referring back to their answer at Question 5.
5.23 General comments on the nature of consultation on the draft LPP included that legislation should not prescribe the form of consultation but should be flexible, setting out principles that the community body should follow. It was also argued that the consultation exercise should be both proportionate to the scale and scope of the proposals, and appropriate to the community in question. A requirement to make 'reasonable efforts' to properly consult with those who live, work and operate across the area in question was suggested.
5.24 It was suggested that several existing models for a consultation process could be used as a basis for consultation on the draft LPP including that it might:
- Reflect procedures for consultation on the LDP, including an early Evidence Report and then the draft plan being subject to consultation. It was suggested that problems may be created by the requirement that LDPs conform to pre-published standards of engagement and evidence but at the same time 'answer for' LPPs that are not subject to the same standards.
- Follow the changes to the pre-application consultation procedure for planning applications. However, some respondents argued that arrangements for pre-application consultation are inflexible and that community bodies should take their own decisions on methods of engagement, while being prepared to explain them.
- Be aligned with processes for Supplementary Guidance prior to the new Planning Act.
5.25 It was also suggested a community body might take advice from the planning authority on the method for their consultation. A Local Authority respondent observed that they would support a requirement for the community body to share a consultation strategy for the LPP with the council in advance of the consultation launch. It was thought this could result in a more collaborative process, which would allow the council and community to work together to identify the important groups to involve.
5.26 The need for resources to carry out effective or accessible consultation was again highlighted. A third sector or voluntary group respondent suggested most community organisations do not have resources for the depth of community engagement that they might like to do, and that many working on the ground know who they need to talk to but do not have the opportunity to do so.
Who to consult
5.27 It was suggested there should be guidance for community bodies in terms of how to engage and the National Standards for Community Engagement were referenced by several respondents. There were suggestions both that these should be a mandatory requirement and a minimum requirement, with co-production also encouraged in the latter case. However, it was also reported that use of these standards would require planning authorities to offer community bodies training sessions on the methodologies used. The Community Action Place Model for engagement was also suggested.
5.28 The importance of ensuring all sections of the community can participate in a consultation was highlighted and that this should include those who are seldom heard in the planning system, and those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The draft 'How to' Guide was thought to give useful guidance on engaging within the community but to lack an emphasis on inclusion, specifically the need for community bodies to think about hard-to-reach groups and how they can remove barriers for engaging with them.
5.29 There were specific references to involving: people of all age groups; children and young people from diverse backgrounds including disabled children, and children with complex needs and their families. Consultation with individuals experiencing the highest level of socio-economic disadvantage was also recommended.
5.30 Following an initial response on the draft LPP, it was suggested there should be a particular effort to consult with any groups not well represented.
5.31 In terms of particular organisations or types of people that should be included in a consultation exercise, suggestions included:
- Community planning partners, including the local councillors, the council and the community council, if the body producing the LPP is not a community council and one exists.
- Those who engaged at an earlier stage in preparation of the LPP.
- Stakeholders such as developers, third sector groups and businesses.
- Local schools.
- Registered Social Landlords, Tenants and Residents Associations.
- Landowners, land managers or tenants of land affected by the proposals.
- Public agencies such as Historic Environment Scotland where changes to designated environmental assets are proposed or land/properties within their care are made use of.
5.32 It was argued both that there should be a general duty to consult different groups rather than the regulations prescriptively listing all the agencies and the types of groups that need to be consulted, and that organisations to be consulted might be highlighted in guidance.
How / where to make the draft Local Place Plan available
5.33 Some respondents expressed a general view that the draft LPP and any events associated with it should be publicised. It was also specified that accessible copies should be available on request, that one or more locations where the consultation can be downloaded should be accessible, and that at least one consultation method used should not be digital.
5.34 Some respondents suggested notifying or sending a copy of the LPP to those who had engaged at an earlier stage in the process and who had indicated they would like to receive the LPP. Others thought all residents / households should be informed.
5.35 Suggested methods for consultation included:
- Advertisement in local media. Preparing a standard style of advert to assist community bodies was suggested, with care taken around minimum requirements for advertising so as not to make the process overburdensome for community bodies.
- Sending a copy of the LPP either electronically or by mail. Whether the electoral register might be used for this purpose was queried.
- Making the draft LPP available online, via a website or social media platforms.
- Making copies of the LPP available in libraries and community centres.
- Holding public meetings / events. A minimum of one or two public meetings was suggested – the latter being in line with the requirement for major planning applications, where one event can be held online but one must be physical. Providing at least 10 days-notice of the meeting was proposed.
Minimum length of consultation period
5.36 In terms of the length of any consultation period, suggestions ranged from a minimum of seven days through to six months. Several respondents suggested a minimum of six weeks.
5.37 A period similar to consultation on LDPs was also suggested, with specific recommendations for LPPs that are not part of Locality Plans.
5.38 With respect to how those interested might respond, it was suggested a survey format might be used – for example through a questionnaire.
5.39 Other comments included that:
- Written responses should be accepted by post or online.
- Feedback should not be limited to those attending a meeting, whether in person or online.
Minimum level of support needed
5.40 Options for demonstrating that an LPP is supported by the community were noted to include support shown at public sessions, and mini citizens assemblies.
5.41 It was suggested consideration should be given to holding a vote on the proposed LPP to demonstrate that a majority of the local stakeholders are in support of the proposals before it is submitted to the council, and that this should include other parties including businesses and landowners. However, there was also a view that while referendums have benefits they also have significant resource implications, and do not necessarily lead to democratic outcomes if they do not reflect a representative cross-section of the community.
5.42 With respect to whether a particular level of support should be required, suggestions included a 5% minimum positive response, evidence of 10% support from the local population (reported to be common practice in the Community Right to Buy process) and that there should be majority agreement on the LPP.
Reporting on the consultation
5.43 In terms of a report on the consultation it was suggested those preparing LPPs should be required to prepare and submit a consultation summary report – providing transparency about what efforts were undertaken and the difference consultation has made.
5.44 A current planning requirement for planning authorities preparing statutory guidance is to send Scottish Ministers details of publicity measures undertaken, comments received, and an explanation of how these comments were taken into account was also noted. With some minor modifications, it was suggested that the relevant regulation (Regulation 27(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008) might be adapted to apply to LPPs.