There’s been lots of interest in the Scottish Government funded pilot Local Place Plan for Foxbar in Paisley and accompanying ‘how-to’ guide for Renfrewshire Council, both published last year thanks to the initiative of Renfrewshire Council.
Winning a Scottish Award for Quality in Planning 2019 in the ‘Plans’ category this week may have encouraged more interested too! Here’s more information.
Local Place Plans
The intention of the pilot Local Place Plan was to test a workable model for Local Place Plans. The ‘how-to guide’ was prepared on the back of the Local Place Plan, to help other communities (and local authority and Community Planning Partner staff). Although focussed on other communities in Renfrewshire, the guide contains useful learning for communities and local authorities elsewhere in the country.
Although Local Place Plans are part of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, they haven’t been enacted yet. The new legislation doesn’t say anything about how they should be prepared or what they might look like, so the idea behind the Foxbar pilot was to illustrate what a Local Place Plan might look like. Until the Scottish Government publishes guidance and secondary legislation on Local Place Plans (currently scheduled to be completed in early 2021), we won’t know for certain what the actual model will look like.
But the signs are that the government will not want to be prescriptive in how Local Place Plans should look beyond certain basic parameters – many of which were tested in Foxbar.
I should also declare an interest, as lead facilitator for the work alongside local authority officers, the local Community Council, Community Planning Partners, design expertise from 7N Architects – and of course local residents and community organisations. This post tries to be reflective and objective: you decide if it succeeds!
The Foxbar experience
Foxbar is a neighbourhood in south-west Paisley with a population of around 8,000 inhabitants, with its own Community Council and identity. Preparation of the plan was initiated by the local authority, Community Planning Partnership, Community Council and Housing Association, who worked together for a number of months to agree to prepare a plan and secure the necessary resources. Only then did preparation of the plan itself begin.
The plan itself was co-produced with the local community over approximately 6 months during spring and summer 2018, involving a sequence of discussions with community organisations, schools, youth groups, public drop-in sessions and online/social media engagement (see diagram). A small team of external facilitators with planning, design and community engagement skills facilitated the co-production process, guided by the local partners in the form of a steering group.
With resources and capacity for delivery both scarce, one key aspect of the co-production process was supporting the local community to prioritise what was most important to them. This led to nine priority projects, which represented a range of short and long term actions (see graphic below). Interestingly, only one of the projects – new homes on derelict sites – had a direct link with land-use planning.
The Local Place Plan itself contained a graphic plan and visualisations showing the nine projects, plus information describing each of the projects and how delivery should start.
The full document can be seen online here or by clicking on any of the images in this section.
There is no guarantee that everything will be delivered: funds and commitment will need to be secured. But a year on from when the plan was completed, three of the nine actions are being delivered: Community Asset Transfer of a derelict school site to enable a community growing initiative, funding applications for a cycle/walking route, and reinstatement of the community’s annual Gala Day.
The other element of the Scottish Government funded work was to prepare a guide to help other communities in Renfrewshire prepare their own Local Place Plans.
We tried hard to keep the guide as simple and straightforward as possible, focussing on the most important messages. Most of the content could be applied in other parts of the country too – emphasising the importance of things like advance preparation and capacity building, good community engagement, and making sure that delivery is considered from the outset.
You can download the guide here (10mb PDF).
What were some of the most important learning points from the work?
- Before even starting work on the Local Place Plan, there were several months of close collaboration between willing partners – the local community (largely through the excellent leadership of the Community Council) and the local authority (particularly proactive planning and community planning officers working together) – to agree that a community-led plan was the way forward and to secure the necessary resources.
- The community itself consciously decided to prioritise an achievable number of projects, using independent facilitation support to reach that decision and agree the priorities.
- Linked to this, everybody involved was conscious from the outset of the plan needing to be deliverable. This helped to inform the choice of priorities during the process, and identify some quick wins which are now being delivered on the ground. This generates momentum and support for more delivery.