Public Sector Focus

16.12.15

A place for faith in the planning system

Source: PSE Dec/Jan 16

Richard Blyth, head of policy practice and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute, talks to PSE about the opportunities and challenges for faith groups in the planning system.

Town planners have given their backing to a research briefing which calls for more understanding and dialogue between local planning authorities and faith groups. 

The Faith and Place Network’s (FPN’s) paper ‘Faith Groups and the Planning System’ addresses five policy areas: Understanding one another, Community, Equality & Diversity, Sharing good practice and the Planning Framework. 

Fifteen recommendations were made in the report, ranging from protecting space for social infrastructure, including places of worship; faith groups taking a more active role in the development of Local Plans; and that section 106 funding could be used to support the provision of places of worship. 

Richard Blyth, head of policy practice and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), who contributed to the FPN’s work, told us the paper is aimed at multiple audiences, but ultimately could affect the way planning decisions are made by offering more insight into “specific behaviour patterns” and “how a faith group actually functions”. Its recommendations include delivering more specific guidance, which could come from local planning authorities working with faith groups. The RTPI has backed this idea for some time, and the faith group representatives, academics, local authority planners, RTPI representatives and other policy professionals who make up the FPN are keen to develop the recommendations further. 

Dr Andrew Rogers from the University of Roehampton’s Department of Humanities and Dr Richard Gale from Cardiff University, who drew up the recommendations, told PSE that when the paper was launched, many local authority representatives wanted to spread the briefing within their organisations. 

Dr Rogers told PSE: “In particular, we want to facilitate development of the ‘dossier of creative practice case studies’ and explore generating a network of faith group leaders with experience of engaging with the planning system. 

“In addition, faith, place and planning issues are not just a UK issue, but are keenly felt across a range of European cities, as some of our international network members have recounted. We want to further establish the European network links to benefit from sharing creative practice across European urban contexts.” 

Their work is funded through an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) grant.  The grant only runs to February 2016, but the researchers are seeking follow-on funding for the next stage of the work. 

Blyth noted that the RTPI will also look to implement some of the recommendations. For instance, the organisation is reviewing its Code of Conduct, ensuring that “all groups are treated equally”. 

However, producing guides by local planning authorities is going to take time. “You may be aware, in other news, that the financial circumstance of local planning authorities is pretty desperate,” said Blyth. “One of the political issues around this is that we have these good ideas, but they come out against a background where some local authorities are having to cut down what they do to the very bare statutory minimum.” 

The paper does not imply that addressing faith spaces and the planning system will be easy, but it has started the debate. It has also received the backing of housing minister, Brandon Lewis MP, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other faith leaders. Dr Rogers said: “The role of the network is to make connections around faith, place and planning issues. Therefore the FPN will seek to catalyse the process of developing guides for faith groups and planners, drawing in the relevant professional bodies and faith groups, and building on the links we have established through the network. 

“We anticipate that the support and endorsement of the RTPI will lead to further positive responses from local authority organisations. Similarly, the recently published report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life calls for greater religious literacy in all areas of British public life – lending further support and weight to our specific conclusions around better mutual understanding between faith groups and local planning authorities.”

Town planners have given their backing to a research briefing which calls for more understanding and dialogue between local planning authorities and faith groups. 

The Faith and Place Network’s (FPN’s) paper ‘Faith Groups and the Planning System’ addresses five policy areas: Understanding one another, Community, Equality & Diversity, Sharing good practice and the Planning Framework. 

Fifteen recommendations were made in the report, ranging from protecting space for social infrastructure, including places of worship; faith groups taking a more active role in the development of Local Plans; and that section 106 funding could be used to support the provision of places of worship. 

Richard Blyth, head of policy practice and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), who contributed to the FPN’s work, told us the paper is aimed at multiple audiences, but ultimately could affect the way planning decisions are made by offering more insight into “specific behaviour patterns” and “how a faith group actually functions”. Its recommendations include delivering more specific guidance, which could come from local planning authorities working with faith groups. The RTPI has backed this idea for some time, and the faith group representatives, academics, local authority planners, RTPI representatives and other policy professionals who make up the FPN are keen to develop the recommendations further. 

Dr Andrew Rogers from the University of Roehampton’s Department of Humanities and Dr Richard Gale from Cardiff University, who drew up the recommendations, told PSE that when the paper was launched, many local authority representatives wanted to spread the briefing within their organisations. 

Dr Rogers told PSE: “In particular, we want to facilitate development of the ‘dossier of creative practice case studies’ and explore generating a network of faith group leaders with experience of engaging with the planning system. 

“In addition, faith, place and planning issues are not just a UK issue, but are keenly felt across a range of European cities, as some of our international network members have recounted. We want to further establish the European network links to benefit from sharing creative practice across European urban contexts.” 

Their work is funded through an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) grant.  The grant only runs to February 2016, but the researchers are seeking follow-on funding for the next stage of the work. 

Blyth noted that the RTPI will also look to implement some of the recommendations. For instance, the organisation is reviewing its Code of Conduct, ensuring that “all groups are treated equally”. 

However, producing guides by local planning authorities is going to take time. “You may be aware, in other news, that the financial circumstance of local planning authorities is pretty desperate,” said Blyth. “One of the political issues around this is that we have these good ideas, but they come out against a background where some local authorities are having to cut down what they do to the very bare statutory minimum.” 

The paper does not imply that addressing faith spaces and the planning system will be easy, but it has started the debate. It has also received the backing of housing minister, Brandon Lewis MP, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other faith leaders. Dr Rogers said: “The role of the network is to make connections around faith, place and planning issues. Therefore the FPN will seek to catalyse the process of developing guides for faith groups and planners, drawing in the relevant professional bodies and faith groups, and building on the links we have established through the network. 

“We anticipate that the support and endorsement of the RTPI will lead to further positive responses from local authority organisations. Similarly, the recently published report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life calls for greater religious literacy in all areas of British public life – lending further support and weight to our specific conclusions around better mutual understanding between faith groups and local planning authorities.”

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