by Ed Dade
Posted on Oct. 28, 2019
Neighbourhood Plans must provide a shared vision for their area, with consultation with the local community forming a key part of their preparation.
Critically, Neighbourhood Plans must pass a referendum in which local people are invited to vote on whether the plan should be used in decision-making. Therefore a plan's success is dependent on community support.
Many Neighbourhood Plans take on the challenge of planning for housing development, an issue which can prove divisive for some communities.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has recently reported its latest research on public attitudes to house building. The report presents findings from the 2018 British Social Attitudes Survey. This annual survey provides interesting insight into changing views over time.
The 2018 survey found that the majority of people support house building. 57% of people support more homes being built in the local area. However almost a quarter (23%) of people said they opposed house building. (17% neither supported nor oppose house building.)
Support for house building has increased substantially in recent years. In 2010, just 28% were in favour. Likewise, opposition has decreased from 47% in 2010.
Most Neighbourhood Plans apply to rural areas. The survey found less support and greater opposition to house building amongst people living in rural areas, than their urban counterparts.
Amongst those living in villages, just under half (48%) were supportive of homes being built in the local area. This was lower than for people living in big cities (63%), the suburbs or outskirts of big cities (57%) and small cities or towns (57%).
The survey found that support for house building was greater, and opposition was lower, amongst younger age groups. For example, support was higher amongst those aged 18-25 (64%) than those aged 66 and over (53%).
The survey highlights differences between the attitudes of younger people and older people. Younger people are more favourable toward house building, perhaps as they themselves aspire to own a home.
The survey found that people who were not supportive of more homes being built in the local area most commonly reported that ‘more medical facilities built or existing ones improved’ would increase their support.
Improvements to transport links and creation of more employment opportunities were also commonly reported advantages that would increase support for homes being built in the local area.
The perceived quality of new homes appears to influence levels of support for house building. People who felt new build homes are well designed and well built were more likely to support more homes being built in the local area, than those who felt new build homes are poorly designed and built.
Likewise, people who felt new build homes are poorly designed and poorly built were more likely to oppose new build homes being built in the local area, than those who felt new build homes are well designed.
It is possible that in many areas, attitudes toward house building provide the initial motivation for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. For example, where people have concerns about new development, they may well be more inclined to seek to influence new development by producing a Neighbourhood Plan.
Neighbourhood Plans provide communities with the opportunity to take greater ownership of the process for planning for new homes. Groups with aspirations to meet their community's housing needs may therefore take some comfort from the findings that the majority of people are supportive of house building.
However, the survey's findings indicate that in rural villages support for housing is lesser (48%) than in larger settlements and urban areas.
To increase support for new housing a Neighbourhood Plan's policies should ensure development is accompanied by services, infrastructure and jobs, and require homes to be designed and built to a high standard.