Services to your planning team

Urban Counsel offers experience of planning for, designing, implementing and managing development from a variety of perspectives – national and local; public and private sector; policy and practice. Urban Counsel can inform, advise and support your role in these activities, whether developer, planner or project/business manager.

Professional planning teams and elected politicians responsible for preparing and implementing planning policies are under unprecedented pressure from reduced resources. Local people are expected to play a more active role in planning for their locality, while businesses seek even greater certainty and consistency for their investment decisions. In the midst of all this, the scope and purpose of planning policy has been rewritten. Clarity of purpose, of action and of consequence has never been more important, yet the National Planning Policy Framework, while impresively brief, may be open to even wider interpretation.

To address these challenges, local planning authorities will have to:

  • Test their aims for planning their area to make sure they are realistic
  • Ensure aspirations are consistent with the expectations of interested parties
  • Draft and present policies that will promote and inspire development
  • Ensure the plan-making process is consistent and defensible
  • Test all these for robustness in the context of the NPPF

steers a course between the dead calm of policy-speak and the capricious breezes of public opinion. Too often the things that local people have identified as important to them they perceive to be buried under the obligations of national policy or diluted by the need for balance and consistency. The tendency, when faced with complex and controversial choices, is for those affected to simplify and polarise them, and then opt for the least worst. Such simplistic analysis of complex circumstances is not a credible basis for sound planning. Urban Counsel can help identify and define the various strands of opinion, and stimulate stronger mutual recognition of shared and opposing interests. This provides the basis for a strategy to bring bodies of opinion into alignment, and where possible, convergence.

Preparing planning policy and guidance is a tortuous and legalistic process.  Your aspirations as plan-makers can be obscured by language intended protect your intentions from challenge. Local distinctiveness and civic enthusiasm can be squeezed out. Urban Counsel can help in briefing, drafting and editing policies and guidance, strategic and action plans. This ensures that they are explicit, realistic, and presented in a form that will be understood easily and interpreted consistently by all who use them.

Promoting development opportunities in circumstances where the market may not yet recognise them requires persuasive planning briefs that will attract developer interest. Urban Counsel’s experience of planning, design and development briefs can help you prepare a succinct, attractive and realistic presentation of the opportunity.

The promotion of ‘localism’, and in particular neighbourhood plans, will be a stimulus for communities to engage more actively in planning for their area.  With reduced resources however, local authorities will have to make every minute of engagement count. They must demonstrate consistency of approach and solid accountability if such plans are to be adopted efficiently and to guide development effectively. Neighbourhood Planning is not a new idea, and many local authorities, community groups and developers have been engaged in many forms of  community planning for at least thirty years.  There is much good practice to draw from, and Urban Counsel, can help you tap into this.