I recently attended an update meeting in Nottingham on the future of Planning Aid in England. Planning Aid provides free, independent and professional planning advice to communities and individuals who cannot afford to pay professional fees. A review of the existing Planning Aid service took place following the change in government in 2010 and a new, reduced service was launched in June 2011. The event was an opportunity to hear from the new team leading Planning Aid across the county and find out more about what the service would offer in the future.
I have previously taken part in Planning Aid activities, focusing specifically on promoting planning as a profession to young people, therefore I was interested to learn about what the future would hold for this type volunteering.
The meeting highlighted that with a smaller budget, the main focus of Planning Aid in the East Midlands will be on both the government’s 26 ‘Frontrunners’ (which were formerly known as Vanguards) and neighbourhoods that fall into the 20% most deprived in England.
Nationally, it was noted that the Planning Aid helpline will continue although it will be administered centrally from the Planning Aid offices based at the Royal Town Planning Institute in London rather than at each of the regional offices where it was previously based. In addition, a neighbourhood planning service is proposed and seems to be focused predominantly, although not exclusively, on the communities identified above.
It was interesting to note the changed geography that our local branch of Planning Aid includes. Previously covering the East Midlands (Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland), our ‘region’ has now been expanded for Planning Aid purposes to include Norwich and Norfolk (north of Cambridge).
It will be interesting to see how the changes are implemented and whether the new and reduced service extends beyond its 10 month funding commitment.