'Vital' guidance will help Bristol communities understand rights to planning information

Issue date: 31 July 2013

A new guide produced by UWE Bristol will give Bristol residents greater clarity when they make planning applications. The guide, aimed at local residents and community groups in Bristol, explains their rights to access information held by the council, particularly financial material, connected with applying for planning permission.

The guidance document, which is supported by Bristol City Council, was produced as a result of research led by senior lecturer Adam Sheppard, who worked in local authority planning departments prior to teaching students and professionals about planning regulations and the decision process.

Adam said, “To make a sound planning decision an extensive range and depth of supporting information needs to be considered. Some of this information is sensitive and may be retained by the local authority rather than being published; but other content, including certain financial evidence, should be made available to the public.

“The new guide explains how material is managed, what information communities have a right to see, and the process that they are required to follow if they wish to see information that was not published in the first instance.”

The guide will help communities understand their rights to see information, and the correct processes and procedures to gain access to it, allowing for the more effective involvement of communities in planning decision-making. The guide will be made widely available to local residents and community groups, with Bristol City Council supporting its dissemination through their website.

The Bristol Neighbourhood Planning Network (NPN) is also supporting the guide, and will highlight it through their work supporting community groups and individuals across the Bristol area.

Adam continues, “It is important that planning decisions are taken in a transparent way that allows everyone to engage and participate in the decision-making process in an informed and open manner. This means having access to a level of information that allows for meaningful conclusions to be reached by the local community and their representatives.”

Andy King, a member of an NPN group, said of the new publication, “A guide like this is vital to community groups and residents. It allows them to understand what information they have the right to see, and how to access it. With this knowledge comes the ability to make more informed decisions on planning proposals and make community participation in planning a really meaningful exercise.”

The guidance note, entitled 'Planning decisions and your rights to access information' is available from the Bristol City Council website and the Bristol Neighbourhood Planning Network. The authors hope that other parts of the country will adopt similar guidance as a way of supporting more effective community participation in planning.

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