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Local Planning Authorities: how they engage with communities via Statements of Community Involvement


Prof Gavin Parker, University of Reading



The University of Reading has been working with Civic Voice recently to scope out and assess Statements of Community Involvement (SCIs). These were first introduced from 2004 and are mandatory for Local Planning authorities in England - your council. SCIs set out how Local Authorities will engage communities in different aspects of the planning system and councils must publish and abide by those documents.


SCIs have come under scrutiny as part of wider planning reform proposals and could be an important tool as part of the government’s emphasis on the ‘frontloading’ of participation in the 2020 Planning White Paper.


The research team have recently issued their interim report of the first stage of the work (June 4th). The report sets out findings so far, tentative conclusions, some simple recommendations and the next steps. In brief the work highlights a wide diversity of approaches across a sample of 164 areas (50% of Local Planning Authorities). Some SCIs are very brief indeed, while others are lengthy documents – the longest SCI stands at 56 pages without counting appendices.


Many espouse principles but these are also very diverse and hardly any are measurable. And they are very often qualified or contingent in some way. This is likely to make such SCIs difficult for communities to effectively hold their local authority to account over - particularly in terms of local plan making. Some SCIs claim to be innovative and want to go beyond minimums though and the work will now move forward to interview authors and users in a select group of case study areas.

This latter work will explore how SCIs have been developed and why and how communities feel about the approach. Ultimately the research aims to ensure SCIs are effective for communities as well as implementable for local councils.


The interim report on SCIs is accessible via this link:

https://www.henley.ac.uk/news/2021/statements-of-community-involvement-in-england-new-report-released


The work is led by Prof Gavin Parker with Dr Mark Dobson, Henley Business School, University of Reading. For more information contact: g.parker@henley.reading.ac.uk

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