Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Tony Burton:

Our experience is that digital is part of the answer. In relation to local and neighbourhood plans, we would point to the opportunities it presents around new, complementary forms of community engagement—there are now a variety of tools available to support that—and more effective ways of pooling and analysing the evidence that is required, which is often a minefield of PDFs that do not link to each other or help people to navigate the system or get to the nub of the issues.

There is a potential—this is something we have been pressing for—for the neighbourhood planning support programme to provide bespoke support around this and to offer provision for particular elements, such as centralised tools or databases. Also, we would emphasise more digital mapping. Almost by definition, planning is about maps and places—it is spatial—and yet the ways in which we bring everything together on a map are still rather clunky and not all that effective. The best of what is out there shows what can be done, and the best should be the norm.

I would emphasise that digital is only part of a solution. It is no panacea and nothing is more important than the peer-to-peer, face-to-face support that communities need to support them to be their best when it comes to engaging with these processes.