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Research Case studies

Neighbourhood and Community Planning

Our work

Across England as a whole, disadvantaged communities have not shared equally in the benefits of public participation and democratic engagement in statutory services. Over the last three years, the Neighbourhood and Community Planning cluster at Leeds Beckett University has been successful in supporting disadvantaged communities to shape and plan improvements to the areas they live. The published findings from the research have 1) clarified the social and economic benefits that accrue to communities through successful engagement in planning and 2) identified what distinctive contribution communities make to improving the statutory planning system in England. The research programme has carried out workshops, discussion groups and interviews with over 500 participants in 80 neighbourhood and community planning groups to date. In addition it has provided a sustained programme of support and training, drawing an attendance of approximately 50 people at each event, to enable inner city and deprived communities to access the benefits of participatory planning. The research findings are disseminated through a programme of practitioner-facing seminars and national conferences.

Our impact

The Neighbourhood and Community Planning cluster at Leeds Beckett University has been successful in increasing the number of disadvantaged communities benefiting from participation in the town and country planning system. The immediate impact has been felt in Leeds which now has the highest number of deprived communities participating in neighbourhood plans of any metropolitan borough. Leeds now also has the greatest range of groups participating, spanning rural towns and villages and inner city communities. This diversity in neighbourhood plan areas, and in levels of affluence or deprivation, is the result of a sustained programme of support to which the Neighbourhood and Community Planning research cluster has greatly contributed. 

The uptake of neighbourhood planning among disadvantaged communities has been distinctive in Leeds where 37 per cent of the total number of communities taking part in neighbourhood planning are in urban areas. Nationally, the percentage of urban areas involved in neighbourhood planning is only 9 per cent. In Leeds, 22 parish areas and 13 forum areas have been designated for neighbourhood planning.  The parish areas are located in the most affluent parts of Leeds, particularly in the villages to the north-east of the city. The 13 forum areas are located in inner city and urban communities where, in the absence of a parish council, residents can establish a neighbourhood forum with statutory plan-making powers.  In Leeds, 20 per cent (n=7) out of the 35 designated neighbourhood planning communities have super-output areas in the lowest, most disadvantaged, quintile of Index of Multiple Deprivation. Across England, the percentage of designated neighbourhood forums in the lowest quintile IMD is 7.5 per cent. 

The impact of the research has been in bringing practical benefits to disadvantaged communities from improved participation. The benefits are economic, social and environmental. Economic benefits are gained through receipt of Community Infrastructure Levy income from new development, and social and environmental benefits through the establishment of a spatial framework against which planning applications will be assessed. By shaping the planning policy that will regulate development, disadvantaged communities can influence the quality and design of the built environment, the provision of open and green spaces, the availability of cycle and pedestrian routes, recreation and play areas, and the opportunities for community services, jobs and training.

Next steps

The Neighbourhood and Community Planning cluster is currently working with local groups in Greater Manchester who are participating in the drafting of a new Spatial Framework. They are particularly engaged with plans for the future of the Green Belt in the Combined Authority. Research findings from research carried out to date are being disseminated in order to shape the new draft Spatial Framework and to improve the organisational and lobbying abilities of the community network. Over the coming year we will research citizen engagement in the new consultation programme and seek to evaluate the impact of participation on the new draft of the Spatial Framework. We will also assess the response of the community network to the costs and benefits identified in our initial research findings. The research will produce important findings on the effectiveness of community participation in changing statutory plans and the resilience of local social movements in responding to opportunities and threats.

This research gives communities more say in decisions about their homes and neighbourhoods. It is helping to bring about a more inclusive and participatory democracy.

Quintin Bradley


Plus Icon Research publications
  • Bradley, Q. (2018) Neighbourhood planning and the production of spatial knowledge. Town Planning Review, 89 (1) 23-42
  • Bradley, Q (2017) Neighbourhood planning and the impact of place identity on housing development in England. Planning Theory & Practice. Vol.18 (2): 233-248
  • Bradley, Q. & Sparling, W. (2016) The Impact of Neighbourhood Planning and Localism on House-building in England. Housing, Theory and Society, Vol. 34 (1): 106-118
  • Bradley, Q (2015) The political identities of neighbourhood planning in England. Space and Polity. Vol.19 (2): 97-109
  • Bradley, Q (2014) Bringing democracy back home: community localism and the domestication of political space. Environment & Planning D: Society & Space Vol.32, (4): 642-657
  • Brownill, S. & Q. Bradley (2017) Localism and Neighbourhood Planning: power to the people? Bristol. Policy Press.
  • Bradley, Q. (2017) It’s house-building but not as we know it: the impact of neighbourhood planning on development in England. In: Dastbaz, M., Gorse, C., Moncaster, A. (eds.) Building Information Modelling, Building Performance, Design and Smart Construction. London. Springer.
  • Bradley, Q. (2016) The patchwork politics of sustainable communities. In: Dastbaz, M.,Gorse, C. (eds.) The Selected Proceedings of the International Conference on Sustainability, Engineering and Ecological Design for Society (SEEDS). London. Springer.
  • Bradley, Q. & D. Haigh (2015) Sustainable Communities and the New Patchwork Politics of Place. In: Dastbaz, M., I. Strange & S. Selkowitz (eds.) Building Sustainable Futures: design and the built environment. London. Springer
Plus Icon In the media
  • Case study published by RTPI Planning Aid England following Neighbourhood Planning in One City on 12 May 2017 (Available from: https://www.ourneighbourhoodplanning.org.uk/case-studies/view/755). Confirmed by email from Holly McLaren RTPI 24/5/17
  • Article published in ‘The Planner’ (published by RTPI) December 2015 (Available from: https://issuu.com/theplanner/docs/the_planner_december_2015), featuring interview with Bradley, on Page: 30 ‘How goes the neighbourhood?’ and Page 42 ‘Plan Ahead’ providing publicity for Planning for and by communities on 9 December 2015 and Bradley’s forthcoming edited book Localism & Neighbourhood Planning: power to the people (2017 published Policy Press).
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