UCL: a case study about involving students in neighbourhood planning



University College London has operated a programme over the last two academic years that enables students to work with and for community organisations on Neighbourhood Planning projects in the London area. In autumn 2014, over 30 students from UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning were involved in the programme, and this number will grow to over 100 in January.

How does the programme work?

The programme is operated with financial support from the School of Planning, following innovations in previous years by UCL’s Public Engagement programme and a module run with the UCL Geography faculty to provide systematic training in community participation. All of this activity is in partnership with the London Just Space network, an organisation of community groups which help each other make representations to planning authorities, prepare for public hearings and formulate their needs in terms that engage with the language and practices of planning.

What kind of roles do students have?

London_skylineStudents from UCL are working in small groups and are assisting a number of designated or embryonic neighbourhood forums. These include:

Other students are working with Our Tottenham and related organisations in the Haringey area, which could become a third Mayoral Development Corporation, and at Carpenters Estate in Newham.

Students are playing a variety of roles:

  • Assisting with electronic mapping and geographic information
  • Digesting and explaining planning policy documents
  • Doing surveys and researching development models from UK and international sources

An important dimension of the work is learning to listen to and to be guided by the knowledge and passion to be found in each locality.

Top tips

  • Early on in the process, set out the skills you would wish from students and what your preferred timescales for assistance with the plan are. Remember the cycle of university terms as well.
  • Find out if there’s a university in your area which has an accredited planning school. Make contact to see if they are interested in working with you and what they might be able to offer.

Many thanks to UCL for their help with this case study. More information can be found at http://ucljustspace.wordpress.com/. These case studies are produced by Planning Aid England as part of the Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning programme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and delivered by a consortium led by Locality. 

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