VOICE AND INFLUENCE

This section of the website draws together a wide range of evidence about the different ways that residents can have voice and influence, and the role of local agencies in supporting this.

Lessons Learned

Three key factors have been identified:

Giving voice and influence before and during the planning stage

Shaping opportunities for influence

Maintaining structures and initiatives for the long term

Involving local communities in decisions that affect their lives throughout the stages of new developments is vital if public investment is to be effective.

Local authorities and other statutory agencies (including the police, Primary Care Trusts, local youth offending teams and the Homes and Communities Agency) have a legal duty to involve residents and community groups in conversations about local priorities and service delivery.

This Duty to Involve includes the responsibility to hold other public agencies to account and ensure these organisations:

  • provide opportunities for people using the services to get involved in
  • take account of the views of residents and community organisations when they are planning and delivering services
  • making sure these agencies are accountable to residents, community groups and service users for the decisions they make

If communities are not involved in designing and planning housing and wider facilities and infrastructure, short term cost savings may lead to longer term cost burdens if what is provided proves to be inappropriate, and under-used. Effective involvement of communities in the planning, design, delivery and governance of services that affect them also impacts on health. Guidance by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence has identified that treating communities as equal partners can improve health outcomes by delivering a better service, increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy, building trust and social capitalGlossary: the networks and trust between people that help a community work together towards shared objectives and improving well-being.

At the earliest stage of development this can be challenging - when the future community is not yet in place. However at this stage alienating neighbouring communities can lead to local resistance and delay, and hostility to new residents when they eventually move in.

In 2010, the government is developing its proposal to support small rural community-led housing schemes through a scheme called ‘Community Right to Build'. At the point of writing it is not clear how this scheme might apply to larger new settlements or urban extensions.

Elements within this ingredent:

1. Giving voice and influence before and during the planning stage

In every development, there will always be a community with whom to consult, and that has a stake in the new development - either as potential residents, or as a neighbouring area or as the wider local community.

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2. Shaping opportunities for influence

As communities become established and social networks develop, both formal and informal groups will form. Formal groups include parish councils, or community institutions with constitutions and legal status, and local consultative partnerships set up by the local authority. Informal groups will include local activists coming together, often to campaign and groups based on particular life experiences or interests (toddlers groups, football clubs, faith groups).

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3. Maintaining structures and initiatives for the long term

Sustaining residents' voice and influence over the long term means putting robust arrangement in place that are sensitive to local needs, and thinking about how these will be funded into the future.

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