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.
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 capital 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.