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Contributed by Douglas Morris – Chairman of the Chamber of Trade

Central Government contend that Local Communities play a central role in delivering effective local spatial planning.  The use of the planning system (it says) is integral to achieving local aims and ambitions
The question we so often ask ourselves is this “Is the voice of supposed effectual community involvement in the planning process, legitimate participatory collaboration or a calculated orchestrated sham, designed to placate and stifle the expression of genuine concerns we have regarding our ability to promote and exercise quality in design and planning strategy”?
In the Barker review of Land Use Planning System Kate Barker commented “Decision makers should give higher priority to ensuring that new development has high design standards”.
I am not at all sure what influence/s Urban Vision brings to bear on our planning culture or indeed what relationship (if any) it has with the Civic Society.  Should we be forging a closer relationship that will effectively promote quality local design?  Would such an alliance keep urban design and planning positively on the agenda?
Are we adept enough – (collaboratively or otherwise) in identifying opportunities and encouraging proactive action to improve urban design and planning outcomes?
How are we promoting the value of local quality, by persuading and influencing key decision-makers?
Are we effectively sharing strategic knowledge with other partner organisations besides Urban Vision to improve local design and planning outcomes?  Have we identified these other like minded organisations, especially relative to encouraging early and pro-active consultation on major design and planning projects?
Should we now start using our fledgling web site to spread the message more assertively, noting as I do our desire to remain apolitical?
Can we ensure that design implications of any strategy, policy or project are considered at an early stage and our views disseminated more efficiently if there is a response message to be sent out?
Are we visible enough as a central point of contact outside of our own organisation?
Are we in a position to encourage innovation and creativity within the design and planning infrastructure of our local set-up, similar to that of rewarding conservation excellence?
Bearing in mind the recently announced intention to improve the effectiveness of Community Engagement Strategy by streamlining Locality Action Groups, it would seem appropriate to appoint a Local  Design/Planning Champion committed to establishing a presence on all groups, with the expressed intention of promoting and developing quality local design and planning principles throughout the Borough.
It is absolutely clear that it is necessary to promote the importance of excellence in local design and effectual planning across all communities that make up this unique historical Town of ours.