The Bartlett School of Planning


Bartlett Student Volunteers Support Community Organisations

24 April 2012

BSP students and staff, in conference with action groups on London planning (Photo by M Edwards)

Bartlett planning and urban studies students are doing voluntary work supporting community organisations preparing 'Neighbourhood Plans' under the coalition's Localism Act 2012.

A number of UCL students, mostly from planning and urban studies, are doing voluntary work supporting community organisations preparing 'Neighbourhood Plans' under the coalition's Localism Act 2012 and in many cases linking dissertations or projects to this work.  Community and action groups in half a dozen London boroughs are involved and in many cases the officers of the borough planning departments are glad of their contributions.

This work has been welcomed by civil servants concerned with Neighbourhood Plans in the British Government's Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and it builds on experience over the last 3 years in which staff and students at UCL have supported many London action groups and NGOs in making representations for changes to the London Plan (supported in turn by a number of small grants from UCL's Public Engagement Beacon Bursary Scheme). The action groups are linked in a mutual-support network Just Space which originated under the wing of the London Civic Forum and is coordinated by Richard Lee.

The School of Planning is now considering how to build this kind of active collaboration into some of its taught modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Planners do need to learn skills of effective listening and dialogue with citizens of all social strata and in a wide range of cultural groups, and do need to ground their research projects and theorisations securely in grassroots experience.  There is a lot of scope for getting these interactions wrong and many of the" dos and don'ts" are being distilled in a Protocol on University Community collaboration which in turn is guiding what we do.

Other students are working on an inventory and mapping of community groups in and around London's Opportunity Areas (large development sites) following the controversies about whether plans for these areas take sufficient account of the needs of surrounding communities. Some may go on to contribute to the London element of an international comparative mapping project of urban processes in 32 cities in the INURA network of which we are founder members.

Reports on this collaboration will be found at http://ucljustspace.wordpress.com.