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Civil society and local government sectors show the way to a successful consent-based GDF siting process

i May 19th No Comments by

The role of local authorities, and the relationship with a Community Partnership, are central to the GDF siting process.  The issues at stake were brought under the spotlight this week with the publication of a report and a day-long conference co-produced by the Local Government Association (LGA) and National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

The report is a ‘must-read’ for anyone involved or interested in the GDF siting process. As BEIS and the nuclear sector have wrestled with the issues, the community and local government sectors have been busy finding solutions.  But neither side has yet worked closely with the other.  That must be remedied.

More importantly, Ministers are inclined to introduce a local authority ‘veto’ over the GDF siting process, but this report makes clear such a power should not be needed nor would it be helpful.

From a GDF siting perspective, the LGA/NALC Report makes some very pertinent points, eg:

  • The potential opportunities of partnership between principal and local councils should not be underestimated … This is not a lofty aspiration or a ‘nice to have’.  Rather it provides many of the solutions to the major challenges areas face.
  • As an example, the Government’s Industrial Strategy and the planned delivery of Local Industrial Strategies in the coming years, led by local areas, provide local councils with an opportunity to discuss with their principal tier how local government can work together to deliver inclusive growth that genuinely connects to the needs of local communities.
  • Partnership helps to get communities working together … Working together offers more ways of empowering local people and creating capacity, as well as a means of identifying resources and opportunities that would not otherwise exist.
  • Positive relationships between local councils and principal councils can support better democratic
    engagement of communities across local areas … to:
    • develop a long-term vision for an area
    • make the case to residents for more local representation
    • engage better with residents through partnering
    • create new grass-roots partnerships.
  • A strong vision, based on the identity of a place and the priorities of its residents, can give a town … the organisational confidence to take on devolved powers. It can present a democratic
    calling for the area: a clear sense of what they want to do, why they want to do it and how it can be
    achieved.
  • By working together to fashion a vision for the town or parish, both parties can therefore represent the views and values of local people. And, in so doing, they can build mutual trust and allow the community’s voice to be heard.
  • Rather than partnerships between principal councils and local councils only being about delivery, there is a great deal of potential in those built around dialogue with local people and their involvement in decision-making. Local partnership between principal and local councils takes decision-making a step closer to local people. This helps create trust in decision-making.
  • Participation is central to successful partnerships.  The more citizens, communities, and councils
    recognise common goals and develop a shared sense of a purpose, the more that can be achieved.
  • Joined-up approaches allow potential to be released … to: build community capacity and citizen power through partnership; design channels so that principal and local councils can liaise with each other; create shared agreements about working relationships between tiers; join forces with other local partners so as to do more.

The similarity in language and sentiment between this report and the Working With Communities consultation document is striking.  And while nobody would suggest the world of local governance is perfect, this activity to improve how communities and local government work better together does provide a framework for the GDF siting process to work through, rather than attempt to reinvent.

But it is just as important for the civil society and local government sectors to understand how the GDF siting process may provide the funding and impetus to deliver many of their ambitions and objectives.  GDFWatch has previously cited these opportunities in our analysis of how the GDF siting process might help deliver the recommendations of the Localism Commission.

There have been examples this week of work underway in the civil society and trades union sectors which not only would the GDF siting process benefit from by embracing, but also indicate how the GDF siting process might help those sectors realise their ambitions, eg:

Civil Society Strategy

The Government’s consultation on civil society strategy closed this week.  In a joint letter to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which ran the consultation, a group of charities called on the government to seize the opportunity to transform the government’s relationship with the sector, saying:  “It is critical that the strategy focuses on how government can not only better enable the sector, but also provide a blueprint for long-lasting engagement.  It should not be focused on what government thinks the sector should do; this is for the sector to determine with their beneficiaries.  Instead, the strategy should set out how the government can support and enable civil society to achieve its potential.”  The letter also called for both sides to “move beyond transactional relationships between the sector and the government” and instead work to “build understanding, trust and respect, to inform better decision-making and to ensure people can access the support they need”.

How far the Government will heed this advice is yet to be seen, but again there is a clear resonance between the aspirations and ambitions of the civil society sector and the principles underpinning the GDF siting process.  This alignment has not yet been fully explored by either side.

Locality: How to establish a neighbourhood planning forum

Locality have published a toolkit to help communities develop their own neighbourhood development plan.  These plans are at the core of community development and will be in the foundations of any socioeconomic plans developed in partnership between the GDF delivery body and a community considering hosting a GDF.

House of Lords set up Select Committee to consider the Rural Economy

The House of Lords has set up an ad hoc Select Committee to consider and report on the Rural Economy.  The GDF is likely to be one of Europe’s (let alone Britain’s) largest infrastructure and construction projects.  It will have a profound long-term impact on the host area’s economy.  It will potentially have a greater impact if the host community is in a rural area.

CLES and new Community Wealth Building Unit

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) is the UK’s leading, independent think and do tank realising progressive economics for people and place.  This week it was announced that they would be advising a new Community Wealth Building Unit that has been established bringing together councillors, unions, think tanks, and independent experts to stimulate sustainable economic community development.  Given the GDF’s potential long-term impact on local and regional economies, there is much to share and learn from each other.

ETUC Report on Climate Change Transition

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) this week produced a report highlighting the role Trades Unions can play in helping communities transition their economies.  Although the report is focused on the socioeconomic impact of changes required to mitigate climate change, the issues are directly relevant to the GDF siting process in how Trades Unions can help as communities transform their economy and society in a “just” way that more equitably manages the process of change.

Interim Report of the Raynsford Review of Planning in England

Ex-Housing Minister Nick Raynsford led a review commissioned by the Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA).  An interim report was published this week, and amongst its recommendations to government were to regulate development based on its potential for achieving ‘social, economic and cultural wellbeing’ and to set a legal obligation to plan for the needs of future generations.  Intergenerational equity and long-term community well-being development are at the core of the GDF siting process.  The Raynsford Report is now seeking further public response to its recommendations, and the GDF delivery body may well have views on future planning legislation.

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