Planning aid

What is Planning Aid?

Planning Aid provides free, independent and professional town planning advice and support to communities and individuals who cannot afford to pay fees to a planning consultant. It complements the work of local planning authorities, but is wholly independent of them.

Planning Aid was started by the Town and Country Planning Association in 1973 and has consistently proved its worth. Since its inception, it has been at the forefront of engaging communities in the planning process. But now it needs to evolve and expand in order to further widen engagement in the planning process and to give an equal voice to all those involved in planning.

Planning Aid is about more than giving advice. It engages communities positively in the planning process to help them manage changes to their neighbourhoods and areas. The focus for the new expanded Planning Aid service is on an outreach service working with communities in most need.

It helps people to:

  • understand and use the planning system;
  • participate in preparing plans;
  • draw up their own plans for the future of their community;
  • comment on planning applications;
  • apply for planning permission or appeal against the refusal of permission;
  • appear at public inquiries.

Planning Aid helps to meet one of the key aims of the government's planning reform agenda, which is to place community engagement at the heart of the planning system.

Who needs Planning Aid's help?

Potentially everyone needs Planning Aid since planning impacts on all our lives. Yet many individuals and communities are unable to make their views known because they are baffled by the complexities of the planning system and cannot afford professional help. This is where Planning Aid helps.

Planning Aid services deal with enquiries from a range of clients including individuals, community groups, voluntary organisations, tenants and residents groups. All enquiries are given a limited amount of telephone advice and those not qualifying for assistance are referred to a planning consultant.

Planning Aid is increasingly targeting the service at disadvantaged, diverse and socially excluded communities and the assistance of local authorities and other agencies in achieving this aim is crucial.

How is the service organised?

Planning Aid in England is delivered through a network of 10 regional services. Nine of these are operated by the Royal Town Planning Institute branches, while Planning Aid for London is an independent charity that operates with support from the Royal Town Planning Institute. 

Planning Aid is unique in that it relies on over 500 volunteer planners who provide advice and support. The assistance they give ranges from helping to write letters and proofs of evidence, to attending meetings with clients and even appearing at public inquiries or hearings. All volunteers undertaking casework are fully qualified and are indemnified for the advice they give.

Planning Aid has been funded from a range of sources: the Royal Town Planning Institute, local authorities, government agencies, the Big Lottery, charitable trusts and donations from clients.

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