Below is our response to the Scottish Government’s recent consultation on Scottish Planning Policy.
The Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS) is a charity committed to promoting excellence in community nursing to improving the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s communities. We are pleased to note that health and wellbeing is a central tenet of the draft policy.
Our 2016 Manifesto followed our three priorities of Connecting, Equipping and Championing. Within our manifesto, we called for local communities to have a greater voice in planning, and we acknowledge that there is a clear improvement to community involvement. However, we believe more can be done.
- How can we ensure more people are involved?
As mentioned in the first line of the foreword, “The places where we live, work and play can have a major impact on our health, wellbeing…” If people are able to enjoy the places where they spend their lives then it can be beneficial for their mental and physical wellbeing. A helpful means of capturing how people view their community, which can then be used to inform planning decisions in a positive way, is the Place Standard. This structured tool was developed by NHS Health Scotland, alongside the Scottish Government and Architecture and Design Scotland, and is aimed at tackling inequalities.
However, the Place Standard is barely mentioned within the document – featuring only twice in the section on the community. Given there is a recognised push to mainstream the use of the Place Standard, this seems like a missed opportunity. The Place Standard should be the focal point of responses, and this consultation should make this clear, potentially even as part of legislation.
Place Standards should be issued to all residents on a regular basis, either in paper format, electronically, or any other means. These reports could be used to assess many major planning decisions throughout the year. This would be the most appropriate way of ensuring that communities are shaped by local residents. Moreover, it would be important to ensure that the Place Standard responses were a crucial part of decision-making. If communities feel their input is being acknowledged, they will be more likely to engage in the future.
Additionally, there will be a large number of people whose voices are seldom heard, often those for whom a positive place is of utmost importance. It is important to ensure they have their opportunity to engage, be it through the place standards as defined above, or by any other means. However engagement is managed, it is important to ensure that local planners are able to engage effectively with those who require advocacy, either through nursing colleagues or third sector providers. Nurses working in the community are able to engage with a wide variety of people that might have little other public sector contact, for example people with disabilities, people with mental health problems. Without advocacy, there is a strong likelihood that they will never be able to get their opinions across.
Emphasising the importance of the Place Standard, and seeking out engagement with advocates for those without a voice, we can ensure that community engagement will be strengthened.
The planning system is intrinsically linked with health and wellbeing, and with greater community involvement, we believe that Scotland’s communities can become increasingly positive influences in the overall health of the nation.