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Last modified October 27, 2006 by Matt Machell

Community Planning Work Wins UCE Birmingham Prize

An essay on the competing interests between businesses and local communities during the planning process has won a UCE Birmingham prize.

Indy Shokar, a planning consultant based in Milton Keynes who studies at UCE Birmingham School of Property, Construction and Planning, won the Leslie Ginsburg Prize earlier this month.

The prize, named in memory of the founder of the Birmingham School of Planning, was awarded to Indy for his essay 'Community Involvement in Planning' which highlighted problems with community consultation during the planning process and suggested various improvements.

Indy said: "I believe that participating in planning matters is just another means of ensuring that we live in a democratic society. Being able to speak at committee meetings to either support or object to a planning proposal is the same as having a right to vote for whichever party you want in parliament.

"I wanted to assess how effective 'community involvement' really is in town planning terms using a project I had previously worked on, at a solicitors' firm in my home town of Northampton, for the redevelopment of an old factory site in the centre of a busy residential district.

"I found local residents were not given enough time to consider the planning proposals so they were unable to prepare and coordinate a fully justified and valid representation of their views. It became clear that this consultation exercise was used only as a gesture to assure the council that public opinion had been considered."

Indy attended a Royal Town Planning Institute conference discussing effective participatory techniques while researching his paper.

"Some of the innovative techniques discussed at that conference were used in my essay as examples of the types of exercises that should be used in the future, at earlier stages in the planning process.

"Clearly there is a growing emphasis and awareness of the need to engage more comprehensively with the local community."

Among Indy's inspirations are writer George Monbiot, author of 'Captive State' which included a chapter titled 'How to buy Planning Permission.' Indy said: "It was that chapter that initially inspired me to write about Community Involvement in Planning and I have since received personal congratulation from George about winning this award."

Indy is now studying for a Masters' degree in Town Planning and intends to continue to develop his ideas for community involvement in his dissertation.

Added by Matt Machell on October 27, 2006