Grace Crannis

16 May 2023

Wait, have we talked about what planning is? Anyone feeling confident?

I think I know, but if I'm honest, I don't actually. Where does it begin and where does it end? Who does it? What's it supposed to do?

I'm focusing the next few PYYAP interviews on exploring what planning is. I don't intend to close out the question, this will be a meandering tour. A good place to start is at the start. Grace Crannis, senior engagement officer at Richmond and Wandsworth Councils, has produced a book titled What is Planning to support public input into Wandsworth's local plan preparation. Not only does the book fit neatly into my quest for clarity, but Grace makes a strong case for why an engagement strategy should be the first step in any planning effort.

Wouldn't it be easier to understand what planning is if we understood what planning is from the perspectives of people whom it affects? Wouldn't those conversations sharpen priorities? Wouldn't that involvement generate genuine connections? Isn't there the chance that upfront (and continued) engagement could produce more sustainable results? Think of all the planning pains that might soothe?

This conversation with Grace is choc a bloc with insights, tools, fresh ways of seeing concepts I thought I understood well. Notebooks at the ready. Some of my favourite ideas that I will call on regularly:

  • Before you begin, truly investigate the social value of a place - it is likely more than meets the eye and will help unlock what a place can become
  • TAP DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT (so far, a theme cited by every interviewee)
  • Don't overlook the most prominent and regular community voices. They bring experience, in-depth knowledge, technical savviness and exceptional dedication. It's about balancing with lesser heard, too.
  • Programme engagement at the very start because it will inform scope, timescales, budgets, etc.
  • Reconsider channels and modes of engagement
  • Seek depth, rather than breadth, of engagement