Planning and localism

Supporting the profession

Localism presents both challenges and opportunities for all professions involved in the built environment. Local communities have greater control over the look and feel of their area, while developers need to engage in greater pre-application consultation on significant projects. This could have a real impact on the profession and we need to make it work. 

Architects have a real opportunity to use their skills and expertise to help communities make the most of their new planning powers and create exciting and bold visions for the future of their areas.

Localism needs design professionals to succeed, but the quality of the places created by this new process will be dependent on their ability to appropriately engage with local people and local issues, right from the beginning, designing 'with' rather than 'for' communities. Architects already have the skills to ensure that this approach is a success, but the profession must look to actively promote these skills within the emerging planning policy context.

Guide to Localism: Opportunities for architects

As the Localism Bill makes its final passage through Parliament, the RIBA has published two new guides for architects, outlining how the role of the architect can change under the new approach to planning, and highlighting the crucial role that they must play in helping communities understand the potential of their local built environment and prepare neighbourhood plans. 

Guide to Localism - Part 1: Neighbourhood planning

The first guide introduces the proposed changes to the planning system and outlines how this will affect architects, before highlighting how architects can use their design skills to get involved in the development of neighbourhood plans.



Guide to Localism - Part 2: Getting community engagement right 

The second guide shows how architects can enable local communities to participate fully in shaping the way that their local area looks and feels, highlighting key principles of successful, meaningful engagement.



The Building Futures game: developing shared visions for neighbourhoods

Building Futures - the RIBA think tank - has previously developed this participation tool for visioning and exploring different possible futures for a local area. It is a form of scenario planning, helping groups 'play out' a range of possible futures with participants – a mix of policy makers, service providers and community members – drawing out a set of concerns and aspirations and considering the impacts and implications of their choices.

The Building Futures Game

 The Building Futures game

The process is a creative, collaborative and non-confrontational one, which requires people to consider different values or agendas, to make difficult choices and to consider the reality of delivering change on the ground. The game gives participants realistic expectations of how different issues can trade off against each other by giving them a meaningful framework by which to think constructively about the future of their area and emerging changes.

The Building Futures game is the outcome of three years of research and development work carried out by the Building Futures team, CABE and architectural practice AOC. 

If you are interested in using the game as part of project or programme work - in practice or in education - or wish to find out more please contact Building Futures at:



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