Oxford Brookes: a case study about involving students in neighbourhood planning

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Background

Oxford Brookes University, and many of its halls of residence, lie within the area designated by the Headington Neighbourhood Forum for their neighbourhood plan. This has provided planning students at Brookes with the perfect opportunity to gain experience of real world planning issues and contribute to the successful development of a plan.

How are the university and Neighbourhood Forum working together?

The university and its students have been working together with the Forum for over two years now, and the work that students are involved in has adapted to fit the stage which the neighbourhood plan is at. This has allowed students to see a plan develop, engage in a wide variety of roles and meant that the Forum has received student support throughout the plan’s life.

Coniston_AveFinal year undergraduate students undertake project work with the Headington Neighbourhood Forum, and their contribution is then assessed as part of their course. Last year, projects included setting out ideas for the issues that the plan could address, for instance retail use and participation strategies.

This year, the students are helping the Forum’s topic working groups. This will help the Forum develop their preferred options for land use policies and projects for consultation. There are working groups on transport, housing, open space, retail/employment and character assessment and identity.

What are the advantages of working together?

The Forum has benefited positively from the participation of students, as they have provided a supply of ideas and examples drawn from their research on other neighbourhood plans. Last year, the Forum said that the students’ input really gave them the enthusiasm to carry on with their plan at a time when they were otherwise at a low point.

For the students involved in the Headington Neighbourhood Plan, they have gained invaluable experience of planning and also of working with community groups. It will undoubtedly stand them in great stead as they look to begin their careers, and has helped raise awareness amongst potential new planners of the importance of neighbourhood planning.

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Top tips

  • Find out if there’s a university in your area which has an accredited planning school. Make contact to see if they are interested in working with you and what they might be able to offer.
  • Remember that students can’t offer professional planning advice as they are not qualified planners, so think about tasks that are appropriate e.g. research.
  • Remember to agree what assistance being provided by students will be used for their university projects or research.

Many thanks to Oxford Brookes University for their help with this case study. These case studies are produced by Planning Aid England as part of the Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning programme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and delivered by a consortium led by Locality. 

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