All projects carried out by Green Balance involve advice in one form or another, but some centre on the presentation of issues and options to enable clients to decide matters for themselves distinctly from our own contribution. This is the kind of assistance which some of our clients require much of the time (see for example our Housing Case Study), but advice can take many different forms.
Throughout 2009 Green Balance advised the Peak District National Park Authority on appropriate minerals policies for its Core Strategy, plus management policies for its Minerals Strategy. Despite its status, the Peak District is one of the most heavily quarried areas in the UK. This commission involved not only an assessment of the competing issues but the preparation of draft policies for consultation and an analysis of responses. The authority needed a responsible approach to minerals provision compatible with its national objectives for landscape protection and recreation.
Green Balance advised on the line to be taken between these sharply contrasting objectives. As a result, the Core Strategy proposed, and the Inspector examining it agreed, that in future the nationally rare mineral fluorspar should only be mined underground rather than excavated from surface quarries, closing a long chapter in the Park’s history of surface fluorspar operations as the remaining sites are worked out. The Core Strategy also opened up a debate about the future of Hope Cement Works, indicating that no further land allocations would be made for raw material supplies from within the Park.
Richard Bate, Partner of Green Balance, has been Specialist Adviser on Planning to the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee and its predecessors in Parliament since 1998, and was also adviser to the former West Midlands Select Committee. The two most recent Committee Inquiries which he has advised were on the proposed Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies in 2010 and on the draft National Planning Policy Framework in 2011. Richard Bate provided professional planning support for the Clerks, advising Members of Parliament on issues for resolution, on questions they could put to witnesses at oral hearings and on drafts of the Committee’s reports.
Richard Bate has also advised on enquiries as diverse as Development on or affecting the Floodplain (2000), The Planning Inspectorate and Public Enquiries (2000), Rural White Paper (2000), Planning Green Paper (2002), Planning, Competitiveness and Productivity (2003), and Planning Gain Supplement (2006).
Resolving difficult planning issues can sometimes best be achieved by the parties with differing interests working together through some kind of forum. The collective advice provided can highlight substantial areas of broad agreement, thereby helping the decision-maker. Green Balance has provided the Secretary to two substantial investigations by round tables of this kind, one an 'Inquiry into Planning for Housing' by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (find out more in Housing), and the other a 'Northern Ireland Planning Commission' by the National Trust (see Planning Procedures case study). Both aimed for changes in national planning policy and practice.
Green Balance has also been a participant in an unusual project on the same principle commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG). This was a study to examine the future of the Managed Aggregates Supply System – the Government-backed means of balancing the interests of mineral-producing areas (dictated by geology) and mineral-consuming areas (dictated mainly by population). There was a significant research element in this work – examining the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, practice in other countries, and alternative arrangements – but a key benefit was discussion between the parties leading to a comprehensive agreed report Managing Aggregate Supply in England advising CLG in 2008.
Green Balance was commissioned in summer 2016 to carry out a full organisational Review of Civic Voice. Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement in England, representing its membership of local civic societies and similar bodies. It was established in 2010 as the successor to the Civic Trust. Working with Messer Ltd, we examined Civic Voice's achievements and effectiveness (it punches well above its weight) and reviewed its governance, fundraising and membership. The organisation at the time faced a precarious income shortfall, plugged by grants and project funding which imposed a huge workload on staff. We set out strategic options which Civic Voice could follow, making 43 recommendations which were all accepted as necessary to secure the long term future and continued effectiveness of this small organisation.
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