Improving understanding between councils and religious groups at House of Commons event

A Roehampton academic will use a House of Commons event to launch the results of a year-long study into how relations between religious groups and the local government planning system can be improved.

Posted: 14 October 2015

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Dr Andrew Rogers from the University of Roehampton who will launch the Faith and Place Network briefing at the House of Commons.

During the past 12 months the Faith and Place Network led by Dr Andrew Rogers and Dr Richard Gale from Cardiff University has reviewed current issues between expanding faith groups which wish to establish suitable places of worship, and the rules embedded in the planning system delivered by local councils. At the Commons’ event tomorrow, Dr Rogers and Dr Gale will brief key stakeholders on recommendations for improvement and outline next steps which both sides could take.

The Faith and Place Network comprises 51 members including council planning directors, representatives of the Royal Town Planning Institute, developers and consultants, as well as senior church leaders, ministers, representatives of the Church Commissioners and academics.

Among the 15 recommendations from the Faith and Place Network are:

  • Faith groups should take a more active involvement in the development of council Local Plans to ensure their views are included in the consultation process.
  • Councils should review data on planning applications to ascertain whether refusals are above average from faith groups and take appropriate action if required.
  • Councils should prioritise protecting space for social infrastructure, including places of worship.
  • Greater use of section 106 funding from developers for creation of buildings suitable for use as places of worship.

Dr Rogers said: “There are challenges in our recommendations for both faith groups and for the planning sector. Ultimately both sides need a greater understanding of each other if the growing religious communities in our cities are to thrive and be able to worship with dignity.

“We have evidence of churches and other faith groups resorting to industrial estates and retail parks to establish a place of worship. Clearly this isn’t ideal for them, and it rarely accords with the wishes of councillors who want to encourage business growth.”

As well as unveiling the recommendations, Dr Rogers, from Roehampton's Department of Humanities and Dr Gale will also set the Faith and Place Network  project in context and will explain the growth of new churches and the pressure this has placed on the planning process.

The network’s activities have been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can read the full briefing on this page from 16 October.

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