Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS) is a unique and independent charity that helps people to engage in the planning process. In their latest regular Scotregen column, Petra Biberbach looks at the relationship between young people and planning.

PAS works hard to raise the profile of planning and promote a system that really includes everyone. A strong focus of its work is on the most hard-to-reach and seldom-heard groups and this very much includes children and young people.

As we know, planning is about quality of life, health and happiness and is not an academic or an abstract thing. For some young people it’s about skate parks, open public spaces, youth centres, sports pitches or mobile phone masts, for others it’s about affordable housing, walking routes to school, cycling, a sense of place and identity and a long list of other lifestyle and practical things. Voice and Vision We also need to explain to young people that planning is not just a licence to object to things you don’t like – it’s about giving voice to your vision of what a place should look and feel like and how you connect with it. Planning, if done right, is an enabling system and a way to make a better place to live in, from a planning application for a play park to developing greenspaces and a safe neighbourhood.

The key to influencing the planning system is certainly to get involved at the right moment. Time and again PAS hears stories from across Scotland about people suffering the consequences of not being involved, through lack of knowledge and understanding. But the “right moment” can equally refer to the age of those getting involved, as young people are often not empowered with the right tools and information.

Getting the planning message across to young people can be an added challenge, and we need to use different methods and tools to engage them. PAS has developed the flagship Planning to Act® (PtA®) project, using drama and arts-based learning. The project works best when youth workers or teachers join in and is most effective in areas where there have been major changes and developments, such as new housing projects, a new school or regeneration and construction work.

Taking the N out of NIMBY

IMBY (In My Back Yard) is the latest PAS innovation. IMBY is a cartoon alien and is a project that introduces primary school children to town planning from the perspective of how the landscape is shaped and why. It covers topics of interest to children, including vegetable gardens, houses, supermarkets and play parks.

The project encourages every child to focus on issues that are relevant and interesting by setting their learning in the real-life context of their community. The planning system raises difficult questions which require problem solving skills and a developed sense of social responsibility.

PAS is also working on a youth engagement programme, supporting young people to learn about the planning system and to apply that learning in the real life context of a community. The scheme will support them in being co-opted onto a local community group, such as a community council, and advise on how they can make an informed contribution during meetings and with tasks.

Our work with young people is not just about planning – it’s about engaging in wider society, becoming active citizens and learning about rights and responsibilities. It relates strongly to citizenship, confidence building and speaking in public – most of all it’s about having a stake in creating the future Scotland.