People Power for Positive Planning

On 5 and 6 February 2011, Friends of the Earth hosted a training weekend on the Northern Ireland planning system. The event, called People Power for Positive Planning, took place at Dromantine retreat centre, near Newry.

The event was aimed at giving activists throughout Northern Ireland better skills and knowledge when campaigning to defend and improve their communities. It also explored how campaigners from different communities could pool their resources to effect positive change in the planning system.

Members of Friends of the Earth’s Rights and Justice team joined Northern Ireland staff to facilitate the weekend. Guest speakers included solicitor Roger Watts; environmental expert Clive Mellon; and East Belfast MP Naomi Long.

Themes covered during the training included:

  • how to participate in the planning system;
  • how to use the courts to challenge bad decision making;
  • how to use the Freedom of Information Act to your advantage;
  • how to campaign strategically;
  • how to build a group;
  • how to win allies in your community;
  • how to use the media

Towards the end of the weekend, delegates drew up a vision for the future of planning in Northern Ireland. They also offered suggestions for how to communicate with the general public about shortcomings in the current system.

This weekend is the start of a process of offering activists skills, knowledge and resources useful to campaigning. These tools will be useful in defending rights both at a community level and in Northern Ireland as a whole.