The report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good, was published on 7th December 2015. One of its key recommendations was as follows:
Much greater religion and belief literacy is needed in every section of society, and at all levels. The potential for misunderstanding, stereotyping and oversimplication based on ignorance is huge. The commission therefore calls on educational and professional bodies to draw up religion and belief literacy programmes and projects, including an annual awards scheme to recognise and celebrate best practice in the media.
This resonates strongly with the Faith and Place network’s policy briefing, especially the first core theme of ‘Understanding One Another’. In it we identify the need for ‘greater understanding and dialogue between local planning authorities and faith groups’, specifically recommendation 1 and 5 as follows:
1. Local planning authorities need to develop greater understanding of how faith groups use space, which includes recognition of the differences between and within faith groups themselves. To facilitate this, specific guidance on how faith groups use space needs to be made available, for example, through supplementary planning documents that reflect the contemporary religious landscape. Generating such guidance may benefit from collaboration with the relevant professional bodies and faith groups.
5. Faith groups also need to have greater understanding of the planning system. This might be facilitated by guides produced by local planning authorities, in collaboration with faith groups and other civil society organisations. These guides should clarify the practicalities of the planning system and also outline how planning policies can be applied to accommodate the needs of faith groups. Such collaboration, as recommended by the RTPI over 30 years ago, should not be a one-way process.
We are now working to see how the network might facilitate greater mutual understanding between faith groups and local planning authorities.