Monday, 21 June 2010

Planning for ‘free’ schools

All the papers were full of the news at the end of last week that Michael Gove, the Schools Secretary, is going to “tear up planning laws” to allow his new ‘free’ schools to be built. This overlooks a small detail – Gove doesn’t have the power himself to change planning legislation.

DCLG have made no comment on this, so far. Presumably, the Education department will have to persuade Uncle Eric’s department to make the necessary changes to the GPDO. Or perhaps orders to do so will come from No.10 or the Cabinet Office.

There seems to have been an assumption that what this involves is simply a change of use of existing premises, rather than operational development, but that remains to be seen. One wonders how this will fit in with the government’s ideas of letting people at a local level decide what development they want in their neighbourhood. I can think of a number of objections on land use grounds which could arise in the case of particular school proposals. Presumably Article 4 Directions would still be available to LPAs to prevent undesirable changes of use or other permitted development for educational purposes in sensitive areas.

We shall have to wait and see what actually emerges. All we have had so far is government by press release. Putting Gove’s ideas into practice may prove to be more difficult than his bullish press statement was intended to suggest.


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