Friday, 1 July 2011

Planning ahead

There are several topics for discussion which are likely to arise in the next few weeks. The House of Lords has begun the Committee Stage of the Localism Bill but, at the time of writing, they have not yet reached Part 5 of the Bill, dealing with town and country planning. Judging by their Second Reading debate, the Lords are likely to give this part of the Bill rather more robust and thorough scrutiny than it got in the Commons.

I am aware that I never returned to the ‘Plan for Growth’ after my initial post on that document on 7 April, in order to deal with issues such as land auctions, financial incentives, proposed revision of the Use Classes Order coupled with greater freedom to switch between use classes, and other possible changes to the GPDO, plus ideas for speeding up the processing of applications and appeals. Most of these topics are the subject of ongoing consultations, and so further comment at the moment would be superfluous. We shall see exactly what emerges in due course.

The next ‘big’ thing in planning will be the draft National Planning Policy Framework. We have had a ‘semi-official’ sponsored first draft (from the Planning Practitioners Group), plus a recent leak (which may or may not be accurate). We should get the real thing some time this month, and then the fat will be in the fire. Watch out for some strong reactions, not least from me.

There seems to have been a dearth of interesting judgments in the courts recently. I try to keep a lookout for cases that may be of concern to planning practitioners, but there is no point in commenting on cases which depend very much on their own facts and which do not establish or illustrate a principle of more general application. Nevertheless, I shall continue to monitor judgments as I become aware of them.

Several general discussion topics have arisen recently on which I propose to comment when I get time to write them up. It is clear that many people find that planning law is an impenetrable jungle, and need a ‘native’ guide to steer them safely through it. (This includes a good few planning officers!) Despite Eric Pickles’ avowed intent to cut down the jungle, I very much doubt whether his efforts will result in any improvement, and they may only serve to make the jungle even thicker and more impenetrable in certain parts.

There is likely to be no shortage of material for this blog in the foreseeable future, and the only problem is finding the time to write it all up in between the demands of a busy professional practice.


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