Friday, 29 August 2014

“A Forward Looking Planning Manifesto”

It seems that the need for proper reform of the planning system, as distinct from the pointless political tinkering that we have encountered over the past 20 years or so, is becoming ever more widely recognised. London solicitors Addleshaw Goddard are the latest to add their voice to calls for a more fundamental approach to reform of the planning system.

Their recently published document – “A Forward Looking Planning Manifesto” is very much along the lines of what I and an increasing number of other planning professionals have been calling for – including an overall strategic plan at a national level (much more precise, and perhaps prescriptive, than the vague platitudes in the NPPF), as well as the need for strategic planning at the regional level (so wantonly abandoned by the present government) and a proper review of Green Belts. The need for proper strategic planning, which would include the setting of regional housing targets, is particularly urgent in view of the continuing failure of neighbouring planning authorities to co-operate meaningfully in developing their core strategies, particularly in relation to housing provision. As the authors say, this is necessary in order to counter "local political point scoring, skills deficits and NIMBY-ism".

However, a few of the ideas are, I suspect, too radical for any political party to countenance. For example, I find it hard to believe that the proposal to amalgamate the London Boroughs into just five massive super-boroughs will commend itself to the politicians. A similar proposal to create "metro-regional bodies" (enlarged regional or sub-regional authorities) may also prove controversial.

Addleshaw Goddard say that this manifesto has been informed by the views of "dozens of leading figures and industry experts, public sector figures and developers" which include not only private sector planning consultants but also planners in local government, as well as people in the development industry. This is further confirmation of the increasingly widespread view of those who actually have day- to-day dealings with the planning system that it cannot be allowed to stagger on in its present arthritic (or sclerotic) form. It seems that it is an idea whose time has come, and this will be a challenge for the incoming government in May 2015. It is timely that the political parties should be made aware of this now, so that they can take it on board in formulating their own manifestos for the next General Election.



  1. I had hoped for radical reform of the planning system in Wales but it doesn't look as if we will get something entirely new thanks to input of senior figures who were party to the administration of the inherited English system which is as you put it "arthritic".

    Localism will never work because of all the vested interests and NIMBYism, might as well call it parochialism.

  2. My basic manifesto:

    1. A National Plan covering at least the next 50 years, including map of general sub-regions/corridors for growth and areas of constraint. Linked to a set of targets/projections for housing, jobs, energy generation, food production, environmental protection etc.

    2. A basic set of national development policies, building on case law, good common sense and planning for the public good.

    3. Local plans (and/or sub-regional plans/county plans) to provide allocations, designations, land-uses or zones. Plans may only include additional development policies to the national policies in EXTREME circumstances.

    4. Most minor development to be taken out of 'planning' as we know it. At local/sub-regional/county level, there will be a set of design codes/guides, prepared by and approved by a panel including local members, local architects, planners, other experts etc. Thereafter, applications for extensions, conversions and minor new build to be considered against this code by a small group of (maybe three) locally registered experts(whether planner, architect or whoever), not by a local authority. If the application is prepared by an agent confirmed to be compliant / conversant with the code, then this is fast-tracked to an approval.

    5. Local authorities therefore left to determine major applications only and to be much more involved in the planning of schemes as well as the determination of the schemes, i.e. to find solutions, compromises etc.