Revocation of Regional Plans – revoked

What a farce! The right foolish Pickles revokes Regional Strategies on entering power, without properly considering the effects (a lack of any framework for waste, infrastructure, sustainable development etc, etc…). Yes, the Cons ‘Open Source’ planning paper said they would remove imposed housing targets, but not that they would chuck the whole strategy in the bin.

Now the courts say this was illegal. And Pickles response? ‘this ruling changes very little‘. Yes, it just thankfully reinstates the missing part of the country’s forward planning¬† strategy. It changes little in relation to the confusion created so far by Pickles.

He now says that the Government’s desire to remove regional strategies is a ‘material consideration’ in planning decisions. But it’s an illegal one! The government’s chief planning officer, Steve Quartermain, assists in confirming the confusion by telling local authorities that the court’s decision means that Regional Strategies remain part of their Development Plan. The English planning system is based on the ‘certainty’ provided by the Development Plan. But then Steve also says that they should have regard to the government’s intention to abolish them (despite the previous attempt being illegal).

I hope the development and construction industry will do as much as it can in accordance with the Regional Strategies whilst it still seems possible. The Regioanl Strategies took years to put in place and were widely debated. They are based on strategic decisions on the best ways to mitigate climate change and limit the negative impacts of the country’s needs (for housing, energy, transportation …). The government seems set to rid us of these strategies without any properly considered replacement. All because they imposed housing in Conservative areas, where residents objected – despite a proper consultation and extensive independent examination.

John Howell, MP for Henley, who represents people with some of the most expensive housing in the country and is author of the Open Source planning paper, advises us that the new National Plan that the Con-Dems propose will ensure that development is directed to the most sustainable areas. John also says that agreeing a National Plan will put us in line with the excellent planning system in the Netherlands. Yes, correct, except of course that the Dutch system also has 12 Provincial Plans – a regional tier of planning that John is very keen to remove!

The construction industry is historically the driving force in our economy, and recovery from recession. The Con-Dems do have some great ideas, and changes to the planning system were needed, but the current confusion is not helping us to economic recovery.