I thought it might be interesting to keep track of changes in the planning system as they emerge through the new government from 2010, and identify some of their impacts. I will update this page as new announcements / policy is made …
Open Source Planning published, the Conservatives’ Green Paper on Planning.
Promises that planning decision-making will be moved back to local levels, neighbourhoods,
The Coalition government is formed. Eric Pickles (Secretary of State for CLG, Conservative) writes to local authorities (on 27th) to advise that he intends to abolish regional spatial strategies.
The Pickles letter causes general confusion, and results in many councils calling a halt to their Local Plans, which are based on housing figures that have been set through the regional strategies. This view is subsequently supported by David Morris, the Deputy Director in the Planning Directorate of the Department for Communities and Local Government with responsibility for development plans).
Ministers debate the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies, but warn of the uncertainties created. The British Property Federation warn that it is essential that guidance is provided to local authorities so that the country’s economic recovery is not hindered by a planning policy vacuum.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State, revokes regional spatial strategies on 6th July, removing the housing targets imposed by them. Steve Quartermain, chief planning officer provides advice to local authorities.
CALA Homes make a legal challenge to the revocation of regional spatial strategies. CALA Homes say that the decision needed primary legislation, and leaves a policy vacuum in its place.
The High Court hears the CALA Homes challenge against the revocation of regional spatial strategies.
Research by Tetlow King for the National Housing Federation shows that plans for 85,000 homes have been dropped, likely to rise to 300,000 by October 2011. Huw Morris, Editor of Planning Magazine comments ‘With just 123,000 homes built last year, the folly of abolishing one planning system without putting another in place is obvious … Ministers point to the much-vaunted new homes bonus as the policy that will rescue the country. Yet surely the fact that around 70 councils have halted development plans, slashed housing numbers or postponed local plan inquiries tells another story.’
The legal decision on CALA Homes challenge against the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies is upheld. Regional Strategies remain part of the statutory development plan until formally abolished once the Localism Bill comes into force i.e. the previous housing ‘handed down’ from the regions are re-confirmed. Eric Pickles states that ‘this changes very little’. CALA challenge this statement.
At a Commons CLG investigation into the abolition of RSSs Eric Pickles states that the National Housing Federation figures that 182,000 homes have been pulled from the pipeline are based on ‘iffy evidence and very unconvincing’.
Figures released by the CLG predict the growth of 232,000 households per year from 2008 to 2033.
When questioned about the need for strategic planning at a greater than local level, and how this might be carried out following the abolition of the RSS, John Howell (author of Open Source Planning) states that Regional Spatial Strategies will be replaced by the National Planning Policy Framework, similar to the system in the Netherlands.
Draft ‘Localism Bill’ published.
The High Court rules that the CALA challenge against the November statement of Eric Pickles fails.
CLG Parliament publications / evidence
Grant Shapps promises to retain the committment to zero carbon housing by 2016. He also finalises the New Homes Bonus, stating that commencing in April 2011, the Bonus will match fund the additional council tax potential from increases in effective housing stock, with an additional amount for affordable homes, for the following 6 years.
The Chancellor takes control of planning through the budget, announcing that “local communities should have a greater say in planning “, accompanied by Greg Clark’s statement (‘Planning for Growth‘, 23 March) that there will be a presumption in favour of sustainable development: The Government’s clear expectation is that the answer to development should be “yes”, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles (to be set out in national policy).
In other words, local authorities / neighbourhoods need to plan for development. If they fail to plan, development may be forced on them. This is a major shift in policy, indicating that the treasury priorities for development to lead us out of a recession (together with the pressing planning requirements for new housing) now outweigh the political agenda to put control of development fully back to the local level.
The second report on the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies(‘a planning vacuum’) is published. It identifies a concern at the speed of abolition of the RSSs without any replacement, and a lack of understanding of what the RSSs were for. It identifies a lack of any transitional arrangements between the abolition and planning following the new Localism Bill, and the resulting hiatus in planning. It concludes that there is a ‘lack of clarity in how the new planning system will be co-ordinated and how it will work in practice‘ which needs to rectified quick.
The Court of Appeal rules that development plans would be unlawful if they were based on the CLG’s proposal to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies.
Greg Clark in a speech to the RTPI states that planning has become too defensive and pessimistic, and needs to be about growth, sustainable development, ecological, social, economic and environmental improvements.
The Government’s response to the CLG Committee Report on the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies is published. Eric Pickles announces that ‘The Government’s top priority in reforming the planning system is to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs. We made clear in the Growth Review that our top priority in introducing the National Planning Policy Framework will be to support long term sustainable growth, through both development plans and decisions on planning applications.‘
Draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is published, with the intention of reducing the current 1000+ pages of National Planning Policy Guidance and Statements to 52 pages to make it more accessible to the public. The draft NPPF: –
- has a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The default decision to development should be ‘yes’ where Local Plans are silent, or out of date (nearly half English councils have yet to publish a Local Plan, called a Core Strategy).
- plan making should be simplified with the intention of delivering development, and any supplementary documents to the Local Plan should meet this objective.
- the current requirement for councils to identify a supply of 5 year’s housing land will increase by 20% to provide choice and competition in the market.
The National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are in the news headlines over fears over the NPPF causing damage in the countryside of a scale not seen since the 1930s.
Pickles and Osborne respond in the Financial Times that ‘planning delays cost the economy £3bn a year. It is twice as expensive to get planning permission in London’s West End as in Paris, and 10 times more than in Brussels‘. How do they know that, someone must have been hard at the research? They add: ‘Through neighbourhood planning, a key new right in the Localism Bill, communities will soon have the chance to say where they want new shops, homes and businesses to go, and what they should look like’. Well, good then?