Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why the system is bad for public and practitioners

I am told that the main reason why lawyers hate planning is the meddling of Government so that it is very difficult to be confident about the current state of the law/regulations. I have just read the amendments to the General Permitted Development Order which allow the change of use of agricultural buildings to schools or dwellings. I have to say that the provisions will test the legal brains of practitioners and processes within local government to an extraordinary degree. Although this is meant to be a freeing up of control the requirement for “prior notification" and the criteria on which this is requested and possibly triggering a planning application, cannot reasonably be described as cutting “red tape". All new regulations include an impact assessment which explains the minimal cost associated with the proposed change. Legislators simply have no idea of the real cost of even the smallest changes and the alienation caused to public and practitioners. I am the victim of another change introduced by the coalition government. Communities Minister Stephen Williams has confirmed the demise of the code for sustainable homes and the transfer of responsibility for sustainable housing to the building regulations. This was foreshadowed by the Housing Standards Review but was the subject of substantial objections from many of the affected parties ( E.g. Green Building Council and BRE). This confirmation arrived between me completing an article for The Planner on the random number generator being operated by both inspectors and of the Secretary of State to justify the “necessary"(!) conditions being attached to permissions for large housing developments. Code levels 3, 3.5 (equivalent to Part L of the Building Regulations), 4 or even more being required. Some lucky developers are also randomly being required to provide on or near site renewables. The substance of my opinion piece has been superseded but the extent to which sustainability can be properly incorporated into the building regulations is a mystery. A further question must be raised as to how planning decisions and planning policies can be seen, as they must, to be 'contributing to the achievement of sustainable development if neither are to regulate the energy efficiency (or water management) which is to be left to the Building Regulations? There are already a few signatures on DanthePlan's Protocol which seeks to ban CFCs. Changes for Change's Sake are extremely costly, time-consuming and bad for morale. Readers of my blog will know that there are many changes that need to be made to the planning system. It is meddling that makes the job so unrewarding when there is so much real work to be done.

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