I am in the process of helping to organise a seminar on food and planning for the local branch of of the Royal Town Planning Institute. One of the purposes of this seminar is to explore the extent to which food systems or hindered and could be helped by controls vested in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.
The principal effect of the Act was to nationalise control over the use and development of land and buildings. The extent to which these controls can legally be exercised by the Secretary of State and local planning authorities is strictly a matter for the courts. Such judgements would rely on whether the decision was made following section 38 (6) of the PCPA 2004; ie taken in accordance with the development plan (i.e. based on policies within it) unless material considerations indicate otherwise. There would not appear to be any statutory limits over what, judged by politicians to be in the public interest, would be the necessary material considerations to achieve the desired outcome.
If, for example, it was decided that the support and promotion of local food would be in the public interest (eg benefits in respect of employment, traceability, carbon reduction and food security) there should be nothing to prevent the inclusion of policies privileging local food producers, processors and distributors ( including retailers) from being included in development plans and reflected in planning decisions. As discussed in previous blogs, this could include policies which sought to secure supply of land at affordable prices (for sale or rent) and associated affordable housing.
So the seminar (to be held on 30 April 2015 in Reading (Google RTPI south eastern branch) will start by establishing the public interest in local food production, processing and distribution and then have presentations from those promoting these activities at regional level, in the countryside, within urban areas and in the urban fringe. Hopefully, an outcome of these discussions will be the formulation of policies in development plans that will facilitate a regeneration of local food systems.