Monday, April 21, 2014

Planning and the Government

There are two consultations being carried out as the Government proposed to tinker with the planning system. The more important is review of the operation of the NPPF by the DCLG select committee and readers of this blog might want to visit the website and explain to the committee that the 'presumption' in the NPPF is being applied in favour of development with little or no understanding or requirement in respect of the ' sustainability'. in fact, housing development that disregards sustainability creates further needs and liabilities in the period during which carbon emissions should be declining at a significant rate. There are many hints in previous blogs but I would highlight the failure at any attempt to mainstream cohousing and the omission of policies in respect of local food production, processing and distribution. The second consultation is not of any great interest but provoked me into a response which explained the significant cost imposed on operators of the planning system by the obsessive tinkering by this and previous governments. The response from the "Planning Team" at the DCLG was to ask for evidence. By sheer coincidence I was clearing out some papers and stumbled on the following quote that relates to a previous proposal. In 1980 the Department of the Environment issued a draft circular in respect of the exercise of planning control which the Royal Town Planning Institute described as showing, " abysmal ignorance of how the planning system operates and why it exists." At that time Malcolm Grant (You can look up his credentials) said that, “Planning law is a subject which has for the most part been unsympathetically handled by parliamentary draughtsman and their departmental advisers, so that the resultant mass of legislation is highly technical and poorly integrated. It lacks any overall coherence, and comprehending and interpreting it is a difficult enough task professional let alone the layman." I sent this to the DCLG with the following comment, “I would suggest that the most fundamental problem has been the failure to understand the difference between legislation and policy. Whilst the NPPF has some claims to success as a distillation of existing policy (the only substantive change being the addition of the 'presumption', that itself has significant legal complications) all the changes to regulations/legislation introduced by this government would have been more effective through issuing ministerial statements or additions to national planning guidance." We are in a vicious circle where the system has become so complicated that it cannot be operated effectively and the government assumes that change is necessary. However through its " abysmal ignorance", the government introduces changes that simply add to the complications without having any measurable let alone beneficial effect.

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