Thursday, October 29, 2015

Expert Panel on Local Plans

Apologies for posting this after the date for submitting evidence has (just) past but the panel appointed by the Planning and Housing Minister to investigate ways of improving the system of local plan preparation and approval of local plans is now considering the evidence.  

My views were,"The Panel has been set up due to existing problems in the timely approval of development plans.  However, in the pre-occupation with speeding up (and possibly simplifying) the process there is a danger that the system will continue to operate under the conspiracy of silence and avoid the challenge implied by the test of soundness which is compliance with  s39(2) of the 2004 Act.  There are no  development plans that are actually “contributing to the achievement of sustainable development” or following the para 14 of the NPPF/Framework    where development in accordance with the plan would necessarily benefit from the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Development plans are current being produced by local government planners faced with interpretations of the Framework by inspectors and Secretaries of State that have prioritised economic development at the expense of any proper consideration of the social and environmental limbs of sustainability.  The contributions being made by private sector planners through representations during the plan preparation and at the examination are  being made in the interest of clients seeking to advance the prospects of  development giving rise to profits to landowners and builders  under existing models that are adding to the problematic  scale of unsustainable development that will need to be re-visited and fixed before 2050. 

In the context of a s78 appeal  (Ref Appeal Decision APP/N2345/A/12/2169598) an inspector expressed surprise at the lack of help being given to him by the professional experts.  The examiner of the Vale of White Horse Local Plan is being faced with the proposition from the  LPA that the EU and UK  carbon budgets  (under the Climate Change Act and para 94 of the NPPF) are unrealistic, and the need to reduce carbon emissions by about 60% during the plan period should not be an impediment to the  40% planned growth in housing, jobs and associated infrastructure.  The Sustainability Assessment  has identified the ‘negative impacts’  that almost all the proposed development will have on carbon emissions with no ‘major positive’ impact to start the transition to a low carbon economy.  The response from the Inspector was a question as to whether this conundrum had been raised before any othe inquiry/examination?

So when recommendations are being formulated as to how the development plan system might be made more efficient and effective, the Panel should take into account that the new system should deal with the question of how sustainability can be dealt with in development planning an honest way (and in accordance with the first two paragraphs of Greg Clark’s Foreword to the NPPF) that planned development does not make the situation worse for future generations.

I hope that this is interesting if no longer a post that readers can use to join in the debate.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Young Planners

The latest issue of The Planner, the trade magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute was dedicated to the place of young planners in the profession. I have previously blogged about how their views should take precedence over those of older planners who have clearly failed to do the job of helping create environments in town and country suited to the conditions of the 21st century.  Dismay would understate my reaction to the survey made of the opinions of ypung p[lanners and provoked me to write the folowing letter,

"The search for what is wrong with planning  and its future need go no  further than the snap survey reported in The Planner October 2015.  In the answer to “What do you hope to achieve as a planner?” only 32% hoped to ‘encourage social, environmental, and economic wellbeing’ (ie sustainable development), and only 10% hoped to ‘create a sustainable world’. These could be taken as  measures of realism about the limitations on the role of planners, or it could be that, at a very early stage of their careers, a large majority of planners have abandoned  even the hope of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development (ie a duty under s39(2) of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act), and enabling development that would benefit from the presumption in the NPPF."

I don't know the size of the sample or other details that skew the results of a survey but I have to assume that the RTPI/The Planner  expected the readers to give weight to the results.  The most shocking aspect of this result is that the presumption in favour of sustainable development is the only presumption in planning policy and even the 2010/2015 coalition government described this a golden thread running through decision-taking and plan-making.  For young planners to have abandoned hope of doing what is a principal if not the paramount part of their job specification in either public or private sectors suggests that employers and clients  must be exerting undue influence over these young professionals who should be free and able to carry out their job to enable sustainable development to take place.