Posted by: Adam Roake | December 16, 2010

Planning and the Localism Bill

I’m feeling a bit cheated. We were promised a radical reform that would, “revolutionise the planning system“.

I must have missed something.

I got the bit about sweeping away regional strategy, which means we will soon have no development plan policy at regional level. But surely district councils will still need to fill the vacuum by “cooperating” with each other (I would love to be a fly on that wall!) to produce something, which might even look very similar to RSS. When, for example, one considers that RSS housing targets were based on clear evidence, were tested to destruction at Inquiries and (at least those that were adopted) found to be sound, it seems implausible that District Councils, who now have the obligation to produce appropriate housing numbers for themselves, could end up with radically different figures. They really have only two options; accept the RSS figures or close to them, on the basis that the evidence supports them or spend a great deal of resource redoing the work and probably finding the same sort of answer. In the light of the Local Government grant settlements, it is worth considering that the first option costs nil, whereas the second doesn’t.

I got the bit about Neighbourhood Plans but I’m unclear whether parish councils/neighbourhood forums are supposed to produce them or whether the district council will use their resources to produce them on behalf of the PC/NF. If it’s the former, who is going to pay for the professional advice that will undoubtedly be required to write the documents and if the latter won’t councils produce their Core Strategies first before they think too hard about Neighbourhood Plans? Either way there will need to be a huge investment made with the real prospect that the eventual referendum will throw it out lock, stock and barrel. The odds are pretty poor considering the resources that could be wasted. I can’t say I’m very excited about these documents, which seem to do little more than Area Action Plans and which must anyway comply with the strategies set out in the Local Development Framework.

Development Plan policies at Local level are virtually unchanged beyond reverting to the previous system regarding Inspectors making recommendations, rather than binding amendments and enforcement procedures are tinkered with. Community consultation becomes something that developers are obliged to do and to take into account as if they haven’t been doing it and taking into account anyway.

Similarly the IPC will become a body reporting to the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision and National Policy Statements will have to be laid before Parliament. Plus ca change…

So what new advice can I charge my clients for? Is there anything which has really changed so radically that I can claim new reasons why my expertise is an essential value-adding expenditure?

Like I said, I feel cheated Mr Pickles.



  1. […] overall I can see little either to cheer or despair about in the draft NPPF. Instead, as with the Localism Bill, it is difficult to see how the NPPF will significantly change the planning system. Firstly, in […]

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