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Planning for the Future

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has produced a White Paper (‘Planning for the Future’) and is seeking consultation on its contents for a period of 12 weeks from 6th August, 2020. Applying to England only it seeks views on “proposals for reform of the planning system in England to streamline and modernise the planning process, improve outcomes on design and sustainability, reform developer contributions and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.”

Looking at the present planning system put together in 1947 and much altered since, the Prime Minister calls it “outdated and ineffective”. The authors of the White Paper give many reasons for change but identify the fact that the present system is too complex with decisions being made on a case by case basis rather than determined by compliance with clear rules. Importantly, it has lost the public trust: “for example, a recent poll finding that only seven per cent trusted their local council to make decisions about large scale development that will be good for their local area (49 percent and 36 percent said they distrusted developers and local authorities respectively).” The authors complain that there is not enough focus on design and quite simply, not enough homes are being built. What the Paper attempts to do is “rediscover the original mission and purpose of those who sought to improve out homes and streets in late Victorian and early 20th century Britain. That original vision has been buried under layers of legislation and case law.”

Concentrating upon local plans, these will place land in three categories: growth areas leading to substantial development, renewal areas suitable for some development and protected areas where development will be restricted. The local plans should be standardised, visual and map-based using digital tools which make it easier for people to understand what is proposed for their area. Decision making should be faster and ensure that development supports efforts to combat climate change and maximise envionmental benefits. A new body to support delivery of design codes across the country is proposed whilst protection of historic buildings and areas will be maintained.

Fine words – it is hoped that what emerges fulfils the authors’ visions.

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