Number 10’s Open Aim to Destroy the Planning System

From Chris Brown’s Blog in Regeneration.

There was a fascinating breakfast this week organised by Dermot Finch at Fishburn Hedges with James O’Shaughnessy the Director of Policy at 10 Downing Street.

James is a Policy Exchange alumnus and lead advisor on CLG issues….

The starting point is the idea that Localism is about Growth which is best driven from the bottom up (although local communities will only be ‘allowed’ to add extra development).

His view on the proposed Use Classes Order change to allow business premises to become housing was that it would have little impact on business rents. He blamed institutional investors for their upward only rents and felt that only the less efficient business buildings would disappear.

On town centre first policies he advocated building where it is cheapest and profits are greatest and was of the view that John Lewis should have gone into Westfield. He felt brownfield targets were a mistake and that urban areas should grow outwards.

Describing CLG as 3000 planners with a culture of drawing masterplans he contrasted the planning system with his preference for a system where development decisions were dependent on market pricing. While the Government had continued with the planning system they were philosophically libertarian and communitarian. Local Government’s role was guiding where to build not whether or what to build.

James O’Shaughnessy is special advisor to the PM at 10, Jamie Hilton is head of the no 10 policy unit who holds similarly extreme views. James doesnt seem to realise that both Westfields in London are on the edge of town centres and in being located so are leading to enormous regeneration of those centres.

These extreme views are fully in line with the Policy Exchange and those associated with them, including their director Alex Morton who this week said

‘Given that developers build homes because there is demand, a planning application is proof of demand. So we should require councils to scrap the “predict and provide” model that invariably underestimates demand.’

The Policy Exchange is member of the European Wide network of right wing think tanks The Stockholm Network, which has close links to climate change deniers, and it has links to the Heritage Foundation, The Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute and receives funding from firms such as Exxon Mobil as well as many big pharma firms. This web of ‘think tanks’ conceal their funding links and promote the removal of almost all forms of environmental regulation. See here

They are dangerously close to the ideas of the tea party anti-sustainable development brigade, differing only giving lip service to sustainable development (by defining it away)

There appears to be a struggle between number 10 and Bressingdon Place. The only difference being that Bressingdon wants to maintain some limited role for the local plan and design control.

But as John Howells MP, author of Open Source Planning and PPS to Greg Clarke, said in Feb if no up to date local plan a developer could then build ‘what they like, where they like and when they like’ which one property magasine rightly called a ‘developers charter’

It is time people woke up. The practitioners draft of the NPPF was shocking, full of all sorts of quiet policy shifts such as removing the protection of the countryside for its own sake, but once it gets into 10s hands, and Eric Pickles who wants to reduce it to 10 pages, it will say little more than say yes yes yes. Whilst the revolt of the nurses etc shocked the government they will be shocked by the revolt of the CPRE, The RSPB (with more members than all political parties combined) etc once they get their letter writing to mps going fearing sprawl everywhere. Its politically stupid as the opposition will capitalise as a concern of the shires and tactically stupid, as with Patrick Jenkins proposal to dismantle the Green Belt in 1980 it will lead to overreaction in the other direction leading to less development when we need more. It is not like there hasnt already been lots of u-turns in this field.

Chris there is a solution to either sprawl or over tight green belts – its unfashionable but its called regional planning and new towns – see here

I don’t think Bressingdon Place has 30 planners, and I im pretty sure none of them will have ever done a masterplan mores the pity.

11 thoughts on “Number 10’s Open Aim to Destroy the Planning System

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