One of the things we suggested in the alternative NPPF draft was an 18 month transition period. Ministers have been talking a lot about transitional period to avoid a burst of appeal-led planning in recent days and recovered appeal decisions have indicated that LPAs are to be given perhaps one last chance to get plans in place.
Andy Boddington has updated the now defunct national database of plan progression to give the CPRE some idea of the number of authorities where the ‘silent, indeterminate, out of date’ issues hit.
Sadly, tearing my hair out, it has a lot of errors in terms of authorities which have adopted (Horsham) and now reviewing down as not adopted and future dates for examinations (Ipswich) where the examinations have concluded, but without checking every single authority it does give a ball park of the issues. I have to say too that the estimates of those likely to be over the line by April 2012 is based on self reporting – some of these I would eat my hat if they made it and others have stalled possibly fatally at EiP – such as Rochford – others are likely to if they carry on with the options they are consulting on now (mentioning no names) i.e. low housing numbers and lack of cooperation with neighbours.
Putting these issues to one side for one moment how many authorities would be, on current plans, likely to adopt after the end of a transition period of 18 months.
Well those planning to have a core strategy in place for the first time after 10/2012 is – wait for it – 7 authorities in the whole of the UK. So 18 months should be sufficient. Indeed of those 7 most are the notorious slow authorities – like Flyde and Burnley- which have the most leisurely programmes you could imagine, whilst others such as Warwick, Coventry and Brighton have got close to the finish like only to kick the can down the road a couple of years.
The problem areas, the areas likely to slip into late 2012 and 2013 fit into a number of geographical; clusters, in North Warwickshire, MK & Aylesbury Vale, North and East Herts and around Harlow, Thames Gateway North, and reflect long-standing issues of cooperation and in some cases arguments about Green Belt release in those authorities.
So if a transition period of 18 months was set down I have no doubt that all authorities, if the effort was made could make it. Resources is an issue, many authorities planning examinations may find they have no staff, but the reason for the slowest authorities isn’t primarily resources,it is political will, as proven by the advanced stage that plans in some of these authorities reached in the past.
Also there is the issue of how 150 or so core strategies could be examined in 18 months. With some joint examinations and polling towards joint plans and some bringing back onto the books of inspectors laid off in the 2010 lull it could be done as the pace is not considerably greater than that achieved in 2009.
Overall then could we have 100% local plan coverage within 2 years – its possible.
Of course this isn’t the whole story. A lot of authorities have core strategies but no allocations and are being caught out by now having to deal locally to growth that the Regional Plan would have displaced elsewhere, as well as in some cases big changes from the latest household projections. But overall there really isnt the case to simply abandon plan making and granting lots of appeals instead as the goal of up to date plan coverage is in sight within a reasonable period during which time the housing market is likely to remain depressed.