The philosopher of Localism
Yesterday’s Guardian Live discussion brought out an issue long discussed in hushed tones since Open Source Planning was published.
Liam Sankey – Policy Manager – CIH
We are …concerned about the strategic leadership role of local authorities. …But …there is a cultural shift regarding localism that needs to occur – however, the de-professionalising of planning is a concern, as is the extent to which communities will actually be ‘in control’ or have power. The idea that neighbourhoods have the resources and time commitment is questionable and the difference between the aspirations and expectations of communities and the reality is going to be a fundamental problem in some areas.
Richard Blyth – RTPI
Interested that you think Sian that planning is being deprofessionalised. We have been concerned that last year at any rate ministers seemed to think that if you made planning policy short enough, then you wouldnt need any planners because it would be simple enough for anyone to do.
This Steve Hilton/John Howells Philosophy misses that planning is hard, and that shortening national planning policy doesnt do a lot to make it less hard. Indeed the less formal and procedural it becomes, and the more it requires creative positive use of a’toolkit’ of policies – the road we have gone down – the MORE it needs expertise to make it work.
Neighbourhood planning is needing a huge resource input from planning aid volunteers, so it is perverse as Kirkwalls is right to be outraged at today to cut back on Planning Aid and those groups supporting neighbourhood planning. Almost all LPA efforts are going into getting local plans in place and up to shape, so their is a great risk in four months time that the pathfinder exercise will founder. Expectations will have been raised and dashed.
Im going to bring in an unexpected witness (from the 19th C) in support of the thesis that localism needs professionalism – The Anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin in his 1882 Essay ‘What is Authority’
Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch…
I bow before the authority of special men because it is imposed on me by my own reason. I am conscious of my own inability to grasp, in all its detail, and positive development, any very large portion of human knowledge. The greatest intelligence would not be equal to a comprehension of the whole. Thence results, for science as well as for industry, the necessity of the division and association of labour. I receive and I give – such is human life. Each directs and is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination.
Brilliant You Tube from CommonPeople2010 as Boy George gets all Freddy Mercury
New Jargon on Today, today, on an item which included Trudi Elliot, on what DCLG civil servants are calling ‘regions’ now, because of the famous ‘Big Gun’ Eric Pickles and others metaphorically get out whenever the words ‘Region’ or ‘Regional Planning’ are mentioned.
One is reminded of the intention to abolish all regional statistics, which is likely unlawful, and BURISA’s furious response to the consultation.
What other terms might be used and perhaps rebelliously embraced by those in the ‘provinces’ or the ‘sticks’?
Banned words, banned knowledge, banned ideas. Us fans of strategic planning and true federal, regional decentralisation maybe forced to form a secret society – ‘The Order of the Sticks’. Perhaps there will even be secret chapter meetings at lunchtime in the basement of Eland house – “quick watch the door check Sheridan isn’t loitering outside. Ok its safe we can unroll the map comparing multiple deprivation levels in Yorkshire and the West Midlands” Of course esoteric knowledge always survives the ages must better than temporary ideological fads.
@BCM_LLP reports that one West Country Authority is contacting applicants saying that many applications validated but not yet determined are to be ‘reevaluated’ – good, but also that this will take up to six months !!!! From following this up with BCM it appears that the letters say that the applicants can appeal against non-determination.
As the issue of costs for unreasonable delay arise the issue becomes why would any local planning authority rationally make such a move.
Because of the cost issue it is best not to address the specific case but the more general issue.
The only rational circumstance would be that the LPA might feel they could not refuse now under the NPPF but could stand a chance in six months. Why not simply refuse now as they will appeal anyway? Its perfectly rational because when you supply your case the LPA will have to report that to committee (if a major non-delegated case) and for some LPAs that gap of time to submit appeal +6 weeks might buy them time – time to avoid a gap in the NPPF implementation arrangements. If they can submit a statement which states ‘reasons they would have refused on’ which are complaint with the NPPF they can immunise themselves from a potential costs claim.
Now lets say we have some greenfield housing sites which are extremely controversial locally, and that LPA cannot demonstrate a 5 year supply. If the LPA has reached an advanced stage with its revised/emerging local plan – to the extent of indicating broad directions of growth even if not yet submitted or consulted on for pre-submission – then carrying out this ‘6 month delay’ strategy will allow them breathing space to get that out. Under the NPPF those authorities will be in a very weak position, though what happens if the 5 year test is not met is now far muddy than under PPS3 the general fear would be of the ‘approve without delay’ clause kicking on on sites where planning officers disfavour the location over others but where members have yet to get off their behinds and make the tough allocation choices and/or publish it.
What a perverse outcome for these authorities, it is rational to delay and not approve. If the appeal is dealt with quickly then local politicians can blame PINS as they always do. If not there is a good chance the local plan will be out and then they can quietly withdraw their case and negotiate with the appellant the usual deal, we will withdraw objection publicly, you undertake not to make a partial award of costs claim. Its a Head of Planning masterstroke.
Another cunning plan from the government to speed up planning slowing it down. The whole NPPF impact assessment case was that a shorter base of national policy would enable quicker assessment, quicker decisions and this would reduce the famous Michael Ball ‘£3 billion costs’ figure. But here is a case of the NPPF increasing costs and delays. Now there will be cases of some authorities undertaking this tactic for kicking into the long grass reasons, but as shown above it can be for perfectly rational reasons in support of making democratic localist decisions in support of growth. This shows the weak ‘implementation’ rules for LPAs that haven’t not yet quite indicated preferred locations are flawed.