What do those Areas that are Making the Duty to Cooperate a Success Have in Common? Structure Plans Mark II

Anchorman has said in public forums when questioned about the success of the ‘duty to cooperate’ that some areas are making it work.

What areas can he have in mid?  Well of course there are the many areas that are doing joint plans but I think he had especially in mind the wider areas that have undertaken some kind of joint arrangement to coordinate strategic planning and especially set up structures to agree housing numbers following a joint SHMA.  One thinks of for example PUSH, Sussex Coast, Greater Cambridge and now (formerly one of the worst offenders) Herts.

Agreeing joint arrangements in these areas has not been easy, as I know from experience in advising on setting several of them up.  In particular having some kind of leaders forum does not mean there is any kind of governance structure for deciding housing numbers.  In many cases these numbers have not been tested yet and failure to test alternative distributions from the SHMA and consult on them cross border may be found to fall foul of the SEA directive.  But it is a good deal better than those areas like Bedfordshire where authorities continue to fight like rats in the sack, with misaligned pre and post NPPF /  RSS revocation adopted local plans and no incentive to cooperate, or Greater Nottingham with its go it alone landing in a trainwreck. Even those areas with joint plans or joint numbers have struggled to keep pace with updating numbers in a post RSS world and a government that gives no breathing space to update these with the latest demographics.

What the areas making a hash of it are creating.  Joint evidence base, leading to allocation of housing numbers pan authority at roughly county level to be tested at examination.  Ask any first year planning student in the 70s or 80s what you called that – all hands would pop up – structure plans.

So if we are reinveting structure plans – in some cases on more rational boundaries – why mess around. As Roger Hepher has said 

“I think we are all well aware [the D TC is] not working at all well.

“There seems to be a general consensus in both the Tory and Labour camps that something has to happen to improve or maybe replace the duty.”

Will it be replaced? Well the DTC is working as we have said on here many times, just in geological time, if you ignore your neighbours, or just set up a forum which takes minutes but does no planning you will fail, and those authorities, as for example East Cambridgeshire, will come on board.  It just takes years for reality to hiot home to tye council leaders in question and chief officers fearful of their jobs in an age of austerity have been reluctant to give them robust advice.

If it were abolished it wopuld send the wrong signal – like you no longer need to cooperate.  Whatever you thought about ‘top down planning’ abolishing RSS sent exactly that wrongt signal and led to 3 lost years in planning and a collpase in housing allocations.

The DTC however was always a backstop power for a lack of strategic planning.  Even if strategic planning makes a come back, eventually after 20 years of the DTC you might see nationwide coverage of strategic planning SHMA partnerships, you would need the DTC to cover those cases like Harlow that span the borders.

But if the wind is blowing in the direction of housing market area partnerships dishing out the numbers surely we can get there more quickly.  Labour seems to be thinking in this direction but seems reluctant to announce pre election. Even without statutory reform if this is the inevitable direction of change why not flag it.  A big speech can make a lot of difference in planning.  So why does not Anchorman or boles make one – it would save everyone a lot of headache and bring reality home to the head in the sand council leaders.



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