#NPPFs Biggest MP Backer Says it Has Failed

Those of us will remember the NPPF debates will recall that Steve Baker MP was the most anti planning and pro-NPPF MP of all.

What a contrast at yet another Westminster Hall debate on local plans challenging plans in his own constituency.

I challenge the notion of open source consent. Without going off on too much of a tangent, as a software engineer who has participated in open source software projects, I observe that open source software is entirely voluntary—if someone does not wish to use it, they can do something else—and the incentives to participate are strong. In contrast, the land use planning system involves coercion and imposed costs, and there is no exit from it. The whole open source metaphor has been flawed….We can see how that approach fed into our manifesto, the “Invitation to Join the Government of Britain”, and then into the national planning policy framework, but I want to argue that it has failed.

He backs the judgement of Penn and Tylers Green Residents Society

“The NPPF seems to us to be a disingenuous mixture of high-sounding intent and contradictory assertion. It identifies planning as aiming to achieve ‘sustainable development’, a term which, because it defies succinct interpretation, has come to mean popularly, ‘the importance of building houses’.”


I suggest that we see, by harsh experience and by reading the Green Paper, that the NPPF and collaborative democracy in planning have turned out to be an opportunity to comply enthusiastically with the goals set by authority, which is, I am afraid, the freedom to obey.

Regarding the duty to co-operate, if collaborative planning has not worked at the local level, what of collaboration among planning authorities? Whenever decision making is decentralised, a problem of co-ordination arises. The duty to co-operate was bound to bring different plans into conflict, and such conflicts were bound to be difficult to resolve….

I understand from planning officers that the burden of co-operation is now simultaneously slowing down delivery… How is public consent for a local plan to be obtained when it is bound to be the product of an opaque process of collaboration between many individuals working for many official bodies?

I understand that moves are now afoot to ask local enterprise partnerships to co-ordinate local planning authorities. When the chief executive of our LEP told me that a particular problem was that there were now so many economic plans that people could not reconcile them, I asked him, light-heartedly, “Are you saying that what we need is a strongman, with the power, authority and vision to resolve the plans and impose the solution on everyone?” He said yes, but of course I was parodying Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”

When it comes to co-ordinating plans among decentralised decision makers, only the price system can promise to reconcile those differences, through voluntary and mutual adjustment. It is precisely because only the price system can co-ordinate human action that economic planning by authority always falls short of people’s ambitions for it.

Now this well known scion of Austrian economics in teh commons is talking nonsense.  Hayek was challenging a paper from 1937 that stated that what today we would term ‘rational expectations’ was incompatible with equilibrium because everyone would prophesy what everyone else would do. Hayek responded by his notion of intertemopral equilibrium, that everyone could be equally wrong as long as plan are compatible, they are wrong together.  However if they are all equally wrong about price,, such as inflated asset prices, such as housing, through speculation, than this is no a welfare maximising pareto optimum equilibrium.  The very justification for a free market and justification for the market rather than public policy planning.  Hayek vanishes in a puff of his own logical contradiction.

Quite astonishingly for a free marketeer he recommends we build less than the market wants.

In the short term, planning inspectors should accept local plans that meet the aims of the NPPF by protecting designated land, even if that means not building the full quantities of homes identified as being objectively needed.