Osborne’s Brownfield ‘Urban Planning Revolution’ Fails at Launch -Its Just a Planning Performance Agreement

The brownfield sites initiative is falling apart before it has even been launched.

London was the model.  Housing Zones were to use Local Development Orders to grant consent, an idea taken up in the Infrastructure Act.  The Mayor was to be given powers to declare them.

Osborne seized on the idea, it was to be an ‘urban planning revolution’  it was to ‘remove planning obstacles’ and the Chancellor was desperate to be seen to be promoting Brownfield development.

But the idea that LDOs were the answer was a non-starter – as we set out here.  You cant have an LDO inplace until you have a masterplan. The problem is not there is too much planning but not enough good, creative, practical masterplanning and powers of land assembly and delivery.  You cant pursue that at the same time as perusing a neo-liberal planning counterrevolution.


earlier this week, London deputy mayor for housing Richard Blakeway said that there were currently no plans to use the orders in the nine newly-announced zones.

“The orders were referred to as a tool that could be used if necessary,” he said. “We have got proactive planning authorities, and it’s not been necessary to use the orders”.

Instead, he said, the mayor would be encouraging authorities to draw up planning performance agreements, which set out a fixed schedule for application determination in return for a fee, that would apply to all the schemes in the zone. “This will give more planning certainty and ensure resources for planning,” he said.

How then is this any different to strategic Greenfield sites where PPAs are now standard?

The false perspective in Ministers minds seems to be repeating the fantasy of poorly informed Nimby Placard wavers  that that these are large empty factories that a wave away of ‘planning obstacles’ will see developed.  These sites hardly exist in London and in increasingly fewer places elsewhere.  Rather they have existing land uses, complex services which need relocating, multiple land ownership.  They need good masterplanning to have any major uplift in value and units at all, and someone to bang head together.  Take any of the newly announced housing zones in London, they are really hard work and badly need the aid of proactive development corporation.

Their is a real problem here.  It should not take barrowloads of masterplans, development frameworls, development plans, site briefs, and planing applications and S106 agreements that take a week to sign they are so large to get these sites developed.  A simpler more streamlined approach is needed which can rapidly adapt to changing conditions and innovation as the potential of areas is realised.  But the model for that is not LDO but the SDZ. SEZ type procedures successfully used around the world, close to home moist notably in Ireland.  For that we need primary legislation.






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