The Mogg Gets Tries His Hand at Strategic Planning

Welcome everyone to the ERG’s daily news conference.
We wondered what to speak about today after pulling together our ideas for the Northern Ireland Border in two days,  however my fellow and neighboring MP Liam Fox reminded me of the bru -ha-ha surrounding the West of England Joint Spatial Plan.  So after tacking star wars and global military intervention in our stride, its time to be ambitious, time to be positive and solve our housing problem. Our planning laws are sclerotic, we need more permissions, the whole system is gummed up.   So we have a solution.  These Garden Community Thingies are all the thing so a marvelous philanthropic landowner in the Mendips has offered the ground of his modest 16th Century Pile to build on.  West Harptree Garden village will offer a marvelous opportunity for ordinary people, who simply cant afford to live in Somerset  to take in fresh air, the thrill of freshly split fox blood  (sorry Liam)  and the invigorating taste of lead in game. Of course some of my chums are a bit concerned about attracting the sort of banksy, beatnik, fried, slacker,trip-hopping, crypto rasterfari-cube heads from Bristol, so they will be given work.  Lots of jobs going for footman, butler, housekeeper and cook.  This of course is just how it used to be, it gave us Cotswolds villages and all the places National trust members visit and it didnt need those interfering socialist town planners did it. Whats more in the spirit of philanthropy the whole proceeds will go toward restoring a Grade I listed estate in Yorkshire. In our post Brexit future we must take inspiration from our entrepreneurial forebears from Bristol.  Not content to send empty ships across the Atlantic returning from Africa they filled them to the gunnels with commodities free from pettifogging European regulation on live animals.  Why have fee movement when you can sell the same for free trade.  It will make everyone richer. Same time tomorrow.

Jury still out on New Style Joint Strategic Plans

The new NPPF strongly backs the new style of Joint Strategic Plans (JSPs) modeled on the west of England, and we have seen some commenced in Greater Exeter, North Essex  (suffering a setback at examination)South Essex and South West Herts, and Oxfordshire once the current round of local plans is complete (dont hold your breath)  together with full joint plans proposed in places like Central Lancs.

Progress has been encouraging but patchy, though many in the planning profession hailed the West of England plan as the new model it seemed like few had actually read it bar counting the policies and admiring the graphic design, (same I remember with the Stafford LDF) and noticed the palpably unsuitable dispersed pattern of development it proposed as well as the massive undershoot on housing targets.  Despite submission it has been delayed for months to allow more evidence for what is likely massive modifications.

The setbacks in recent weeks to Greater Exeter, and North Essex and the difficulty of Oxfordshire to agree locations to support its growth deal and Cambridgeshire to agree transport proposals to agree its growth deal are reason to pause for breath.

Some lessons

  1. It is far easier if you are all Unitary.  Like West of England, the reason it was first out of the gate.  There are byzantine difficulties, especially with combined authority structures, and where there is a mix of two tier and unitary.  The government in pushing strongly the new style SDS, but these just seem to duplicate and complicate matters where they are not possible (such as for North Somerset for example which isn’t part of the combined authority)
  2. They need proper governance, PMO and funding.  They cant be done as a part time adjunct to the day job, they need a full time executive, and requiring every decision to be done unanimously across half a dozen committees, you can predict what happens.
  3. Take transport seriously.  It is equally important to housing and should drive the housing.  We have yet to see a JSP with seriously evidenced and deliverable proposals for transit.
  4. We have not yet seen a JSP which seriously shapes development patterns (around Garden Communities for example) rather than passively accepting developer led blobs.
  5. We have yet to see a JSP with a serious choice of realistic options for strategic growth locations and lead by an impartial IIA process.
  6. Combined Authority Mayors more likely hinder than help – in all cases where they have intervened hesitating to make tough choices and proposing in some cases like Cambridgeshire Unicorn choices to defer the hard ones.
  7. Despite everything they are still worth doing, they are the only hope for some highly constrained authorities in high growth areas.