Boyes Smith Calls for a Return to ‘Victorian Planning’ No Bye Laws were regulations without Planning

Boyes Smith in BD

“We learned technically how to build enormous sheds very cheaply, and we possibly rejected some of the organic learnings from towns and cities over millennia in an understandable desire to reject the past immediately post-war.”

He said that post-war planning rules had entangled the planning and regulatory systems, and there was now a “shift back” to a more Victorian separation of the two systems in this government’s planning reforms.

He explained: “We’ve got confused about the role of planning and the role of regulation, and we’ve put into planning things which should just be regulatory, that certainly always used to be regulatory. 

“So if you look at the 18th- or 19th-century building acts, all of the public health acts of the late 19th century – lots of the things that we now put in the planning system were essentially in the regulatory system as it was then,” he said.

A few points

Prior to the industrial era planning was organic, however ll that survives from that time was the better housing of the middle and upper classes.

In the industrial era the attempts to cram as many houses as possible in back to back yards without santitation led to the Vicorian public health movement.

The results of this however were regimented, wasteful of land and ugly. Just look at the writings of pioneers of planning such as Unwin, and the need to pass a special act of parliment to build Hamstead Garden Suburb.

Certainly the post 1948 planning systems got confused, but that was because of the removal of zoning and design regulations from the effective, but not universal system set up in the interwar planning acts. The problem was removal of certainty and regulation not its inclusion.

A return to a Victorian by law style planning system in the white paper is a mistake. It removes creativity for the system. Local plans become dry lists of regulations without vision, policy, purpose or implementation tools. They become paper plans likely to be ignored in ever more ad hoc spot zoning decisions. The way forward for planning is to unify planning and regulation, flexibility and certainty, nd not let bad history lead us int a bad system.

Whitehall Still Runs on Access and Excel – No Wonder it is Failing

Yesterday I saw a consultancy job to migrate the governments major projects database from access to SQL server express (free) and to link it to another access based solution. You would think that if the government took project management and project controls seriously and employed qualified PMO staff it would run on P6 with an Oracle back end so that it had complete and live tracking of all project controls. Now going with a free solution if the database grew over 2GB it would simply fail to import new data. If you want a free solution go with Postgres with a Tableau dashboard.

The same thing seems to have happened with the governments Covid testing database. They were importing data from CSV to Excel and as Lachlan Anderson Frank on Twitter commented

Looks like someone was importing CSV files into Excel and didn’t realise that if they’re over 256k lines they’ll get clipped down to that in the import

Cummings is right that the Civil Service has weak project management skills. But his overall ideological dogmatism and unnecessary war on the civil service has blinded him to how to fix it. His unnecessary war on EU procurement riles doesn’t mean things getting done better and faster but sleasier and more costly and not done at all.

I found it very interesting that in the two places in the North of England with the lowest household formation and some of the highest unemployment were Barrow in Furness and West Cumbria, had many small business teaching P6 skills to locals. Acquiring PM certification was the best way out and much needed. All because of their association with Nuclear Submarines and Nuclear Power. If The government was serious about leveling up it would move the major project agency and civil service college to Whitehaven on the site proposed for a carbon spewing new coal mine and force all fast track civil servants (including local apprentices) to spend there first year retooling their skills blunted by useless PPE degrees to real world project management, agile, statistical quality and operational research skills. That would be leveling up.

Bridget Roswell Makes Two announcements on the CaMkOx Arc that Ministers Havn’t Yet – Woops

Speech to the Westminster Business Forum 22/9/2020

In its response to our study in October 2018, the government committed to working in collaboration with all of you, its local partners, to make the arc the world-leading place for high-value growth, innovation, sustainability and productivity.

And, of course, we welcome all the promising developments we have seen since then:

  • The Non-Statutory Spatial Framework for growth. I think that’s an absolutely crucial building block
  • The Development Corporations which the government support. That’s also important.

And, of course, there are the proposals coming through in the Planning White Paper for very large sites, to move development under a Development Consent Order, and to make those part of the NSIP regime. That could be game-changing for some of the possibilities and we’re still looking at how that might work in practice: as some of you will know, I was involved in the Task Force behind the Planning White Paper.

Firstly the non statutory spatial framework hasn’t been announced yet. There is a ‘more coming soon’ on it on the Cambridgeshire combined Authority page. There has been much talk, and it is hinted at in a recent Ministry JD, but not announced. Woops Bridget that’s Richi’s job. However It is to be welcomed. I have blogged recommending it and Catriona Riddle has supported it. It raises complex issues. If it indicates where growth should go to the extent of being material to Development Consent decisions it will require SEA and consideration of reasonable alternatives. If not then what is the strategy for location of strategic scale growth.

The DCO issue is funny as Downing Street took it out of the white paper following Jenrycks indiscretions and presumably held back for later. Bridget doesn’t seem to have read the white paper. The problem with the DCO route is it requires a change in the law  Housing and Planning Bill 2015Clause 107 and locations either have to be determined through a national policy statement or you get chaos as with DCO for Rails RFIs and Ports. The infrastructure and local plans systems are mutually exclusive, leading to chaotic conflicts at places like RAF Manston and Shefield Aerodrome.

There is a solution. The Non Statutory Spatial Framework is prepared by a locally led consortium with recommendations as to locations that should be included a National Policy Statement. This then goes to an EIP before going to the SoS. Then there would be a general conformity rule for local plans. New Settlement Scale developments would then either be given consent through the New Towns Act (the much simpler route, it doesnt require primary legislation) or the DCO regime (the far more complex route). In an ideal world you would combine the two in a single national consent and compulsory purchase regime, but that would take forever.

Of course the first thing the government must do is revise the ridiculous 1 million homes figure. Its far too low, based on old date and a dodgy method by Savills, and doesn’t properly consider the level of overspill set for London in the London Plan EIP. The true figure, if you want to hit 327k nationally per annum, is more like 1.4 million.