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 2015. Clause 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.