What if they Don’t Want to Plan?

It is a depressing time. No-one is really preparing local plans with enthusiasm and speed.

Why should they when so many ambitious planning efforts have so spectacularly failed.

I pity chief planners making recommendations on what to do on their local plan reviews.

Most councillor’s of course see plan making as nothing but a lose-lose situation.

The idea of the NPPF was that the consequences of ‘build what you like where you like’ would be so painful lpas would get on with plan making.

But most found it easier simply to blaim government for losses of planning by appeal. And if you were a Green Belt authority there was no pressure whatsoever.

Hence local plan making and adoption contines to slow to a crawl.

What are the reasons for this? None of which were anlaysed in the planning white paper.

  • The first is a systematic shortfall in OAN targets. This will get worse in the latest national housing need system which effectively plnns for a capped shortfall for at least the next five years.
  • The second is the complete lack of a system for redistributing overspill of OAN from land and environmentall constrained areas.
  • The third has been the failure of joing plan making efforts.
  • The fourth has been the structural inability of plans to deal with large scale long term startegic sites and the failure of the goverment to support them with infrastructure and land assembly at existing use values.
  • The fifth has been the lack of political courage of so many athorities to plan given electoral threats of the Advocado Nimby alliances of Green Lib Dems and anto development indpendents.
  • The sixth has been in the light of political threats smoke filled room processes to decide preferred options and a lack of transparent inquiry into realistic strategic options. Combined with a gap in skills of local planners in preparing strategic plans.
  • The seventh is the weak demand in some parts of the North for large scale and high density sites.
  • The eigth is the unwillingness of many developers to release for development consented sites whilst land values appreciate.
  • The ninth is the deliberate slow rate of development of many housebuilders to build above the local ‘absorbtion rate’.
  • The tenth is the lack of funding for the proportion of local housing need that is affordable.

I think this is a pretty comprehensive list.

However even if all of the national and development sector constraints were removed you still have the problem in the middle. The unwillingness to plan.

I see two options:

The first would be to set a statutory timescale for planning whereby if you didnt have new plans in place old plans would expire. Green Belt and al. The put the fire up them approach. That would work.

The second would be to take the heat off by having independent commissions, on which local planners would sit, producing plan options. With local politicians voting on the one to go to examination.

I note that many areas with zoning, where of course if you don’t agree zoning you have no control, work of the basis if indepedent planning commissions making recommendations.

Of course you could have both running together.