Examination, Challenge and the Arc

No Examination in public is planned for the Arc strategy. Clearly to save time. The last RPG9 (South East) sat over 4 months and took 5 to deliver a report, plus time taken for SoS to respond and prepare that two years, plus in that case another year for judicial challenge.

However old school examinations, invitation only and real debate, were exceptionally useful. The Crow report on the South East panel was exceptionally useful in puncturing the arguments made by the conference to push numbers down. It embarrassed Prescott who wanted numbers down but that was a good thing. Ever since policy has to meet housing needs in full. Similarly the Eddington Panel on East of England stopped the London -Stansted-Cambridge corridor being an M11 and sprawl based ribbon, what a corridor was was never defined, and the London Plan panel for the last review stopped a horrible fudge of a small sites policy whose yield magically was the shortfall in numbers.

The Arc is different. The issue is not a conference trying to push down need and massage up supply, rather it is an issue of trust and the ability of voices being heard and the ability to challenge and debate. It is an issue of transparency. If the process is not transparent it will become enmired in JR.

Therefore I think the government needs to think through innovative means of debate, peer review and challenge. There could be an advisory panel for example at a series of rolling virtual conferences for debate and advice on key issues. You don’t need to wait months for results. I always admired for example Joyce Bridges ability to sum up key issues for review after only a few hours.

Here I think it should be in two stages, firstly debate on the jobs led numbers, what are the jobs levels and what should the housing levels cross arc be to support that. In a jobs led regional strategy the standard method doesn’t work, you cant add 35% to Birmingham for jobs in Cambridge or Oxford its ridiculous. The extra jobs require migration. Secondly a series of rolling conferences for each of the 5 counties to form and then test and debate the options.

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