Hasn’t this been tried before. Did it work in raising housing numbers?
Michael Gove is to launch a paper advocating “community-powered Conservatism” that would see residents made the “ultimate arbiters” of developments in their area.
The essay, drawn up by 10 MPs, says the Government must “complete the Conservative Party’s historic mission to put power and trust into the hands of the British people”.
The paper, Trusting the People, and the decision of the new secretary for levelling up to appear at its launch at the Conservatives’ annual conference on Sunday, appears to offer a glimpse into Mr Gove’s approach to reforming the country’s planning system.
It advocates putting more public services, from mental health support to dentistry, into the hands of staff and local communities.
It also says that the Conservatives should make “neighbourhood planning universal and the ultimate arbiter of local development”.
The neighbourhood planning scheme currently allows local communities to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be constructed, as well as to have a say on the appearance of new buildings.
The proposals come as Mr Gove prepares to put together his own package of planning reforms after a backbench revolt over an overhaul set out by Robert Jenrick, his predecessor, which Labour claimed would leave communities without a say on developments.
The new secretary of state is said to have “paused” the reforms, with an ally saying: “As you may expect, as new secretary of state in a new department he is taking some time to review proposals and engage constructively with colleagues.”
The MPs behind Trusting the People include Siobhan Baillie, who represents Stroud, Miriam Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, and Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, another 2019 intake backbencher.
The essay has drawn ideas from the MPs Danny Kruger, who is now Mr Gove’s parliamentary aide, and Claire Coutinho, an aide at the Treasury.
The paper states: “We should have more confidence. We need to move from a passive, optional ‘rights’ approach (rights to provide, rights to buy, rights to transfer, rights to challenge, rights to neighbourhood plans, etc.) to a ‘do’ approach, where community power is the standard model.
“This means deliberately putting our public services and local assets into the hands of mutuals, social enterprises and charities which are run by local people.
“It means making neighbourhood planning universal and the ultimate arbiter of local development. It means putting social and environmental responsibilities into the purpose of business, not just into their CSR [corporate social responsibility] brochures.”
The paper is being published by The New Social Covenant Unit, set up by Ms Cates and Mr Kruger, and New Local, a think tank.
In 2011 the Conservatives experimented with reform at a period when there was huge controversy over imposition of housing numbers and loss of greenfield sites to major development.
Ultimately all it did was delay housebuilding and progress on development plans by possibly a decade as all 25 of the Green Belt schemes that Pickles bragged about getting deleted are now back in play.
There was an upsurge in neighbourhood planning, but the majority of those are just Parish Plans as they dont allocate a lot of land to development and is even now recognised as a huge missallocation of effort of the planning profession from delivery of major sites to mediating in hyper local meetings, as the department seek a new soft touch non statutory neighbourhood plans (identical to Parish Plans).
Yes there was a massive positive increase in local engagement in enighbourhood planning. But heres the rub. What if there was a 4x increase in it to cover everwyhere? Where will the planners come from to service this. Are we to give emergency 6 month visas to Albanian town planners? Its a plan that just wont work.
The ‘leave it to you’ approach on housing numbers, strategic planning and infrastructure led to a collapse in housing numbers in local plan and a massive upsurge in uncordinated ‘build what you like where you like’ appeal led planning. The Duty to Cooperate worked but its discipline can take a decade to kick in. Its too slow and no substitute to strategic planning. The standard housing method worked but the mucking around with it a disaster with environmentally sites around major cities that would otherwise have been ruled out around cities like Sheffield and Portsmouth being considered as Cities have to seal with fantasy silly numbers upflifts and which have nothing to do with local need or evidence of delivery. A standard method fails if it isn’t any longer an objective estimate of current need.
The Clarkian localist revolution, when judged against any objective indicator, such as houses built on sites in local plans, land allocated, as a massive failure. So lets repeat it. What planet is Gove on?
How to you force localism on neighbourhoods that arnt interested ikn neighbourhood plans? Do you go back to the experiments of devolving decisions to Parishes/enighbourhoods , which led to refusals because people didn’t keep their front lawns tidy or hadnt donated enough to the local place of worship or local political representative in a ghastly recreation of 19th C Tammany Hall corruption.
I should state that making neighbourhood planning universal has appeared in policy statements by Labour and the lib-dems, its a slogan not a policy, and in terms of community power nothing particularly conservative about it. Its origins 19th Century Proudhonist Anarchism, and in England the writings of TCPA alumni Colin Ward. Communities and mutual organisations running public services is a good idea, they built the foundations of the NHS before it was nationlised, however two centuries of state centralism have massively eroded the skills and capacity needed for self governance. It would be the programme of generations not fixes before the next election.
The phrase ‘ultimate arbiters of local development’ is carefully chosen btw. It doesn’t mean a parish veto. It doesn’t say ultimate arbiters of all development and implies a planning role in strategic development.
Dany Kruger MP, i cant see any speeches by him in the house on planning, or even press reeleases on the local plan or major housing applications. He’s kept his head down with an eye on being a good boy with the whips and securing promotion. He has written extensively though on civil society, such as this new report ‘A New Social Covenant’, which contains interesting positive ideas, nothing very radical, especially on planning.