Losing 5YHLS – Let’s not be too hasty

There’s a lot of noise around 5YHLS at the moment. The Government’s consultation Planning for the Future proposes to remove the need to demonstrate a 5YHLS as well as an alternative option to retain 5YHLS if the calculation of how much land needed to meet development needs was left to local decision.

The requirement to demonstrate a 5YHLS has been long standing, it’s certainly been in place for as long as I’ve been in planning, so its potential loss appears on the face of it to be a pretty radical change. 

The Planning for the Future consultation seeks to retain the presumption sanction, not by virtue of 5YHLS but via the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) measurement result. My view is that  5YHLS has always been a carrot and stick scenario; the carrot is the benefit of showing the plan is being delivered as anticipated and having the ability to defend against unsuitable speculative development and the stick is the loss of control via application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development.  Is the carrot worth it, yes definitely and now the stick moves to the HDT measurement.

There is some legitimate criticism that for HDT there is a time lag in picking up undelivery of housing in an area and isn’t as immediate in its application of the presumption if things are starting to go wrong for a council. Whilst I concede some of that criticism I don’t believe this is outweighed by the benefits of using HDT; it’s based on real world delivery – the actual number of net housing actually built and completed. There is no playing about with the spreadsheet to manipulate the numbers, you can’t find an extra block of flats that’s been built down the back of the sofa. HDT is a truer reflection of how the housing market and development industry is operating in that area; unlike 5YHLS which has become its own industry of number manipulation and the obsession with proving there is or isn’t a magic 5yr number. I should know, as a land supply specialist for many years it has become a micro industry for consultants, barristers and planners like me spending hour upon hour in Local Plan examinations and S78 appeals debating, or flat out arguing, as to the method of calculation, the variables and the nitty gritty of each sites contribution – all with the aim of showing or not whether a number added up to 5. That isn’t what land supply should be about and it is this micro industry with its endless arguing that I believe Planning for the Future is seeking to do away with rather than removing the fundamental basic that planners should think about how and when housing comes forward.

There are plenty of industry commentators out there either ready to mourn 5YHLS loss or jump for joy; but let’s not be too hastey. I don’t believe the proposal to remove the requirement to demonstrate is all that radical – it simply proposes to remove the ‘test’ element rather than the need to think about what is happening with land supply. Planners and councils should be thinking about land supply as part of the day to day function of their planning services and the monitoring feedback loop on whether their plan is actually being delivered. How can you tell if sufficient sites are coming forward to meet the development requirements and HDT measurement if you aren’t working out your supply pipeline? A fundamental principle of plan making is the need of a forward looking land supply to ensure the housing requirements set out in your plan can be met. Whilst in the future it might not be a 5yr period being looked at and instead might be 2yr, 3yr or even 10yr period the principle of ensuring development needs are being met and that infrastructure interlinked with sites is coming forward in tandem. Forecasting of an areas performance against its HDT for future years will become more important as council’s will need to accurately predict if or when the presumption would be applied and this is already seen as a crucial step in the production of a HDT Action Plan. During the last few months of my secondment with the Planning Advisory Service we have produced a guide on how to do an effective HDT Action Plan covering the importance of knowing what the future results could be based on predicted supply or changes to the requirement e.g. by adopting a plan. Have look here Housing Delivery Test – Preparing Effective Action Plans

So is the proposed removal of the need to demonstrate a 5YLS a radical change – no I don’t think so, to my mind it’s keeping the carrot and moving the stick.

Local Plans, White Paper, Transition – which way to jump?

“I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”
― Oscar Wilde

I’ve learned during my time at Planning Advisory Service (PAS), that whenever big changes are afoot that it’s best to leave the ‘hot takes’ to the clever bloggers and tweeters, and to sit back, listen, and then reflect. We dance very carefully between helping local planning authorities (LPAs) understand and respond to change and how much (or usually little) civil servants are at liberty to tell us about the factors that will affect their choices. 
I’ll leave others to trade blows over the imagined planning system utopia/dystopia, to focus on the very real and practical ‘today’ issue that LPAs are asking us for a steer on – ‘should we carry on with our plan production under the current system?’ – not an unreasonable question when you consider the cost and resources involved in creating a local plan, the many different stages councils are at, and that a complete re-writing of the planning system as we know it is being heralded.

The answer (today) is ‘Yes’…
A qualified, multi-layered ‘yes’. A few versions of ‘yes’. An ‘it’s still only a consultation’ yes. Have I layed that on thick enough? When you consider the potential answers and the potential implications this all becomes truly mesmerising. It feels like folly to even think about these potential answers while what we have is ‘only’ a consultation; nothing is set in stone (yes I know that sounds naive), and with 300 odd LPAs there could be 300 or so different scenarios. To make it easier on myself I have simplified things by making a few assumptions based on what I ‘know’.

Is 2023 still relevant to plan making?
The government was clear from the very start of the Covid-19 lockdown that the 2023 deadline for councils to have an up to date plan remains. There’s nothing in the White Paper and the comments from Ministers about the 2023 deadline – this suggests that this is still a hard deadline that councils are expected to meet. To labour a previous point, we are still operating in the current planning system – nothing has changed. It didn’t change for Covid-19 and there is no mention of it changing for the White Paper.

What do we know?
The White Paper tells us:

  • New local plans are to be produced within 30 months of legislation coming into force, or 42 months if the local plan was adopted in the 3 years prior to legislation coming into force;
  • All LPAs to have ‘new style’ local plans ‘to be in place by the end of ‘the parliament’ (Planning For The Future page 74); assuming they mean this parliament i.e. May 2024.

The current planning system tells us: All LPAs to have up to date (‘current system’) local plans in place by 2023.

What does this mean?
To get a ‘new system’ local plan in place by May 2024, legislation will have to be in force by December 2021 (just go with it – I’m no expert on the Fixed Term Parliament Act). Councils find themselves in one of 5 main scenarios:


ScenarioNew style plan required byoptions on what to do?
Current Plan will be more than 3 but less than 5 years old in Dec 2021, no plans to review it.May-24Make a new style plan once the new legislation is in force.
Current Plan will be less than 3 years old in Dec 2021, no plans to review it.May-25Make a new style plan once the new legislation is in force.
Reviewing plan and LDS Adoption date is on or before Dec 2021May-25Finish current plan to meet 2023 deadline, start new plan when legislation is in force.
Reviewing plan and LDS Adoption date is between Dec 2021 and end 2023, current plan over 3 years old in Dec 2021May-24Finish current plan to meet 2023 deadline, start new plan when legislation in force.
Reviewing plan and Adoption date is between Dec 2021 and end 2023, current plan less than 3 years old in Dec 2021May-25Finish current plan, start new plan when legislation in force.
Over-riding scenario: assume Legislation is in force by Dec 2021

This means that some councils could be starting to make their ‘new style’ plan while still finishing their old one. It could also mean that hundreds of councils will be making plans in sync – is the Planning Inspectorate ready for this? Can a new planning system really be delivered in this way and in this timeframe?

Could this all result in a colossal waste of time?
Glass half-full time; let’s talk about opportunities and investment. Whatever happens, councils need up-to-date frameworks for making decisions, and work being undertaken now will all be relevant preparation and monitoring to feed in to the next version of our local plans whatever form they take. If you are early on in the process of plan making/review then it is probably worth considering how your plan proposals might look in the proposed new system. There is nothing to stop you thinking about how your area might look categorised as growth, renewal, protection. Why not start thinking about a more rationalised evidence base? And, one of the things that isn’t going to change is the march of the digital planning system – there are many already advanced projects looking at local plans and back office systems that councils can test and help develop – talk to us at PAS, our friends in MHCLG digital land team or LocalDigital about how you can get involved. 

And remember, we still have 2023 and with that remains the current system of intervention, presumption etc.

A many-layered cake
Setting out the above is in many ways the simple bit. There are lots of nuances and details that define each council’s position. For example, those councils currently early on in the plan preparation stage / approaching Reg 18 consultation were already questioning the relevance of their evidence base due to the effects of the pandemic, and can now see the prospect that the type/weight of evidence they are working on/commissioning may not even be a requirement in the new system.

Then there are those at Reg 19 and beyond who broadly seem to be intending to carry on, but even these councils are being questioned by politicians as to the wisdom of continuing until the potential implications of the White Paper are fully understood.  

If only it was just the White Paper proposals LPAs that were feeding this question.  Layered onto this is the post/ongoing Covid-19 impact on transport/retail/town centres, values and viability, the recent changes to the Use Class Order, the new standard method for calculating housing need, PD changes and we also have the Local Government Devolution White Paper. Shall I also mention the Green Restart / Climate Emergency? 

So, the answer (today) is ‘Yes’ – keep making local plans
Yes, a qualified, multi-layered ‘yes’ to keeping going with your ‘current system’ local plan preparation/review if you are in the middle of it or planning to do so before December 2021. And don’t forget of course that all of the above could (and probably will) be shot to pieces as each day goes by.

Remember – it’s a consultation…
None of the above is true. Pure speculation on my part.  Nothing has changed yet. LOTS to be discussed, ironed out, explained and shaped, and can this all really be ready to go in December next year? For such fundamental proposals to take hold across the system, for local plans to be re-written, for ‘culture change’ to take hold it will be 5 -10 years before any new national system is properly established won’t it?

What can’t be disputed/hasn’t changed is that councils need an up to date framework in place for making planning decisions while we wait to find out what the new system looks like and proper and clear transitional arrangements are in place.  

What is PAS doing?
Massive change is going to happen. Local councils have to respond, and carry on.
We will be supporting the consultation process with a series of events from mid-September, and more generally we are planning to provide support to councils with weighing up their options on ‘which way and how to jump’, and once they are decided, help with some of the practical plan making implications. Which, if I am right about the above, will mean ‘blended’ support around the traditional current system plan making requirements and helping prepare to deliver a ‘new system’ Local Plan. 

Digital local plans take two

We’ve written before about our initial work on local plan standards, and how it began a series of increasingly basic conversations that left us a bit baffled. Fortunately we have a long tradition in PAS of having lots of extremely clever people as friends and colleagues and picking their brains to make ourselves look more competent. We held our first session last week- there was lots of excitement and creativity. What follows are my initial thoughts – so you can be the judge of whether our tradition is working. 

It’s not the book it’s the library
It’s tempting to think of a local plan as a book – so a digital local plan is just an online version of that book. It’s true that ultimately the local plan process ends up producing something that looks like a book, but it is also at different times and for different audiences a whole set of proposals, data sets and conclusions drawn from the data. I live in the wonderful borough of Lambeth – you can see their local plan evidence base neatly marshalled in a library. The library is used to inform the debate and choices through consultation and ultimately examination at which point its importance fades. 
For me, there is limited benefit in doing a make-over of a local plan. Sure it would be interesting to see a “before” and “after”, and improving engagement and accessibility of the finished product is definitely important but if our goal is engaging, responsive and more open plans it’s got to involve the underlying data – that’s why it’s got to be the library and not just the book. 

A “rules based” system of assessing sustainable development involves everyone
To go back to basics for a moment the job of a local plan is to answer the question “is this application sustainable development?”. The goal of the current reforms to the planning system is to provide greater certainty to the answer of this question by shifting the balance away from discretion (planning judgement) and towards rules. 
Clearly the process of applying rules is going to work better for some concepts than others. Traditionally it’s where “building control” sits allowing “planning” to be a bit more human. 
But for a system of rules to work they need to be relatable to everyone. The rules have to be debated at local plan stage by local people, they are codified in the plan, they are acknowledged by architects and applied in a context in applications. It’s an end-to-end thing that involves everyone speaking the same language. This is a big ask, and our starting position is that we don’t have a national way of measuring floorspace or counting bedrooms – let alone rules about [cough] “beauty”. 

Eating the elephant
Where should we start? This is going to be the most important question – and is far more difficult question in this context than for any other project I’ve ever thought about. For example, I have begun many “transformation” projects on how planning applications are dealt with. Almost all planning applications take a few days to complete – you can just begin trying new things and the feedback loop tells you how its going in a week or two. The cycle time for an application is a few days. By contrast, a local plan cycle time is measured in years, and worse the cost of a plan is measured in millions. At some point we are going to roll up our sleeves and try new things but what we can’t do is to try a whole plan in one go and wait to see what happens. 

The startings of a manifesto?
So – a great conversation started to unpack some of the issues, hopefully to make me sound a bit cleverer. And, it’s clear that this is an interesting problem with long-term benefits around openness, cost reduction and understanding / managing development better. But what next? We could keep having sparky conversations and there are lots of interesting projects already underway out there – but perhaps we need a manifesto or some other way of organising the next year or two. 
Alongside the obvious stuff like “find out what the rest of the world is up to” and “ensure we understand the capabilities of what we already have” it feels like the next phase is going to need to deal with three topics:

1. Establish the design patterns for local plans. One of the most important things the Government’s Digital Service did in its very early days is to establish what were known as design patterns. These are the rules for how to deliver core elements that crop in many different contexts (eg how to ask for a credit card). We need to work out the common elements that inform a local plan, so we can see the opportunities for a standard approach and platform. I’m imagining patterns might include things like “ask people what they think about a rule expressed as a number” and “make site information findable” and even “allow people to suggest changes to a shape on a map”. 
2. Make an example “rule based system”.  I can remember a long time ago (12 years!) I tried to make an XML “expert system” to describe permitted development. It was hard. It neatly demonstrated that until the regulations are written in a rule-like way the judgement has to be deferred to a human operating the rules (“is this the principal elevation?”). We need to out a rule-based system end-to-end. How about adverts? Neat, specific and lots of experience and competence out there. New regs, new rules, and a language that connects them to a site. 
3. Talk numbers. All this stuff is exciting and there is already some great work underway, but at some point we are going to need to understand the costs and benefits. Getting datasets and policies to a defined standards (and quality!) is an enormous undertaking for LPAs and we should be clear about how much this transformation is going to cost. And, to re-use my “library” metaphor, is it all data equally valuable and are there any opportunities to reduce cost by maintaining some of it nationally?

Digital Local Plans – Flintstones before Jetsons

For a while now PlanTech projects have been making steady progress e.g. digital front/back-offices, validation systems, evidence bases and recently PAS team completed an ‘Alpha’ project on digital data standards for local plans with colleagues at Dxw. Having had our digital appetites whetted, we’re giving ourselves a bit of room to use what we’ve learned so far to explore what might be around the corner for “digital local plans” (a ‘Beta’ project maybe?) and whether we should (or could) do something to help.

Starting in the right place
As a starting point we are asking ourselves whether we know (or even have some nouns to describe) what a digital local plan is, what it’s made of and how it might be packaged. There is no shortage of those that agree that a digital plan is a good idea and plenty of people including ourselves “imagining if it did this…” or wondering “wouldn’t it be great if it did that…”. but there aren’t that many clear articulations out there of what is a “digital local plan”? Who it is for? and How is it better? It needs to have a clear purpose and benefits and once we understand this, we can begin to establish the steps involved in actually making one.

The near future
We’ve found it quite easy to wave our arms around and imagine the bright shiny future – but digital plan utopia is probably 10 years away. We want to understand what the near future looks like and involves – what should we start doing now and over the next 3 years as we move from PDF files to… ? How are we going to use and access a digital plan – controlling land use using data may fit naturally and ultimately onto some kind of map but local plans are about much more e.g. where do things like the “vision” etc. live, and how, practically, do we shift from 5 year plan reviews to working with a plan that is ‘living’ and dynamic?

A practical, pragmatic approach
During August we’re bringing a few people together to start to build a consensus. We have a suspicion that the “sprint method” that we are all starting to become comfortable with – the post it notes, the discovery / alpha / beta, the “user experience” and even the slack channel – means we may not spend enough time on thinking and talking. Some services are deep and haven’t been really thought about for decades.

Our starting point therefore is to bring together some practical and pragmatic people and have a chat. We want to kick around some difficult questions with a small group we trust and see what happens. And, perhaps, when we know how local government understands the domain and its own needs, we can expand the circle out.  For now this is all quite low-key, and if it has legs it will ultimately be something we do in public.

Housing Delivery Test – Action Plans in a pandemic

I’m a few months into a secondment to the Planning Advisory Service and I never expected to be grappling with a new role during a global pandemic. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster getting to grips with a new way of working and juggling the homeschooling of my little ones but I’ve got there in the end!

It’s been a real privilege to take part in the latest round of support events for authorities undertaking a Housing Delivery Test Action Plan for their 2019 HDT measurement. The events have been a bit different to those I helped at last year – no 30+ people in a nice office with a fancy lunch. So I’ve dived into the brave new world of virtual meetings holding 8 more intimate events with between 4-8 officers. I have to say the smaller, more intimate approach has been well received in terms of the more bespoke support and we’ve really been able to drill down into the delivery issues each attendee is facing which you don’t get to do in a bigger event.

It’s been a learning curve in how to facilitate that’s for sure, especially in terms of the technology and people’s home broadband speeds, but smaller virtual meetings definitely allow for a more focused discussion whilst at the same time being more informal. I feel I really got to know the attendees and the challenges they were facing both in terms of how their council was responding to the pandemic and in putting together their action plans.

So what I have learnt through talking to councils about delivery, well for starters delivery is really complex and there is no quick fix or magic wand to improve performance. It’s going to take a pick and mix approach with solutions and fundamentally a collaborative working with the development industry and other stakeholders, councils cannot achieve this on their own.

There are no regional similarities, I thought there would be but there really wasn’t. Even the urban areas had wide variances on why delivery wasn’t happening as expected, ranging from a reliance on brownfield containmed land with low viability to the stark reality that residential wasn’t the preferred land use of developers of sites. Some councils and areas definitely share some characteristics but in the end everyone had a unique reason why underdelivery had occurred which came out in the root cause analysis. 

The updated guide produced by the Planning Advisory Service is really good and contains everything you need to know about producing an Action Plan. The resounding message for me is to make sure the Action Plan is a useful tool for yourselves and written for the right audience. Make it useful not useless!

Action plans take a while to take effect. The HDT 2019 measurement was announced in February this year with a six month deadline of August yet in a matter of months, 3 to be precise, the 2020 HDT measurement is expected. That’s certainly not enough time for actions to ‘bed in’ and take effect unless they were already in train. So what’s the answer – make them an iterative process and do them even when you don’t need to. Producing an Action Plan makes you really reflect on why undelivery is occurring, how significant it is, whether it’s a long term trend or whether the current strategy is fit for purpose. We should be doing this all the time as a matter of best practice; knowing what in the delivery pipeline and what’s happening on the ground are the cornerstones of good monitoring of plans. It’s a practice we should all be getting into as it looks like the HDT is here to stay.

The future looks a bit uncertain for delivery, in particular the requirements of the HDT policy are due to change this November with the presumption of sustainable development being applied to those measuring under 75% in the HDT as opposed to 45% this year, which is a significant jump. This is likely to mean the number of councils facing presumption will increase for 2020 and 2021. Whatever the future holds I’m looking forward to helping councils navigate their journey through producing an Action Plan that works for them.

Weeknotes 10

w/e 17/07/2020

Release the albatross. 

What are you thinking about?

I’m thinking about infrastructure. Still. And programme management. I might change this opening question as I don’t think I change what I think about often enough to sound cosmopolitan and interesting. 

Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?

I spoke to a peer team about a job we’re doing next week. It’s the second time we’re working on something that might appear in Private Eye. Brings a certain frisson. 

What did you learn / read this week?
I learned that Singapore have got a really groovy bunch of people doing their digital planning work. It was amazing, and showed what was possible if you have a Venn diagram of
* a zonal system of controlling land use
* a one-stop-shop of government
* seemingly POTS of money and lots of talented people, which may demonstrate
* a seriousness about the future and how to make land work hard
Very very impressive. When a feedback loop appears on the first handful of slides you know it’s going to be good. 

I also got a lot out of a post from our one-time buddies dxw. There is a lot going on just under the radar at the moment, with both “devo” and “planning” likely to get a thorough shakedown. There is lots of organisational girding of loins – with some of the opening positions being published and mutually supported. Uncharitably some of it looks like defending the status quo, which I don’t think is a great look. Interestingly it is dxw (a private outfit) that in my view does a better job of showing the problem with centralisation and makes the case for diversity and local accountability. And listening. 

What did you make / achieve?
I made a trading account for our consultancy business, which isn’t very exciting but a necessary part of keeping the show on the road. Repeat after me: a job cannot make any money until it is invoiced. 

I have also taken a big step forward on an old stinky project. I have worked out where the friction points are, and started the process of minimising the grief that is going to come along with it when we do finally publish our updated guide. 

What are you looking forward to next week?

I’m looking forward to finding out just how well peer work can be delivered via skype. I’m sure we’ll do something good enough, but interviewing people (especially agitated people in groups) is hard and relies on a whole range of perceptions that probably don’t work very well down a tiny screen. Learning by doing. 

I’m also going to need to set out my stall for the IFS work, which is going to be a squeeze but the conversations I’ve been having in small groups need to be constructed into something and shared more widely. 

Weeknotes 9

w/e 03/07/2020
Raining. Thinking. Being proud of the team. 

What are you thinking about?
I am thinking about what we learned over the course of last year, and what might be just around the corner in this one: 

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Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?
This week was the big set-piece review of 2019-20 in front of our sponsors. Inevitably it felt slightly overtaken by events, but it is one of those rare opportunities to speak truth to power. We were offered (and took) a couple of moments to tell them how we might change things to make the planning system slightly fairer and less friction-y. 

I also spoke to a couple of punters about what they need from us (calmness and structured approaches mainly). 

Lastly I spoke to a group of our suppliers about how we might package and define the work we want to procure over the next chunk of the PAS programme. I’m not sure I know all the answer yet but I think I feel less worried and more confident that this disruption represents an opportunity to be more creative and free. I’m almost looking forward to procurement – and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. 

What did you learn / read this week?
I had the pleasure of dipping my toes into neighbourhood CIL this week. It’s amazing how something that should be fairly obvious can become byzantine and faintly dodgy with the application of forms, process and ill-judged paternalism. 

What did you make / achieve?
With the help of my lovely team we made a slightly dry round-up of the year and a more zingy presentation of 2019-20. I also made my first two baby steps helping advise people with their s106 / CIL work. 

Oh yes, and I completed couch to 5k. I now need to work out whether I enjoy running enough to continue. 

What are you looking forward to next week?
Next week is a short week, as I am shipping the eldest back to university and taking some time out to think through a family investment. 

However I am looking forward to the first meeting (for me) of the POS CIL network, seeing the second cohort of our suppliers and taking to a district council about how we might do some peer work virtually. I am also seeing a slightly different bit of government to see if we can knit together a new alphabet soup of SA and EIA alongside BNG and some new ones I can’t remember in a big environmental package. 

Climate Change Lincoln

I have found it increasingly hard to remember the world in general prior to Covid 19, let alone the planning world and the latest issues and priorities of the day. But as I sit here at home typing away, I am determined to ensure that plan making can not only do its bit to ensure we get back on the road to recovery, but also we can get back to ensure planning is as at the forefront of tackling the most important issues of the day before the world had even heard of Coronavirus.  

Climate Change being the most important issue of our time.  Without wishing to sound too evangelical, we planners have a moral duty of care to our future generations to make sure that our plans take a comprehensive and rounded approach to addressing Climate Change that will make a real difference and not just tick the so called ‘green box’.  Here in the historic city of Lincoln and in Central Lincolnshire where we have joint Local Plan with our neighbours in North Kesteven, West Lindsey and Lincolnshire CC, as officers we have been tasked by our Members with exactly that – what can we do that will make a real difference to addressing Climate Change and is it realistic (possible even), to deliver a Carbon Neutral Local Plan?

Challenge to the Council – planning’s window of opportunity

Following our respective authorities declaring either Climate Change emergencies in 2019 or ambitious carbon target reductions, the review of the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan provided an opportune time to set planning at the heart of how our organisations can deliver on our lofty Climate Change ambitions. 

In our current adopted plan, to be frank we play relative lip service to the green agenda.  It was written at a time when we were effectively hamstrung by national policy in terms of the real teeth we could give to our policies on climate change, low carbon and renewable energy.  Thankfully, it appears we have more power to our respective elbows and through the re-emergence of Climate Change as a world-wide priority, in no small part due to people power (thanks Greta amongst many others) and science (thanks IPCC) now is the time to act decisively and without fear.

Of course we have huge challenges to face. In an area like Central Lincolnshire where land values are low and viability is tight compared to many other parts of the country, delivering a usable Local Plan which makes a significant contribution to mitigating climate change is going to be tall order.  We don’t know many, if any of the answers at this stage about how we are going to do it, but at least we are giving it a go and fair play to our members for asking us officers to try.

Who else is involved?

Lincoln has established a Climate Commission (one of 10 nationally see https://www.lincolnclimate.org.uk/ ) which was originally made up of organisations such as the City of Lincoln Council, Siemens, Transition Lincoln and the University of Lincoln and since then has expanded to include a range of businesses and organisations who want to work collaboratively on climate change. We’re fortunate in having people on the commission who have experience, knowledge and most importantly a real desire to make a meaningful contribution towards tackling Climate Change. 

How far can the plan go?

Earlier in the year when life seemed a lot more straightforward, as officers we were tasked by our members to scope out what role the Local Plan could play in helping address climate change.  We consulted members setting out the policy and legislative context and a range of potential plan options. We are currently in the process of commissioning evidence which explores the climate change related areas of work in detail that could be applied in the new Local Plan and have set out a number of key tasks to explore.  

This includes establishing a position statement to set out the role the Local Plan could play in delivering climate change objectives; identifying what the Plan can and cannot influence in respect of carbon reductions and defining what net zero carbon means for the Plan and what needs to be done to achieve it. 

We also want to undertake an assessment, using reasonable assumptions, of potential carbon implications of options for the spatial strategy for development in Central Lincolnshire e.g. urban, edge of main settlements, villages, new settlements.

Others areas we want to investigate include:

  • Considering whether some types/scales of development could deliver net zero carbon ahead of the 2050 national deadline
  • Considering whether different carbon reduction targets are needed for major/ minor residential development
  • Considering whether an incremental percentage reduction in carbon is needed over the plan period
  • Identifying what net zero will mean for the Local Plan and the options for how the Local Plan might achieve it (including, for example, the role of commercial-scale renewables, such as wind and solar, to balance out the inevitable carbon implications of new development; and the ability of the planning system to facilitate such balancing).


Of course we need to realistic about what we can achieve so we will be exploring the cost implications of carbon related policy requirements including upfront costs for the developer and potential costs savings for future residents, building occupiers and operators.

Ultimately we want to know how high we can push the ‘climate change bar’ in the review of our Local Plan.  It’s exciting but also quite nerve-wracking at the same time as we have been looking around to learn from what others have done in their plans but as yet there doesn’t seem to be much around.

I think it will come down to a certain degree of a ‘leap of faith’ or maybe more accurately a ‘jump into the unknown’ as to how successful we are.

Wish us luck!

Weeknotes 8

w/e 26/06/2020
Hot. Typing. Applying styles to things. 

What are you thinking about?
I don’t want to sound like a stuck record, but I’m still thinking about the infrastructure funding statement. This is OK because it is my job to think about it.

Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?
A quiet week. I spoke to some peer friends about various bits & bobs, and had a couple of low-key updates with my sponsors and policy peeps at MHCLG. 

I don’t want to add any weight to the idea that PAS sits somehow outside the LGA, but I also spoke to some of my LGA colleagues this week for the first time since lockdown. Everyone moans about their employer, but I have to say the SLT at the LGA have been great throughout the pandemic. At our webinar earlier in the week we were asked a question about how we saw the future. It’s early days but it seems to me:

  • the office as a place to work every day is finished
  • in the short term there is lots of talk about choice and personal circumstance which is lovely and fluffy.
  • our open place office is poorly laid out for what we need it to do, which is to host whole teams turning up specifically to be with each other to talk / collaborate / feel connected
  • more / bigger meeting rooms for more lumpy and random attendance. This is going to be hard to predict & provide. I predict a riot rota.

What did you learn / read this week?
I have almost finished my GDS content design training. It is great – I recommend it. In week 3 they introduce Hemingway as a way of grading your content for readability. It is brutal:

Zoom image.png
low score is better 111 KB View full-size Download

I also was one of 120-odd people in the launch of the centre for cities “cure the housing crisis by zoning planning” report. Oh to be so certain. 

My database exploration hasn’t moved. I’m waiting for there to be a Venn diagram of feeling cleverer than usual and a clear couple of days in the diary.

What did you make / achieve?
I have finished my bit of the website, which is nice. I also commissioned some design work for our post-decision surveys – it is getting close!

I have also agreed the structure for our IFS materials, as well as beginning the first draft. Hemingway doesn’t like it.

I have also persuaded moodle to live on our little scratchy server we use for messing about. We are trying out a little MVP on councillor training to see how it works. 

What are you looking forward to next week?
Next week we have a review of 2019-20 in front of our key audience, so I will have my sleeves rolled up  for that. I’m thinking if it goes well we should find a place to publish it more broadly. 

I’m also picking the brains of our supplier network to hear from them what virtual and online working means for the way we should package and buy the support we put in place for councils. I’m expecting to hear that the status quo should prevail…

Weeknotes 7

w/e 19/06/2020
Not waiting for the ducks to be lined up just right. 

What are you thinking about?
I’m thinking about how I might need to organise support for the Infrastructure Funding Statement. 

Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?
It was a full week. I spoke to my lovely client about what is going on (and not going on) in the world of IFS. We’ve sort of been waiting for something to happen, but time is running out so I think I’m just going to start and see what happens. 

I also held a virtual meeting of the Combined Authorities – we’ve not met since November when the world was a very different place. One of my colleagues was a spectator and unprompted marvelled at how “zingy” they are as a group. My theory is that they are zingy compared to almost any bunch of standard planners – but not because the CAs and regional planning are inherently better but because they have more agency. They are able to do more because they have money and the ability to act – they don’t write policies to be enabled by others. 

I was also fortunate to spend time with a few recent customers talking about their experience of the resource review. Lots to think about. 

What did you learn / read this week?
I read a new summary of zoning by one of our newest friends #planorak. If zoning is an allocation on steroids then all it does is change where in the development pipeline the work gets done (and who pays). Oh well. 

I spectated a Pecha Kucha on the power of Norwood High Street. It’s on my doorstep, and I love a Pecha Kucha. It’s always interesting to see how other professions approach things – and architects really like visual things. The best bit for me is to catch up with the neighbourhood plan – I’ve resisted it for about a decade but I may see if I can help in some  small way. 

My database exploration hasn’t moved. I’m waiting for there to be a Venn diagram of feeling cleverer than usual and a clear couple of days in the diary.

What did you make / achieve?
I made me a new structure for the website, or at least my part of it. I also cued up a couple of small bits of business and agreed the next steps for our MVP on councillor training. 

What are you looking forward to next week?
It’s a quiet week, so probably setting some time aside for web work and – if the brain allows – some time with a database of sites.