Is now the time that planning will flicker across the radar of Leaders and Chief Executives? We know that some senior executives and politicians are very involved in planning and take it seriously as a tool for managing development and change within their areas. For others, though, it is boring, regulatory, obstructive, and causes problems.
Planning is changing and it can’t have passed Leaders and Chief Execs by. The publication of the draft NPPF has triggered lots of press coverage in the mainstream newspapers. Latterly this has reflected the ‘National Trust’ row and commentators views that it is the end of open space as we know it, because amongst other things, the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Capitalise on any awakening interest and talk to them about both the changes and how planning is working now and in the future.
We’ve been thinking about some of the key (printable) questions in response to the draft NPPF. Not to send to DCLG but for local authorities to bear in mind. Here’s a list for starters. You could use them to base a briefing on for Chief Execs or others – bearing in mind that things are still changing.
Is your plan up to date?
If not, what do you need to do to get one in place as soon as possible?
We’ve been saying this for a while. We know that some authorities have put the brakes on progressing their core strategy whilst housing evidence is revisited. Make sure the implications of having a plan which is ‘silent, indeterminate’ or has out of date policies, (and therefore you’ll probably have to grant planning permission for developments or deal with an increase in appeals) are made absolutely clear. And do what you can to get things moving, including using PAS free support, of course.
It’s all about growth. How does this national priority fit with your hopes for the area?
The Government’s Plan for Growth and the NPPF both make this absolutely clear. Planning and development need to play a big role in stimulating growth. You won’t be able to avoid growth – or at least planning for it – but you probably weren’t anyway. Make sure that it’s the right growth for your area; to do this you’ll need the plan.
What does the evidence on the local housing market and future needs tell you?
It will be down to you to set your own targets – and still identify a 5 year land supply (plus 20%). What is the evidence is telling you and does it fit with the Councillors’ vision for housing and growth in the area? And residents? Is this a source of tension? Housing is probably the most pressing issue for most Councils,. Even if that isn’t what constituents are saying.
What will you do about cross boundary planning issues covered by the regional strategy? Are you friends with your neighbours?
Without the RSSs, working on cross boundary issues will be your responsibility. What are the issues that you need to work with neighbours or other organisations on that are fundamental to developing your area? What are relationships like, where are the banana skins and how can you avoid them?
Are you talking to the major developers and landowners?
There has been lots of talk about delays and uncertainties, about developers cherry picking sites, a free-for-all, and a planning system which is appeal led. I think some claims are exaggerated, but you should certainly be keeping your ear to the ground about what developers are feeling and planning to do.
Neighbourhood planning – will this appeal in your communities?
There are already around 100 Neighbourhood Plans being started around England. Are you and councillors having conversations with groups about what they want to do? What can you offer in terms of support and how will you manage expectations? Will your community’s ambitions ‘fit’ with the authority’s vision in the local plan?
Incentives – where there is development, there could be money for infrastructure. Have you developed your approach to spending the Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus?
Be mindful of how these incentives are perceived by the community. Some will see them as bribes.
There’s lots to think about. We’re still mulling over the contents of the NPPF. Although there are undoubtedly new emphasises and nuances and it is unashamedly pro-growth in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before, how different will planning really be? Good planning is still good planning. We hope.
There is a large gap in the draft NPPF in its consideration of health in planning. The evidence for this has developed significantly over the last few years. Local Government Group have published the Plugging Health into Planning guidance. the Spatial Planning and Health Group (google SPAHG) includes local government, health & planning organisations. It’s work is based on the evidence gathered through the (discontinued) health and spatial planning work.
Planning decisions made now will continue to have an impact on population health and wellbeing for many years. Public health should be a material consideration in planning.
These are all good questions. It is important for there to be a wider debate on the future of planning, not just among planners. We need to be leading the change but in the knowledge of what all participants (stakeholders?) want to get from planning in the future.