PAS is supporting authorities in getting their plans in place. I have spoken to over 100 authorities over the past few months. So what? Well, one key phrase I’m hearing is “of course we have had to stop work on the core strategy to see how we can turn it into a local plan”. The following is not a criticism of any of those authorities, but I want to just throw this out here:
Your core strategy IS your local plan.
A local plan is not a single document. It is where you set out all your policies. You have several tools to deliver this. You have your ‘overarching, strategic plan’, your ‘other DPDs’, your ‘neighbourhood plans’. Sound familiar? It should!
Do you remember when you last felt confident, bold, innovative or inspired? We should stop being fearful of changes made at the centre. I understand that we are all nervous when change comes in. However, say this quietly, these reforms aren’t as radical as has been trumpeted.
This is still a plan-led system, and plans should be evidence-led. That evidence starts with the vision and objectives you are trying to achieve. You understand where these have come from because your communities have told you. There is empirical evidence which tells those communities that there are some issues that will have to be tackled head-on by the plan. There is then a conversation between you and your communities, including key people who hold other information that you need, and who own sites you are going to have to look at.
You develop policies that will help deliver the aspirations, the needs and demands of the place. You refine them through conversations with the community and you produce a plan which will deliver the change needed to meet the vision for the place.
Today, this is called a ‘Core Strategy’. Some time next year, it will be called a ‘Local Plan’. Call it ‘Brian’. Call it whatever you like. Just make sure it has been prepared with the involvement of the community, using evidence they understand, and containing policies you are certain will turn the place you are planning into the place that everyone wants to see.
I also hear a general concern about what is not in the NPPF which was in the old suite of PPS or even the RS. Here’s where you need to be innovative, even bold. If it’s important to you, grab it and use it. Don’t get side-tracked by it. Make a statement that you intend to adopt it locally, then keep on track with the core strategy. The policies in the PPS and RS are still extant now. You’re not introducing anything new. What’s to stop you? Actually, I suspect you may want to take legal advice on this point, but don’t start by thinking you can’t.
This is my other main point. We are all used to being constrained by regulations. When the Government says ‘it’s up to you’, they mean it. Think about the easiest, most logical way to bring national and regional policies into your local plan, and then…..do it!
So, please, please, don’t get side-tracked by new language. Underneath it all, good planning is still good planning. Yes, there are things you have to do. Yes, some of these are ever so slightly different from now. If you’re still not convinced, come and talk to anyone at PAS. There’s plenty of stuff we can help you with, and all at no cost to the authority.