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News Release

London

Tories go local on planning matters


Some observers might say that they have gone ‘loco’ rather than ‘local’ but their mission is radical and one clearly convinced of the need for change.
 
In the long awaited Conservatives’ planning policy paper there are some hard hitting headlines. They seek to address the frustrations felt by everybody involved with the planning system.
 
From their proposals, key areas of concern start with the aim to create a new system of Local Plans (and transitional arrangements), local councils failing to deliver its share of development, dealing with infrastructure provision at the strategic level, limiting the right of appeal by applicants and allowing this for Third Parties.
 
Their preference for the local tariff approach compared with the Community Infrastructure Levy and the presumption in favour of sustainable development could win admirers from the developer sector.
 
Flexible zoning (which may have its limitations) and further attempts to expand permitted development rights would also be welcomed.
 
Casualties
A number of casualties have been well documented but others are quite new.
 
Gone are the Regional Planning Bodies, their Regional Spatial Strategies and the national and regional house building targets.
 
Gone is the Local Development Framework.
Gone is the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
Gone is the current Use Classes Order as it undergoes changes to provide greater flexibility.
Gone is the ability of planning inspectors to ‘rewrite’ local plan documents.
Gone is the automatic right to appeal against planning decisions.
Gone is the system of national planning policies.
Gone is the unelected Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

The New Approach
Radical change is the Tories’ response to the current ‘failing system’. In the future, planning decisions will be given to local people in the hope that they will become proponents rather than opponents of economic and sustainable growth. They call it ‘Open Source planning’.
 
Open Source planning is to allow the creation of unique approaches by each local authority rather than having a national approach imposed upon them – ‘bottoms up!’ They want locals to decide whether and where to allow development.

The paper suggests a number of initiatives:
• extra money for more business generation
• rewards for affordable housing generation or exemption from tariff payments
• local tariffs paid back to communities
• locally decided housing capacities
• permission for publicly supported schemes
• flexible zoning and interchangeable uses
• allowing Third Party appeals against local authority planning decisions
• a shared approach to infrastructure across authorities
• the creation of Local Housing Trusts for small scale development
• the creation of a single unified local tariff for residential and non-residential development
• collaborative design for larger development schemes
• greater involvement for councillors
• increased permitted development rights
• a Major Infrastructure Unit in place of the IPC
 
A simple national planning framework is promised with one single document. It also promises a presumption in favour of sustainable development (provided there is compliance with the local plan or one which has not been adopted).
The removal of the automatic right of appeal is a fundamental change – it is stated that an appeal will not be allowed on the basis that the planning decision is in contravention of the local plan. A two stage process of appeals is also proposed, by either, a submission to the Ombudsman (procedural issues) or to the Planning Inspectorate (planning issues).
 
The absence of regional housing numbers together with the regional bodies will be an area of greatest concern especially when housing capacity needs to be assessed in the next round of local plans. Developer business decisions over the longer term will prove problematic having lost this pillar of certainty.
 
A new Local Plan is proposed through a process of collaborative democracy but no real details are suggested. Other new initiatives are proposed for wind farms, conservation credits, schools planning, mobile phone masts, travellers, parking, retail needs testing (back in), minerals, rural development and blight.