Archive for December, 2011

As the festive break fast approaches, we are winding down in the office, recognising that there aren’t many of our colleagues in Local Government who want to get stuck into debates about the merits of our applications until they come back refreshed in the New Year. It’s a fair point and its got me wondering what 2012 has in store for us on the planning front.

As I pen this note, the headlines have been running with stories about the possibilities of the UK credit rating being downgraded for the first time in memory at the same time as the cross party MPs on the Local Government Select committee are expressing concern over the prominence being given to economic development in the National Planning Policy Guidance note. I can’t help but wonder about the different directions the planning system gets pulled in and whether we really are ready to face up to the realities of the current malaise in the construction sector.

The next year is clearly going to be an interesting one in the planning world with everyone waiting anxiously for April and the final form of the NPPF. On a personal note, I think putting more emphasis back onto brown field sites ahead of greenfield would be no bad thing, provided we recognise the challenges in land values and costs of tackling our brownfield sites.  Restoring the pre-eminence of brownfield over green is common sense in policy terms, provided we recognise that not all brownfield sites can be brought forward in the current economic climate. There I go giving undue prominence to economic considerations, contrary to the select committees concerns.

However it doesn’t matter what preferences a pressure group/lobby interest/planning authority might express –if it won’t work commercially, it simply won’t happen! This is the new world we all have to adjust to and the days of long S106 backed shopping lists of ‘good causes’ are well and truly gone.

It will also be interesting to see how the Localism Act beds down with us all and I await the first referendum on a planning matter with great interest. Mr Osborne’s continued reforms of the planning system are also of great interest and many commentators wonder just when we might have a period of stability in the planning system.  Whilst I would like the system to have a chance of bedding down, if he would just decide to take the inequities and inefficiencies out of the current validation system, I along with many other planners on this side of the fence would give him a huge ‘Thank you!’ for a job well done.

All the very best to everyone for 2012.


In a written ministerial statement, Planning Minister Greg Clark has put a timescale on publication of the final version of the NPPF framework, with the Government aiming to put it out by 31st March 2012. The minister has strongly defended the planned changes to the framework, which see 1,300 pages of planning guidance distilled into 52, saying in a written response to criticism: “Our reforms aim to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans.” Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph has set about on its ‘hands off our land’ campaign and has quizzed Local Government and Planning minister Bob Neill. Mr Neill told the Telegraph in this article: “By the end of the year we will be in a very different place. We are genuinely prepared to listen to sensible improvements that have been made. He added: “It was never intended to be a charter for inappropriate development in the countryside.” Now local councils, planners and developers wait with baited breath and differing ideals to see what exactly this “very different place” will look like, and if it will get the UK building again. Forward thinking Prism MD Steve Barker has expressed his sense of relief at having a date set, but says he still has doubts: “It’s very welcome news that a reasonably short timescale has been put in place to get the NPPF out in the wider world. Given the extent of problems with the construction sector and record lows in house building, it’s clear that it’s going to take a lot of determined effort by public and private sectors for the country to begin to build again. My fervent hope is that councils don’t think they have to wait until April to begin to respond to the challenges we so clearly face.” Outside of the NIMBY brigade in the Telegraph, no credible developers have ever thought the NPPF was a charter to concrete the countryside with insensitive new development. However there is evidence that some officers in local councils are hoping that the guidance will be radically revised and they won’t have to change their attitudes. It’s clear from the Minister [Clark] that such dinosaurs need to be made extinct!” As the Telegraph article states, an 18 month “transition period” is among changes being considered by the Government, giving councils more time to draw up local development plans. “Or perhaps it will give those local councils who do not wish to change their attitude more time to stall action and hold back adoption of the new NPPF.” Steve added. We’ll be sure to keep you posted with news from this heated debate as it unfolds.