POS attended the Select Committee hearing on 18th October; the Society was represented by Malcolm Sharp (JVP) and Catriona Riddell (Convenor, Strategic Planning Topic Forum). Their reports on what happened are included below.
Malcolm Sharp: "I think we could say that they were interested to hear what we had to say as the session over ran somewhat and not just because of the Division Bell!
We got our point over about there needing to be some strategic planning (or 'more that local planning') even if it were not to be statutory to deal with, for example, infrastructure and sustainable distribution of growth. We cited examples of emerging good practise for voluntary arrangements e.g. Cambridgeshire and supported the inclusion of a 'duty to co-operate' within emerging legislation. Since there would only be one level of statutory Development Plan the associated evidence base would necessarily have to consider the local area in a wider context and arguably in order for plans to be found 'sound' show how this had been properly considered
We agreed LEPs may be part of the answer for strategic co-operation but that they would not be democratic and LPAs would therefore still need to play the key role incorporating agreed strategies into their Development Plan and in any case there was unlikely to be 100 coverage by LEPS.
In response to questioning about housing numbers we made the point that there was no evidence of an immediate shortage of land available but that other constraints especially funding availability and market conditions were more significant in slowing delivery. However there was evidence of quite a few LPAs stopping their plans and or reducing numbers. We stressed the importance of a robust evidence base and that LPAs would still be required to meet identified need otherwise they would be vulnerable to planning by appeal and a highly unsustainable pattern of development which did not maximise the potential of available infrastructure.
The questioning included 'what was local need that needed to be accommodated?' and we took the view that this was more than indigenous growth but related to the economic growth of the area and associated housing needs."
Catriona Riddell: "Some other points were:
All in all I think we presented a good case on behalf of POS and I have had some positive feedback."
You can view the Society submission document by clicking here