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President's Blog December 17

Date: 6/12/2017

As another year now starts to draw to a close there is the opportunity for us to consider what 2018 may bring to the world of planning and what innovations we'd personally like to see come to fruition.

In terms of understanding the overall future context I think it is crystal clear that the issues associated with housing supply and the related challenges of delivering new homes will remain, for the duration of the foreseeable future, at the forefront of the Government's thinking. As I've previously commented upon it's clear that the Government considers that it's accepted 'housing' failure, that is to achieve engagement with a generation of aspiring younger property owners, is now gifting opportunities to their political opponents. Accordingly I anticipate that, following the Party Conference and the subsequent Budget announcements, the start of 2018 will inevitably see a plethora of further initiatives aimed at increasing, incentivising and further speeding up the delivery of new homes.

Whilst all that will probably be somewhat inevitable the following four wishes are what I'd personally want to see unwrapped from my own 'Planner's' Christmas present list!

Firstly I'd like to see the anticipated amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework and the related Planning Practice Guidance, set out a very positive message regarding the purpose and the value of planning. The background is that we live on an increasingly crowded island where I consider that the multitude of issues associated with facilitating additional sustainable development are only going to become more complex. So I strongly feel, probably now more than ever, that we all need to ensure that our communities can readily engage and appreciate the benefit of interacting with the planning process.  

Directly related to that I consider that there is an increasing need to ensure in respect of dealing with all new policy initiatives and in determining related applications that we all strive to demonstrate that we have achieved an appropriate planning balance. The related action is for us all to ensure that every planning initiative is underpinned by a transparent assessment that identifies the potential harm to any interests of acknowledged importance and effectively weighs them against the public benefits that could be forthcoming.

Therefore there is a need for everyone, especially the Government, to see the planning process as a positive tool to help to deliver the required high quality sustainable development outcomes. Consequently, as I've also previously talked about, I'm convinced that development proposals that could potentially impact upon the things that people genuinely hold dear do need to be subjected to the positive scrutiny of the planning process rather than simply bypassing it via the wider application of often poorly thought out 'permitted development' rights. That exercise will of course allow all interested parties to be both actively involved with the planning process and for any related outcomes to demonstrate how they are appropriately responding to the applicable policy rationale.

Secondly I'd like to see the Government practically try to address the nagging issues associated with the provision of the essential community infrastructure that is required to accompany growth. I think this could be potentially done in three ways; firstly by properly getting to grips with the issues associated with potential land value capture; secondly by legislating to make CIL's and Section 106's as flexible and usable as possible, and thirdly by ironing out the question which now seems to be raised by every applicant regarding development 'viability'. With regard to that last point there appears to be increasingly a 'game being played' whatever may be the buoyancy of the market. Nationally the amount of local authority resource being absorbed in responding to such 'viability' challenges must now be cumulatively astronomic.

Thirdly in terms of encouraging delivery I'm a supporter of the principles associated with LPA's needing to be more actively engaged with how their planning strategies and related proposals can be/are actually being implemented. Related to that I think that encouraging more effective planning authority engagement with local developers can only be a good thing in that it will help to rebuild the 'problem solving focussed' relationships that certainly used to exist between planning teams and their customer base. The more us 'Planners' can enjoy a constructive dialogue with local development interests the better as far as I'm concerned.

Lastly I'd like to see and encourage a wider acknowledgement that Local Authority Planning Teams can deliver really positive outcomes for their communities. Fundamentally intertwined with this is the underlying premise that in order to be able to add value and deliver results Local Authority Planning Departments do need to be properly funded and appropriately resourced. If we acknowledge that good planning can be game changing and helps to create great places then it makes sense for it to be a priority for funding. Local people need to be enthused by, and have faith in, the quality of outcomes that can be derived from good planning.

Anyway that's my current wish list and I'd like to hope that some of that can be delivered in 2018. As per tradition I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful Christmas and a good 'planning' new year.

Steve Ingram, President 2017/18

Steve Ingram President 17_18_web.jpg


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