Hopefully most planners are enjoying, or soon returning from their well-deserved summer break, fully re-charged and ready to confront the new school year and planning challenges ahead with passion, positivism and energy. Strangely, this August there appears to have been no traditional summer lull and no let up with activity.
The high level frantic negotiations between POS, local government and Central Government have intensified over the summer heat (what heat, you might ask?). Well if the late summer weather has cooled sooner than hoped the battle for planning reforms has reached boiling temperatures with the Productivity Plan and Permitted Development Rights debates. I have spent most of my summer racing between City Hall, POS catch ups and Whitehall attempting to demonstrate that "planning" is at the heart of the Chancellor's and Government's aims to improve UK productivity and ramp up housing delivery across the country. With PDRs becoming a permanent prospect for office conversions to residential use presents all its challenges to planning and quality of housing but is creating new homes (we think?).
I met the DCLG Chief Planner to go through the reforms line by line believing everything is to play for but not a moment to take our beady planners' eyes off the ball. Brownfield Land Register with Permission in Principle (PiPs) with Local Plans reforms will most certainly be radical elements of Government's forthcoming Housing Bill. Collectively, this is increasingly looking like the biggest radical set of planning and housing reforms in a generation. The court decision on Vacant Building Credit has thrown a real "wobbly" into the pot.
Exciting times but no time to relax into a late summer slumber, as the Autumn looks set to be a whirlwind of legislative and policy reform rollercoaster! Watch this space and all Parliamentary Bills emerging whilst enjoying the rest of the summer, whilst it lasts.!
P.S. Off to Majorca for a quick dash of Bank Holiday sun, but not without my laptop.
Stewart Murray, President 2015/16