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Conservatives Planning Green Paper Shows Immense Promise

Date: 12/2/2010

The Planning Officers Society believes the Conservative Party’s planning proposals show immense promise as an opportunity to re-write the planning ground rules; however, the Society asserts that that the planning system is a valuable way of addressing the big issues of the day and the Conservatives have missed a big opportunity by ignoring them.

The Society has initially identified three main concerns:

  •  There does not appear to be an understanding of the value of the modern planning system in addressing the wider issues and huge challenges of the day – economic development, climate change, ever decreasing funds to pay for infrastructure, etc.  “The Conservative's proposals seem to have been written to address concerns about housing and Green Belt with no real consideration of the wider issues that planners have been trying to address (in part) through the spatial planning system. This is a real lost opportunity” said POS President, David Hackforth.
  • The approach to strategic planning is largely ignored, with only a mention in  proposed Infrastructure Plans which are to be ‘encouraged’. “Whilst the proposals to abolish everything regional were expected, the gap between a national planning framework and local plans is simply too great. This is the end of effective strategic planning” said Catriona Riddell, Cabinet Member of the Society.
  • It has totally underestimated how much the new local planning system will cost. “Local communities already expect gold plated consultation and engagement which doesn’t come cheap.  What is being proposed is that this runs through the whole plan making process but is based on the assumption that the community will want to get involved. It will also depend very much on volunteers which are a dying breed” said Stephen Tapper, the POS Senior Vice-President.

The Society contends that the Conservative's Green Paper it is taking the planning system back decades and treating it as a mechanism for sorting out housing provision and not much else.  It ignores the much wider spatial role of the modern system; for example, addressing economic growth, climate change, and the focus on delivery. The Society suggests more coverage and detail is needed now dealing with sub-regions, economic development, how they intend to deal with RDAs, MAAs etc.

John Silvester, the Society’s Spokesperson, said “my immediate observations are that the transition period between the current LDF system and the proposed local plan one is likely to be longer than they anticipate; strategic planning could be disjointed if based on an un-joined up bottom up approach; and “local democracy” could mean local chaos if pressure groups get to rule the roost and use non-material planning reasons to oppose, or indeed support, proposals.” Catriona Riddell added “they have focused on the adversarial role of the planning system rather than the vital advocacy one it plays in the wider role of sustainable economic growth and climate change, taking us backwards and not forwards.”

The Society has expressed the willingness to work with the Conservatives to create a renewed planning system that works.


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