The Autumn Statement issued by the Chancellor on 5th December 2012 has a number of measures which will impact on planning. The Planning Officers Society's immediate comments are:
- LEPs - more funding is to be given to LEPs to draw up strategic growth plans which will cover many planning-related issues like housing, job growth and transport .
- POS welcomes the extra resources being made available to the LEPs to help them do the jobs they've been set up to do and to support local authorities in delivering sustainable economic growth and manage strategic planning priorities. Catriona Riddell, the Society's Strategic Planning Topic Forum Convenor, said "POS have been lobbying hard over the last two years for more effective strategic planning mechanisms to be put in place - the jury is still very much out in terms of whether the Duty to Cooperate will deliver this - and the requirement to develop strategic planning frameworks through the growth plans may help fill this gap." The Society does, However, have two main concerns:
- Accountability - LEPs will have to work with local authorities on the new 'strategic growth plans', ensuring that any decision-making is taken through the proper democratic processes. Catriona Ridell said "The Government has just spent millions demolishing 'unelected and unaccountable' bodies and it would be very foolish to go back down this route, running against the spirit of Localism. The growth plans also need to join up with local plans which will ensure planning and investment priorities are aligned and will help give them legitimacy. There are some excellent examples of where this is already happening, with growth frameworks being lead by the local authorities with the help of their LEP."
- Geography - Riddell commented "Another of Heseltine's recommendations was that some of the LEP boundaries should be reviewed. In our experience the LEPs which are based on proper economic geographies are working more effectively on strategic planning and delivery. Some of the larger LEPs, particularly in the South East, are using local partnerships on a smaller scale to develop and deliver strategic frameworks and the work that the local authorities and their partners are doing at this level should be recognised through support and funding if a boundary review is not going to take place."
- Environmental impact assessments - The Government will consult on updated guidance on conducting environmental impact assessments by Budget 2013, and will consult on raising screening thresholds set out in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 later in 2013.
- John Silvester, Society Spokesperson, commented "We do have some concerns that this could place further burdens on councils and applicants and give wide grounds for challenge.
Read the Chancellor's Statement