Planning magazine reports that a proposed new power for ministers to order local authorities to prepare joint plans has been introduced through an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. It would enable the communities secretary to direct two or more councils to prepare a joint local plan and would be used to "facilitate the more effective planning of the development and use of land" across the area. However, a number of local authorities have already been engaging in larger-than-local strategic planning, despite the disappearance of regional strategies.
Independent planning consultant Malcolm Sharp, former president of the Planning Officers Society, told a magazine reporter that "most professional planners" believe the duty is not an effective replacement for regional strategies.
Malcolm Sharp MBE
Catriona Riddell, the POS Strategic Planning Specialist, also commented that there are currently at least ten areas in England where authorities are engaged in bottom-up joined-up working and "probably another ten or more which are in the early stages" of doing so
Voluntary cross-border agreements can range from authorities simply preparing shared evidence bases to "fully-blown" statutory joint local plans, Riddell says. She adds that producing joint strategic frameworks or shared evidence bases, even though they are not statutory documents, is a safe way to demonstrate that councils have complied with the duty to cooperate.
Riddell says: "When you're making decisions in the interest of the greater good, and looking at housing delivery across a strategic area, there will always be winners and losers. But authorities can walk away at any point in the process and everything falls apart."