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Column 12th December 2018

Time for change in a planning system lacking good sense

In a column earlier this year I talked about the Interim Report of the Raynsford Review on the planning system, initiated by the Town and Country Planning Association.

The final report has now been published and says “If there is one striking conclusion to be drawn from the work of the Review, it is that the current planning system in England does not work effectively in the long-term public interest of communities or the nation.”

We know this.

The Review suggests that “it is not beyond our country’s means to introduce new and improved guiding principles, structures, relationships and processes to the planning system with the potential to deliver real economic, social and environmental advances.”

The key message is that change is inevitable because the current system is unstable, unpopular and inefficient.

It proposes that “the purpose of the planning system is to positively promote the long-term sustainable development of the nation and the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals. In the Planning Acts, ‘sustainable development’ means:

- managing the use, development and protection of land, the built environment and natural resources in a way which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing while sustaining the potential of future generations to meet their own needs; and

- promoting social justice and reducing inequality.”

It recommends that Local Plans must provide a holistic and integrated vision for the future: that each local planning authority must identify both the strategic priorities for the development and use of land in the authority’s area and policies necessary to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of communities and individuals.

It envisages local planning authorities operating development companies, purchasing land, acquiring land through compulsory purchase for comprehensive development, and commissioning work and forming partnerships with the private sector.

The Review makes it clear that Planning is an important part of our democracy, but clear accountability is often perceived to be missing and consultation is often considered tokenistic. The planning system now includes referendums on Neighbourhood Plans, but for no other part of planning; and there is no clear accountability for the strategic plans.

It goes on in a similar vein.

All of this seems very much like common sense (which is lacking in planning policy and practice). Unfortunately this is a reason why this will be filed away and all these good recommendations ignored by Government.


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