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Clark’s rallying cry to planners

December 1, 2010

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark made an interesting speech at a TCPA event yesterday in which he described planners as a “lightning rod for people’s sense of frustration” and talked of restoring the “respect and pride to town planning”. It’s an interesting (if slightly too long) speech and one that deserves publishing in full…



I’m pleased to be here today to set out some of the next steps in Government’s proposals for putting communities in control of their own destiny through the planning system; and delighted to be able to say more about how the forthcoming Localism Bill will change planning for the better.

But let me start by talking about the wider context. Planning isn’t a job – it’s a vocation. All of us hope we leave a legacy in our professional life. Planners certainly do leave a legacy. They shape the workplaces where we spend thousands of hours each year; the homes we go home to the evening, and the schools where our children learn.  At its best, their work is much more than functional. It inspires and elates.

So my starting point as planning Minister is that planners have an awesomely important job to do. I take very seriously my responsibility of enabling them to do that job to the very highest standards. But I agree with the TCPA that at present the planning system is not doing its job “as well as it should.”

The current framework is bureaucratic. Last year, local authorities spent 13 per cent more in real terms on planning than they did five years ago – despite a 32 per cent drop in the number of applications received.

It is too centralised: regional spatial strategies imposed housing targets which made people feel put upon. And it is ineffective. The levels of housebuilding last year were the lowest in peacetime since 1924.

Evidence suggests that commercial development is suffering, and businesses say that the planning system is a barrier to growth. This government has ambitious proposals to make the system fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Above all, we want to change the philosophy behind local planning. We want to move away from a system with significant elements of imposition from above, to one with participation and involvement at its heart – not just warm words, or a commitment in principle, but real opportunities for people to have a say. And away from a system that seeks to resolve the different needs of different groups at a local level by imposing choices from above, towards one which enables a mature debate at local level.

I’m delighted to have the chance to talk about these issues at the TCPA – for two reasons. One, your manifesto recognises in its very first clause the need for a planning system… “based on widespread community engagement.” You have been a consistent champion of that principle, and a powerhouse of expertise on how it’s done in practice. Two – TCPA’s great strength is that it brings together all the different interests in planning – community groups, developers, businesses and more. It represents, at a national scale, the kind of coming together that we want to help happen in local discussions about planning.

The Big Society means putting real power in the hands of local people. It is based on the idea that in very many areas of life people can make the best decisions about what’s best for themselves, for their family, for the place where they live. I think that people should be able to make real choices about planning – much as they should be able to make choices in relation to healthcare or education – as a matter of principle.

But evidence also suggests that restoring power to a very local level may have the practical effect of helping people feel positive about development. Imposition alienates. As any parent can tell you, telling someone to do something – even when you’re absolutely convinced that it’s in their best interests – doesn’t always work. IPSOS Mori research from this summer says too many people feel locked out and “done to” by the planning system.

A typical comment from the research said: “I feel powerless – what can we do?” It’s simpler to say “no” than to engage with a system that doesn’t seem to listen to you. The reaction to the old regional spatial strategies seemed to bear this out. The South West regional strategy alone attracted 35,000 written objections. Conversely, proper discussion with local people encourages a sense of ownership about development. Experience suggests that developers of major projects have a better chance of securing consent if they carry out consultation with local communities before they make a planning application.

And the TCPA’s own guide to community planning obligations gives a wealth of evidence about how involvement lets people see the benefits of development, and helps them be prepared to say “yes.” Take the story of Ascott-Under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire. The local shop closed in 1998. When, in 2002, local people found out about plans to convert a farm, they saw their chance to get a village shop back again. In exchange for the developer gifting a shop to the community, they said they would put up no objection to the developer’s plans. They were supportive, because they could see what was in for them. The shop is still going strong.

Or take what’s happening with Burgess Hill Town Council in Sussex – who have begun a conversation with local people about the possibility of new housing – making the case that the extra investment that it would make possible could help pay for road improvements, a sports centre, new civic amenities, upgrades to the local station or a new business park. Our proposals are designed to enable this kind of mature debate about local planning everywhere. Because the problem is, although participation has been recognised as an essential element of good planning since the Skeffington Report in 1969, and although there are some examples of developers and planners getting it very right indeed, there are too many instances of participation being a an unimaginative add-on to the planning process.

We want to embed participation in the way the system works. Instead of having decision-makers consult local communities, we want to enable local people to make more decisions themselves. We want to hand over power and responsibility so that local communities have real choices, and experience the real consequences of those choices.

The Localism Bill contains several measures to achieve this.  The Government has begun consulting on proposals for a new homes bonus. We would match the additional council tax raised over the following six years for new homes and properties brought back into use. It is proposed that there will be an additional amount for affordable homes. I made clear earlier this month that we intend to introduce changes to the community infrastructure levy – making sure that the benefits of growth are felt at a very local level indeed. We plan to require in law that local authorities set aside a meaningful proportion of revenue raised to be spent on infrastructure as neighbourhoods see fit.

And we will introduce neighbourhood planning alongside existing plans – placing an unprecedented level of influence and power at a very local level. The principle is simple. Local people come together and agree, “this is what we want our area to look like. Here is where we want the new homes to go and how we want them designed; here is where we want new shops and offices; here are the green spaces we want to protect.”

Where people are most keen to take control and have certainty over development, they will be able to confer full planning permission, so that where the local community is crying out for new homes, developers can get on with building them. In other areas, people will be able to grant outline planning permission – with conditions on, say, the design details. When the neighbourhood plan has been prepared, people will vote on them in a local referendum. With a simple majority, the plan will come into force.

This is a rethinking of how planning operates – creating new pressures and powers that operate from the bottom up, rather than the top down. It offers a scope for self-determination unheard-of until now.

Localism in planning will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so, and to reap the benefits. It’s a reason to say yes. I look forward to discussing these proposals in more detail with many of you when the Localism Bill is published and begins to make its way through parliament.

Opening up planning will requires non-legislative changes too. I’d be first to argue that planning demands special skills, but I don’t think the best way to enable planners to do their job is to set endless prescription and guidance. The current sum of circulars, policy statements and so forth is bigger than the complete Works of Shakespeare, and not nearly as entertaining. Guidance on this scale flirts with the absurd: there’s no way a practitioner can keep it all in mind.

Let alone the poor non-expert. This is a harmful side-effect: opacity is a barrier to community involvement. It’s time for a radical review to simplify and streamline policy and guidance, to make it easier for community groups to understand and engage with it, and to give proper scope for planners to use their professional discretion. Our proposals imply changes to the role of town planners. In one sense, planners have been the first victims of the flaws of the current planning system.

Often, their job has involved much too much development control – saying yes and no to individual projects on a case by case basis – and too little genuine planning, thinking about the long-term needs of an area, talking to local people, and drawing up positive proposals for the future. Planners have become a lightning rod for people’s sense of frustration. Instead of being the agents of imposition, they should have much more scope to help local people articulate their vision for their town or village or neighbourhood.

As Ann Skippers, the RTPI President for 2010, said earlier this year: “We should be proud to say […] when we are asked, that we are planners. Say it well and say it loudly and say it again if you need to.” Neighbourhood planning – which will see planners working with and for the community – should help achieve what Anne and I both want to see – planners being properly valued and respected for what they do.

There are three common arguments made against greater community involvement in planning. The first argument is about willingness. It says, do people really want to get involved in local planning issues? Aren’t they busy enough with their jobs and family lives? In fact, people care deeply about the look and feel of the places where they live. Planning can in fact be the gateway that gets people involved in civic life. They might start by signing a petition to protect a local tree – they might end up volunteering on a regular basis, standing as a school governor, or becoming a councillor.

The second argument is about capacity. It says: even if they are interested, have people got the capacity to articulate what they want – and make a meaningful contribution to debate? There are two points to make in response to that. There’s an inherent difference in expectations between centralists and localists. Centralists are a glum lot. Their outlook is predicated on the idea that, left to themselves, people can’t make decisions in their own best interests. Localists, by contrast, are optimistic about people’s good sense, generosity, and ability to make sound decisions. In planning – as in other areas of life – we start from the basis that people are inherently capable.

But planning also of course requires the application of specialist skills. We recognise that in some circumstances people will need some support to make the most of the opportunity to get involved. That’s why, if a very local area wants to draw up its neighbourhood plan – we will require the local authority to provide support. We will also fund independent advice, so that local communities and neighbourhood groups who are new to the topic can learn from what has worked well in other areas.

The third argument against local planning is about equality. It says – are you, in effect, empowering those who are already powerful – giving the well-organised an opportunity to channel unwanted development towards the places where the less well-organised live?

There are several points to make in response here. One is that the provision of advice and support should enable those who want to, to draw up their neighbourhood plan, no matter where they live. Another is that there will be some safeguards in the system. Neighbourhood plans will need to be consistent with wider local plans. If the wider areas needs lots of new houses, they neighbourhood plan will not be a means to refuse development altogether. An independent assessment will make sure that neighbourhood and local plans are consistent.

But there’s a much bigger point. This concern is based on the assumption that people come to the table thinking “development is bad.” In fact, if local people have a chance to voice an opinion, and to see and feel the benefits of development, they have reasons to say “yes.”

There is significant change ahead for planning. Taken as a whole, our reforms will help get England out of the housebuilding trough, make businesses see planning as a reason to invest, not a disadvantage, and give planners opportunity and encouragement to do what they do best: to create amazing, inspirational places.

Above all they will give communities a far greater sense of ownership over decisions that make a big difference to their quality of life. They will allow for the exercise of genuine power at a local level; and put the ideals of the Big Society at the very heart of planning. I look forward to working with you all to make sure these reforms deliver the change we all want to see.

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. Unaplanner permalink
    December 1, 2010 11:52 am

    I note the Localism Bill is now a day late (based on the CLG’s own business plan) and having read this speech fully understand why!

    • LeafyLaneDweller permalink
      December 1, 2010 1:17 pm

      I went to a housing seminar in London yesterday and a rep from the DCLG stated that they will no longer use the word “imminent” but have now reverted to “soon”. We were told that the we can expect the Bill in the next couple of weeks.

  2. SCH permalink
    December 1, 2010 12:04 pm

    Doesn’t it sound lovely? There’s nothing like being tickled under the chin to enourage a sense of warm and fuzzy wellbeing. It’s hard to know where to start with this one, but the paragraph that caught my eye was this one:

    “We recognise that in some circumstances people will need some support to make the most of the opportunity to get involved. That’s why, if a very local area wants to draw up its neighbourhood plan – we will require the local authority to provide support. We will also fund independent advice, so that local communities and neighbourhood groups who are new to the topic can learn from what has worked well in other areas. ”

    My first reaction was how will authorities afford this when they’re being cut and my second reaction was what on earth is he on about when he talks about funding independent advice? Does that mean Planning Aid, or is he actually talking about something different? In the case of PA, isn’t that a bit disingenuous, as isn’t it already funded in part by CLG? Do we need an armchair auditor to have a look at the government’s approach to their abacus (Mr P’s fave).

    And do i also detect a tiniest hint of divide and rule in the air, given the warm words heaped on the TCPA and no mention of the RTPI’s role? Probably just me being cynical…

    • December 1, 2010 9:09 pm

      “We will also fund independent advice, so that local communities and neighbourhood groups who are new to the topic can learn from what has worked well in other areas”

      Or hasn’t worked at all? There is an imbalance in knowledge, let’s call it the “Planning Mushroom Principle” that goes into the melting pot of the “Local Development Prevention Plan”. The Examination system is a farce, planners vs planners, the rest of us are left to flounder in the intricacy of the process. As with all regulation I am of the opinion that it should be approached from the bottom up, not this top down system which favours the RTPI Mafia.

    • Hollanie permalink
      December 3, 2010 10:29 am

      Probably not Planning Aid, given the latest news regarding removal of their funding…

  3. Tufted Jake permalink
    December 1, 2010 12:28 pm

    That speech really is a big bag of something or other. Some sort of faecal matter perhaps. Do your worst, moderators. You can’t catch me –

    I AM TUFTED JAKE

  4. Another Planner permalink
    December 1, 2010 12:52 pm

    Oh dear – a few initial reactions…

    – “Centralists are a glum lot. Their outlook is predicated on the idea that, left to themselves, people can’t make decisions in their own best interests. Localists, by contrast, are optimistic about people’s good sense, generosity, and ability to make sound decisions.” – Oh no, people can make decisions in their ‘own’ best interest, and seemingly will be given powers to do so. What they cannot do is make decisions in the wider interest, which is the job of planners and Councillors. Who will speak up for the silent voice of those who need the new housing, that locals don’t want because ‘they are alright jack’.?

    – “But planning also of course requires the application of specialist skills. ” – please help convince our Leader and CX of this!!!

    – “If the wider areas needs lots of new houses, they neighbourhood plan will not be a means to refuse development altogether.” – well a lot of Tory voters will be dissapointed with the Localism Bill then.

    -“if a very local area wants to draw up its neighbourhood plan – we will require the local authority to provide support.” – with what resources? How does this sit with a privatised planning solution?

  5. Jon permalink
    December 1, 2010 12:57 pm

    I’m a big fan of neighbourhood planning and it is regrettable that historically Parish or Community plans come about in response to an issue already coming to a head, and are generally ‘reactive’.

    However, it tends to be issues that help people define themselves as a neighbourhood and pull together. Without the issue as a nucleus to centre around, who decides what are the neighbourhood plan should be drafted at? Fine for villages, less easy for larger settlements. Seems to fit with the whole ideology here, mind.

    Exercises like ‘Planning for Real’ could be really well deployed here, but I can’t see them going into enough detail to extablish whether what a community wants (if anything) is viable or deliverable. Where there are aspirations for growth, the ideas of benefits will probably get overly optimistic. That said, nothing like a good aspiration.

    Finally, and clearly most importantly, I feel the need to conform to the wider ‘local plan’ is simply tacked on at the end with the hope it will be forgotten. However, this opens the door for all sorts of housing / job targets and infrastructure priorities to be set elsewhere (i.e. top down) and shows that planning will still need the same skills as the current era. They will just be *more* hidden away than in the current format, with decisions taken behind closed doors. I suspect neighbourhood planning will just be the ‘gloss’ of localism, and contrary to what Mr. Clark says, will only be taken up by the minority of priveleged communities.

  6. 156 permalink
    December 1, 2010 1:28 pm

    I saw something in BD about CLG thinking about pulling something together out of the ashes of CABE to help deliver localism. I wonder if this is the source of funded advice – ie the old enabling panel??

    I’ve often wondered why the TCPA don’t merge with the (R)TPI?

    • LongTermPlanner permalink
      December 1, 2010 4:56 pm

      that is because the TCPA and RTPI are two very different organisations. TCPA being independent and visionary based on core principles as a start, and not a professional institute like the RTPI

  7. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 1, 2010 1:44 pm

    all very frustrating for all wanting to have the first steps towards riches, as dreamt, in their pockets.

    as a result the ‘heavies, of the development world are trying to push and grind their way to the benefit of shareholders and the like.

    yes, bad in that nobody has a clear idea of anything and it will be a while before clarity is evident. councils are rejecting inspectors reports on core strategies allied to rss and many are sitting back, wisely and understandably to see how the eggs are going to hatch in good time.

    in the meantime there are ldf’s to look at, ldp’s to be reviewed, etc.

    i cannot believe in a month of sundays why social housing is not being addressed and the banks not being pushed by developers and government to make long term fixed mortgage rates available to offer purchasers sound personal budgeting for the next 20-25 years. i have managed to deter my son and daughter from taking a mortgage due to the wild fluctuation of interest rates and demise of the banks in recent years. they are staying in rentals for a while yet. they are lucky in that they are within that slice of the pie chart that can afford both the downpayment and the interest..
    i write in haste in the hope that constructive debate will ensue.

  8. Tim Baker permalink
    December 1, 2010 2:00 pm

    Well, some idea of what the Bill is gong to say. Anything to worry about for the developer? Probably not ‘because If the wider areas needs lots of new houses, they neighbourhood plan will not be a means to refuse development altogether. An independent assessment will make sure that neighbourhood and local plans are consistent.’ So you can do what you like as long as you do as you are told.

  9. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 1, 2010 2:17 pm

    aa

  10. Michael Donnelly permalink*
    December 1, 2010 3:11 pm

    No mention of this in Mr Clark’s speech. http://www.planningresource.co.uk/news/ByDiscipline/Policy-and-Politics/1044466/Planning-Aid-faces-axe/

  11. SCH permalink
    December 1, 2010 4:07 pm

    Re: Planning Aid announcement – wow. Just – wow. But not in a good way. So maybe I’m being really thick this afternoon, but this would suggest that PA funding may be sacrificed to an as yet unspecified process to support local communities in developing and articulating their ideas for their areas – a bit like the role PA fulfils at present, then? Or like the role that could quite easily be created for it? Or maybe the government will set up some sort of national board to administer the delivery of said funds across the country, in the interests of localism …

  12. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:23 pm

    all a bit confusink..

  13. Michael Donnelly permalink*
    December 2, 2010 9:31 am

    Full statement from RTPI on Planning Aid news:

    “Any decision to cut funding from Planning Aid would be shameful. Planning Aid is localism in action: it gives local people and communities a genuine voice and is largely staffed by volunteers – another important element of the Big Society.

    “It is beyond comprehension that Clark can take such a short sighted decision which will leave communities high and dry. It makes me wonder just how serious Clark is about his localism agenda and whether he simply is paying lip service to the hundreds of hard working communities and dedicated volunteers up and down the country.

    “If the government means what they say and it’s not simply rhetoric Planning Aid should be at the top of Clark’s list and I urge the minister to reconsider.

    “It’s no good saying that a neighbourhood planning fund will be set up at some point in the future and we can bid for funds then. In the meantime the operation has to be wound up and not only do we lose committed staff with specialist expertise and skills the government’s action lets down communities, lets down local people.

    “In order to achieve the aims and objectives of the Big Society we need to continue to fund those services which are already supporting local communities to have a real voice in planning their areas.”

  14. Tom permalink
    December 2, 2010 10:02 am

    Its really not so long ago that the planning world was awash with calls for increased graduate programmes to create more skilled planners to combat the massive shortfall. Now all I can see from that speach is a mass issueing of P45s and planners being made unemployed.

    Some things I agree with, too much ‘guidance’ and such, but so much is just naive at best, ignorant and deulded is a more accurate description. I’d like to know what world this coalition lives in, where people want development and will actively support it, because its not the one I’ve been working in for years.

    Then again, its all probably just flimflam, localism is likely just a veneer over top down, centrally dictated planning. After all, neighbourhood plans have to be in accord with local plans, and who wants to bet there will be an agency set up on a regio….ahem, larger-than-local level to examine such plans to check their compliance with government aims.

    Also, I can’t help but notice the phrase ‘a simple majority’ in there. I seem to remember previous figures of 90% support and 80% support, now its down to 51% appearntly. Could it be ministers have no faith in their own proposals actually delivering development?

  15. Tom permalink
    December 2, 2010 10:32 am

    It’s just more hot air from Clark…

    Of the people who graduated on my Masters course, many have dropped out of planning after a few years…I can only see it getting worse with the “Localism Bill”.

    Last one out, please turn the lights off…

  16. Rob permalink
    December 2, 2010 11:02 am

    “We want to embed participation in the way the system works. Instead of having decision-makers consult local communities, we want to enable local people to make more decisions themselves. We want to hand over power and responsibility so that local communities have real choices, and experience the real consequences of those choices.”

    This is the quote that caught my eye. What if there is a campaign by a developer to whip up opposition to a rival’s scheme using the fears of local residents as a front?

    Not everyone is sufficiently public spirited to have the interests of the community at heart. Many of them, (perhaps all) have self interests that can be manipulated and dressed up as the concern of the community.

    Mr Clark: be careful what you wish for.

    • Another Planner permalink
      December 2, 2010 11:07 am

      With all due respect isn’t that what this is all about – realising the self-interests of the Tory core vote…

  17. Roger permalink
    December 2, 2010 11:30 am

    Whatever you view on the content, I think we all have to ensure that we keep a copy of this and any other such utterances on the subject and ensure that we quote it back to them word for word at every opportunity, as the ‘new system’ comes further and further off of the rails!

    Even taking the most positive view of what has been said so far e.g. ‘community engagement will lead to a more positive view of the planning system’ or words to that effect, we will still need to be holding these people to account when we find that there are no extra resources available to do all this community engagement.

    I also find myself wondering how long it will be before the first criminal investigations begin in to accusations of graft, corruption, insider trading against an officer or elected member? The potential Localism in planning scenario: Localism = Parochialism = Self-interest = Show me the money!

  18. Iain Paton permalink
    December 2, 2010 12:12 pm

    Interesting to learn that Planning Aid funding is being pulled. This is regrettable news but, to be honest, it doesn’t really surprise me. I volunteered for Planning Aid Scotland and felt that the casework service offered often did not meet expectations. The main duty was to be ‘impartial’ and this meant that it was usually a case of pointing inquirers in the direction of a case officer or other source of information (national guidance or the development plan) which most people could do themselves anyway in the internet age. Many of the queries were non-standard, and required some detailed knowledge (ie. retail) or potentially quite a bit of research to do justice to an inquiry, which I endeavoured to do, but which went beyond the Planning Aid brief. I recommended provision of a blog or posting-board based service a couple of years ago (similar to the grassroots Consumer Action Group forum online) which would allow more interaction. Planning Aid Scotland has developed an online resource which has contacts and development plan details by local authority area, which is a useful step. Planners should offer services on a pro-bono basis to meet public expectations, but this would involve a greater commitment to a client than the Planning Aid service, and would bring additional questions such as costs and insurances, with some clash with the private consultancy sector and possibly scrutiny of national government and local authority officer roles, and also linkages with other services such as the local government ombudsman. Planning advice needs a root-and-branch review that challenges old ways of thinking…the RTPI should take the initiative and look more to communities in partnership with national and local government, taking over the outreach role of Planning Aid…we are far too internally-focused as a profession, with poor community relations and limited interaction with other professions, but at least I think we know this now.

  19. December 2, 2010 12:23 pm

    Sheesh, how to massively undermine a core party principle in 24hours! Where’s the highly oiled and funded PR machine in this instance? I find it staggering that in one breath is communities in the driving seat and the next bigger more important breath is lets axe a key platform for them doing that! Incredible. Makes me even more determined to bring DIY planning to the fore. We will do it ourselves if you want Mr Clarke, there are plenty of us skilled, creative and dedicated planners out there who have been around the block and know how the development process operates. Its time for Planners to stand up for ourselves, we are not process monkeys or dyed in the wool stalwarts of the refused stamp! We have a huge role to play in the returning of our places and neighbourhoods to the people that live and use them. Community as Client does not have to spell the end of professional planning but it will if we sit around moaning. The proof in the pudding will be what will/not happen on the ground so lets start pulling together and develop the tools and approaches that are going to enable us to respond – as a profession!

  20. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 2, 2010 12:35 pm

    like the reduction in legal aid – the demise of planning aid is wrong especially with the reduction of numbers in council planning departments, etc. who are under increasing pressure all the while and having to deal with more workload every day.

    recent experience has proved that they are finding it increasingly more difficult to deal with objective enquiries in any depth by informed local residents.

  21. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 2, 2010 12:51 pm

    all will have to wait and see.

    minister pickles’ dept has published a study that new households have been overestimated for the future and 23,000 houses a year are unecessary until 2031.
    i have not read the report in detail, but i cannot believe it is politically biased. it comes as no suprise as all seemed far to ‘star trek’ orientated until the revocation. thousands of acres were being developed on unsuitable land and areas.
    hs2, if it goes through will redefine council boundaries majorly, and in effect make a complete mockery of all sound, good and wholesome planning. not to mention the degeneration of the natural water supplies underground which supplies 40% of the nation’s water. the reservoirs of wales will not manage if that argument is put forward. desalination plants offshore and piping from siberia will no doubt be put forward by some.
    this latter about sums up those trying to push hs2 through.

  22. Jon permalink
    December 6, 2010 1:20 pm

    From experience, Planning Aid would pick up all the deprived / ambivalent communities who the coalition don’t really want to have strong neighbourhood plans. This would subsequently show the need for massive funding / LA intervention to secure everyone a plan. and not just the ‘idyllic’ villages who’ll write up their bile off their own backs. The magical localism agenda wouldn’t work with an effective Planning Aid system, they’d be swamped.

    • Iain Paton permalink
      December 9, 2010 11:59 am

      My own experience is that Planning Aid usually helps too late, at the development management stage, and usually by pointing individuals to information sources or case officers. I’ve never been able to give the sort of help I felt I would like to give without breaching the ‘impartial advice’ caveat. Planners should be able to act as unpaid advocates for communities rather than simply as what might be termed advice facilitators. Planning Aid a is wonderful concept and legacy, but behind the times in terms of public expectations. I’d be keen to have a discussion on how it could be carried forward regardless of funding by embracing volunteerism on the part of us planners, facilitated by the RTPI.

  23. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 6, 2010 3:48 pm

    so it looks as if we are firmly back in the days of the overreaching rss when no one had a clue of what was what.
    there are not many, individual or body, that can afford to pay planning professionals #200/hour plus to scrutinise plans and applications. sooooo the applicants and developers will have free reign to push forward arguments and flawed technical arguments or as good as. experience has lead me to this sound conclusion.
    worthy and wonderful as he was – would have captain manwairing of dad’s army been able to lead and organize d.day with his most worthy crew?
    !! think about it !!

  24. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 9, 2010 2:30 pm

    it is unfortunate that the abolition of planning of planning aid was only announced last wednesday.
    thursday’s full meeting of coventry city council voted by a small majority to reduce the number of representations at planning committee meetings to two of either five or three minutes and the chairman having automonous control on selecting the speakers in larger developments.
    the chances of informed honest joe concerned about his lifetime of scraping and saving for the major investment of his life are dwindled more.
    if coventry councillors had known of the abolition in time joe’s ability to protect his investment would have been different.
    i believe, and only this to this date, that coventry’s new constitutional ammendment will be reviewed in six or twelve months time.
    in the meantime, no doubt the planning department will be swamped with applications from those pushing their developments through the already overstretched planning department.
    as other distinguished contributors have mentioned, it is often the case that developers pull the wool over council planners and council committees with a variety of tactics once local residents have been worn down.
    sorry to upset many that may come across this post but the truth.
    incidently how are the councils especially small town and parish going to get professional aid – and afford.
    “this will be addressed in this that or whatever in the future” will not do whilst unconsidered legislation and directives are being passed.
    all in all we will be in a worst state than with the top down rss’s – even the local parish council will have complete automony of any development and political local nimbyism will be the rule of the day.
    Waring-on-sea and Captain manwaring will trying to do eisenhower’s job.

    • Roger permalink
      December 9, 2010 4:06 pm

      You seem to be attempting to argue this from both ends. On the one hand you claim that developers routinely hoodwink all comers in to getting their own way – a claim I would dispute in the vast majority of cases. An area gets the development it deserves most of the time – poor local plan = poor quality development.
      You then go on to suggest that Localism will not ‘free the people’ , but actually reduce their ability to defend their patch even further! I suggest you send that complaint to Pickles and co, as they believe the opposite.
      If their vision is the true one, then it will simply be a case of communites saying NO! won’t it? Oh no, sorry, that’s only if they’ve got a community plan of their own that the LPA will now be ‘required’ to adopt. In the words of the Open Source Planning no local plan = a totally permissive development system!
      This is without doubt going to be chaos and the only winners are going to be those who now have a free run at what remains of the planning system, with no need con anybody anymore!
      Whatever the situation, I don’t think Planning Aid would of helped with much of what is to come, if only because of the volume of work that would be involved to fight even a modest yet contentious proposal.

  25. edward brown 111 permalink
    December 10, 2010 12:29 am

    thanks for lasr post. your summary in the last 2 paras i take as your take is that the whole is one hell of as mess. with reflection, the system was far more satisfactory all round before the previous central government started to implement a gross and bullheaded reform rather than gradually implementing changes as necessary to adapt and keep ‘up to the times’ as it were.

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