The government is consulting on the Planning White Paper, entitled Planning for the Future. Its stated aim is ‘to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.
Boris Johnson’s opening remarks about the English planning system are striking:
“The whole thing is beginning to crumble and the time has come to do what too many have for too long lacked the courage to do – tear it down and start again. That is what this paper proposes. Radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War”
There are in fact some positive recommendations that SPS has long been calling for, not least an aim to make the planning system more understandable and a welcome emphasis on improved design. However, the positive impacts of the proposals which will radically affect planning as we have known it for 70 years, are significantly outweighed by the negatives. The reforms introduce a system zoning of all land into three areas of Growth, Renewal and Protection with standardised development management policies in the NPPF rather than locally responsive policies in local plans. The planning application stage would effectively be removed in growth and renewal areas, leaving public engagement solely at the local plan making stage and through locally produced design codes. The government claims that the system will speed up development and offer developers certainty about a site, however we have grave concerns about the implications on local democracy. This includes Neighbourhood Plans as, despite the White Paper stating that the government ‘thinks’ Neighbourhood Plans should be retained, there is currently a lack of clarity about the scope and power of such plans in future decision making.
SPS is working closely with CPRE in responding to the consultation and will lobby MPs to highlight our concerns about these reforms.