Are You Listening Mr Pickles?
The 17th March saw the publication of the House of Commons: Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on the ‘Abolition of Regional Strategies’. Regular readers of the Alliance Newsletter will know that this has become one Planning’s most vexed issues in recent months, with CALA homes pursuing not one but two Judicial Reviews of the actions of the coalition Government in this respect.
The conclusions of the Select Committee, appear to reflect what an unusually unified industry has been shouting from the roof tops, since the pre election emergence of the Conservatives ‘Open Source Planning Green Paper. This seems to reinforce the concerns expressed by those practitioners who know all too well the very real stagnation that the precipitous actions and announcements of the DCLG Secretary of State Eric Pickles have caused, as one witness to the Committee stated;
“Having taken 30 years to build up the strategic planning system, and perhaps 3 years to prepare each Regional Plan, it has taken literally 3 months to abandon the whole process and create a situation of complete paralysis in the planning system.”
One might be forgiven for thinking that we have taken a system that was not working particularly well, and then really messed it up! Time of course will tell, if such a prognosis is correct.
The Select Committee use for more political language, but two of their key conclusions stand out;
“The Government predicts an increase of housing supply of between 8 and 13%. We question the likelihood of achieving this increase, given the lack of evidence of the likely efficacy of the New Homes Bonus. We also question the very principle of offering incentives for house building based solely on numbers: while most people recognise the need for more housing, what matters more is where and how well the housing is built and integrated into the community. We recommend that the New Homes Bonus be linked explicitly to the delivery of homes provided for in the local plan following
robust assessments of housing need.”
“The Government needs to ensure that robust and consistent evidence to support local development plans is produced and regularly updated in an effective and efficient manner. It is not acceptable for Ministers to abdicate their responsibilities in this regard by leaving all the responsibility with under-resourced and under-skilled local planning authorities. Such planning uncertainty that currently exists could have social, economic and environmental consequences lasting for many years. The Government must act quickly to ensure that those involved in the planning system have clearer objectives and an effective framework in which to operate. It needs to bring forward a persuasive solution to the problem of those planning issues that cannot be decided at a purely local level.”