The Coalition, will it work for Planning?

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The Coalition Government made its intentions clearer yesterday, so what do they have in mind for Planning?

Well the first and perhaps most expected item is that they wish to, “rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils”.   What this means for the South West in the long term is unclear – a return to Structure Plan targets, or local indicators for housing provision? However, one thing seems clear, planning decisions on major sites around Gloucestershire and the rest of the South West are likely to be on hold for some time to come.  For example, the Planning Inquiry for housing development at Brizen Farm to the south of Cheltenham has been postponed from this month to October 2010.

The Coalition also intends to give councils, “new powers to stop ‘garden grabbing’. ” This power will involve the creation of a new designation (similar to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) to protect green areas of, “particular importance to local communities.” Quite what will define a green area as important is unclear (or indeed whether this designation will apply to private as well as public land), but in our view the powers already exist to designate (or protect) locally important areas (e.g. public green space designations, and locally important nature reserves, and in Cheltenham’s case Local Plan Policy GE2).  Furthermore, the definition of ‘previously developed land’ within PPS3 already includes the proviso that, “There is no presumption that land that is previously-developed is necessarily suitable for housing development nor that the whole of the curtilage should be developed.”

The Coalition also intends to publish a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities.  We wish them luck, as this is what the current system of new Planning Policy Statements were meant to achieve; but have become bogged down with endless further explanation in the additional ‘Guidance Notes’ which often don’t even form part of the public consultation.

Finally, in addition to seeking to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission (for very large scale development), in the longer term the Coalition intends to, “radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication Open Source Planning.” This could mean a greater role at the plan preparation stage, third party rights of appeal, or both.

So, will the Coalition Plans change things as dramatically as they are suggesting?  Only time will tell, so watch this space!<–>

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