Hark the CLG Select Committee Angels Sing:Planning Reforms need rewritingChristmas has come early for those of us who care about the planning system in England. The SelectCommittee has published their report on the government proposed National Planning PolicyFramework and in their 81 pages of critical analysis they confirm that the NPPF is not fit for purpose.Specifically 1. The NPPF was short but vague leading to uncertainty and ambiguity 2. The definition of sustainable development presented was inadequate as it was based on economic development 3. The default answer to development being yes was misplaced. 4. The golden thread of sustainable development was not suitable for decision making as it was too vague 5. The lack of a town centre first and brown field first policies were leading to increased pressures on greenfield sites 6. The attacks on planners as the enemies of enterprise were found to be baseless with no evidence to support allegations that planning inhibited growth or development.The recommendations focus attention on the local plan as the decision making tool for sustainabledevelopment with the ability to tweak and adapt this to the local situation where there is clearevidence to do so. This is important as the local plan sets out the long term vision and developmentstrategy for an area which improves certainty for all those with a stake in the future of an area(everyone) and those who wish to invest and develop over the long term. Securing publicinvolvement in the development of an agreed plan is a vital part of good planning.The idea of town centre and brown field first policies will focus development rightly on urban areasaway from the easy and cheaper fix on greenfield sites. However it is also important to realise thatthe countryside is much more than farming and forestry and green belt. There is a priority torecognise rural sustainable development based on specific needs of communities. We need to seedevelopment in the countryside as it is not a museum urban people visit. Development of vibrantcommunities in urban and rural areas is a vital part of good planning.Many people ask me that now as we are in a recession we must develop and build our way out andtherefore have some sort of relaxation of planning for this. It is precisely at such a time that we needlong term strategies for development otherwise developers will go for short term fixes which meanwe simply lurch from one crisis to the next. The short term fixes will be ad-hoc and will notnecessarily be developments that are in the best place to take advantage of an upturn. Developmentof long term plans creating a climate for long term investment and form a vital part of goodplanning. .We also have to realise that the environment is an asset for planning and development too. Theservices it provides in terms of clean air, flood protection and carbon reduction are actually saving ushuge sums of money. The environment also generates huge sums of money through tourism andrecreation. Therefore we should not kill the goose the lays these golden eggs; protection of theenvironment is a vital part of good planning.
So planning is about getting the right development in the right place. It is about saying yes but setwithin agreed visions and strategies for areas that include your views. The trick is for everyone whocares about their areas to get involved in local plans. These are the documents that will guide andshape decisions; not the neighbourhood plans or objections to planning permissions.