For Planning Reform, Timing is Everything

Extract from Property Week, 26 June 2015
Ian Anderson, Executive Director at Iceni Projects: 

Editor: Your recent column points to a well-established concern in the industry – the failure to grasp the planning ‘nettle’ by political parties too focussed on ‘aspirational’ yet ineffective demand-side policies, like the much maligned Right-To-Buy rehash. Unfortunately for this government time is running out and, unless the supply crisis is addressed immediately, this issue will define General Election 2020. Politics can no longer afford to skirt around the problem.

Yet we must be careful not to mistake planning reform with dumbing down the system. The last government went to great pains to overhaul a bloated regulatory framework. Think what you will about the NPPF, which is not perfect, but planning needs some degree of consistency and the framework offers that. Instead, let’s build on its basic principles and financially incentivise Councils to put development plans in place. As we’ve seen, waving a stick doesn’t work if you’ve already experienced the chopping block, and it’s time we ensured Local Authorities – all of which have been cut to ribbons – feel the benefit of proper planning.

The main message to politicians is not an easy one for them to hear – planning is better off without them.

On a national level, Secretary of State call-ins are unnecessary and Greg Clark should instead put more faith in his planning inspectorate to get the job done. On a local level, annual council elections are leading to delays as Local Authorities shut down for purdah and developers hold off submitting applications for fear of being caught up in the campaign period. Let’s have a five year election cycle instead.

Five years may feel a long way away but for planning, and this government, time is already of the essence.

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