Over the last few weeks, Planning Futures has held three member roundtables, to discuss each of the three pillars (Development, Beauty and Infrastructure) of the latest Government White Paper. The objective was to inform the think tanks’ responses from the different perspectives, representative of the membership (which includes developers, consultancies, lawyers, academics, RSL’s etc).
Consensus of opinion in Planning is rare indeed, so to have achieved this in any measure, is worthy of comment.
Participants agreed with the Paper’s proposals on three fronts:
A more plan-led, spatial and digital local plan system was a good idea;
The current “duty to co-operate” did not actually work (regardless of the imposition of a duty – if Authorities do not want to work together, they will not)
Reforming developer contributions is an ongoing conversation that, well, needs to be ongoing.
This consensus is important in that it shows that the Paper picks up salient issues.
Lack of Clarity
However, what also found agreement amongst our three panels, was that the White Paper was devoid of much detail and clarity – making it almost inevitable that the responses will be very long and detailed.
For example, the White Paper proposes a single mechanism to replace s.106 developer contributions and the CIL. It explains that the amount to be paid will be a fixed percentage of development value over a threshold, with nationally prescribed charging rates set on area specific or a singular basis. What it fails to explain however is what the threshold will be – surely fundamental to judging the merit of this proposal.
Key Take Away
My “take away” from the roundtables is that our industry is excited (and characteristically exercised), at the thought that the Government is seriously focused on reforming fundamental issues within the current Planning System – and that it identifies correctly, on the whole, what these are. A consequence however of this lack of detail, will inevitably be a very full and comprehensive set of responses.
My hope, therefore, is that the Government continue on this positive trajectory of reform, and pay close attention to the expert comments (and solutions) that they will receive.
Hannah David, Director, Planning Futures