Deregulation of Planning System

7th September 2012

Joe Ridgeon, Chair of Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) North East and Senior Planning Consultant at George F White LLP, comments on the government’s plans to deregulate planning laws.

“Whilst most of us were out enjoying the last of the summer sunshine on Sunday, Chancellor George Osborne was signalling plans to deregulate planning laws, just months after publishing the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

“Suggesting that the prospect of developing on Green Belt land may become reality by the end of October, will be seen by many as another U-turn in the Government’s decision-making. Only a few months ago the Government were quoted as saying: “We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental protections.”

“For those who are not aware, Green Belts are areas around conurbations and some smaller cities where currently, there is a presumption against certain kinds of development. These belts are seen by many as a tool for positive town and country planning.

“As a body, The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is curious to hear more about the Governments plans to allow building in these areas. Current talk about the Green Belt in any economic regeneration bill, if true, appears curious given that Green Belt policy is set out in the NPPF: change to the Green Belt would not require legislation.

“Over the last twelve months, the planning system has already seen a major upheaval, with the Localism Act and the NPPF coming into play. I know from working with Planning Authorities and Developers in the North East, that organisations have only just begun to get their heads around the changes. What is needed now is a period of time for the new system to bed in, rather than yet more change. Change would only cause more uncertainty and disruption, triggering longer lasting, deeper problems.

“However, with Nick Boles appointed as a dedicated planning minister – who famously said he believes in ‘Chaos’ and not Central Planning, it is likely that further planning reform will once again form a major part of the Coalition’s economic recovery programme. As Boles said in January 2012: “It is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scare-mongering of latter-day Luddites to strangle developments that will boost living standards.”

“Getting planning permission is only one part of the development process. Businesses also need to be able to secure finance to get projects developed. Unless this issue is resolved there will continue to be a blockage in the system, preventing development, economic growth and job creation.

“In my opinion, the Government need to decide where they stand on issues and stick to their plan. Changing their mind at every given opportunity does not help anybody and can often cause more problems than they solve. The last thing business needs is the uncertainty that comes with endlessly rewriting planning rules.”

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