Terms of Reference
4. Shortly after the Green Paper was published,
the Committee decided to hold an inquiry and called for evidence
- The effectiveness of the system of local plans
and the Government's proposals to replace them;
- The role of regional planning bodies;
- The procedures for scrutinising major development
- Business Planning Zones;
- Proposed changes to planning obligations, CPOs
and compensation and use classes;
- Whether the Government's proposals will simultaneously
increase certainty, public participation and faster decisions,
particularly for business; and
- Planning's contribution to the urban renaissance.
The Committee held five oral evidence sessions in
April and May this year. We would like to express our gratitude
to our specialist advisers, Richard Bate and John Popham.
5. The responses to the DTLR's consultation and the
submissions to the Committee were split. The consultation showed
that many people thought that the planning system was in need
of improvement but there was also widespread opposition to many
of the Government's proposals.
The DTLR provided the Committee with an analysis of the responses
to its consultation on the Green Paper, which showed that 88 per
cent of the respondents did not support the replacement of Local
Plans and Unitary Development Plans with Local Development Frameworks;
and the abolition of County Structure Plans was only supported
by 10 per cent of respondents. Many of those organisations, such
as the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution
of Chartered Surveyors, which supported reform in principle, opposed
many of the practical proposals: the former was critical of the
proposals for Business Planning Zones,
while the latter criticised the plan to introduce tariffs.
6. The Government's proposals amount to a fundamental
and radical reform of the planning system, but it has been argued
that the Government's objectives could be better met by reforming
the existing system. This approach is being adopted by the National
Assembly for Wales in a separate review of the planning system
in Wales. In its memorandum, the Assembly stated that, although
the current planning system was not delivering "speedy, clear
and consistent decisions in a transparent way," it was fundamentally
sound. The aim of the
Assembly's reforms is to improve the existing plan-based system
by simplifying the procedures for drawing up plans, while achieving
a radical change in culture and operation of the planning service.
7. A range of alternative approaches, which involve
modifying the existing system in England, were put forward by
witnesses. We considered that they required careful evaluation
as well as the Government's more radical reforms. We examine below
the comparative benefits of radical and evolutionary approaches
as well as a number of other suggestions made by witnesses.
8. A large number of submissions to the Committee
emphasised the shortage of staff to run the planning system. There
was disappointment that the Green Paper barely mentioned this;
moreover, the reforms proposed in it will require a considerable
number of additional staff in planning departments.
The current planning system requires significantly more staff
and resources than are currently available. The new system proposed
by the Government will require even more staff, and any radical
changes will not be possible until they are in post. We discuss
this further later in this report.