DO UNITARY DEVELOPMENT PLANS AND
LOCAL PLANS NEED TO BE REPLACED?
55. The delays in the preparation of Unitary
Development Plans and Local Plans are no longer as great as the
Green Paper notes. When the Green Paper was published, 13 per
cent of local authorities had not yet adopted a Unitary Development
Plan or Local Plan. The May 2002 report by the DTLR Progress
on Adoption of Area Wide Local Plans and UDPs
says that by the end of 2002, only five per cent of the local
authorities will not have an adopted local plan which is only
about 22 areas. Most of them are small district authorities, covering
far less than 5% of the total population. Amongst Unitary Authorities,
only Warrington is not expected to have adopted a UDP by the end
of 2002, and this is a recently created unitary authority.
56. The Green Paper also argues that 214 current
plans are now out of date, as they expired in 2001. However, the
Government's own assessment is that more than half of those authorities
have placed an alteration or replacement plan on deposit, with
the majority of the remainder expecting to do so this year. This
does not amount to a hiatus in local development planning.
57. The drawing up and agreeing of Local Plans and
Unitary Development Plans was initially slow. The process for
drawing up local plans and Unitary Development Plans in 1991 was
expected to be five years. After ten years it is almost complete.
And the process is now much faster. David Lock, Chairman of the
Town & Country Planning Association told the Committee: "It
has been terribly slow, very expensive and unsatisfactory in many
ways but we have been through that great loop, and amendments,
revisions, updating of local plans are happening now very quickly.
Many years of investment are now yielding results."
58. Some submissions proposed ways to speed up the
current plan-making system. The TCPA suggested that the introduction
of a statutory timetable "could drive the local authority
on and discourage or prevent members of whatever party prevaricating,
delaying and ducking and weaving, which has certainly been the
experience of the last ten years and has caused much delay."
The organisation argued that the preparation of local plans would
be speeded up if the recommendations in an inspector's report
on a UDP or Local Plan after a public inquiry were made binding
on the local authority. Increasing the number of skilled staff
in planning departments would also have an important effect on
the preparation of UDPs and Local Plans. We consider this in more
59. In addition, several submissions suggested that
the Green Paper is unrealistic in suggesting that Local Development
Frameworks could be drawn up in months: Tesco thought that at
the very least it would take 18 months rather than the few months
which is proposed.
60. The proposals for Local Development Frameworks
have many failings and lack many of the advantages of Unitary
Development Plans and Local Plans. The new Local Development Frameworks
may be quicker to draw up but they are unlikely to be as clear.
- They would be more complex than the simplicity
offered by Unitary Development Plans and Local Plans and would
provide less certainty;
- A complex array of plans at a local level
would be created which would be fragmented and difficult to understand
- The frequent review of frameworks is also
unlikely to provide the clarity and certainty sought by the Government
and all parties;
- The Local Development Frameworks could cause
considerable confusion because of the reliance on vague criteria;
- A plan-led system without a comprehensive
land-use map would give rise to a great deal of uncertainty, delay
in determining planning applications and a significant increase
in planning appeals;
- The proposed Local Development Frameworks
may not gain the confidence of local people. The new forms of
community consultation for Local Development Frameworks are welcome
as is the linking of the frameworks to Community Strategies, but
they will not be an adequate replacement for the rights to appear
at a public inquiry which are required for Unitary Development
Plans and Local Plans.
61. Retaining and improving Unitary Development
Plans and Local Plans would be a better option than introducing
Local Development Frameworks, since there would be certainty and
continuity as well as the retention of public confidence in the
system. The process of drawing up and adopting Unitary Development
Plans and Local Plans has been slow, but it is now almost complete.
Considerable progress has been made in solving the problems and
further improvements could be made if:
- the plans were approved by inspectors after
a public inquiry;
- rigorous preparation timetables were laid
down and enforced with appropriate penalties; and
- repetition of policies in structure
plans and regional planning guidance was removed.
62. The revision of plans should not cease because
of the proposals for reform, as Lord Falconer stated.