Memorandum by the Local Government Association
PLANNING GREEN PAPER
1. SPATIAL PLANNING
The LGA has lobbied for spatial development
strategies to be introduced in place of traditional land use plans.
The association believes that land use priorities (for example
to achieve economic regeneration, environmental improvement, social
inclusion) should help to shape the wider delivery of public services
offered by local authorities and their key local partners, as
well as providing a context for private investment. However, the
green paper as a whole does little to explore the extent of spatial
planning or how spatial development strategies should be formulated.
It is difficult to see how true spatial integration
can be achieved as desired, based on a system that cuts out county
councilsa significant tier of service delivery for transport,
waste management, education, social services, community safety
and other services.
2. THE NATIONAL
The LGA welcomes the greater emphasis placed
in the green paper on regional and sub-regional levels in the
context of clearer national policy. But there is a clear need
for an overarching national spatial strategy.
The LGA supports the government's intention
to examine its planning policies to make it clear what is policy
and what is guidance or advice. This can only be successful if
it is accompanied by a commitment from the government to reduce
the overall coverage of national policy. What is required is a
streamlined set of nationally defined core policies.
3. THE REGIONAL
The planning system needs to be capable for
operation in a variety of regional circumstances reflecting different
local government structures, economic and social needs. Regional
planning bodies should have powers that are commensurate with
the level of their accountability.
4. THE LOCAL
The LGA recognises the government's strong desire
to streamline the planning system by introducing a single tier
below the regional level for statutory spatial planning. The Government
has proposed that Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) should be
drawn up at the district/unitary level on the assumption that
only at this level can people be engaged in the planning process.
Also, the government is worried that a separation of policy making
(at county level) from decision-making (at district level) will
lead to a lack of ownership of LDF policy at the lower tier, affecting
the quality of development control decisions.
The problem with this approach is that it does
not take into account the significant role of county councils
in delivering transport, waste management, education, social services
and community safety. The government's aim in introducing LDFs
in place of traditional land use plans is to integrate priorities
such as economic regeneration, environmental improvement and social
inclusion into the planning process. It is difficult to see how
this integration can be achieved if county councils do not have
a statutory role in the preparation of LDFs.
The LGA believes that a better solution would
be to give all local authorities a statutory role in spatial and
land use planning. In two tier areas this would take the form
of LDFs prepared jointly by county and districts councils. This
would satisfy the government's aim to have a single statutory
tier below regional level for planning while retaining the input
of all the councils responsible for services with land use implications.
In two-tier areas the emphasis would be on counties
and districts agreeing an appropriate pattern based on arrangements
that make sense geographically and socio-demographically. This
could involve partnerships that cross county borders and involve
neighbouring counties and districts. There may even be potential
for cross-regional LDFs.
5. ACTION PLANS
The proposal to formalise action plans within
the planning process is welcomed by the LGA. Many authorities
already prepare this type of plan in the form of design briefs,
supplementary planning guidance.
The less formal and adversarial process is welcomed
and is a crucial element in the reform package. If the removal
of adversarial inquiry procedures can be secured, then there is
a potential to change the whole character of the involvement of
stakeholders in the planning process from one of objection to
one based on discussion and positive engagement.
The association's preferred option is an independent
examination in public culminating in report for consideration
by local authorities. The secretary of state or the regional planning
body should have the right to intervene before final adoption.
The association considers that most of the proposals
in Chapter 5 reflect good management practices rather than propose
a fundamental change to the development control system.
Handling targetsThe target
to achieve 90 per cent delegation to officers is not consistent
with good practice. The target figure does not take account of
the proportion of applications received by local authorities that
may be suitable for delegation. Increased delegation should be
at the discretion of local authorities and not an imposed national
Business planning zonesThe
association is as yet unconvinced of the need for business planning
zones. Proposed changes to speed up and improve the quality of
decisions appears to negate the need for BPZ.
is a fundamental part of the planning process and the LGA fully
supports the government's proposal to review current arrangements
and introduce simpler procedures. Particular emphasis needs to
be placed on the provision of a sustainable regime for the funding
of enforcement activities.
It is clear that resources devoted to planning
are inadequate to provide the level of service demanded by users
and required by the government. The LGA welcomes the commitment
to review the free regime and address the issue of resources.
However, a review of the fee regime should be in addition to an
increase in core funding and should concentrate on increasing
fees in order to enable more resources to improve planning at
the local level.
The LGA welcomes the Government's commitment
to work with the LGA and IDEA to develop an action plan to deliver
improvements in the recruitment, retention and training of planners
in local authorities.
9. Major infrastructure proposals
The range of projects that will fall under the
scope of the new procedures is wide. Each will only be designated
in the light of a national policy statement covering that topic
area. It would therefore make more sense for the Government to
commit to produce a national spatial development strategy to give
a proper context for the development of nationally important infrastructure.
It is therefore imperative that the type of
proposal that the secretary of state can designate to go through
the new parliamentary procedures is specified in advance and enshrined
in statute. Local government and all key stakeholders should be
consulted in this process.
The LGA believes that the best option for handling
designated proposals in parliament is through a committee-based
system. This would allow the fullest use of the limited time available
to consider and give a view on proposals. It also allows for structured
consultation with the public and key stakeholders and a process
through it can be seen how their views are being taken into account.
10. Planning Obligations
The Local Government Association welcomes the
proposed change in policy to allow authorities to use planning
obligations as a positive planning tool to deliver social, economic
and environmental benefits to a wider community than just the
immediate environs of the development.
The tariff approach is welcomed. The association
considers that this approach has the potential to achieve a speedier,
more predictable, less costly and transparent outcome than is
currently the case with many negotiated section 106 agreements.
However, it is not a substitute for government provision of adequate
funding for affordable housing.
Consideration needs to be given to the practicalities
of operating a tariff system. It is important to ensure that the
tariff system does not become unduly complex as a result of setting
different tariff levels for different types of development. In
particular, the following issues need to be addressed:
a standard tariff mechanism needs
to be devised that is sensitive to variations in development value
for the same types of development within a geographical area;
policy needs to be formulated that
is responsive to local conditions yet is simple to operate and
is comprehensible by planners, developers and the community; and
the green paper refers to tariff
policy being set out in the Local Development Framework; however,
local action plans may be more appropriate in some circumstances.
The proposals on the delivery of affordable
housing are broadly welcomed. The emphasis on achieving onsite
provision is strongly supported, as is the ability to use tariff
receipts from both residential and commercial developments. The
mechanics of translating tariff receipts into onsite provision
needs to be considered. Authorities should have the power to determine
the mix, size, type and tenure of onsite affordable housing provision.
This should not be left to negotiation.
The LGA supports the option to allow authorities
to allocate sites solely for affordable housing where there is
a robust assessment of need. In a number of areas, particularly
rural areas, the opportunity to obtain sites for affordable housing
on the open market is minimal.
The association welcomes the proposal to allow
the wider application of tariffs generated for affordable housing.
The ability to allocate tariff receipts to empty properties and
property conversions will give authorities additional flexibility
to tailor affordable provision to meet local circumstances.
11. Compulsory Purchase
The LGA fully support reform of compulsory purchase
procedures to achieve simpler, fairer and quicker outcomes that
benefits both acquiring authorities and those whose property is
The association considers that compulsory purchase
can play a key role in delivering environmental improvement, community
regeneration and infrastructure projects. The proposals should
assist authorities to deliver government policy on renewal and
regeneration and the proposals are considered to complement new
local authority powers for private sector housing renewal.
A number of the proposals will involve additional
costs for local authorities as acquiring authorities. Additional
resources should be made available to local authorities to fund
any new costs arising from the compulsory purchase proposals.
Local Government Association
25 April 2002