Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further memorandum by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (PGP 06A)

PLANNING GREEN PAPER

SUMMARY OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES

  1.  This Memorandum fulfils the commitment given by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions to provide the Committee with a summary of responses to the Planning Green Paper. A list of respondents will be placed in the Library. Because of the large number involved, copies of the responses will be made available for public inspection in the Department's library in due course.

CONSULTATION EXERCISE

2.  The Planning Green Paper was published on 12 December 2001. The official closing date for receipt of consultation was 18 March 2002. A series of daughter documents were also published: Major Infrastructure Projects which proposes new parliamentary procedures for processing major infrastructure Projects; "Reforming Planning Obligations"; "Compulsory Purchase and Compensation", and "Use Classes Order" the consultation on possible changes to the Use Classes Order and Temporary Uses Provisions.

3.  The Department sought to engage as wide a constituency as possible in the consultation process, When the Green Paper was published copies were sent direct to MPs and to local authorities (in view of their direct involvement in the planning system), For all other interested bodies, copies were sent to national offices so that they could make their members aware of the consultation exercise.

4.  The Department also tried to make the Green Paper and its proposals as widely known as possible to all those with an interest in the planning system. This was done through the initial `press launch' to which all national media and specialist publications were invited, and during the consultation period Ministers and officials attended over thirty events throughout England aimed at explaining the proposals in the Green Paper. Furthermore a series of press notices were issued during the consultation period.

5.  The Green Paper was made freely available. Over 13,900 copies were distributed.

6.  In order to better facilitate responses to the Green paper a questionnaire was provided as part of the Green Paper package. In line with Government policy on electronic communication the Department also tried to make the consultation process as simple as possible for those with access to the internet by enabling respondents to complete a questionnaire on the Department's website. The website received 38,769 "hits".

7.  There were 15,489 responses to the Green Paper consultation.

Overall response

  8.  In general the responses were supportive of the need for reform and the broad aims behind the Government's proposals.

  9.  The RSPB "agree that the System needs change" and that "the Government is to be commended for initiating this important debate". The CPRE "accepts that there is room for considerable improvement in the existing planning system", and find "significant elements of the Green paper proposals to welcome." The National Trust "welcomes the debate triggered by the publication of the Planning Green Paper" and "recognises that the land use planning system needs reform." ROOM (the National Council for Housing and Planning) are "encouraged that many of [their] aspirations for reform are reflected in|the broad proposals contained in the Green Paper."

  10.  The Wildlife and Countryside Link "recognise the need for change in parts of the planning system". The Countryside Agency "broadly welcomed the Green Paper proposals." English Nature "supports the need for reform. The planning system needs to respond better to the community and deliver the outcomes it requires. We welcome means of speeding up the system and making it more customer-focussed and inclusive, less arcane and adversarial." The Environment Agency "very much agree with Lord Falconer|that the fundamental purpose of town and country planning is to deliver sustainable development" and believe that "reform should focus on remedying overblown, bureaucratic and slow aspects of the system."

  11.  The British Chambers of Commerce argue that "the UK's planning system is failing" and that "the Government has correctly identified many of the problems of the current system". The CBI believe that "there are many very welcome proposals". The British Property Federaton "[b]elieve that there are many positive recommendations in the . . . Green Paper that will support the objective of a more certain, consistent and generally more effective planning system". The British Retail Consortium "welcomes the Green paper as a positive contribution towards reform of the planning system to improve its speed, certainty and consistency."

  12.  The Royal Town Planning Institute "welcomes publication of the Green Paper" and "the widespread debate that has followed" which demonstrates "overwhelming support for an improved planning system." The Town and Country Planning Association "welcomes the analysis offered by the Green Paper of a planning system which has become too slow, socially exclusive and in need of reform." The Planning Officers Society "fully endorses" the Government's objectives for reform. The Society "is pleased that, the Government has recognised that a major review of the planning system is necessary."

  13.  The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) "endorse the assessment of the problems associated with the current system, including the current level of complexity and the lack of speed and predictability."

14.  The County Councils Network "supports the need for fundamental reform of the planning system." The Regional Development Agencies "believe that it is necessary to modernise the planning system so that it promotes economic growth and regional prosperity and balances social, environmental and sustainable development objectives in a more efficient, effective, consistent, integrated and transparent way." They "wholeheartedly endorse the analysis of what is wrong with the current system and the principles of the approach to reform set out in the Green Paper".

Analysis

15.  This analysis covers responses to the Planning Green Paper only. Of the processed responses, respondents can be analysed as follows:

Business
(6 per cent)
Environmental/Community groups
(21 per cent)
Public
(63 per cent)
Local authority
(7 per cent)
Local councillor
(9 per cent)
Other
(9 per cent)
Not stated
(5 per cent)


(NB: some respondents have been classified as belonging to more than one group).

16.  Analysis of the numbers of responses shows that a large majority were from individual members of the public and environmental and community groups. This was in part the result of a number of campaigns reflecting particular views. The Department does not think it appropriate to weight responses from one stakeholder group against another. On the other hand, the Cabinet Office "Code of Practice on Written Consultation" advises that analysis of responses is not simply a matter of counting votes. The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee[1] has also drawn attention to the risks of single issue groups monopolising debate.

17.  The Green Paper "tick-box" questionnaire enabled consultees to provide a simple "yes/no" response to specific questions. The format adopted however did not allow respondents to give qualified answers to indicate where, for example, they might support the principle but have concerns about the detail. As Smith and Williamson make clear in their final report to the department this has resulted in inconsistencies between responses using the questionnaire and views expressed in the more detailed responses. To convey the complexity of responses therefore they have been analysed according to the breakdown in Paragraph 15 above. The consultants report is appended to this memorandum.

18.  A breakdown of the type of response is set out below:

"tick-box" questionnaire responses
8,981
Detailed replies (ie non standard)
2,793
Campaigns:
"Planning Disaster" letters
3,546
"Eastern Daily Press" responses
99
"Chapter 7" responses
51
"Fiona Emslie" letters
19


19.  There were a number of identifiable campaigns. In the largest, the CPRE urged their members to respond to the consultation using a template (www.cpre.org.uk). 10,417 responses that used the tick box questionnaire, or that it was possible to code onto the form were data processed. 2,947 (28 per cent) of the responses data processed matched the CPRE "template" document exactly. It should be noted that this 2,947 may include some respondents who by chance matched their response exactly to the CPRE model, It probably also excludes some respondents who were prompted by the CPRE but who varied their response slightly from the CPRE model response. The results have been analysed including the CPRE campaign.

20.  The Green Paper also prompted letter writing campaigns including one by a coalition of the CPRE, Friends of the Earth. Restore UK and Transport 2000, Newspaper advertisements were taken out on 4 March, urging the public to write to the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street, and giving a sample letter. 3,546 of these letters were received. A campaign by the Eastern Daily Press triggered a letter writing campaign by Norfolk residents. 99 standard responses were received. While a campaign by "Chapter 7 and The Land is Ours" resulted in 51 standard responses. 19 identical letters addressed to the Department were also received.

21.  Not all respondents replied to each question. The consultants contracted by the Department to perform the analysis examined a random sample of forms to analyse the comments relating to questions 1-5, 7 & 8. We show percentages where at least 5 per cent of people commenting on the question indicated a similar answer. An analysis of the responses to each of the questions 1-5, 7 & 8 follows.

22.  The responses to the questionnaire indicated the following views.

QUESTION 1

We propose to replace local plans and Unitary Development Plans with a Local Development Framework (paragraphs 4.8-4.32). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Local authorities were more clearly supportive of this proposal than other respondents. Of the 602 local authority respondents and 605 business respondents to this question 44 per cent and 29 per cent indicated clear agreement with the proposal. Of the 2,080 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups only 9 per cent indicated clear support for the proposal, while only four per cent of the 6,399 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public did so.

A majority of respondents indicated "no" in response to this proposal but 38 per cent of those expressed concern to ensure that the reform of local planning would not be at the expense of the existing opportunities for public consultation and involvement at the local level, rather than outright opposition. 14 per cent of respondents argued that the existing system of local plans worked already and should be kept. Seven per cent of respondents were concerned that the proposals in the Green Paper did not contain enough detail and were not prescriptive enough. 10 per cent of respondents objected on the basis that they felt that the proposals represented a diminishing of their right to object or appeal.


Detailed responses

  The RTPI "supports the proposal to make the LDF a statutory element of the plan-led system," but argue that "there is a need to clarify more precisely the nature and content of LDFs." The Law Society agree believing that "it is unclear how LDFs would work in practice". English Nature "welcome the role of the Local Development Framework as a spatial strategy to deliver the economic, social and environmental objectives of the Community Strategy and the Regional Spatial Strategy." The Regional Development Agencies "welcome the simplification of the planning hierarchy as|it will enable a more responsive and up to date planning system to be put in place". They also "welcome the principle of local development frameworks". The RICS "supports the replacement of structure plans, local plans and unitary development plans with Local Development Frameworks." RICS do however express concern that the "LDF could simply lead to greater complexity if it was applied to|the large number of local authorities ... serious consideration should be given to producing LDFs|across existing local authority boundaries." The CPRE "does not support the Green Paper proposals for LDFs in their current form, but|would welcome the opportunity to contribute further|as to how [LDFs], Action Plans might look and function in practice."

QUESTION 2

We propose that Local Development Frameworks should include community-based action plans (paragraphs 4.13-4.15).Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Local authorities and business were more clearly supportive of this proposal than others, Of the 574 local authorities who answered this question 62 per cent were supportive, while 27 per cent of local councillors agreed. 30 per cent of business respondents indicated clear agreement with the proposal, Of the 2,021 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups 19 per cent gave a clear yes to the proposal. Only 10 per cent of the 6,271 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public did.

Strong support for improved public participation was reflected in many of the responses but overall a majority of respondents indicated opposition: 28 per cent because they were concerned to ensure that the wider community and public would be involved in the preparation of community based action plans; 18 per cent of respondents recognise that the local plan framework requires reform, but believed that such frameworks should be map-based. A further 23 per cent of respondents expressed concern as to how the proposals would protect the wider countryside.


Detailed responses

  RICS believe that "action plans are likely to be an effective way of delivering LDFs on the ground," and that, "action plans will form the meat and bones of the new framework." The Civic Trust echoed this view, supporting the proposal but arguing that "LDFs would lack any bite or the required clarity if specific locations for protection and development were not identified in action plans". CPRE "are pleased to see the emphasis in the Green Paper on the importance of better detailed local planning, for instance in the form of Action Plans." The Environment Agency "supports the move to spatial planning at the local level and the development of core policy and Action Plans," ROOM "warmly welcomes the proposals for|Action Plans|[t]he idea of Action Plans, and their role and purpose, is strongly supported." The National Trust recognised the opportunities presented by the proposals and in "welcom[ing] the proposals for action plans", they stressed "the[ir] scope|to provide a markedly appealing process for community involvement," The RSPB however "are not persuaded that the LDF approach and the abandonment of the comprehensive map base to plans will provide greater certainty and help communities get involved in local planning as suggested." Friends of the Earth also argue that "[LDFs] should contain a proposals map that identifies major development constraints and sets out all significant new land use allocations."


QUESTION 3

We are proposing new arrangements for community involvement in preparation of the Local Development Framework and in significant planning decisions (Paragraphs 4.21-4.24 and 5.52-5.58). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  A majority of respondents agreed with this proposal. Of the 569 local authorities who answered this question 81 per cent were supportive, while 81 per cent of the 569 business respondents agreed. 82 per cent of the 869 local councillors agreed. 91 per cent of the 2,038 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 92 per cent of the 6,331 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed.

  Despite this strong support for the strengthened opportunities for public participation provided by this proposal 19 per cent of respondents stressed that area maps would still be required, and 17 per cent of respondents stressed that public access to information and detail was still necessary. 11 per cent of respondents argued that the proposals appeared to reduce the opportunities for public input.

Detailed responses

  RICS commented that "community participation is fundamental to the planning system. Planning must be, and must be seen to be, an inclusive process". English Nature "fully endorses proposals which improve local community engagement", while the Environment Agency "support the proposed role of community strategies in establishing a local vision and objectives for LDFs". The Law Society believe that "the proposal to incorporate a Statement of Community Involvement in the [LDF] is commendable". The National Retail Planning Forum welcome the proposals for "engaging the wider community more effectively than in the past". This view is echoed by: the British Retail Consortium who "welcome the idea that community involvement should become more meaningful and representative"; and the British Property Federation which "recognises the value and importance of getting the community's views and aspirations".

QUESTION 4

We are proposing to simplify the hierarchy of plans by strengthening regional planning and abolishing county structure plans (paragraphs 4.36-4.51). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Of the 580 local authorities who responded 31 per cent agreed with the proposal, while 26 per cent of the 592 business respondents indicated their clear agreement. Of the 2,074 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups only 7 per cent felt able to indicate a clear yes to the proposal, while only 4 per cent of the 6,427 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public felt able to do so. 10 per cent of 883 local councillors agreed with the proposal.

  A clear majority of respondents indicated "no" in their response. Only 23 per cent of respondents argued for the retention of county plans. 28 per cent of respondents expressed concern at the remoteness of the regional level from local interests, while 11 per cent argue in a similar vein that local decisions should be taken locally. 10 per cent of respondents argued that regional planning is a better basis for infrastructure and use the examples of power stations, motorways and flood defences being planned at the regional level.

Detailed responses

  The WWF recognises that the current system is "not always easy to understand from the outside and the fact that many plans conflict with national or regional policy objectives and are in need of revision is undesirable". Therefore the "Green Papers desire to rationalise and demistify the system is to be welcomed". The Planning Officers Society "welcome the proposal that non-statutory regional planning guidance should be replaced by a statutory regional spatial strategy". The CPRE "welcome the proposal for regional planning. . .to gain statutory status," and RICS "strongly supports the introduction of statutory regional planning". The Environment Agency "welcomes the proposed strengthening of the planning system at the regional level" while ROOM believe "the proposed new statutory [RSSs] offer considerable potential as a means of delivering more effective strategic planning". The RTPI argue however that ``[I]t is important to appreciate that. .  .the abolition of structure plans. . .should not remove the county councils planning role". The RSPB stress that "[t]here is considerable strategic planning expertise currently available at county level", and "it is essential that strategic planning expertise is not lost due to planning reforms". English Nature agree stating that "there must be a clear role for County Councils in providing expert strategic planning. . .advice". Friends of the Earth "does not support the move to abolish structure plans".

QUESTION 5

We propose to review national planning guidance to reduce its volume and complexity (paragraphs 4.54-4.58). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  A clear majority of local authorities supported this proposal. Of the 559 local authorities who responded 72 per cent agreed, as did 38 per cent of the 862 local councillors. 44 per cent of the 561 business respondents indicated their clear agreement. Of the 1,998 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups 22 per cent agreed, while 15 per cent of the 6,253 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public felt able to do so.

  The objective of producing clear and comprehensive guidance was welcomed by 27 per cent of respondents, 10 per cent of respondents agreed with the need for simplification and 17 per cent specifically expressed a strong desire for clarity. However a majority of respondents indicated "no" to this proposal. 12 per cent of respondents stressed that brevity does not necessarily produce clarity and 10 per cent qualified their support for the proposal on the basis that simplification did not dilute the substance or comprehensive nature of the guidance. 5 per cent of respondents despite indicating "no" in their response specifically mentioned PPG3 as a good model for naflonal planning guidance.

Detailed responses

  CPRE "accept that some of the existing PPGs would benefit from revision, . . .to make them more concise (where appropriate), clearer and better focused on implementation of policy objectives". RICS "supports the government's plans to review the current system of PPGs and MPGs", and "believes that PPGs should be made more specific and focused wherever possible". The RSPB "support the principle that national planning policy guidance should concentrate on national policy issues", but are concerned that "there should be no arbitrary limit placed on the length of PPGs". Friends of the Earth are not "in principle opposed to the effective and concise explanation of policy [h]owever some issues such as nature conservation involve considerable detail". The Environment Agency "supports the drive for the simplification and reform of PPGs delivering greater clarity between national policy and good practice". The CBI "welcome the proposal to review national planning guidance", and argue that, "a greater distinction between policy and advice on process and best practice is a useful way of clarifying PPGs". ROOM also welcomes the proposals. . .to improve the system of national planning guidance".

QUESTION 6

Do you have any further comments on our proposals for reforming plans?

  Comments were not specifically analysed in relation to this question in the time available. This more specific analysis is ongoing.

QUESTION 7

We are proposing to speed up the planning system, and set new targets for local authorities and central government for dealing with applications and appeals (paragraphs 5.20-5.24, 6.9-6.18, 6.43-6.47). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  The majority of respondents agreed with this proposal. 84 per cent of the 564 business respondents agreed with this proposal, as did 82 per cent of the 1,979 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups. 87 per cent of the 6,274 respondents who identified themselves as interested members of the public supported the proposal, 78 per cent of the 508 local authority respondents indicated their support as did 78 per cent of the 853 local councillors who responded. Support for this proposal was qualified in 30 per cent of responses by the desire to ensure that the public must have time to have their say. 25 per cent of respondents were keen to stress that the quality of the decision made should remain paramount, while 17 per cent stressed the need to ensure that speed did not become the overriding objective of the system and lead to corners being cut. 9 per cent were keen to stress that qualitative measures were not lost and to ensure that any new system provided for the protection of the countryside.

Detailed responses

  The "timescales proposed are welcomed by RICS", who "also support the differentiation of timescales for dealing with different types and scales of development".

QUESTION 8

We are proposing to impose new performance standards for statutory consultees and allow them to charge fees for consultation, to help improve their performance (paragraphs 5.29-5.35). Do you agree?

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Of the 477 local authorities who responded 43 per cent agreed with the proposal, as did 24 per cent of the 844 local councillors. 27 per cent of the 522 business respondents indicated their clear agreement. Of the 1,927 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups 17 per cent agreed, while 12 per cent of the 6,189 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public felt able to do so.

  Only 14 per cent of respondents argued that the number of statutory consultees should not be reduced. This drawing together of issues in one question has resulted in a majority of respondents ticking the "no" box. 14 per cent did not oppose the proposal in principle but argued for careful consideration before the number was reduced. 5 per cent of respondents did not give their full support to the proposal because they were unclear as to whether local authorities would be given increased funds to cover the charges. However local authorities themselves were again more supportive of this proposal than other groups, 21 per cent of respondents were concerned that the introduction of fees would discourage applicants from seeking advice. 20 per cent of respondents argued that parish councils in particular have important local knowledge and must be allowed to have their say. 9 per cent argued that the charges should fall on applicants, in particular major developers.

Detailed responses

  RICS believes that "speeding up statutory consultation is crucial if tighter timetables are to be maintained. . .statutory consultees are a significant cause of delay in the current system". The CBI "supports the aim of reducing the number of statutory consultees", and "welcomes the proposed time limits and the suggestion that agencies will suffer financial penalties for breaching these limits". The CLA also "supports the principle of speeding up responses from consultees". In common with many respondents the Civic Trust did not agree with all elements of the proposals but recognise that "Statutory agencies are a major source of delay in the process". They "support the introduction of a statutory requirement to respond. . .and financial penalties for poor performance". The National Trust "is disappointed by the proposals". The proposal to reduce the number of statutory consultees is "of considerable concern" to CPRE. The RSPB however state quite simply that any reduction in statutory consultees "should not be pursued". The Environment Agency "supports the need to review the role of statutory consultation within the planning system", while the Environmental Law Association recommend "that there is a full review of statutory consultees and the role they play in the planning system".

QUESTION 9

The Green Paper contains a number of other proposals aimed at making the planning system faster, simpler and more effective. Do you agree with them?

A  User-friendly checklist (paragraphs 5.7-5.8)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  The support for this proposal was reflected across all respondent categories. Of the 535 local authorities who answered this question 96 per cent were supportive, while 97 per cent of the 535 business respondents agreed. 98 per cent of the 865 local councillors agreed. 99 per cent of the 2,007 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 99 per cent of the 6,302 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed.

B  Master planning larger developments (paragraphs 5.39-5.42)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Again the support for this proposal was reflected across all respondent categories. Of the 486 local authorities who answered this question 86 per cent were supportive, while 88 per cent of the 539 business respondents agreed. 89 per cent of the 843 local councillors agreed. 95 per cent of the 1,973 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 96 per cent of the 6,240 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed.

C  Business planning zones (paragraphs 5.36-5.38)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Of the 513 local authorities who responded 35 per cent agreed with the proposal, as did 23 per cent of the 826 local councillors. 31 per cent of the 553 business respondents indicated their clear agreement. Of the 1,973 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups 10 per cent agreed, while 9 per cent of the 6,129 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public felt able to do so.

D  Preventing twin tracking and repeated applications (box, page 40)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  The support for this proposal was reflected across all respondent categories. 99 per cent of the 2,006 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 98 per cent of the 6,327 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed. Of the 507 local authorities who answered this question 93 per cent were supportive, while 79 per cent of the 556 business respondents agreed. 97 per cent of the 862 local councillors agreed.

E  Limiting planning consents to 3 years (box, page 40)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  Support for this proposal was reflected across all respondent categories. 97 per cent of the 1,998 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 98 per cent of the 6,312 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed. Of the 486 local authorities who answered this question 88 per cent were supportive, while 73 per cent of the 554 business respondents agreed. 92 per cent of the 861 local councillors agreed.

F  Increasing planning fees to help finance better local authority performance (paragraphs 6.32-6.37)

Breakdown of tick-box responses

  There was wide support for this proposal across all respondent categories. 92 per cent of the 1,945 respondents who identified themselves as representing environmental or community groups, and 93 per cent of the 6,233 of those who identified themselves as interested members of the public also agreed. Of the 456 local authorities who answered this question 82 per cent were supportive, while 80 per cent of the 515 business respondents agreed. 81 per cent of the 854 local councillors agreed.

QUESTION 10

Do you have any further comments on our proposals for improving the development control process?

  Comments were not specifically analysed in relation to this question in the time available. Thus more specific analysis is ongoing.



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