Memorandum by The Institution of Highways
& Transportation (PGP 49)
THE PLANNING GREEN PAPER
1. The Institution welcomes the Committee's
inquiry into the Planning Green Paper and related consultations.
2. The IHT's response to the Government's
Planning Green Paper acknowledges the need to reform the planning
system but highlights three over-arching concerns about the proposals:
"transport" and "transport
and land-use integration" are not given sufficient weight;
there is a need to specify existing
weakness more clearly and demonstrate that the proposed new system
would be swifter and lead to better quality decisions; and
Local Transport Plans and Local Development
Frameworks need to be produced by the same accountable body otherwise
integration and strategic vision may be compromised.
3. We note that our consultation response
will be made available to the Committee. This submission will
address the questions set out in the Inquiry Press Notice (Number
The effectiveness of the system of Local Plans
and the Government's proposals to replace them
4. We do not defend structure plans as a
statutory plan, but we do believe thatin most casesthe
county level is sufficiently strategic to deal with broad-brush
issues in Local Development Frameworks (LDFs), and sufficiently
local to address local concerns. It is important to avoid divorcing
town from country, especially in the context of trip making.
5. There is no consensus that Local Plans
are a major part of the problem or, more importantly, that they
have achieved their potential. There is a question, however, over
whether unitary plans are more effective and integrated.
6. This brings us to the question of whether
the Green Paper provides any hard evidence for the proposals being
made. Is it the process that is at fault rather than the site-specific
plan-led system? If there were some form sanction or penalty for
"tardy" planning authorities, would the system speed
up in the way we desire? How are lower tier authorities incentivised?
Like the Government we wish to see improved performance. Use of
sanctions must be a consideration in "failing" authorities.
Furthermore, there is no regulatory inspectorate for planning
or transport: a stronger more effective national inspection regime
should be considered to help achieve targets. The Green Paper
could usefully attempt answers to these points.
The role of regional planning bodies
7. With respect to the proposed Regional
Spatial Strategies, democratic accountability is important and
we await the Green Paper on regionalism with interest. However,
as a guiding principle, it is important to ensure that the planning
system is in the hands of elected bodies that can be held to account.
8. It will be important to ensure the capability,
competence and capacity of regional bodies to develop credible
sub-regional strategies. In particular, it will be important to
ensure that they are not perceived to be too remote. They will
need local knowledge to make local decisions. They will need to
attract and retain sufficient staff of the required quality. There
will need to be adequate controls of the potential for regional
bodies to be seen as too politically driven. All of this will
depend on the strength of national guidance.
The procedures for scrutinising major development
9. We support the need to streamline the
system and speed up delivery. But we do not believe the proposals
will offer significant benefits if the present adversarial inquiry
system is retained without any of the present issues being excluded.
10. We welcome and support the package set
out in paragraph 6 of the consultation document. A clear and unambiguous
statement of national policy is important.
11. It is essential to face up to the fact
that the price of greater speed may be less community involvement.
There is no escaping this inherent dilemma and the Government
needs to be honest about the reality that the proposals will not
safeguard public debate about the principle of a project.
12. However, on the positive side, based
on the definition of major transport infrastructure projects at
Annex C of the consultation document, we do not believe that there
will be many cases in which the proposed measures would be invoked.
In this respect we do not think that the proposals will have a
13. We have some concerns about definitions.
In Annex C, we consider the definition at paragraph 7 to be unclear
and unsatisfactory for linear transport projects. At paragraph
6 of Annex C, we think that "30 km" seems very long,
and that very few schemes will be captured by this definition.
14. The proposed approach gives the impression
that the new arrangements for Parliamentary approval in principle
will be relatively strategic. However, sufficient detailed design
work will need to have been done to permit an adequate Environmental
Statement (ES). In this regard the ES is an important safeguard.
But, if a full ES is to be included, will it actually save time?
Notwithstanding approval of a scheme in principle by Parliament,
local people will want to have their say. It is our experience
that local communities that are affected by a particular project
want to question the overall need (as it applies at the local
level), alongside matters of relative detail, like the type and
location of fences, streetlights, road crossing points etc. We
have seen this in Transport and Works Act Order applications.
While the procedures require the specification of the limits of
deviation for proposed engineering works, in reality the Environmental
Statement must, in effect, show the scheme in substantial detail.
The resultant Public Inquiry then focuses on very detailed matters
of concern to local people who may be directly affected by the
proposals. Inevitably, there will be important questions of intricate
detail that Members of the House of Commons would need to determine
if "justice" is to be seen to be done.
15. We doubt that the Parliamentary procedure
would be better than having a national rail strategy, but perhaps
the national policy statement will address this. But where does
the national policy statement get scrutinised and approved? It
is not clear how the "upper-tier" policy will be formulated
16. If, say, light rapid transit and guided
bus schemes are identified in proposed Regional Spatial Strategies
and Local Development Frameworks, and therefore already endorsed
in principle, would the Parliamentary procedure prove necessary?
This raises questions over the role of Regional Transport Strategies,
which should cover many of the strategic decisions.
17. There is a human resource implication
here too. Project team resources would be tied up in new ways,
ie in lobbying MPs. MPs would need to be ready for what might
turn out to be a flood of additional representations and lobbying
in significant and controversial cases.
18. We are very worried about the Business
Planning Zone proposals based on experience of Special Planning
Zones. We are concerned that, if there is no need for planning
permission, there would be no mechanism to negotiate transport
improvements and planning obligations in relation to individual
developments that may have detrimental effects on transport safety
and efficiency, both inside and outside the BPZ.
19. We are particularly concerned that there
would be no mechanism to control parking; this would be detrimental
to, and compromise, wider sustainable development objectives.
Many of the impacts of a BPZ would be off site, outside the Zone
and possibly in a separate administrative area.
20. Our primary concern about the planning
obligation proposals relates to whether or not transport needs
would get a fair share of revenues raised through a new tariff.
Planning obligations presently exist to overcome impediments that
would otherwise render development unacceptable. We do worry that
the proposals are designed to direct funds to social housing.
While social housing is undoubtedly important, it may not represent
an impediment to development in the way that ensuring safe, sustainable
and efficient access undoubtedly will in many cases.
21. We believe that it will be important,
despite the proposed area wide tariffs, to negotiate on a site-by-site
basis, over and above the tariff, since transport/access costs
vary and one overall formula would not work. Accordingly, we believe
that a new system should be flexible and that, early in the development
process, infrastructure costs must be understood and taken account
of in the application of any tariff.
22. We are also concerned that, if tariffs
were to be introduced on a national or regional basis, then poorer
or more needy areas may be disadvantaged if development no longer
becomes viable. Furthermore, if there is local discretion then
bartering may occur between areas for the same or mutually exclusive
23. It will be important to ensure transparency
over where and how and revenues are used.
24. We believe that the general thrust of
the CPO proposals is about right as part of a wider package to
speed up project delivery. We welcome the greater flexibility
offered by comparison to current regulations, which we feel are
25. We also welcome the proposals for a
more acceptable approach, especially loss payments. But we worry
whether this goes far enough. In order to reach a firm conclusion
we would need to see the proposed regulations and engage in more
consultation on the detail.
26. We believe that the compensation clauses
could go further and suffer from a lack of detail.
27. The proposed arrangements would still
retain a significant role for valuers and accountants in settling
claims, hence their professional fees are unlikely to reduce to
any significant degree. The overall principles of the proposals
are laudable, but selecting to go to inquiry, or settling by agreement
in view of compensation, would still remain a value judgement
28. We recommend a "Best Value"
approach that balances the cost of compensation against the cost
of an inquiry and related delays. This might reasonably require
compensation at 15 per cent over market value, yet still offer
29. We recognise the hardship that CPO represents
and it must always be a technique of last resort. Therefore we
question the timetable following confirmation (set out at paragraph
3.10 of the consultation document). We feel that, once the CPO
is confirmed, the property owner should be entitled to serve notice
and require the authority to purchase within three months. This
will require efficient performance by the promoting authority.
Whether the Government's proposals will simultaneously
increase certainty, public participation and faster decisions,
particularly for business
30. We are concerned that the Green Paper
does not address the fundamental conflict between increasing community
engagement on the one hand, and speeding up the process on the
other. It is far from clear whether the Green Paper is talking
about more public consultation or less. It talks of "more
focused" consultation but we really need to know what this
means in practice to determine the consequence for speeding up
planning while respecting the need for inclusion and accountability.
31. There is, plainly, a balance between
community leadership, efficiency and democracy, yet the Green
Paper makes inconclusive inferences in this regard.
32. The Committee has asked a crucial question
concerning certainty. Where in the Green Paper proposals does
it guarantee more certainty? There is no evidence for this. Similarly,
the proposals do not demonstrate that the new system would be
swifter or lead to better quality decisions. If Action Areas form
part of Local Development Frameworks, and decisions need to flow
from one to the other, then it is unlikely that it will be swifter.
It would depend on the nature and coverage of Action Areas, and
whether Action Area Plans need to be approved first in the approvals
33. We believe that the proposals in the
Green Paper could, in some cases, lead to potentially more development
plan tiers, rather than less. In this respect we find the proposal
to be very unclear.
34. Care should be taken that removal of
outline planning applications does not add a burden on business
when they are seeking initial confidence that a proposal is acceptable
in general terms.
Director of Technical Affairs