Memorandum by the Commission for Architecture
and the Built Environment (PGP 22)
THE PLANNING GREEN PAPER
1. The Commission for Architecture and the
Built Environment is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body,
established by the Government in 1999 to promote high standards
in the design of new buildings and the spaces between them. Its
remit covers England.
2. CABE is a non-statutory consultee in
the land use planning system. It is funded by grant-in-aid from
the Department for Culture Media and Sport, with additional resources
from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
3. Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary
of State for Culture Media and Sport. They are drawn from a range
of areas of expertise and include architects, planners, an engineer,
a quantity surveyor and specialists in the field of housing design
and built environment education.
4. This memorandum of evidence relates to
the Planning Green Paper, and in particular the relationship between
developing an efficient planning system and securing high quality
5. In presenting our submission on design
and planning reform last autumn, CABE argued that the current
statutory planning system was:
increasingly unable to reflect changes
in national, regional and local policy priorities within a reasonable
not an effective tool in positively
promoting economic development and urban regeneration;
a heavy-handed control mechanism
which, in design terms, tends to apply the lowest common denominator
between many vested interests, resulting in developments of mediocre
too complex to enjoy widespread understanding
and support, and thereby to encourage effective public participation;
and that these systemic problems were compounded
by a lack of relevant skills and resources within many local planning
authorities, at both officer and member level.
6. Instead, we need a system that:
is positive in securing change;
is efficient and consistent in delivering
provides a level of control proportionate
involves communities in setting the
parameters for decisions without unduly encumbering the system
with individual third party objections;
7. To achieve this, we have consistently
argued for the adoption of 10 key principles.
Streamline the plan making process.
Promote positive planning to regenerate
Give priority to the most significant
developments in the decision-making process.
Reward investment in quality with
quicker and less encumbered permissions.
Replace the current system of outline
planning consents with a more sophisticated system of "partial
Create a simpler and more transparent
system of planning obligations, probably through the introduction
of impact fees.
Ensure that local planning authorities
have access to design advisory expertise and relevant training.
Create a single permission to develop
by rationalising other consent requirements.
Avoid the introduction of third party
rights of appeal by providing more meaningful consultation mechanisms
during the plan-making process.
Resource the system generously by
increasing planning application fees.
8. CABE supports the Planning Green Paper.
9. In particular, CABE supports, (albeit
with some important conditions):
the proposed new plan system;
the expanded use of masterplanning
as a positive planning tool;
the possible abolition of outline
proposals to speed up development
rejection of third party rights of
increased land assembly powers.
10. By contrast, we oppose only small parts
of the Green Paper package:
business planning zones, which, as
currently defined, we regard as unnecessary and potentially detrimental
to the objectives of the Green Paper;
the lack of commitment to an improvement
in the skills of planning committee members to make informed decisions.
11. There are, however, important elements
missing from the Green Paper. In particular, we need a far clearer
statement of the purpose of the planning system, which is to help
create high quality environments that meet economic, social and
environmental needs, and therefore improve our quality of life.
At the end of the day, we could create the most efficient planning
system in the world, but if it is not producing high quality development,
there will be no net contribution either to our economy or society
12. CABE therefore strongly considers that
the Green Paper should have made clear to the development community
that there is a deal on the table. Greater freedom, greater certainty
and greater efficiency within the planning system should be offered
in return for a commitment to higher quality of development. In
the Green Paper, this is a sentiment that is at best implicit.
In the final policy statement, CABE would expect this to be a
non-negotiable requirement made explicit. This is crucial if the
changes proposed to the planning system are going to further the
cause of the Urban Renaissance.
13. The remainder of this submission now
considers the specific issues raised by the Select Committee as
they impact upon CABE's responsibilities in the areas of the plan
framework, business planning zones, planning obligations and land
14. We agree with the conclusions of the
Green Paper that the current plan-making system is overly complex,
unresponsive, and slow and cumbersome to implement. This is having
a direct impact on the speed and effectiveness of the renewal
of the built environment. Planning departments' limited resources
are too often focused on developing rather than implementing plans,
while project proposers are uncertain about the relevance of local
plans whose polices are often out of date.
15. We agree with the proposed new framework,
including the abolition of county structure plans, subject to
the creation of adequate and flexible sub-regional planning arrangements
across local authority boundaries.
16. Where more detailed planning needs to
be undertaken, it makes sense for relevant policies, including
design policies, to be undertaken as part of the neighbourhood
regeneration process. This includes the incorporation of spatial
masterplans. The benefits of this approach include greater speed
and flexibility in adopting and amending planning principles,
and the opportunity for more meaningful community participation
than that offered by the current plan inquiry process.
17. CABE therefore welcomes the introduction
of action plans. It is, however, important that these action plans
have sufficient legal status. We hope that they will be stronger
in their standing as a material consideration than the current
status of supplementary planning guidance. It is also important
that these action plans are kept up-to-date, or there could be
a proliferation of out-of-date local policy statements. We would
suggest that where action plan policies depart from national or
regional planning guidance, then they should not be regarded as
having the status of a material consideration. This will concentrate
local planning authority minds in withdrawing action plans on
a timely basis.
18. CABE considers that developers committed
to high quality developments should be rewarded with quicker and
less encumbered permissions. Nevertheless, we do not consider
that the concept of Business Planning Zones, as currently defined
in the Green Paper, is likely to achieve that objective. There
is a danger that, as presented in the Green Paper, the Business
Planning Zones could become a successor to Enterprise Zones and
Simplified Planning Zones, where the dearth of quality of development
actually detracted not only from the physical environment but
also the ability to attract blue-chip investors to the areas.
They also suggest that the Government does not have sufficient
confidence that the rest of the Green Paper package will work,
because if it does work, the Business Planning Zone concept should
19. If they are adopted, we would suggest
that the Business Zones should resemble the US "as of right"
system. An action plan would be drawn up setting out criteria
for development on the site, including design standards. Any potential
developer would need to demonstrate to the local authorities satisfaction
that those standards had been met in which case the need for consent
would be waived. If, however, at any stage, the local authority
considered that the standards had not been met, it should be able
to demand a full planning application.
20. We would further suggest that Business
Planning Zones should be restricted to brownfield sites to help
further the urban renaissance.
21. The current system of section 106 agreements
tends to add to developer uncertainty over timing of development
and the scale of obligations. There are instances of the agreements
alone taking over a year to negotiate.
22. The case for reforming the system of
planning obligations is therefore clear and CABE is broadly supportive
of the proposed approach to reform based upon a standardised tariff
set locally through the local plan, supported by national guidance.
23. We agree that local authorities should
set tariff levels through Local Development Frameworks and Action
Plans. We support the level of devolution proposed in the Green
Paper to local planning authorities in defining how tariffs will
apply, at what level, and for what purposes, with the one clear
limitation that the resources should be linked to the impact of
24. CABE understands that there will be
criticism that high development demand areas will be able to demand
greater contributions. However, that is no different than the
current obligations system. In addition, these areas are usually
also those in most need of more affordable housing. While low
demand areas will undoubtedly be able to demand less through the
tariff system, this can be reflected in public expenditure provision,
particularly through special programmes such as the Neighbourhood
25. CABE does have concerns about the options
for setting tariffs, some of which would seem to act in the opposite
direction to the Government's policies on promoting high density
development, and would therefore detract from the progress towards
an urban renaissance. We would suggest that any tariff should
be based on the amount and type of land consumed by the development,
not the floor area.
26. CABE would warn the Government to tread
warily in terms of the retention of other elements of a planning
obligation other than the tariff. There is a danger that a dual
set of negotiated obligations plus tariff will be regarded as
a double whammy. CABE would question whether some or all of the
residual issues would not better be dealt with by extending the
scope of planning conditions. Or at least, the introduction of
the tariff should be used to enable section 106 to be reinstated
for its original much narrower intentions before it got hijacked
as a mechanism for bypassing public expenditure controls.
27. CABE considers that while a local authority
should have the right to reduce or waive a tariff, the circumstances
and proportions by which this should occur should be clearly set
out in the local development framework and should not be subject
to case-by-case negotiation, which would simply undermine the
proposed transparency and consistency of the new system. An important
example might be contribution to public space. The basic guidelines
are that it should be possible for a developer to calculate the
tariff in any local authority area at the time of submitting the
planning application using only the local development framework.
That is the required certainty.
28. CABE supports the "community chest"
proposal to legislate to enable local authorities to pool contributions
from tariffs as they choose, to be put to pre-defined purposes.
However, this should not be a free-for-all and there should be
some clear connection with the improvement of the physical environment.
29. CABE's limited interest in this consultation
process is the urgent need to allow public authorities to create
meaningful development sites within urban locations to foster
urban regeneration against masterplanning principles agreed with
the local community. The availability of strengthened CPO powers
is essential to achieving this objective. CABE therefore welcomes
the general direction of the consultation paper.
30. We fully agree that section 226 of the
TCPA 1990 is unduly restrictive, placing as it does a burden on
acquiring authorities to have fully worked-up schemes. We welcome
the approach of introducing new legislation to replace section
226 with a new provision for CPOs for a range of planning and
regeneration purposes, including halting the physical economic
and/or social deterioration of an area. We believe that any wording
should also recognise the need for CPOs to contribute towards
the delivery of a co-ordinated, sustainable renewal of an area,
against an agreed masterplan and set of adopted design principles.