Memorandum by the Town and Country Planning
Association (PGP 36)
PLANNING GREEN PAPER
1.1 The Town & Country Planning Association
welcomes the opportunity to respond to the House of Commons Inquiry
into the Planning Green Paper. The TCPA campaigns inter alia for
the reform of the UK planning system to promote public participation
and sustainable development and for environment and development
policies which improve the living and working conditions of everyone.
2.0 THE EFFECTIVENESS
2.1 The Association does not think the Government's
objectives of faster, more inclusive and better quality local
plan-making will be achieved by the abolition of the existing
system of statutory Local Plans (and Part two UDPs). The present
system has much to merit it and the TCPA believes the objectives
can be met by introducing a statutory timetable for plan production
and review; by requiring that regard is given to Community Strategies;
by making Local Plan Inspectors' recommendations binding on local
planning authorities; by simplifying national planning policy
guidance and properly resourcing Planning Aid (last two as proposed
in the Green Paper).
2.2 Further, abolition of the present statutory
system for Local Plan-making will fatally undermine the "plan-led"
system established by Parliament by the insertion of S54a into
the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
2.3 Should the Government opt for the Green
Paper proposals then LDFs should form part of the statutory development
plan. This requires that they should be published for a statutory
period of consultation, and be subject to Inquiry at which affected
persons have the right to be heard. Statement of Core Policies
should be performance relatedspecifying the beneficial
effects to be achieved by development if it is to receive planning
permission, rather than set out as a constructing or restrictive
2.4 We also hold the view that such Statements
of Core Policies are unlikely to vary in content from one District
(or Unitary) to another, across broad swathes of a region. We
therefore believe it would be appropriate for the Regional Planning
Body (RPB) to identify sub-regional space where the Statement
of Core Policies could be produced at that level (though the right
to object and be heard would still need to be established).
2.5 Action Plans are a seriously unwieldy
feature of the proposed LDF system that they might take any form,
and cover any subject matter. Our view is that they should be
relatively few in number, and produced only for parts of an LDF
area that require positive planning at a detailed level.
2.6 We recommend that Action Plans should
be required to be processed as Supplementary Planning Guidance
as at present, and be given weight accordingly.
3.0 THE ROLE
3.1 The TCPA enthusiastically supports the
proposed Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS), and especially the
closer integration of other regional strategies. The RSS should
provide over-arching strategic guidance for the full range of
other strategic policy exercises (especially including the RDA
strategy). Given the increased weight to be given to planning
at regional level, we propose that RSS should be statutory.
3.2 The TCPA agrees with the Government
that administrative boundaries are rarely relevant to the geographical
areas that need strategic planning, and that strategic planning
authorities too often present their plans as if they were blind
to what lies beyond their boundaries. The Association does not
however, believe that Structure Plans should be abolished since
RSS cannot possibly handle every strategic planning issue arising
in all parts of its region and would therefore, leave to large
a gap between the regional and local levels.
3.3 Therefore, the new arrangements should
involve sub-regional planning in the form of Structure Plans,
prepared by consortia of Counties and relevant Unitaries, or sub-regional
RSSs, prepared by the RPB. Each region would decide the pattern
that suited it best. In addition, given that the content of Statements
of Core Policies proposed as part of LDFs are unlikely to vary
across large areas of the regional space, we can see advantage
in empowering the RPB to identify such areas. A Statement of Core
Policies should then be prepared by a Joint Board of local and
strategic planning authorities, and be subject to statutory rights
of consultation and a hearing before an independent person. Such
areas would not, of course, overlap with areas chosen by the RPB
for sub-regional RSS.
4.1 The TCPA believes that the proposed
process will be no quicker (since it involves more stages) and
risks excluding the public from decisions in principle about a
development; It supports the need for MIPs in general and has
itself applied for planning permission for an airport and supported
those major infra structure proposals which it believed to be
in the public interest.
4.2 The Association supports the aim of
involving Parliament in strategic planning decisions, but believes
this should occur only at the first stage of debating proposed
national planning policies and not at the later development control
4.3 Clear statements of national policy
should be complemented by a national planning framework which
is specific about MIPs and about the regions in which they will
be needed. Clear national policies of this kind would stimulate
active and lively debate in Parliament and in the nation as a
4.4 It does not favour, therefore, a second
involvement of Parliament at the development control stage and
believes instead that Government should focus attention on improving
existing public inquiry procedures for this purpose.
4.5 The TCPA would like to see greater use
made of the existing but barely used "Public Inquiry Commission"
process for MIPs as an alternative to parliamentary decision making
on individual developments.
4.6 It also believes that the more Government
is successful in establishing "clear" statements of
national planning policy (including a framework as advocated here),
the more likely it is that MPs will raise the policies in parliament
provoking their widespread debate. This would obviate the need
for Parliament to be involved later on in a development control
4.7 Parliamentary procedures: The TCPA believes
that MPs are unlikely to have sufficient time, inclination or
training to take on decisions about MIPs except at the strategic
policy level at which their contributions would be more appropriate,
effective and timely.
4.8 If Government decides to proceed with
the proposed new Parliamentary procedures the TCPA recommends
the new committee be empowered to
hear evidence from members of the public who are affected by a
development as well as other interested parties;
Parliament should make resources
available for one or more professional representatives of the
public, who would otherwise be unable to afford representation
(a form of "planning aid", which was first developed
by the TCPA);
the committee should have access
to professional advice and a range of expertise on planning, development
and the technical matters relevant to the proposed MIP; and
the committee should meet in public
(with all statements and evidence to be available at no charge
to the public) and should meet in the locality of the development
5.1 The Association considers the proposals
for Business Planning Zones to be irrelevant. Planning control
is not an obstruction to development in the way suggested by the
Government, and does not need to be removed.
6.1 Planning Obligations
6.1.1 The TCPA believes that the most equitable
and effective way of capturing a reasonable proportion of, land
value is through a betterment tax coupled with the availability
of compulsory purchase powers to prevent unreasonable withholding
of land from development. The Association is encouraged by the
Government's acknowledgement of "the nature of the relationship
between planning obligations and land betterment" and believe
that the proposed reforms could, with some amendments, bring planning
obligations somewhat closer to our ideal.
6.1.2 The Government Consultation Paper
places great emphasis on the use of planning obligations to secure
affordable housing, however research on this subject indicates
that planning obligations (in one sense a tax on developers) can
only ever meet a small proportion of the nation's affordable housing
needs (about 15,000 homes per year, according to the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation), it should not therefore be relied upon for this purpose
nor should other important works become neglected as a result
of such priorities. In short the proposals would be a useful addition
to the range of instruments available for providing affordable
housing but are not a magic wand.
6.1.3 Tariffs fixed as a percentage of development
value would come closest to a betterment tax and would be our
preference. We appreciate that the Government has no wish at this
time to plough the furrow that took us once to the Land Commission,
and later to the Community Land Scheme. Therefore we hold the
view that a unit cost based approach would be acceptable. The
cost should relate to gross floorspace in the case of commercial
development but to cost per dwelling in the case of housing so
as not to add to the undesirable downward pressure on space standards
in housing that has been a feature of recent years.
6.1.4 There is a danger that tariffs, if
considered excessive by landowners, will result in land being
withheld from the market. However, assuming that tariffs are not
excessive, the withholding of land should be countered by the
use, or threatened use, of compulsory purchase powers. Additionally,
6.1.5 We do not believe that smaller developments should be exempt
from the tariff. Exempting small developments would have some
inequitable results, eg catching estates of starter homes but
not individual detached houses, and could also lead to larger
developments being carried out in penny packets.
6.1.5 While the TCPA supports the proposal
that revenue from planning obligations might be pooled by groups
of local authorities in certain circumstances, such a device is
unlikely to make more than a modest contribution to the financing
needs in question and should be seen as only a supplement to more
mainstream methods of public sector funding. Moreover, it may
not be easy to secure inter-agency agreement on pooling or to
persuade local people to accept the spending of funds generated
locally, possibly from unpopular development, in other localities.
These comments highlight the difficulties of using planning obligations
to achieve wider strategic objectives.
6.2 CPOs and Compensation
6.2.1 The Association broadly welcomes the
proposals set out in the consultation paper and believe that it
will make compulsory purchase a more attractive option for local
authorities and for those who are the subject of a Compulsory
Purchase Order. Changes to the existing system are necessary to
the success of regeneration schemes and the creation new communities.
6.2.2 The Association supports the introduction
of loss payments to property owners above the market value to
reflect the compulsory nature of the acquisition. We also welcome
the promise of speedier decisions by the Secretary of State.
6.2.3 Local authorities have long needed
to find ways of making land assembly a more effective and attractive
option if they are going to play a role in creating new and regenerated
communities and we therefore support the notion of compensation.
We would, however, encourage similar levels of compensation to
be offered by authorities in cases settled without the need to
go through statutory processes, and would wish to see consideration
given to a sliding scale over time, so that the earlier people
settle the greater the payment.
6.2.4 It is clear that not all LPAs have
found that the current legislation hinders development. Birmingham
is a pertinent example, however Birmingham City Council had the
benefit of being in the position of being able to mortgage the
National Exhibition Centre, a luxury not available to many. Therefore,
any proposals to simplify the system should help to speed up project
delivery, but must be coupled with adequate funding.
7.0 WHETHER THE
7.1 While the TCPA is pleased to note that
the Government seems to be taking the issue of community involvement
seriously, there is a serious risk of "consultation fatigue"
at community level, due to the proposals to continuously update
aspects of the LDFs. In addition, it is likely that while constantly
changing plans can make the system more responsive, the new system
will provide less certainty than exists currently.
7.2 The prominence of those voices opposed
to development (traditionally the well housed and comfortably
employed) must be balanced by efforts to hear the voices of those
in need of development. The TCPA recommends that an "equal
opportunity to be heard" policy become a stated objective
of community involvement in planning.
7.3 The TCPA is sensitive to the "democratic
deficit" at regional level, pending the establishment of
elected regional assemblies. The Government is encouraged to take
what steps it can to spur the creation of such Assemblies. Until
they are created, stakeholders must be even more fully involved
than in RPG processes at present, and the process for producing
and testing RSS must be as open as possible if it is to be credible
and if its content is to stick.
7.4 The Association recognises that the
planning system can often be very slow and that this is not good
for business, but we would also point out that quality decisions
do take time. We therefore believe that the emphasis must be placed
on making decisions that are right rather than regarding speed
as a panacea. Adequate resources and training must be available
if this is to be achieved.
8.1 The Government's proposals are designed
to achieve speed in the planning system which presumably would
deliver urban renaissance sooner. We make our case for how this
aspect of the proposals will perform above, but are concerned
about the lack of detail in relation to the adoption of Local
Development Frameworks etc. If property owners are to have a say
at this stage, as stated in the Planning Green Paper, then there
is as much scope for delays in Inquiries as there would be under
the present arrangements. The TCPA believes all those with an
interest should have a right to be heard before an Inspector and
therefore that efforts should be focussed on reforming the existing
Inquiry systems. This would be to the benefit of all policy objectives
including Urban Renaissance.
8.2 More focussed masterplanning and Action
Plans should assist regeneration areas provided local authorities
have the ability and the funding to act upon the proposals. It
is advisable that other public sector spending agencies (eg health
services) bring their investment plans to bear upon Action Plan
proposals. The proposals to support Community Strategies as one
way of doing this are welcome, however greater clarity is needed
on the exact relationship between LDFs and Community Strategies.
8.3 Levels of involvement in the development
of Community Strategies are currently some way behind traditional
planning systems. This might be another reason why reforming the
existing system would be preferable to re-inventing it.
8.4 The abolition of the current plan system
is also likely to cause "decay" of existing Plans. Agreed
sites for development within those Plans may become subject to
fresh reviews (as occurred with the introduction of PPG3) therefore
delaying major schemes to the detriment of Urban Renaissance.
8.5 Masterplans sometimes fall victim to
"trophy architecture" where the agreed masterplanner
is cast aside once planning permission is obtained. Making agreed
masterplans a condition of planning permission could improve the
quality of regeneration schemes.
8.6 Proposals for reform of planning obligations
which will enable clearer minimum contributions through a tariff
should assist the aim of urban renaissance, particularly if tariffs
are set in ways which favour the development of brownfield sites.