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Planning can and must be allowed to deliver

11 September 2017 Author: Steve Ingram

Whilst ‘planning’ is perceived to be responsible for many of our current ills, as a starting  point I do think it is important for us all to remember the positives that proactive, good, planning can readily bring to the table.

To me positive planning is all about how we can seek to utilise the planning process in order to help to make our communities better places. Every community, all across the country, have their share of local issues, but it is a fact that appropriate proactive and flexible planning responses can normally offer solutions.

Every LPA wants to be truly proactive, but to do that effectively is far easier when you can put dedicated resources to use.

I also know that there is a tremendous amount of innovative work taking place within every Local Planning Authority (LPA) when planners readily anticipate and appropriately respond to the ever-changing needs of their areas.  

The potential advent of the ‘Delivery Test’, a proposal in the Housing White Paper that would hold local authorities accountable for their role in ensuring delivery of new homes, will change the nature of how planners work within all parts of the local government arena.

It could herald a fundamental change in the way that planners will need to intervene within the development process. Currently, many of us may consider that the way we have dealt with potential land allocations or the grant of planning permission may constitute the end of the planning process when in reality, I consider that it probably will need to become much more the start of the delivery process.

In my day job, we are actively considering how best to intervene in order to ensure that we deliver more quality development outcomes. As in other places, we need to encourage a diverse range of development opportunities and sites to come forward and especially for the smaller and medium sized builders to get back into the game.

Accordingly as an authority we are readily engaging with the Government’s Garden Village and Starter Home initiatives, formulating clear delivery strategies for sustainable growth in our market towns and establishing our own development company.

If LPAs cannot appropriately resource and fulfil their part of the equation, the planning process will appear to be unbalanced and the general public’s views about its credibility will inevitably be undermined.

We are also thinking to proactively formulate and then disseminate and apply enhanced local design guidance. This is with specific regard to the renewed interest in promoting good design within the planning and development process, especially amongst our Elected Members. The intention is to be able to offer practical advice to all our landowners and developers about how the incorporation of good design would help to increase values and marketability.

To do that I had anticipated utilising the promised additional 20% increase in planning fee income as a demonstrable way of directly supporting and enabling applicants to submit well thought out, high quality proposals. Obviously, the current ‘delay’ in that potentially  important ring-fenced funding coming forward means that we may have to look to initially fund that initiative in other ways.

On that point, the issue of available resources is an important one for all planning authorities. Every LPA wants to be truly proactive, but to do that effectively is far easier when you can put dedicated resources to use. For the planning process as it is currently constructed to work optimally, it is important to ensure that both sides of the process and the debate can function effectively.

If LPAs cannot appropriately resource and fulfil their part of the equation, the planning process will appear to be unbalanced and the general public’s views about its credibility will inevitably be undermined.

In conclusion, let’s be positive about what we do and about what we can achieve. All across the country LPAs are doing great things for their communities and it is really important that we can all share and learn from that best practice.

The planning process when used to its full potential is an incredibly strong delivery tool – let’s all ensure that we strive, despite the obvious challenges that we all face, to achieve things that we can all be proud of.

Guest blogs may not represent the views of the RTPI.

Steve Ingram

Steve Ingram

Steve Ingram is President of the Planning Officers Society and Strategic Director - Development & Growth, South Kesteven District Council