Memorandum by the Royal Institution of
Chartered Surveyors (PGP 46)
PLANNING GREEN PAPER
We are pleased to be able to present you with
comments from RICS in response to the House of Commons Select
Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions' inquiry
into the current review of the planning system.
RICS is the leading source of property advice
on land, property and construction issues worldwide, representing
over 100,000 members. RICS is regulated by its Royal Charter with
the objective of promoting the public good. This allows RICS to
comment independently on matters in which its members have expertise.
We broadly welcome the Government's proposals
for reform of the planning framework. RICS has long believed that
the existing framework does not properly address a number of issues:
The need for a flexible and up-to-date
framework of local plans.
The need for a framework able to
properly and comprehensively deal with larger infrastructure developments,
The need to streamline the plan and
The proposals go a long way towards achieving
these objectives. Specific comments on the proposals are included
Replacing Structure Plans, Local Plans and Unitary
Development Plans with a local Development Framework
RICS supports the replacement of structure plans,
local plans and unitary development plans with Local Development
Frameworks. The more strategic nature of LDFs should enable them
to be more easily updated, more responsive to differing local
and regional needs and generally more flexible. However, we believe
that the potential benefits of LDFs will be lost unless:
The chronic under-resourcing of local
authority planning departments is addressed.
The temptation is avoided to compensate
for the more strategic, slimmed down nature of LDFs by using untested
Supplementary Planning Guidance as policy.
There is a careful and coordinated
approach to action plans so as to avoid the danger of a bewildering
and overlapping patchwork of action plans, neighbourhood plans,
village plans, area masterplans, etc.
Local authorities are of a size sufficient
to enable them to produce and update meaningful LDFs. We believe
that in many cases it would be appropriate to produce LDFs across
two or more local authorities.
There is consistency between the
various plans within LDFs and LDFs are themselves consistent with
regional and national guidance. The majority of complaints about
the existing framework centre on the perceived lack of consistency
in the form and content of local plans, between different sets
of guidance and in decision-making procedures. The potential complexity
of the LDF proposals could lead to singular inconsistency unless
local authorities are able to channel significant resources into
Proposals to simplify the hierarchy of plans by
strengthening regional planning and abolishing county structure
RICS note the Government's proposals to abolish
county structure plans. RICS believes that the county level is
now no longer the appropriate spatial level for many planning
decisions, and that these could be better addressed through strengthened
regional and sub-regional guidance.
RICS strongly supports the introduction of statutory
regional planning and we back the introduction of Regional Spatial
Strategies (RSS). However, we would make the following points:
We recognise the concern about the
"democratic deficit" that may exist at the regional
level and the forthcoming White Paper on the Regions will be very
relevant in this context.
RSS need to be developed within a
national spatial planning context.
The sub-regional tier will be crucial
in many regions given the large gap that will exist in some regions
between the regional and LDF tiers.
There will need to be improved structures
and procedures available for the production of regional strategies,
if the regions are to successfully build on their current role
within the system. Better consultation with a range of organisations
and interests must be ensured. In addition, the weight given to
the views of each of these interests must be assessed. In terms
of regeneration, RDAs have tightly-focused economic development
goals (regional GDP growth), which may not reflect the quality
of life goals of government and the wider community. The interaction
and relationship between the regional plans and the work of RDAs
and Regional Government Offices should be clearly delineated by
central government. This requires further and more detailed discussion.
The proposed Regional Spatial Strategies
will be a corner stone of the new planning system. Therefore,
the appropriate level of resourcing must be made available to
Regional Assemblies to ensure proper consultation, attention to
detail and speed of plan review.
Increasing resources available to local authorities'
The issue of resources is not sufficiently addressed
in the Green Paper. This is a very major concern because the current
under-resourcing of the system constitutes the most important
factor holding back the performance of the current planning system.
The Green Paper contains many laudable proposals for fundamental
changes to the planning system. However, even if the apparatus
and framework is fundamentally changed, an under-funded network
of local planning departments will continue to be a brake on the
system and prevent the highest standards from being achieved.
The government's proposals do not satisfactorily
address the arrangements for transition between the current and
proposed systems, nor the timescale for this to take place. Ensuring
a smooth transition will inevitably require detailed consideration
of interim arrangements.
In the absence of a clear indication of the
Government's plans regarding the restructuring of regional, county
and local government, there is a strong likelihood that the period
of transition will necessitate a continued role for existing county
structure plans. The strengthening of the regional element in
planning is supported by RICS. However, county structure plans
could play a role as an interim measure, whilst the new regional
tier is developed sufficiently to take on addition responsibilities.
Rationalising the Structure of Local Government
The Government's proposed LDF could simply lead
to greater complexity if it was applied to the very large number
of local authorities, varying widely in size and nature, that
currently exist. Many local authorities, particularly in rural
areas, are currently insufficient in size to effectively devise
and maintain a local development framework. Therefore, serious
consideration should be given to producing LDFs, in many cases,
across existing local authority boundaries.
Community participation is fundamental to the
planning system. Planning must be, and must be seen to be, an
inclusive process. However, public consultation should not result
in unnecessary delay.
It is important that increased community involvement
does not give people unrealistic expectations as to the weight
that will be accorded to their views. Early involvement through
pre-application discussion, greater transparency and availability
of information will help to ensure that community participation
is balanced and constructive.
We generally support the approach taken by the
Government in its proposed reform of the planning system. RICS
does, however, regard the proposals as less than the radical review
that was possible. There has long been a consensus that a fundamental
overhaul is required if the English planning system is to ensure
good quality development and proper levels of environmental protection
that meet the needs of both the general public and the business
Where there appears to be broad support for
measures that do not require a change in legislation, we would
urge the Government to implement change as soon as possible. On
issues requiring primary legislative changes, we would further
urge the Government to seek parliamentary time for the required
legislation at the earliest possible date.
The Current System
The current system of planning obligations is
often a barrier to successful development and, therefore, is in
need of modification. Changes are needed to introduce greater
consistency between authorities in the use of their powers, to
provide for greater transparency to the process and to give developers
greater certainty about the contributions that they may be called
on to make. There is currently excessive variation in the level
of planning obligations sought by different local authorities
as well as excessive demands, sometimes unrelated to the development
in question, which act as a barrier to development and regeneration
in some areas.
RICS Approach to Reforming Planning Obligations
RICS considers the current proposals to introduce
a system of tariffs lack the level of detail necessary to enable
an informed judgement to be made as to how such a system could
To implement a system of nationally determined
tariffs would equate to the imposition of impact fees. Such a
system would be inflexible, could not respond to particular regional
or local circumstances, and would be opposed by RICS. These issues
are expanded below.
A locally determined tariff-based system, as
proposed in the consultation, would allow greater flexibility
than tariffs set at the national level. However, the proposals
outlined in the paper are too simplistic. A more sophisticated
system would be required, better able to take into account areas
where there are low property values, where development is economically
marginal, and where there is a need to maximise the use of brownfield
sites and promote regeneration schemes. This would be a complex
system requiring a great deal further and more detailed consideration.
The option preferred by RICS, but disregarded
in the consultation, would be to retain the current system, suitably
modified to enable greater certainty, transparency and speed.
The Government's current proposals to increase transparency and
accountability could be applied to the current system, and would
result in significant improvements. RICS has highlighted changes
below that could be made without primary legislation, in order
to achieve greater certainty and speed.
Enforcing the "Necessity Test"
Section 106 Agreements should rightly address
obligations resulting from development, but should not be used
as an impromptu land tax or as a barrier to development. The continued
use of some form of "necessity test", as included in
circular 1/97, is essential. To move away from an assessment linking
contributions directly to the scheme would constitute a "development
tax" and would be opposed by RICS.
RICS believes that Section 106 contributions
should be required only for directly related and clearly defined
obligations and requirements. This would not prevent their use
to secure affordable housing, at a level related to the size and
type of the development in question.
RICS welcomes the Government's consultation
and strongly supports a great many of the proposals contained
in the paper. The current fundamental review of compulsory purchase,
as part of the wider planning review, is likely to represent the
best opportunity to speed up and improve the process for many
years. It is welcome to note that the Government is taking this
opportunity to demonstrate a positive approach that, RICS believes,
will result in a number of wide-ranging improvements to the current
The proposals outlined in the current consultation
will make the system much fairer to claimants. The proposals will
also simplify the process and increase transparency. This in turn
should speed up the process, which will help to reduce the costs
to authorities due to the length of time taken to bring compulsory
purchase schemes to fruition.
Proposals that are particularly welcomed by
The introduction of "loss payments"
for occupiers of all types of property.
The commitment to ensure more clearly
defined compensation rules.
The extension of proper compensation
to affected parties even if they do not lose land to the scheme.
Simplifying access to the Land Tribunal.
A stronger requirement for acquiring
authorities to inform those affected of their rights.
The abolition of Ryde's Scale, ensuring
that surveyors' fees are to be calculated on the same basis as
other professional advisors.