Written evidence from David Lock Associates
S1.1 The abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies
has led to confusion and uncertainty in the planning process.
It has led to delays and abandonment in preparing development
proposals and in local planning functions.
S1.2 Housing delivery rates will fall. This is
a result of delays due to uncertainty, and as a result of planning
authorities believing that they have the opportunity to reduce
delivery targets. I do not agree that the presumption that housing
targets can be reduced is well founded, and I believe that the
disparity between housing need and housing delivery will increase.
S1.3 Some important planning functions previously
undertaken by the Regional Spatial Strategy will need to be addressed
by different means. This includes strategic infrastructure planning
and the mediation of national and local planning objectives.
S1.4 The proposed community incentive fails to
link housing need and delivery and instead establishes a crude
financial incentive. There will be a need to establish a transparent
and democratic method for managing communities' expectations of
incentives available, and to ensure effective delivery of community
benefits in a way which benefits all parts of society.
S1.5 I believe that the void created between
national and local planning must be filled where a need for delivering
specific national objectives arises.
1.01 My name is Lawrence Revill, I am the Managing
Director of David Lock Associates. I am a Chartered Town Planner
and have more than 30 years of professional experience. My company
provides consultancy advice on matters relating to town planning,
urban design and master planning. It was formed in 1987 and operates
nationally and internationally employing 47 professional staff.
Our clients are drawn from the public and private sectors and
include local planning authorities, non-departmental public bodies,
other public agencies, private landowners and developers.
1.02 My firm is employed to advise on planning
strategy and other planning matters and to prepare planning guidance,
strategies and development proposals (including outline and full
planning applications). It specialises in providing advice at
a strategic scale and for proposals where complex planning and
design issues arise. Our projects may last for just a few months
to a decade or more.
1.03 My colleagues and I deal with Local Development
Frameworks and, until recently, Regional Spatial Strategies on
a daily basis. We have represented a broad range of clients at
Regional Spatial Strategy Examinations across the country, and
previously provided an equivalent role in relation to Regional
Planning Guidance. We are therefore very familiar with the role
of regional planning and its interrelationships with and implications
for national and local planning and the delivery of development.
The health of the development sector has real and early consequences
for the business performance of David Lock Associates.
1.04 My evidence is presented in the following
order. First, I set out my and my colleagues' experience of the
immediate consequences of the abolition of the regional spatial
strategies; I then consider the implications. I then consider
the emerging proposals for housing delivery incentives and set
out my views on what should then be done.
2.0 THE IMMEDIATE
2.01 The abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies
(RSS) has led to confusion, prevarication and uncertainty amongst
those proposing development and to uncertainty and inertia amongst
those responsible for planning for sustainable growth in planning
authorities. This is particularly true for medium and large scale
proposals (which I consider to be in the order of around 200 to
1,000 dwellings, and 1,000 or more dwellings, respectively).
2.02 In the case of the public sector, decisions
(which have seldom been timely) on how to proceed, if at all,
with the various Local Development Documents forming part of the
Local Development Framework have been beset by further delay,
uncertainty and political procrastination. In the case of the
private sector, investment decisions have been delayed. I deal
with these in turn.
2.03 There has been a well-publicised destabilisation
of both the political and technical aspects of public sector forward
planning functions. The removal of a key component of the statutory
Development Plan has led to uncertainty about the validity and
robustness of plans prepared in accordance with the now abolished
RSS. It has caused uncertainty as to how to continue, if at all,
with plans in preparation.
2.04 Our recent experience suggests that there
is a widely-held expectation among local authorities of the emergence
of further guidance about how to proceed. It is becoming evident
that government believes that planning authorities have all they
need to proceed with their forward planning,
but this has not been made explicit and so is not reflected amongst
Councillors or planning officers. This has translated into planning
paralysis. This in turn has compounded confusion in the private
sector, reinforcing general uncertainty and perception of risk.
Risk is the greatest disincentive to investment, irrespective
of need and demand.
2.05 In terms of the private sector, my experience
(and that of my colleagues) is that there has been massive uncertainty
which has led to delays in decisions about whether to invest in
drawing up proposals for new housing development and leading to
a reduction in the level of investment. This trend is particularly
acute where development is dependent on major upfront investment.
This has meant stalling and, in some cases, the abandonment of
development proposals. This is a consequence of a forward planning
and development control process which has no clear or consistent
understanding about which planning policy carries material weight,
which may be subject to early review, and a lack of clarity as
to whether any new (and decisive) guidance is to be issued. In
simple terms, the rules by which any planning application may
be judged are no longer clear to the judges, and the rules that
govern how proposals should be formulated have yet to be re-written.
2.06 This has led directly to fewer new proposals
being commissioned from companies such as mine, and a slow down
in the progress of those proposals already being promoted. A number
of clients have decided to defer the preparation or submission
of planning applications, including delaying master planning work
which will underpin those development proposals.
2.07 There has been much greater emphasis on
progressing small scale proposals (typically those with fewer
than 200 dwellings) which can progress without reference to a
regional spatial planning perspective or emerging Local Development
Frameworks. In the short term such proposals will make a modest
contribution to housing supply, but it is likely that there will
be a catastrophic reduction in housing delivery in the medium
term as the gap in delivery from currently stalled strategic sites
becomes more apparent.
2.08 The initial consequences of the abolition
of the RSS has therefore been uncertainty among development promoters
and the stalling of housing delivery.
Implications for housing delivery
2.09 The abolition of the RSS has created a gap
in the hierarchy of planning policy whose functionality was steered
by the existence of a regional planning process. That is not say
that the RSS was always the most effective or appropriate tool
(the regional planning process was undoubtedly flawed), but it
was nonetheless the only link between the abstractions of national
planning and site specific local planning. The LDF structure was
the local manifestation of the Regional Plan. Its removal therefore
gives rise to a vacuum in strategic planning terms. I return to
the question of whether this void should be filled in subsequent
sections of this submission.
2.10 In the absence of the RSS, and in the absence
of anticipated guidance about what local planning authorities
should do next, Councils have prevaricated. This situation has
allowed some political posturing to occur that is unconstrained
by a proper understanding of community needs. This, in my view,
is regrettable. My company has direct experience of many local
planning authorities where the production or approval of Local
Development Framework documents is delayed because Councillors
now believe that they are free to determine much lower development
targets and Council officers have not been robust on the evidence
that they already have on requirements and needs. Certainly, the
previous system established a higher housing delivery target than
many Councils may wish to meet, but that alone did not mean that
those targets were wrong. Local evidence of requirements and needs
regularly indicates targets higher than those adopted in RSSs.
As yet the joy that comes with the freedom to set local targets
is not tempered by awareness of the responsibility to plan properly
for all members of the communities; those who have not as much
as those who already have and shout loudest while pulling up the
2.11 So an impression that this was an entirely
top-down target is inaccuratethe targets were generally
based on discussions between constituent authorities, drawing
on statistical evidence published by government and local research.
The final RSS targets were usually the result of horse-deals between
elected Authorities to address the forecasts of household growth
and job needs that are not contested by the new Government. So
the demographic that underpin the requirements and needs are unchanged.
Reducing targets without having actually considered the reality
of the underlying demographic and local community requirements
and needs is a false dawn.
2.12 Powerful evidence is already available to
planning authorities in the form of their Strategic Housing Market
Assessments, although many elected members appear to be blissfully
unaware of their existence, contents and their consequences. This
evidence has usefully been collated by Shelter
and provides a stark picture of the consequences of failure to
meet housing need.
2.13 It is clear to our company that a significant
number of planning authorities believe that the inevitable consequence
of the abolition of RSSs is that housing delivery can and should
reduce. We tend to agree that delivery rates are likely to fall,
but needs will grow. A general housing shortage and continued
house price inflation will turn this into a housing crisis.
2.14 Alongside the matter of identifying what
level of development is appropriate for an area sits the question
of how that development should be served in terms of infrastructure?
I consider the term "infrastructure" to encompass social,
community, transportation and utilities networks.
2.15 The RSS provided a basis for the identification
and co-ordination of strategic and cross-boundary infrastructure
by providing a framework for assessment, investment and delivery,
aligned with the spatial distribution of development proposed.
This provided useful (though not faultless) guidance to infrastructure
providers as to the broad location and scale of development for
which investment would be required. The RSS process also allowed
infrastructure providersincluding those proposing strategic
infrastructure as part of their development proposalsto
have an influence over the spatial planning of the region in a
single forum. I have direct experience where this forward planning
of development and infrastructure has provided certainty to both
Core Strategy Examinations and at Inquiry into Section 78 planning
appeals. I do not believe that such certainty exists any longer.
2.16 It is not clear to me or to my colleagues
how this coordination of infrastructure and development will now
happen. This uncertainty may result in uncoordinated and ineffective
infrastructure investment that will adversely affect the deliverability
of new housing. Private sector developers alone do not have the
capacity or capability to deliver strategic infrastructure. While
it is right for them to contribute to the cost if its delivery,
they cannot and should not be expected to coordinate, plan and
deliver this infrastructure in response to other proposals beyond
their control. This can and must be undertaken in response to
an overall spatial plan.
2.17 The RSS also provided a mechanism for mediating
between the local and the national interest. I firmly believe
that securing an adequate supply of housing to meet demonstrated
needs is a matter of national importance. I can only assume that
in choosing not to revoke specific and relevant sections
of Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) Housing in June 2010
(when other sections were removed), that the Government shares
that view. The revocation of RSSs has eliminated an important
balancing mechanism, removing the means of reconciling local and
national interests when undertaking forward planning. This is
a fundamental weakness which will give rise to considerable housing
under-supply in the medium and long term. There is also considerable
danger that short-term political influences will have a negative
impact on housing delivery by disrupting supply or periods of
instability relating to the local political cycle.
3.01 Some details of the proposed housing delivery
incentives have been announced, although there remain uncertainty
about the affordability of that mechanism and how and when it
is to be implemented.
3.02 It is unclear how the incentive scheme will
relate to housing needthe mechanism announced so far appears
to provide a financial reward for delivering housing, regardless
of whether the amount of housing delivered is sufficient to meet
identified local housing requirements and needs. Thus the mechanism
appears to ignore any national objectives for housing delivery
(in relation to demographic need and household formation rates),
and will emphasise housing as a commodity rather than a fundamental
human right. There is considerable potential for those authorities
not in need of further financial support to simply turn away housing
proposals and for those in need of financial support to find it
difficult to refuse proposals, irrespective of local requirements
and needs. This approach appears to fundamentally distort the
principle that housing supply should respond to assessed housing
needs and be underpinned by rational spatial planning.
3.03 Such additional financial demands could
simply divert payments from existing mechanisms. It is not realistic
to expect that existing S106 obligations, with or without a further
or offset CIF contribution, can be maintained alongside a third
mechanism for financial contribution to the mitigation of impacts
3.04 It is also unclear if and how monies received
to ring-fence them so that they are spent in a way that relates
to the proposed development and its local context. There will
be a need for Councils to define who benefits and how they should
benefitthere is no clarity on what process will be used
to manage this, or who should be the decision makers. There will
immense pressure on Elected Members because of the very significant
financial incentives which could conflict with other planning
considerations. Sophisticated mechanisms will be needed to effectively
balance financial considerations against environmental, infrastructure
and social issues.
3.05 Information released to date suggests limited
control or "ring-fencing", which offers affected communities
little certainty that they will benefit from the payments received
by the planning authority and how a mechanism for accountable
and transparent decision making will be established. Crucially,
a mechanism would need to ensure that the widest needs of a community
are metnot just the needs of those who present their case
most forcibly or most eloquently.
3.06 Finally, I consider that this mechanism
has the potential to encourage a disproportionate negative response.
There is a significant risk of an increase in opposition to planning
applications as a covert means of trying to extract further mitigation
measures. This leads to the potential for corruption of true opinions
of the acceptability of development that could divert monies away
from mitigating impacts and delivering higher quality services
3.07 In our view, increasing the scale of the
incentive to ensure that all authorities deliver some level of
housing is not a plausible answer. This will simply increase the
potential for financial distortions and still fails to link housing
need with housing supply. Much better to create an obligation
to meet needs as the fundamental starting point.
3.08 Critically, we believe that any incentive
to deliver housing must link to a demonstrable need for housing
in a locality. We see no evidence of that in the proposals set
out. We have little confidence that this mechanism is an appropriate
or effective means of ensuring that housing needs are met.
4.01 I believe that there is a need to bridge
the newly created gap between national and local planning. This
need not mean the creation of an alternative regional planning
approachthere was much that was cumbersome and ineffective
in the regional planning system and subsequent regional spatial
strategies. What is needed, however, is a means of ensuring that
national planning policy objectives are achieved, and of coordinating
effort to deliver specific objectives within identified spatial
4.02 The identified spatial areas may be defined
by central government as areas in which change is necessary to
meet national policy objectives, or could be defined by partnerships
in local government as areas where change is sought and promoted.
These would tend to be functional areas related to settlement
patterns with social and economic relationships, unconstrained
by administrative boundaries. In any event, there needs to be
a basis for infrastructure investment decisions, and where necessary,
effective cross boundary working and cooperation. It is in this
context that a "duty to cooperate" would be necessary
to ensure effective spatial planning.
4.03 Under a localism agenda the nature and scale
of such change would be driven by local views, delivered in a
"bottom-up" approach, in the context of local evidence
of requirements and needs. However, it should be recognised that
in some areas where critical issues arise, encouragement must
be supported by enforcement and a formal duty to cooperate should
4.04 These spatial areas would respond to a requirement
to plan beyond narrow local interests, respond to national inequalities,
provide for strategic and inter-local infrastructure or to address
pressures arising from demographic change. The ambition must be
to balance strategic and local interests to ensure that neither
dominates. The underlying principle however, is to recognise that
unfettered localism has the potential to lead to isolationism
and unenlightened self-interest. This should be avoided, and need
not preclude collaborative and accountable local-decision making.
4.05 The issue of which organisations should
be tasked with this supra-local planning will need careful consideration.
The previous regional planning bodies developed a reputation for
being cumbersome, remote and out of touch with local planning
sensitivities. There was often antagonism between regional and
local planning bodies. Locally-generated structures would conform
to the localism agenda, but need to transcend a purely local standpointthey
should have a responsibility to wider interests and deliver in
the context of wider needs. Critically, there needs to be adequate
professional input, and a participative and democratic localism.
4.06 It is not clear to us whether Local Economic
Partnerships are the solutionproposals were prepared to
meet an unrealistic deadline at a time of significant change and
uncertainty. Careful consideration needs to be given to ensuring
appropriate and robust mechanisms for dealing with supra-local
planningthis is unlikely to have happened in this first
burst of restructuring.
104 Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner CLG, remarks during
closing speech, TCPA Planning Summer School, 10 September 2010.
See also the reporting of this by the President of the Planning
Summer School at
See http://localhousingwatch.org.uk/ Back
See paragraphs 10 and 33 of Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3)
Housing, CLG, June 2010. Back