Written evidence from Young Planners'
Thought Leadership Group (YPTLG) (ARSS 73)|
1. ABOUT THE
1.1 The YPTLG is not an organisation or body;
it is a collective of opinions and ideas from a group of young
planners (defined loosely as under 35 years of age). The group
is open to all with an interest in attending discussion meetings
with a view to generating ideas and influence on a range of spatial
planning matters. Meetings will be held when necessary. The intention
of YPTLG is to give a voice to young planning professionals, notably
through the present period of planning reform. The outcomes of
the group will be shared with other organisations who express
1.2 The YPTLG has no formal membership; the submission
has been signed by individuals who are practising planning professionals.
As such, within this submission "YPTLG" simply refers
to those individuals who are signees to the submission.
2. THE YPTLG'S
2.1.1 England (with the exception of London)
has become the only country in the UK and EU without an effective
strategic planning system required to make strategic decisions
at spatial scales below the national, but above the local level.
This makes it increasingly difficult to ensure the sustainable
management of the country's natural resources. It also makes it
difficult to coordinate and combat the effects of climate change
below the national level, as local solutions may not be of significant
scale to make a substantive impact. The YPTLG is concerned that
while until now other countries have looked to England and the
UK for inspiration and guidance in town and country planning best
practice, in the future, this learning relationship may be reversed.
2.1.2 The art and science of Town Planning was
borne out of the "localism" agenda with local communities
and entrepreneurs taking direct action, as evidenced by the garden
cities movement and philanthropically-delivered housing developments
in the northern coalfields in the nineteenth. The YGTLG is concerned
that the current "localism" approach is too "politically
driven" without foresight into understanding the limits and
restrictions on locally-led action, socio-economic impact on future
generations, and the sustainability of town planning as a respected
The implications of the abolition of regional
house building targets for levels of housing development;
2.2.1 Many Local Authorities have delayed or
restarted the production of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs),
resulting in continued delay with local plan making. However in
certain areas without adopted LDF Core Strategies there is now
limited planning policy from which to direct sustainable development.
As a consequence there is now much reduced development industry
certainty to invest in development proposals (notably owing to
the complete lack of any transitional arrangement). This is affecting
development investment, and investment into the required professional
skills to deliver sustainable places. The planning consultancy
and urban design industries are shrinking. The YPTLG is concerned
that future generations will bear the brunt and unintended consequences
of these rushed reforms by not having access to affordable homes
close where they work and to high quality of living. There is
a need to understand how the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnerships
(LEPs) will integrate with spatial planning, to help ensure economic
growth is continually fostered and supported across England at
local, sub-regional and national levels.
2.2.2. Sub-national development redistribution
has also now been curtailed (the former "sustainable communities
plan"). The former RSS provided a mechanism from which to
direct growth elsewhere in the south (essentially from the Home
Counties to Cambridgeshire/Milton Keynes/Northamptonshire). Local
level planning alone cannot achieve this spatial rebalancing,
and may cause unnecessary development pressures in locations of
environmental sensitivity. The YPTLG believes in a balanced and
prosperous England and is concerned at the potential for increasing
regional disparities in housing affordability and access to quality
housing exacerbated by the reforms. The RSS was not perfect, but
the vacuum caused by its loss is not helping.
2.2.3 There is now a severe threat to the art
and science of Town Planning which will result in less individuals
being attracted to the profession, which in turn will result in
a major skills shortage in three-five years' time. The driving
principles of a positive spatial planning system, enshrined in
reforms since the mid- 1990s have seemingly been lost. The principles
are not important in themselves, but there is a hope in the profession
that positive spatial planning will continuewe can make
things better for local communities through good spatial planning.
In addition, the ongoing uncertainty (and reduced planning applications)
is resulting in job redundancies. Many experienced strategic planners
currently in the abolished regional planning bodies and regional
development agencies will have their employment terminated, and
the YPTLG is concerned that future generations will not have the
benefit of access to quality mentors and inspiration. We need
new planners, but we need the breadth of experience from others
too. This is true across local government and the private sector,
where a drop in the level of development is reducing the pool
of talent we will be able to draw on in the future.
2.2.4 Further uncertainty about the future of
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and recent changes to planning
obligations policy may result in reduced infrastructure delivery
as few Local Authorities are progressing with a Levy and the scope
of Section 106 has been reduced. The general reduction in infrastructure
delivery may cause more conservative development growth scenarios
than required to enable wider economic growth or meet demographic
needs (notably housing). The YPTLG would like to see the Committee
clarifying the responsibilities and any potential changes to the
infrastructure planning and delivery process with CLG.
2.3 Ideas as Solutions:
2.3.1 The YPTLG strongly believes that changes
will be needed to ensure that new development and construction
will help fuel the economic recovery, respond to the threat of
climate change and create a more sustainable England, within a
UK context. It will also permit current and future regenerations
to have access to a decent home, responding to the acute housing
crisis. These objectives need to be at the heart of the proposed
2.3.2 The YPTLG presents the following ideas
for the Committee's considerations:
1. National government should take a more
proactive role in building more high quality homes for current
and future citizens of this country, and not merely pass responsibility
to local government, local communities or developers.
2. The proposed National Planning Framework
(NPF) should be introduced as a National Spatial Framework (NSP)
in order to a) benefit reduced level of PPS/PPG b) and critically
also form a fully tested, consulted, and sustainable national
strategic planning framework which outlines high-level strategic
development principles. The NSP could also incorporate the emerging
National Planning Statements (NPS). The NPS should be put into
effect from 1 April 2012 once all LDF Core Strategies are adopted
for transitional purposes (to avoid a policy deficit scenario
of there being no PPS/PPG). The NPS should form part of the development
plan, and where it may conflict with the LDF, it should take supremacy
(when in the national interest). The NPS should be supported by
evidence, building on the existing evidence base.
3. It would have been beneficial to retain
the policies in the RSS on a transitional basis, to minimise the
uncertainty we currently have in the system. The YPTLG await the
outcome of the current court case with interest. The RSS system
was however not perfect, notably with regard to the democratic
deficit. Instead therefore a strategic planning system should
be created which better links democracy with planning, for example
through the introduction of city Mayors, or elected sub-regional
4. The proposed Local Enterprise Partnerships
(LEP) should be provided with Government incentives to enable
the "duty to cooperate", notably via the production
of effective sub-regional planning strategies and/or joint LDF
core strategies. In doing so, LEPs as future strategic leaders
for guiding sustainable development should be directly accountable,
democratically elected bodies, and given housing and planning
5. Local Authorities to be set national
targets (with incentives) to have adopted Core Strategies by 1
6. The Infrastructure Planning Commission
should be retained.
7. The Government should provide certainty
over CIL or any new development tariff system at the earliest
The likely effectiveness of the Government's plan
to incentivise local communities to accept new housing development,
and the nature and level of the incentives which will need to
be put in place to ensure an adequate long-term supply of housing
2.4 Likely Effectiveness:
2.4.1 The new proposals for "Community Right
To Build" or "Neighbourhood Plans" aspire to provide
the link between local need and local delivery. However without
a proper skills framework and oversight, they threaten the standing,
and transparency of planning process. The YGTLG believes giving
greater roles for regional and local community organisations (ie
with the assistance of regional Planning Aid community officers)
and utilising best practice tools for community engagement should
be the pre-requisites for improving local housing outcomes. Planners
want to work with communities to achieve positive outcomes and
believe that improvements could be made utilising the existing
2.4.2 Proposals to allow developers to "compensate"
local residents also risk undermining the planning process and
could be viewed as bribery. The YGTLG continues to support the
current fundamental principle of Section 106 planning obligations
that "planning permission should not be "bought or sold".
Local government as a whole has worked hard to separate monetary
gain from decision making processes and the current reforms are
difficult to reconcile with these experiences.
2.4.3 YPTLG would like to see a programme of
training for Member Review Panels and are concerned that, unlike
the proposed enhancement elsewhere in the proposals, there is
a risk to the legitimacy of the right to appeal.
2.4.4 The principle of additional Council tax
arising from new development is laudable; however, we would like
to see the funding used to benefit the new development and those
directly affected by it (i.e. mitigation and compensation) rather
than simply being used as an overarching Council grant.
2.4.5 A coherent mechanism for greater than local
spatial planning is required, particularly with regards to infrastructure
and transport planning. It appears that the Government do not
want to be overly prescriptive in their guidance to LPAs, however
to think that the "duty to consult" will ensure that
LPAs engage in greater than local spatial planning is naive. There
is a suggestion that LPAs within regions could "co-operate"
to prepare a spatial plan to sit above the LDF Core Strategy.
The Select Committee should ask the how such a duty will operate.
2.5 Ideas as Solutions:
2.5.1 The principles for localism and greater
democratic accountability or involvement can be achieved via modest
alterations to the present planning process. Most of the measures
announced may not be necessary to meet the Governments agenda,
or to meet the aims of sound town planning. The YPTLG presents
the following ideas for the Committee's considerations:
2.5.2 Greater engagement and partnership working
with businesses and the private sector to kick-start the step
change in house-building. This includes ensuring the private sector
has a greater long-term stake in local development.
2.5.3 LDF Statement of Community Involvements
could be abolished as being time and resource intensive. Instead
statute should make clear that the process of creating LDFs and
all major planning applications should be accompanied by a minimum
level of community engagement. A resource saving measure could
be to require Councils produce a general community involvement
statement that applies to all functions, including planning.
2.5.4 Improving the skills of Elected Members
should be prioritised as a key area to enable them play a far
greater role with the determination of applications, possibly
by setting out core parameters for major schemes at the outset,
or getting involved with the process. This could mean a shift
from the present planning officer "recommendation" to
Elected Members role to once of greater partnership with Members.
2.5.5 Permitted development rights should be
extended further to save resources. This measure would have benefits
of streamlining planning, allowing focus on more critical major
or strategic issues, whilst also increasing the rights of individuals.
2.5.6 The role of Local Development Orders (LDOs)
should be better incentivised to provide suitable (and local)
methods to encourage sustainable development.
2.5.7 Greater certainty over CIL (and potential
additional Government grant funding) would be preferential to
the proposed Council tax incentive proposal as the monies generated
from development would be directed to infrastructure and community
needs associated with it. In terms of the "Duty to Cooperate'
the following questions should be asked:
What will the duty involve to ensure that LPA's do
co-operate on a spatial planning level?
What are the parameters for identifying if a LPA
has not complied with the duty?
Who will regulate it and what are the penalties?
Of significant importance, with most LAs facing up
to 40% budget cuts, how is this going to be resourced???
What are the transitional arrangements to plug the
gap between RSS policy and Core Strategy policy (as legislation
dictates that DPDs cannot replicate RSS policy)?
2.5.8 In terms of ensuring greater democracy
and planning, citiesor city-regionsled by a democratically
elected Mayor could provide clear leadership and be highly effective
for strategic planning as well as other functions. Where this
model is not appropriate, LEPs formed on a sub regional basis
could have a formal strategic planning role. The opportunity exists
to radically rethink local government and governance arising from
the proposed reforms to the planning system.
3. Signatories to the submission
This submission represent the views of the YPTLG
who were willing to sign the submission.