Back to the future

    Back to the future

    This time four years ago, we were in the thick of Political Manifesto season, in the run up to the 2010 general election. Commitments and new ideas were coming thick and fast as the various political parties jockeyed for position. Measures for streamlining the planning system and responding to recession were very much to the fore – such as the NPPF, neighbourhood plans, CIL etc. Well, here we go again.

    With a fixed term UK Parliament we know when the next general election will be – Thursday 7 May 2015. So the various political parties have already had their thinking caps on trying to come up with the next wave of new ideas that might best appeal to the electorate and strengthen economic recovery.

    What that means is that, in the meantime, it is reasonable to assume that major new initiatives in the planning realm will be few and far between. Not only is there little time or appetite to deliver further  major changes, but it is also tempting to keep some political powder dry.

    Only essential or relatively minor procedural adjustments are on the short term menu. The ‘bonfire of the Circulars’ arising from the Taylor Review is still awaited, for example. The new National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) has been tested as an online resource and is nearly ready to go live.

    Further taps on the CIL tiller are likely in the short to medium term too, learning from practical experience and allowing further flexibility in operation. Likewise, on the back of a new National Infrastructure Plan, which sets out £375bn of investment for energy, transport, flood defence, waste, water and communications infrastructure up to 2030 and beyond, the continued roll out of national policy statements (NPS) can be expected to continue. So, the national road and rail networks NPS has been published in draft for consultation. Consultation closes on 26 February 2014. The aviation NPS has not yet been published in draft for consultation.

    It is also worth noting that the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and National Planning Framework (NPF) are both up for review at present too. These are two key national planning documents that set the framework for development across Scotland. The aim is that the revised SPP will be published in June 2014 alongside the new NPF, just in time for the Referendum.

    But it is those new ideas that are starting to draw attention. The LibDems have a debate during their forthcoming Spring Conference on further planning reforms. Ideas being floated include restricting call-in powers, limiting the role of the Planning Inspectorate and introducing a local appeals system. That old chestnut of a community/third party right of appeal is having another airing too. Flooding is, topically, a matter of policy discussion too, with all the main parties considering whether and how controls on development in the floodplain might be strengthened. A greater presumption in favour of brownfield land is being chewed over by various think tanks as well.

    So, it probably is back to the future. Expect some innovations being given a test flight as work on those as yet prototype manifestos continues apace, but don’t be too surprised if many of the resulting proposals have a certain familiarity to them as well.


    Key contacts

    David Henry

    David Henry


    Savills Cambridge

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253


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