Change of CLG -personnel does not mean change of tack

    Change of CLG personnel does not mean change of tack

    Since the current Coalition Government came into power in 2010, we have seen a wave of reform sweep through the planning system in England. Much of this was making good on pre –election ambitions, generally under the ‘localism’ banner, but some have been the result of economic expediency. So, having almost reached the half-way point in the Parliamentary term (the next general election might not be until May 2015) what else can we expect?

    Well, for a start there has just been a ministerial reshuffle.

    Eric Pickles remains Secretary of State in overall charge of strategic direction. New kid Nick Bowles has come in to take over from Greg Clark, with responsibility for planning and development and deregulation. Mark Prisk takes up responsibility for housing and local growth. Don Foster has the climate change portfolio and pushing on with the localism agenda, and, Brandon Lewis takes charge of local government.

    Despite this almost complete change of personnel at Communities and Local Government, this doesn’t mean a change of tack. With the economy still in the doldrums, and the gap between housing demand and supply ever widening, the primary task will remain finding ways of using the planning system to stimulate growth.

    The NPPF is a key policy tool in this regard. Now that it is settling in to the operation of the system, we ought to see it featuring more often in appeal decisions, and other forms of central intervention.

    Likewise, the recent flurry of consultations on streamlining the application process is a clear signal that the planning system is going to continue to evolve. Unblocking unviable schemes by revisiting S106 agreements is an obvious example. So too is cutting down the amount of information that can be asked for in submitting an application.

    Debates about viability are no doubt going to be fiercely contested as local authorities seek to secure a fair slice of  the benefits of development and public budgets tighten further. Recent guidelines such as the RICS publication on ‘Viability in Planning’ and the Harman Report on Viability in Local Plans will become essential reading. CIL plays its role here too. Once seen as a means to transparency in such negotiations, it is increasingly facing criticism for being a blunt instrument, when each scheme faces different viability challenges. So CIL will need to evolve too.

    There are many reasons for having a planning system. It’s just that at the moment it is its economic role that is taking precedence. And it seems likely to stay that way for some time to come.

     
     

    Key contacts

    David Henry

    David Henry

    Director
    Planning

    Savills Cambridge

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

     
     

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