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planning


at the moment. However RSS is destined to be finally waltzed off the dance floor on arrival of the Localism Act in the autumn. What will replace it? Well, not much at the moment. Local Authorities were meant to have their Local Development Frameworks in place years ago, but many are still relying on increasingly outdated Local Plans. With very few LDF’s having been adopted there will be a delay whilst the local policy position is reviewed, consulted, debated, inquiry’d and re-written – yet again. On the upside, national targets for using previously developed land are to be removed and a ‘pro-economic development’ stance is very much to the fore. And don’t be fooled by the recently trumpeted presumption in favour of sustainable development. It’s only a first draft for consultation and the clue is in the word ‘sustainable’. I doubt it will become quite the developers’ charter that many anguished objectors believe it to be. The first 17 communities to test Neighbourhood


with thousands of words in 25 documents, can it really be made faster, easier and simpler in a single all-encompassing ‘pamphlet’. Let’s hope so. Originally introduced by the Labour government


and initially scheduled to be revoked by the coalition, Community Infrastructure Levy – the replacement for Section 106 planning gain agreements – has evidently had a reprieve. Test- bed authorities have already prepared draft charging schedules and the levy will doubtless become commonplace in the future as one of the principle ways for authorities to raise funds. Section 106 agreements will still be required though for developers to ensure that authorities actually deliver the infrastructure they have extracted the cash for in the first place. Consultation – there’s that word again – has commenced on a novel proposition for the automatic conversion of vacant office space to residential use under permitted development rights. OK. So every business park in the land


The government’s ‘localism’ initiative might play to voters aspirations for more control over their local environment,but is likely to be a veritable minefield for the unwary developer


Planning, a key feature of the Localism Bill, have been named. People in these communities – a mix of cities, urban and rural areas – will be able to decide the types of development to be given automatic planning permission through a Neighbourhood Development Order. And this is accompanied by a Community Right to Buy and a Community Right to Build. Just one problem: where is the money coming from? Getting alongside a community groupmay be a useful way to advance your local housebuilding proposals. The government’s ‘localism’ initiative might play


to voters aspirations for more control over their local environment, but is likely to be a veritable minefield for the unwary developer. Public consultation will be required from the outset. Secretary of State Eric Pickles has even suggested that this may extend to the public actually being involved in determining the form of development on any site before the developer puts cursor to CAD screen. I cannot imagine that commercial reality will be


high on the list of concerns for local residents. If nothing else, the timescales for applications could extend into infinity as claims of inadequate consultation and procedural confusion will plague proposals. In discussion recently with a learned planning QC, neither of us could reach a satisfactory answer to the question, ‘how much consultation will be enough’? Detailed pre- application meetings and written confirmation from the Council will be essential. We should see the first draft of a National Planning Policy Statement by the end of July; a single, concise, planning guidance document designed to sweep away the existing Planning Policy Statements: a sort of Planning Guidance Lite, with April 2012 a likely date for implementation. And then the legal debates over interpretation will doubtless begin, although Pickles has already threatened planning silks with their P45’s. If the planning system remains uncertain


90| July 2011 showhouse


could now be a potential housing estate. Where are all these residents going to work? Perhaps this is the moment that live-work really comes of age. And will the existing infrastructure be up to it? This leaves the development industry having to convince financial backers and shareholders that they can still make a commercial return undertaking the right development in line with the right policy framework, and in the right place, at the right time, delivering eco-friendly, energy- efficient and well-designed edifices for a continuously growing population, that minimise their carbon footprint to a gnat’s paw and reduce car use to an afterthought. That do not tread on flood plains, the countryside, anywhere where a bat may have been, or development sites that have stupidly gone and got themselves some ecology, whilst being just profitable enough for the benevolent, if not positively philanthropic, smiley-faced old developer to fund the full cost of the whole planning service, from community engagement to the inevitable appeals, plus pay the pre-determined ‘planning gain’/CIL uplift, deliver full infrastructure and public transport provision, together with a 150 per cent affordable housing quota. In a fully integrated, socially and culturally diverse eco-heritage-futurist-village/town/metropolis with jobs for all, that has taken less than 12 months to receive all its relevant consents from inception, following a public consultation exercise involving every means possible, including the ‘X-factor’ and ‘Strictly Come Planning’, and is fully operational within one Parliamentary cycle. Frankly, I fully expect to see some serious backtracking as the Localism Bill approaches its delivery. But just in case, I’m off to practice my Vulcan death grip. Ian Butter is the principal of the Rural and Urban Planning Consultancy and publisher of www.planning-applications.co.uk. He blogs at www.theplannerman.blogspot.com


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