A second module of the consultation promised by Modernising Planning2 was published in March with the stated objective of promoting shorter, clearer plans and encouraging their prompt adoption. Given the lamentable progress achieved in the adoption of udps and area-wide plans, all help is welcome. The last government's target was to achieve 100 per cent coverage by the end of 1996. In fact regional progress varies between bad and worse3: London (which got going first) had 80 per cent of authorities with adopted plans by the end of last year, while Yorkshire and Humberside had managed only 13 and Merseyside only 20 per cent. Full coverage is not now expected until 2000.
The new consultation paper4 spells out the government view that many plans are too long and contain too many policies and proposals. It says they should be examined as part of their review and where policies are seen to have had little impact, consideration should be given to their deletion. The paper includes a draft guide to plan preparation procedures and a revised draft code of practice to amend that in ppg12. Amendments are to be made to the development-plan regulations and a new ppg12 is anticipated.
Local planning authorities will no longer be required to consult with statutory consultees before plans go on deposit, but 12 weeks will then be allowed for objections to be made. There will be a further six-week deposit period where the plan is revised. This is the plan to be considered by the inquiry, and only one set of further pre-inquiry changes should be proposed but even such changes are discouraged.
Pressure is put on objectors too. Their evidence should be submitted six weeks ahead of the relevant part of the inquiry or they will lose their opportunity to appear, and rarely should the merits of a particular development be argued in this forum. 'Inspectors look for strong, simple and focused evidence. The strength of evidence is not to be equated to its volume,' says the government.
Architects should still remain vigilant on clients' behalf. If the adopted plan conflicts with the client's development aspirations and he missed the opportunity to be represented at the inquiry, his planning permission may be forfeit.