The profession has been left in the dark over the government’s proposals for planning reform following the long-awaited publication of the Localism Bill
While the bill reiterates the coalition government’s drive to give local people more influence over development in their communities, key details relating to the proposed National Planning Policy Framework remain absent, as does the much-anticipated explanation of the ‘Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development’.
The framework and its sustainable development cornerstone are set to replace the current system of Planning Policy Statements (PPS).
Philip Singleton, chair of the RIBA Planning Group, said: ‘The bill focuses a lot on “sustainable development” [but there is] no real definition as to what this means [and there is] no real detail yet on how neighbourhood planning will work in practice.’
The RIBA has been heavily consulted on the framework, which it is understood will govern developments in the 80 per cent of local authorities yet to establish Local Development Frameworks.
Under the bill, communities will be free to prohibit certain development types, but will also be empowered to build without planning permission where there is agreement at local and neighbourhood levels. The government hopes this will boost house building in rural areas.
But architects slammed the bill for further contributing to a ‘planning law vacuum’ which has existed since communities secretary Eric Pickles in June abolished Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and threw house building into limbo.
Philip Waddy of West Waddy ADP added: ‘I very much regret the government’s decision to scrap RSS targets six months before they introduced the Localism Bill. We still await the National Planning Framework and a clear definition of what the government mean by that.’
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) pleaded with ministers to urgently clarify key points of the legislation. Ann Skippers, RTPI president, said: ‘[There] is still great uncertainty about key planning reforms, the issue of financial incentives and no implementation plan, all of which are likely to have an unwanted impact in stalling much needed economic recovery, because no one knows how the planning system will work.’
However, PRP chairman Andy von Bradsky welcomed the opportunities the bill could bring. He said: ‘Communities will need help and assistance to guide them, in order to ensure they can deliver their vision for the areas in which they live.’