The Conservative Party has pledged to introducing an ‘open source’ planning system and shift powers from central government to local neighbourhoods
In its election manifesto Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, the Tories also promise to reform the ‘complex and unwieldy’ planning process, simplify and speed up decision making on major projects and encourage ‘sustainable development’.
Among the key aims are proposals to streamline planning by abolishing the intermediary tier of Regional Spatial Strategies, (RSS.)
Brian Waters, president of the Association of Consultant Architects and Vice Chairman of the National Planning Forum, said he welcomed this ‘removal of an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.’ However, he added: ‘[The Conservatives] need to ensure that some very good planning work that’s been done at the regional level is salvaged from the wreckage.’
The manifesto reiterates the Conservatives’ third party right of appeal, introduced in their recently published Green Paper, which would potentially enable individuals to challenge development proposals.
Plans to abolish planning inspectors’ rights to re-write local plans will also further strengthen influence at a local level, claim the Tories.
Waters believes the introduction of third party appeals would be ‘disastrous for imaginative design’.
He explained: ‘Objectors have every right to be heard at the plan stage and during consultation. If developers still don’t know if they can rely on a decision after it’s been made, it’s going to be a nightmare. How much more dithering can the system allow?’
He added: ‘Limiting scope for objections to procedure or departure from the development plan would emasculate the most effective part of the planning system.’
The manifesto also repeats the Green Paper’s commitment to abolishing centrally determined housing targets.
Waters says this would be a ‘potentially hazardous sop to NIMBY tendencies.’
He added: ‘The idea that the community knows best has been proven so many times to be wrong. It’s easy to object to things, but who’s lobbying on behalf of people wanting to live in these houses? No one, as they’re not there yet. So it’s not a balanced consultation.’
The manifesto includes the replacement of Labour’s Infrastructure Planning Commission, (IPC) with private or hybrid Bills to advance major projects.
The document also repeats proposals in the Green Paper, to replace developers’ contributions with a tariff, a proportion of which would be retained by the neighbourhood in which the proposed development takes place.
The key points summarised:
Housing and Planning
- Abolish the entire bureaucratic and ‘undemocratic tier’ of regional planning, including the regional spatial strategies and building targets
- Developers to pay a tariff to local authorities to compensate the community for loss of amenity and costs of additional infrastructure. A portion of this tariff would be kept by the neighbourhoods in which a given development takes place
- Abolish Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and replace it with private or hybrid Bills to promote major projects, such as national high-speed rail network; all other major infrastructure projects to be considered at planning inquiries with binding timetables with final permission given by a Minister
- Abolish the power of planning inspectors to rewrite local plans
- Amend the ‘Use Classes Order’ so that people can use buildings for any purpose allowed in the local plan
- Limit appeals against local planning decisions to cases that involve abuse of process or failure to apply the local plan
- Encourage county councils and unitary authorities to compile infrastructure plans
- Allow neighbourhoods to stop the practice of ‘garden grabbing’.
- Create Britain’s first Green Investment Bank using money from existing government initiatives to leverage private sector capital to finance new green technology start-ups.
- Create a Big Society Bank, funded from unclaimed bank assets, to provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other nongovernmental bodies to provide social enterprises with the start-up funding they need to bid for government contracts or work towards delivering services under a payment by results model.
- Give every home up to £6,500 worth of energy improvement measures – with more for hard-to-treat homes – paid for out of savings made on fuel bills over 25 years
Procurement and SMEs
- Proposals to deliver 25 per cent of government research and procurement contracts through SMEs by cutting the administrative costs of bidding.
- Change barriers to entry so that any good education provider can set up a new Academy school
- Promise not to raise National Insurance on those earning below £35,000.
- Quangos that do not perform a technical function or a function that requires political impartiality, or act independently to establish facts, will be abolished.