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Key Prescott planning reform left in disarray

One of the key reforms to the planning system proposed by the now-defunct ODPM has been left in disarray this week.

John Prescott's proposal that every local-authority planning department should draw up a Core Strategy is teetering on the brink of collapse after planning inspectors killed off the first two attempts to produce such a document.

If such framework plans do get off the ground they will dictate vast swathes of planning policy and strategy within the boundaries of any council.

But the results of two inquiries have left councils questioning whether the initiative will ever work when it is rolled out.

The idea - dating back to 2001 - was one of the key initiatives of the ODPM while Prescott retained control of his super-department.

As with many of the ODPM's central policies, its future is now being questioned since Ruth Kelly took over and it was renamed the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Both Stafford and Lichfield councils volunteered to be at the forefront of the 'Core Strategy' reform, but have now been left angered by what they claim is the lack of support from central government.

'Back in 2003 both authorities had a choice to make. Each had out-of-date Local Plans and continuing pressure for development,' the joint statement says.

'We could have sat on our hands waiting for the new system to bed-in but took the decision to press ahead with the new Local Development Framework because we thought it was right for our communities.

'We have been at the very forefront in pioneering the new system and have paid the price.

'Only time will tell whether these results are a one-off but if the pattern is continued through similar outcomes in respect of other emerging Core Strategies then this will raise serious concerns about the ability to deliver the types of plans envisaged by the Government when proposing changes to the planning system in 2001.

'We will now be seeking the views of the Local Government Association and others as we feel the difficulty we have experienced could be common to other planning authorities given the paucity of advice from central government,' the statement concludes.

Unsurprisingly the DCLG concluded that there were lessons to be learnt from the experiences of the first two councils.

by Ed Dorrell

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