The new planning act, the draft PPS1 and the recent Royal Town Planning Institute manifesto all seek to reframe planning and planners in a more positive role: out goes 'development control'and in comes 'the management of change'.
A number of interested organisations, including the ODPM and the British Property Federation, recently signed up to a 'concordat' against 'defensive, negative development-control-led doldrum'and to ensure that planning delivers 'environmental and economic quality to all our communities'.Government grants and funding for more students show good intent, but don't hold your breath.
More immediate changes (apart from the many that add to complexity and regulation) will arise as the new act comes into effect.
Here are just a few for architects to look out for and, where appropriate, to encourage:
lmajor project teams may be situated within authorities, as advocated by Egan;
lthe introduction of local permitted development rights, meaning categories of development no longer needing express consents;
lhigher planning fees and charges;
lagreements to timetables for the processing of applications;
lauthorities may decide not to entertain some applications;
lthe duration of permissions generally reduced from five to three years;
loutline applications to require substantial assessments and design work;
loptional planning charges as part of the 'planning obligation'process;
lthe use of design codes beyond Essex.
And more changes are to come as revisions to the General Permitted Development Order and the enforcement regime come through.
Will this all add up to less control and better management? Well, remember that the quality of the planning applications we prepare often influence the quality of the way they are received and processed. More architects on the authority side of the desk would be helpful, but as agents for applicants we also have a contribution to make if a cultural shift is really to happen.