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Words to the wise for Greg Clark

Date: 12/6/2015

In an article for Planning magazine, Catriona Riddell the POS Strategic Planning Specialist, writes an open letter to Greg Clark.

"Dear Mr Clark - welcome back! You don't know me, but I'm a planner, and like most planners I like a challenge. But I also like to feel a sense of purpose and achievement, something your predecessor has made very difficult over the past five years.

"I hope that you will see planning and planners differently. To help in your new role as communities secretary, here are my top tips to help you honours your manifesto promises.

"First: talk to local authorities, councillors and officers alike. They're the ones working with local communities and businesses to create high-quality homes and environments, as well as the jobs we need to support long-term growth. Look at things from their perspective. You may not agree with everything they say, but you will at least go into things with your eyes open and a pinch of reality.

"Second: get a better understanding of planning. Over the past five years, planning's role at local authorities has diminished significantly, with very few planners now working at the most senior level. I know that this is not really your fault, but the significant lack of resources for planning teams and the portrayal of planners as enemies of enterprise has reduced the status of the profession at many councils. Help us change that image and ensure that planners can influence change once again.

"Third: increase resources for local authorities. Yes, councils need to be more efficient, but let's not kid ourselves. Cut after cut in government funding and a centralised approach to planning fees has significantly damaged the level of service that councils can maintain. Even the development industry agrees!

"Fourth: let councils plan at a level they think appropriate. You've been instrumental in reviving strategic planning for city-regions, allowing councils to work jointly on strategic spatial, infrastructure and economic priorities. Why can't you be as supportive for other parts of England? "Strategic" doesn't mean "regional".

"Fifth and finally: be realistic about your ambitions for creating new towns. Calling them "garden cities" doesn't make it any less challenging. Learn from the past: such places have never been created without central government intervention and are very unlikely to be "sponsored" by councils unless they are told where these should be built. I don't mind whether you do this through the nationally significant infrastructure project regime or another mechanism, but the government was elected to make decisions in the national interest, including solving the housing crisis, and you can't pass the buck.

"I'm not asking you to change the world - or even the National Planning Policy Framework! - but to start your term in office a little better informed by those who are trying to implement your system and meet your objectives. Above all, I'm asking you to restore the sense of purpose and achievement to planners who may have lost it in the past five years."

catriona-riddell-pos.jpg Catriona Riddell





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