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PLANNING FOR A BETTER FUTURE Our planning manifesto for the next government

Date: 19/2/2014

he Planning Officers Society (POS) has been looking ahead to the national parliamentary elections in May 2015. The main parties are drafting their manifestos; POS has been looking at what it can do to help them.

POS has produced "Planning for a Better Future". It's core message is that planning is key to meeting housing needs and delivering economic growth through the creation of sustainable development and POS invites a new Government to work with it to build a more efficient and effective planning system. The document is limited to 4 key areas: Making Great Places, Simpler Planning and Tools for the Job but the main focus is Meeting Our Nation's Needs. You can view the whole document on the POS website.

Mike Kiely, President of POS, said "Our offer is to help ensure that a community's needs, particularly for housing, are met through the planning system. We consider that there are features of the current system that need refinement to ensure that they work better and serve our communities well."

POS contends that the current system of development plans, as introduced in 2004 and subsequently refined, is essentially sound but there are a number of areas where it could be improved:

  • The Duty to Cooperate is challenging.
  • Agreeing the overall strategy in an area can be politically difficult and this is leading to a two plan process persisting in many areas, rather than a single Local Plan as desired by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  • Despite the NPPF advice that a plan should receive increased weight as it progresses through the system, the soundness test towards the end of the process undermines this.
  • The Strategic Environmental Assessment requirements and Issues and Options stage should be applied in a more targeted way.

POS believe that these challenges can be addressed by adjusting the system so that it operates in a more logical way. More details are in its document, but the essential elements are:

  • Local Plans should be prepared in 2 stages: the strategy followed by the detailed policies.
  • The strategy stage is where the Duty to Cooperate needs to be focused.
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment and Issues and Options should only be applied to stage 1.
  • The Planning Inspectorate applies the Soundness Test to stage 1 and signs it off.
  • This leaves the drafting of the detailed policies that will deliver the strategy as a simpler process as it will be done in the context of a clear, agreed and sound strategy. The Planning Inspectorate's role at stage 2 would be to hear objections to the detailed policies.
  • The carrying out of the Soundness Test at stage 1 and limiting future involvement of the Planning Inspectorate to considering objections to detailed policies, re-establishes a clear process for the plan to gain weight in decision making as it progresses through the system to final adoption.

Dave Evans, Society Senior Vice President, commented "It is considered that this restructuring and refocusing of the existing plan-making system could save time in the process overall because it ensures that resources by all parties are put into the process only where they are needed and it is done in a logical sequence thereby avoiding wasted effort."  Evans added, "It is also felt that this approach could create a better environment for Neighbourhood Plans to flourish as the clarity it gives to the strategic vision enables parish councils and neighbourhood forums to be clear about what they need to plan for. We also think it has the potential to shave about a year off the plan preparation process."

MikeKiley_Pres_web3.jpgMike Kiely   


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