While I share Daniel Van Gelder’s view (27.02.15) that our planning system is failing, the scale of the problem is much greater than he suggests.
Fewer than 25% of local authorities have an adopted local plan in place since the streamlined National Planning Policy Framework was introduced. So around 75% of councils are trying to get by with an out-of-date document.
Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Local authorities don’t plan much in the true sense of the word. Rather, town planning has become a reactive profession, responding to speculative land promotion and determining planning applications submitted by a well-resourced and determined development industry.
Mr Gelder suggests pre-application consultation might be part of the answer. I’m not so sure. Pre-app consultation means nothing unless councils are bound by it. For it to be binding, councils will need to consult different parties, including neighbours. In all likelihood this process would be little different than the determination process of a traditional planning application, defying the whole point of change.
In its defence, town planning has suffered badly from the rule of unintended consequences. The government’s earlier obsession with localism has fuelled nimbyism. This sits uncomfortably with the pro-development message now resonating from Westminster. The next step must be to improve town planning. Local government cuts have been counter-productive to this aim. Many senior planning roles have been axed and influential roles are filled by people who are not qualified town planners.
To rediscover the lost art of planning we need a step-change in the culture, delivery and funding of town planning. This will need to be as transformational in its scope as the birth of the profession in 1947.
Jason Mills, managing director & co-founder, Sequoia Land & Property Group