I was recently asked to give a talk by Vince Cable's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to public sector staff involved in development management on how they could work better with private sector.
A poisoned chalice if ever I saw one! But always loving the sound of my own voice I said I would give it a go. Now the event was cancelled in the end, but as I had put my talk structure already I might as well use it in a blog.
The first point I wanted to make was a philosophical or attitude one.
New development should be considered good. The dramatic improvements in the quality of construction and with it sustainability in the last 40 years means that the use of the old is generally inefficient and resource hungry. It is usually contrary to the good stewardship of the planet. How much warmer our houses are compared with only 20 years ago? The default position should be support for any proposal unless proved otherwise.
Who would chose the technology of the 60's over today's standards?
The second was how complex, long winded and expensive is the development process. As planners we are only involved in a limited part of the process: a sixth at best. The developer has to be a person of real resource who can manage the complexity. S(he) should be helped over the line because as a society we need these people of vision; expertise; stamina; and, endurance.
To give my talk an edge I undertook a straw poll of roughly the largest 11 planning practices in the East Midlands of their main gripes on how the system is administered in the region. Six replied. There were also 6 areas for improvement, which received more than one vote.
- Tick boxing
- Failure to put consultee comments on public access pages (causes delays chasing comments).
- Website not user friendly; very difficult to do planning history searches.
- Not returning or not responding quickly to phone calls, e-mails and letters.
- Delays and O’ Level standard of response to pre-application advice.
- Delays receiving statutory consulters responses. Not making helpful suggestions, as per NPPF Para 186 &187.
I had structured my talk to allow the audience to give their criticism the other way of the private sector. That might have been illuminating as well!
And as for solutions to the above we will have to wait for another day and another blog.