Thursday, 10 November 2016

Landmark's Development Management Conference 2016

Baptist Church, Leicester
Front Cover - Latham Architects

A packed Charles Street Baptist Church this October saw 150 planning and related professionals hear presentations upon the latest issues in development management.

It even proved exciting as the twitter feed received, half way through the morning regarding the High Court's ruling on Brexit, sent a frisson through the proceedings. This was the announcement that Brexit was to be made even more complicated by requiring consideration by Parliament. And needless to say that provoked a legal speculation on the immediate issues for planning. It certainly gave the day a relevance that as an organiser I could not have expected.

What these annual events prove more than anything else is that with so many changes that occur in a year any practitioner just has to keep up to date to perform effectively. Landmark's Annual Midlands event (now in its 18th year) really does that by focusing on the legal changes (statute, Court interpretation, policy guidance and practice) before reviewing the year's hot technical subjects. With apologies for sounding so gushing, but I really believe it.

Planning balance and its proper consideration in two limbs tests instigated by the NPPF, particularly in issues related to heritage assets, are matters that need to be properly understood. This and the weight to be given to each issue was a key focus of the day. It helps give Planners our 'unique' perspective: namely what are the material planning issues to any decision and then how to properly judge the balance. Planners are generalists not specialists, but this gives us a critical place in the development process. Rather than the sectional interests that we have to suffer constantly in the daily grind.

In the afternoon the role play emphasised this balancing judgement with a review of two cases heard within a week of each other in the same village that led to opposite results on the same facts. You might think you could not make it up, but it was true! But it was also highly educational on the art of town planning. It is an art not a science.

Later Iain Reid provided an excellent review of both the genus and appropriate analysis of 'valued' landscapes: a concept largely brought to the fore in the NPPF.   And then to finish off Nick Sanderson described emerging changes in ecology evaluation and how dealing with the tricky issues of habitat and protected species can be improved. And is being done in places.

All in all a great day, which for me is always a highlight in the year. 

Peter Wilkinson