Tuesday, 13 November 2018

20th Annual Midlands Development Management Conference

This is my summary of my key points from Conference on 8th November. It was World Town Planning Day!

As organiser I am hardly unbiased judge, but I thought t was a great day.

Less clarity and more confusion is how James Burcher (Brum No 5) characterised the new NPPF at the start of the day. On the positive side he saw a clearer route through the presumption in favour of sustainable development aided, of course, by the one case on the NPPF to reach the Supreme Court (Suffolk Coastal et al). Clarity was also improved in the design, green belt and heritage areas. However, the housing supply and demand advice is a buggers muddle and with more recent information, such as changing housing forecasts and Government's praiseworthy wishes to enhance supply there will need to be a NPPF 2019 at the rate we are going. The new Annual Position Statements will likely end up with much litigation  - generally over the summer - when the Courts won’t be sitting leading to further delays over decision making.

James Burcher, Peter Wilkinson and Hugh Richards
outside the venue.

This year we ran a number of double acts to give different perspectives on the same subject. The first related to the prior approval regime where Pritpal Singh and Ed Stacey focussed on classes O and Q. While Pritpal emphasised the reduction in bureaucracy in the system and increased number of housing units created, Ed was able to point to studies, for example in Leicester, where only 21% of such residential conversions met national space standards (as an easy indicator of quality).

David O’Neil gave an extremely clear exposition of dealing with sport and recreation in planning applications.  The new NPPF gives a useful suite of policies (paras 91, 92, 96, 97, 118 and 182). The planning in this area is all about protecting, enhancing and providing land and facilities for sport and recreation And at the same time it is all about balance and working with authorities and providers.

Chryse Tinsley and Tim Rose discussed the difficulties of providing and maintaining sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS). Chryse trailed the soon to be emerging Leicester guidance to developers. If established, as described, with schemes created to enhance the design of new areas instead of just bare engineering solutions, this should be a real improvement on much current provision throughout the country. A view that was heartedly endorsed by Tim as an engineer and generally representing private sector interests.

The role play in the afternoon was a gem. By a 60/40 ratio the majority of the audience did not agree with the Inspector (we have had 90 / 10 against in the past!); and less than 3% of this audience got the costs claim result the same as the Inspector. Albeit our esteemed advocates were as gobsmacked as me with the result. As for lessons be very careful in stating in residential development appeals whether the tilted balance is applicable. This is whatever your viewpoint on the merits of the case. And also make sure you understand the CIL Regulations 122 /123 on suggesting any S106 contributions. Or you could be facing cost claims.

Sue Manns, the forthcoming RTPI President in 2020,  gave a very clear presentation on the relationship of understanding human psychology to secure effective public consultation. The more early consultation with a ‘blank’ sheet of paper, rather than fixed schemes,  even if labelled draft, the better. I wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of the message. However, achieving it in practice, from bitter experience, is incredibly difficult when everything is wanted yesterday.

Finally, we had the Hugh Richards' (Brum No. 5) tour de force on a year of key planning cases with no one leaving before the end as usual. This year, for me, the most useful elements were the context at the beginning and the postscript at the end. For context the 10 key observations of Lord Carnwath in the Suffolk Coastal case (I am afraid you will have to research this yourself, as its too long to write here (Supreme Court May 2017)) were really useful. As a postscript Hugh felt that the new definition of ‘deliverable sites’ in the NPPF would take on great significance going forward.

So as usual a very informative day and thanks so much to all the participants who make it so good. 

Peter Wilkinson

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Reflections on 70 Years of Planning

John Dean Memorial Lecture/Young Planners Conference 
John Dean: 8 June 1931 - 2 August 2018

This week I had the honour(?) to chair a couple of major Planning events. A distraction from the day job but you do need to raise your gaze. And to talk to others to know the trends.

Two very senior public sector Planners separately bemoaned to me about the continuing  ‘dismantling’  of Planning with ‘prior approvals’, 'permission in principle’ and even neighbourhood planning dumbing down standards. It was seen as a conspiracy to reduce the status of planning. 

While I also regret these changes I don’t think it is some sort of Government conspiracy. More about trying to create publicity and being seen to do something.

In my opinion such injunctions in the new NPPF related to  design quality, including the curse of value engineering; greater need for Plan justification for removing green belt; and, front loading of viability assessment enhances the role of public sector Planning not diminishes it.

For me on the dark side of Planning, but caring just as passionately as my public sector colleagues, getting approval is harder not easier. With applicant Planning Appeal success down to an all time low of 25%, with even longer wait times for decisions, its even harder. 

The trick is to accept the new reality and move on.

L to R Grant Butterworth, Martin Bradshaw, Sir Peter Soulsby, Alwyne Dean, John Acres, Peter Wilkinson.