Decentralisation and planning minister Greg Clark has been urged to set up a panel of professionals to provide “succinct” guidance for the preparation of local plans and for development management.
The call has come from the Practitioners Advisory Group which has just produced its own proposed draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a 55-page document which has condensed thousands of pages of existing planning policy guidance.
The draft suggests an explanation and definition of sustainable development, proposes a threefold role for planning (economic, social and environmental) and stresses that “planning must be positive, proactive, simple and free from bureaucratic barriers”.
The group has sent a covering letter to Clark arguing that Government should not be the arbiter of best practice. It said: “We believe that others can make a useful contribution to identifying best practice guidance within specialist areas of planning practice.
“To avoid confusion, it would be sensible for Government to scope those areas where guidance would be helpful and to identify the parties who may most usefully contribute to that guidance. Thereafter, however, Government should allow those parties to develop acknowledged best practice and for it to be clear that such guidance is useful – but it is not policy.”
The group said that once the Government decides on the NPPF it should be rigorously enforced and take immediate effect.
“To do otherwise would generate confusion and would also have the effect of deferring the contribution which the NPPF can make to national economic recovery and other Government objectives. Pending the preparation of Local Plans consistent with the NPPF, the NPPF itself can provide a sufficient framework against which planning decisions can be made,” they said.
The group has proposed the retention of the existing policy tests for the Green Belt and for the protection of the historic environment, and has proposed new policies to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
Policies are also proposed to address the challenge posed by climate change and to facilitate the achievement of stretching carbon reduction targets.
The group concluded: “In our judgment, economic, social and environmental priorities can and should be integrated together to provide the planning policy framework which the country needs.”
The group comprised four experts from planning, local government, house-building and the environmental lobby: John Rhodes, director of planning consultants Quod; Peter Andrew, director of land and planning at Taylor Wimpey plc; Simon Marsh, Acting Head of Sustainable Development at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; and councillor Gary Porter, chairman of the Environment and Housing Programme Board at the Local Government Association.
26 May 2011