The general consensus of the industry is that the emergence of a non-statutory strategic planning role for the new mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough may have limited effect in the immediate future, however it could prove to be the first step towards greater mayoral planning powers in the area in the long-term.
The elections will take place in May, and the chosen candidate will take the role of chairman of the combined authority for the area, the details of which were decided by the government and local representatives in a devolution deal. Upon undertaking the role, the new mayor will possess significant strategic planning powers, which will include the ability to draw up spatial framework, produce supplementary planning documents and create mayoral development corporations.
Experts predict that ultimately the plan’s non-statutory status will limit its influence, however it will still hold significant power, which could mean a steady growth in the mayor’s authority in the future. Martin Curtis, associate director at public affairs consultancy Curtin & Co described the new framework as "a drift back to strategic planning at a much bigger level than district councils". Curtis also added that "Even though it is a non-statutory plan, the decision-making process means the plan should have some weight. The decisions of the elected mayor will be made by the combined authority as a whole, so it won’t make sense for leaders of the councils to agree something that is part of the strategic planning framework and then not comply with it at local level."
The devolution deal in Cambridge sets a blueprint for local plans across the UK. Read further opinion on the devolution deal in our spring copy of Planning Insite, published in May 2017.