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Brandon Lewis, the former planning minister, announced in 2015 that the deadline for planning authorities in England to produce local plans would be “early 2017”. He also concluded that if they failed to do so by the deadline, they would face government intervention. The statement released said that where a local plan hadn’t been produced by the deadline, the government would look to "intervene to arrange for the plan to be written, in consultation with local people, to accelerate production".

In the run up to the Housing White Paper there was speculation throughout the industry that authorities would be given more time, however Gavin Barwell, the current planning minister, stated in October 2016 that this was not the case.

Interestingly the white paper, which was released in March this year, made no mention of the deadline. The only reference to the process was to once again confirm that the government would intervene where local authorities were "not making sufficient progress on producing or reviewing their plans". The paper stated that this was to ensure communities in areas without plans "are not disadvantaged by unplannned growth".

While “early 2017” fails to set a specific deadline, few could argue as we approach May that the allocated time is not coming to an end. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) were recently asked whether the government’s plan to intervene still existed, which they confirmed it did. While they still insist that the threat is real, we will only truly see once the “early 2017” deadline has passed.

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) last report, which was published in June 2016, revealed that the agency had missed a considerable number of its casework targets over the previous year. The review was especially concerning as the internal review for 2015 had also raised concerns over casework performance, and branded it a "governance failure".

Sarah Richards, chief executive of PINS, commented that the agency is making headway in improving its performance when dealing with "volume casework", covering written representations and householder appeals, which account for a considerable percentage of their work.

Planning magazine found Sarah’s claims to be true as they published figures which show that the proportion of appeals determined by the written representations method within 14 weeks rose from 41.6 per cent in 2015/16 to 68.7 per cent in 2016/17, while the proportion of householder appeals decided within eight weeks rose from 46.9 per cent to 59.8 per cent over the same period.

That being said, the numbers also revealed that over the same timeframe, the more complex appeals (those requiring hearings and some types of inquiry) were taking longer to complete. However, PINS do argue that the process time for the more complex appeals has been reduced in recent months.

In a recent interview, Richards said that a key priority, highlighted in their latest strategic plan, is for the agency to place a greater focus on the customer. However she did outline that this could mean setting new performance targets which place a closer focus on the experience of appellants. This would be aided by technology that would allow users to track where their appeal is in the system. Yet Richards did conclude by outlining that this is a long term plan due to the costs and lack of resource for implementation, but certainly something her agency will be revisiting.

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.

During my 30 years in the development industry, I have seen many supposed solutions to our housing crisis. But as new initiatives are announced with each swing of the political pendulum, I question whether there is in fact anything ‘new’ in these ideas. To most people, a garden village is no more than a rebadged eco town; to those of us in the industry, the new terminology merely masks the problems identified in the previous initiative. In addressing enduring - and escalating - issues, the industry needs some genuinely new ideas. That’s not easy for a sector so inherently conservative that it seeks to draw on the 115 year old Garden City movement in responding to today’s problems.

The full article of ‘Regeneration:  a radial re-think’ will be published in the May edition of Planning Insite.


Case studies

@ Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor 
Partner - Head of Planning
020 7016 0733 email me about Nick Taylor
@ James Bainbridge
James Bainbridge
01865 404437 email me about James
@ Colin Brown
Colin Brown
Partner - Head of Planning and Development Division
01223 326826 email me about Colin

Nick is a chartered town planner and development surveyor with over 25 years' experience, gained across the residential, commercial, retail and industrial sectors for corporate, institutional and private landowners and developers. He has worked at CBRE and Drivers Jonas Deloitte. His professional experience is in three main sectors – Strategic Land / Projects, Retail / Mixed-Use and Central London. Strategic Projects / Land involves the promotion of land for commercial and residential development for landowners and developers. Retail / Mixed-Use schemes are a blend of edge of centre and town centre mixed-use schemes with food stores and other uses, often residential. This sector includes regeneration and waterside schemes. Central London focuses on projects from Canary Wharf to Hammersmith and Camden down to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth.

When he isn’t working, Nick can be found playing golf (increasingly badly) and spending time re-stocking and emptying his wine cellar to indulge his passion for wine.

James is Chairman of Carter Jonas.  Formerly Head of the Planning & Development Division, James advises clients on proposed development projects throughout the south of England with nearly 30 years of experience in residential and mixed use development.  This includes site identification, project management of planning and development strategies, valuation and viability appraisals, marketing and sale of development opportunities. He has specific expertise in option, promotion and other development agreements, joint ventures and landowner equalisation agreements. James has been involved in sites ranging from new settlements to city centre regeneration and smaller provincial and rural schemes, and also provides expert witness and independent expert valuation services for dispute resolution.

I can provide advice on:

Colin is a Partner and was appointed Head of Planning & Development Division in November 2020, he is based out of our Cambridge office.  He has over 25 years’ experience of planning consultancy and has a broad sphere of work.  He acts for a wide range of private, institutional and developer clients and has worked on significant planning applications and appeals.

He regularly instructs Counsel, and has appeared at a number of Local Plan examinations and in Section 78 and other appeals where he has often given evidence.  He carries out much land promotion work and has a strong track record of delivering planning consents taking projects through their entire process from site identification to construction on site.  

Away from work, Colin is Chairman of the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry and of the Cambridge branch of networking group, Interact.  He is also Chairman of the Dining Rights Committee at the Hawks’ Club, a sporting club in the City for Cambridge University sportsmen. He is a regular, if poor golfer, a keen cyclist and a committed, but somewhat less dangerous skier than he once was.

I can provide advice on:

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