A Return to Regional Planning?

There was county level planning, then there was regional planning, then localism was introduced and regional spatial strategies were abolished.  Now, in lieu of a higher tier geographically wide plan, there is simply a “duty to cooperate”.  That duty looks likely to be scrapped too.  However, there is hope for a coordinated approach!

The County Councils Network and Catriona Riddell Associates have published a report, “The Future of Strategic Planning in England”.  When surveyed 100% of county councils said better cross-boundary strategic planning, with county involvement, would lead to better outcomes from the planning system.  73% considered their area to have a severe infrastructure gap and 58% described the pressure on local infrastructure as excessive as a result of housing development in their area.

Proposals put forward in the report aim to resolve the disconnect between the County Councils that have responsibility for infrastructure and local planning authorities that approve housing development.  The rationale is that planning should be simplified and streamlined and that this can be achieved through a robust approach at an appropriate geographical scale.

An accountable strategic planning body is proposed, to be made up of senior councillors from all councils in the area with the chair either a county authority councillor or elected leader. The body would produce a “strategic growth plan” matching infrastructure requirements with tested locations for growth and regeneration.  This plan would provide a framework for local plans yet not supersede them. The plan would be scrutinised by a “local planning advisory board” comprised of local councillors, business, health, climate and civic leaders.

Clearly cooperative, joined up planning is beneficial for all.  The report recognises the opportunities that working at a larger scale offers for more appropriately locating growth and matching development with infrastructure.  It does not cut across the localist agenda, neighbourhood planning would remain. What is required to support strategic planning (and planning at all levels) is proper resource.  It is put forward that the cost savings strategic planning affords can more that off-set any additional costs.

Hopefully government recognises the sense in strategic planning and takes the opportunity to incorporate the proposals whilst it mulls over the responses to last year’s white paper.

Posted on 02/01/2022 by Ortolan

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