The NPPF consultation came to a close at 11.45pm on 10th May. A not inconsiderable 27,000 responses were logged. Admittedly 5,000 of those responses do relate just to Veteran trees, but all the same the MHCLG’s plan to release a revised plan by the end of July still strikes me as slightly ambitious. This isn’t to say I’m not in favour of keeping up the momentum, but it does make you wonder just how quickly they are reading the responses.
What I’m most looking forward to reading at the end of July is how the NPPF looks, from a policy point of view, to speed up delivery by making the system easier. As a starter for ten we can expect pre-commencement conditions to be reviewed, with the intention of simplifying the process and ultimately this will shorten the time between permission granted and work on site.
I also hope to be reading that Siobhain McDonagh MP and the Centre for Cities campaign to review our not so green ‘Green Belt’ is seriously considered. As McDonagh rightly points out, waste plants, car parks and storage sites are still often left with a ‘Green Belt’ tag, but don’t represent the green and pleasant land that most people associate with the term.
However, what I’m most interested to hear from the MHCLG is how they can continue to influence and improve the planning process as well as the planning system. By process, I’m referring to Local Authorities – both in terms of how they can be more efficient, better resourced and genuinely excited about delivering places.
We’ve already seen the MHCLG play hard ball, with visits to Wirral, Castle Point and Thanet, and having five authorities submitting plans following a warning letter. But, more likely to get communities on board, is the work they have been doing in Oxford and Cambridge. Through a £215m Central Government infrastructure deal, they have managed to get 45% more housing, secured by a large group of Councils, all without the need of a Metro Mayor. This kind of positive investment makes people excited about growth and secures the infrastructure funding, opening up other funds for good design and proper placemaking.
Ultimately, what looks most exciting in the current planning world is this two-pronged approach. Planning Policy and the Planning Process are two separate elements that create exceptional places, and both need to be working in tandem to ensure we are quickly, viably and efficiently creating those exceptional places.