A Manifesto for Accelerating the Planning System

12 Dec 2019

Sam Bensted, Policy Officer, British Property Federation

That none of party-political manifestos delve into the nuts and bolts of planning policy is not a surprising revelation. However, how we accelerate the planning process will be a consideration for whichever party wins the 2019 general election. MHCLG had previously promising an ‘Accelerated Planning’ White Paper this Autumn.

To feed into this area of debate, the BPF published its own ‘Accelerated Planning’ Manifesto earlier this month. This highlights the property industry’s perspectives on the practical ways in which our existing, plan-led system can be improved. 

Above all, we highlight the need for better resourcing as an important factor in accelerating planning. One of the clear contradictions in government policy since 2010 is that while housing targets have increased by 50% to 300,000, spending-per-person on planning in England has been cut by 55% over the same period.

The next government should therefore invest heavily in local authority planning, together with further private sector investment, so that they have the necessary resources to function effectively and that public sector planning can again become the aspirational goal for built environment professionals that it once was.

Another theme that runs through our manifesto is the need for greater dialogue between stakeholders. These could include pre-committee briefings for elected members, a ‘chair’s review’ two weeks prior to committee (where the chair can convey elected members’ key concerns) and local planning officers being clear with applicants who the internal stakeholders are that need to be consulted as part of the application.

Other practical recommendations include the need to ensure Local Plans are up to date, the greater use of ‘model agreements’, and for government to take a leading role in issuing best practice guidance.

None of these policies will feature on a party-political broadcast, but they are needed to create a better funded, responsive and transparent system that will support good development, in the right places, at the right time.

This article originally appeared in the Municipal Journal.