The government claims the new act will "enable communities to play a more active role in creating better places to live and work … It will make the planning system faster, fairer and more efficient and ensure the right developments in the right place, at the right time".
Housing developers, architects and planners alike are all looking for the same thing – to speed the planning process up. But we are still none the wiser as to what is going to happen to planning gain.
As architects and planners, our practice will continue to engage in the same consultation process, which has been successful to date. Inevitably, we will still encounter similar problems such as the non-committal nature of some authorities' pre-consultation. And the often surprising decisions of the committees and in some cases, appeals.
A positive change is the option (still to be finalised) of planning tariffs to sit alongside the Section 106 regimes and help identify a developer's commitment from the outset. This would help speed the process along and give housing developers an easier time. Also plan-makers have an increased responsibility to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.
It is debatable as to whether a new regional planning framework will make the process faster in the long run
The setting out of a new framework for regional planning is also a positive step – although we are concerned that it might take local councils a long time to prepare and implement local development frameworks.
It is debatable as to whether this will make the process faster in the long. In the short term, it might slow things down.
It seems that because there have been so many different people with different agendas involved in the lengthy consultation process, the act's objectives seem to have changed. In its early stages, there was a dermination to speed up major infrastructure projects. That emphasis has been lost and there is now more focus on community consultation.
Although it is in some ways an improvement on the existing system, its potential for making the system faster seems rather limited. And now that the bill has finally been passed it appears that other issues have replaced many of the problems that initially prompted these reforms. The Barker review asks lots of new questions and leaves us feeling that the new act is almost out of date already.