Planning must be streamlined if UK plc is going to succeed in growing its economy - heritage organisations must not be allowed to interfere
If the agenda of the National Trust director general Dame Fiona Reynolds were to be implemented, there would be chaos.
There is currently a combination of a thousand plus pages of often conflicting National Planning Policies, Regional Development Plans of uncertain status, and saved or partially saved Local Plans of an assortment of vintages - collectively completely inaccessible to all but specialist planning consultants and lawyers.
She is arguing for a retention of this status quo, which simply doesn’t work. That may seem sensible if your brief is to preserve a limited number of buildings and gardens in planning aspic, but if UK plc is to come out of this recession any time soon it needs more lateral and more responsible thinking than that.
If heritage counts as much as growth, there will be no growth: you can’t build anything without affecting something with the possible exception of development in the National Parks and similar areas.
The proposed 20% headroom on housing land targets is the best and most sensible recognition of market realities to appear in a planning document for 30 years. It should be widened (to include office accommodation, leisure and retail space etc.) not narrowed. If you want markets to work, there needs to be surplus capacity (or ‘headroom’ in the jargon) to allow for competition between providers.
This is completely inconsistent with the exhortation for developers to work with councils and would also require the abandonment of the Community Infrastructure Levy and the government’s hous-building financial incentives to councils.
Introducing a third party right of appeal would hideously lengthen an already over-long planning process. It would add 6-9 months to the timescale of every planning application that attracted so much as a single objection by an objector willing to appeal - as many would. This was mooted by the government in its pre-election Green Paper, and rightly dropped like a hot brick when they realised the consequences.
Carl Dyer is a partner at Thomas Eggar