Local plans for 15 years of development in each area are the bedrock of Britain’s planning system. Despite a government deadline to have an up-to-date local plan by the end of this year, 59 per cent of the country still lacks one, according to Lichfields planning agency. Amid labyrinthine complexity the average time to sign off a local plan rose from 450 days in 2009 to 815 days in 2019, the government’s planning white paper found.
Martina Lees www.thetimes.co.uk (Extract)
Uncertainty over whether the government will abandon top-down housing targets, famously called “Stalinist” by former prime minister Liz Truss, have caused many councils to abandon making local plans. In April almost 70,000 homes across eight stalled local plans were in jeopardy, according to Lichfields. By September at least 19 councils had put their plans on hold. Sam Stafford, planning director of the Home Builders Federation, believes the count is now well above 20. “The local plan making system has effectively collapsed this year,” he says.
The process of making local plans should consult residents from the start instead of allowing developers to suggest sites, says Rosie Pearson, who chairs the Community Planning Alliance of about 600 local campaign groups. The system makes residents feel “things are always dumped on you. You don’t get a chance to influence them positively,” she adds.
“Don’t propose a load of plans and then ask people what they think and carry on ignoring everyone. Get everyone in a room and say, ‘Write what you liked about your area. What don’t you like?’ Then propose things and then run them by people,” Pearson says. “It’s called ‘engage, deliberate, decide’. It’s the opposite that happens at the moment, which is ‘decide, announce, dissent’.”
What’s happening in East Devon right now is very odd because the current local plan was adopted in 2016 and runs to 2031, which is the required 15 years by my reckoning. However, a new local plan is in a late stage of development, ostensibly because the current one is “dated”, and it will most likely run from 2024-2040. So should we expect that in turn to be replaced as “dated” around 2031? A spin-off of this is that many local residents spent large amounts of time and effort creating Neighbourhood Plans which, due to having to fit with the current local plan, were all geared in good faith to a timeline running to 2031. However, they will now be rendered obsolete in 2024, and if they had known that in advance, I suspect a lot of people would not have bothered to do them.