A blog about planning, planning law and planning policy


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Development, growth, George Osborne and the green belt.

It’s very interesting how George Osborne and his advisers seem to get planning, as the modern system was introduced in 1947.  There was a presumption in favour of development, planning was to rebuild the country and the idea was to enable development to happen.  See the Uthwatt report for example.  So the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared yesterday on the Andrew Marr Show and announced that planning permissions must be granted more quickly and there will be a shorter time limit on applying for judicial review.  Councils must justify refusals and he commends green belt swaps.  Is this such a problem? Judging by the stirring done in less that 24 hours by the Daily Telegraph it appears that it is.  For example Shaun Spiers of CPRE claims that “If planning restrictions are relaxed, you’re not going to get any increase in the overall number of houses being built. All that will happen is an increase in the number of houses being built in the wrong places.” But the decision making framework is the same.  We will still have green belts (which are not necessarily sustainable, as by limiting the growth of cities they lead to greater commuting distances).  The change is to the time limit for judicial review, and that is likely just to be a reduction from the current limit of “promptly and in event within three months” to a straight six weeks. That is the time limit for challenges to major infrastructure decisions and so far as I know CPRE did not make a big fuss about that when it was introduced in 2008.  CPRE should remember that economies need to grow, and not all planning decisions are about (a) housing, nor (b) in the countryside.

But it is salutary that Osborne has been trying to get development going for some time.  He began in earnest with the 2011 budget when he announced the presumption in favour of sustainable development. That was subsumed into the draft National Planning Policy Framework by what one might term a less than enthusiastic Department for Communities and Local Government, who appeared not to understand that the presumption is (a) fundamental to the planning system and (b) dates not just from 1947 but from 1923  see – http://thedavidbrockblog.com/?p=81 .  Greg Clark who steered the NPPF through the political minefield created by the National Trust, CPRE and the Telegraph did a masterly job of appearing to convince everyone they had got what they wanted, but in truth the NPPF hides and fudges the issue, and its transitional provisions (which are key to the immediate operation of the presumption) are poorly drafted (or masterly sleight of hand if you want to be positive about them).

So with councils, CPRE and the National Trust thinking that life is as normal, it is understandable that the Chancellor is having another go.  Will tomorrow’s Cabinet reshuffle help him?  Here is a supporter of the green belt. Will he still be in post this time tomorrow? 


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