Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Top-down policy no planning solution

  • Comment

It has been a busy few weeks for anyone following national planning policy, and by the time this reaches print, there will have been many more column inches on the merits of using planning policy as a tool for growth.

We have seen some sector praise for the amended National Planning Policy Framework, the announcement of wider permitted development rights for extensions and conservatories and, perhaps more significantly, the effective removal of s106 affordable housing obligations for developers.

Whether you believe in conservatories or conservation, or think we should further reduce affordable rented house building, one of the most extraordinary aspects of all this is the variety of Whitehall ministries that are now chipping into planning policy.

So far, we have had Eric Pickles, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and indeed the prime minister announcing, speaking and press releasing.

The Institute for Government, the independent thinktank that aims to improve government effectiveness and the policy process, has for some time been warning of the risks of press release policy making, and the associated potential for fragmentation across Whitehall departments.

In July it published Opening up policy making, which reported on the ambition and pitfalls of a more inclusive drafting of the National Planning Policy Framework.

It found that a small advisory group, where incidentally the LGA was well represented, drafted, in an almost unprecedented way, elements of the consultation document.

However, other parts - in fact those that created some of the greatest controversy - were bolted on from the Treasury. Careful compromises from the hours of debate by the advisers were lost.

There is a read-across here for the whole of planning policy and practice. There is a debate to be had in the UK about the extent to which land-use priorities should be bent towards meeting short-term growth, which includes how we use land for housing, commercial, leisure and retail.

There are choices that need to be made at a local, regional and national level. But top-down policy from Whitehall is not going to stimulate this debate. We need fewer press releases and more hard work to get genuine public buy-in on these difficult choices.

Jamie Carswell, director of investment services, Tower Hamlets Homes

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.