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Paper 3  -  25 January 2002 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

25 January 2002

"DELIVERING A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE" - THE GOVERNMENTíS PLANNING GREEN PAPER

Report by the Policy Manager

PURPOSE

1. The purpose of this debate is to assist Member Authorities in formulating their responses to the Planning Green Paper and associated consultation papers published in December. The Green Paper is entitled "Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change" and responses are sought by 18 March.

2. The discussion at this Association meeting is intended to complement the work of DTLR and the LGA in promoting debate. The LGA is holding a major conference on 22 January and the LGA briefing is attached.

PLANNING CONSULTATION PAPERS

3. In addition to the Planning Green Paper itself, there are four concurrent planning consultations at present: Compulsory Purchase and Compensation; Planning Obligations: Delivering a Fundamental Change; New Parliamentary Procedures for Processing Major Infrastructure Projects; and Planning Fees.

PARTICIPANTS

4. In addition to the normal participants, the following staff have been invited to attend:

Paul Newbold, City Planning Officer, Portsmouth City Council, Chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Planning Officers Group (HIPOG)
David Ottley, Head of Forward Planning, Gosport Borough Council
Tim Greenwood, County Planning Officer
Colin Byrne, Director for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Government Office for the South East.
Alan Jones, as lead Chief Executive on regional planning issues, will give a brief introduction.

INPUT FROM MEMBERS

5. Members are asked to come prepared to describe their Authoritiesí initial reactions to the Green Paper and associated consultations.

NICK GOULDER
Policy Manager

Date: 10 January 2002
Annex: 1
Contact: Nick Goulder - 023 8068 8431, E-mail hiow@eastleigh.gov.uk

ANNEX

PLANNING GREEN PAPER
The LGA Briefing (December 2001)

LGA key messages

1. The green paper says that the Government wants to replace Structure Plans, Unitary Development Plans and Local Plans and establish Local Development Frameworks in their place. It says these will act as an integrating mechanism between land use and community planning, based on streamlined adoption procedures and more easily updated, criteria-based planning policies. These will normally be prepared individually at district or unitary level, or potentially in wider groupings.

2. The concept of local development frameworks is welcomed as it will help both land use planning and community strategies to fulfil their potential to be at the heart of strategy and decision-making in local government. But, removing planning powers from county councils to achieve local development frameworks raises fundamental concerns for the LGA. The LGA believes that all types of council have an important role to play in preparing the proposed new local development frameworks. To ignore the role of county councils is a serious error given their strategic role and the crucial important links between land use planning and county councils' transport, environment and waste responsibilities. The effectiveness of the new framework will hinge on new forms of collaboration between district and county councils.

3. Chapter One of the green paper sets out commitments to renew the vision for the land use planning system, based on the achievement of sustainable development, and of social, economic and environmental well-being. It sets out clear objectives to underpin reform based on making planning a positive tool, embracing all parts of the community, making it efficient and user-friendly and commanding public confidence. These elements of reform accord closely with the vision and objectives promoted by the LGA.

4. The Government has promised to review the form and scope of the planning guidance it gives to local authorities to make it clearer what their policies are and to ensure that they are necessary on a national level. The LGA has argued for this and the Government has made a welcome commitment to undertake radical steps to achieve this and improve its own performance in the planning system.

5. The LGA has made a case for the introduction of integrated regional spatial strategies based on a drawing down of responsibility from a streamlined national framework. The green paper makes a commitment to introduce them. This could signal a welcome move to increase subsidiarity and the freedom of local authorities to act in a regional/local context, provided that they do not instead draw up powers from the authorities below, as this will make important planning activities very distant from local people. The LGA will be putting in its views on this and the institutional mechanisms for preparing these strategies.

6. The green paper proposes to give increased flexibility over the adoption of Local Development Frameworks and Action Plans by reforming the framework for their consultation, scrutiny and adoption. It recognises the LGA's argument that community involvement in planning should be measured not by its length, but the quality of involvement. The Government's commitment to reduce adversarial relationships through this area of reform is welcome. The LGA will submit views on its preferred models for scrutinising plan-preparation.

7. The green paper makes a commitment to review the level of resources going into planning. The LGA's has made a strong case for better resourcing of the planning system as part of the overall standard spending assessment. The LGA looks forward to continuing its joint work with DTLR on resources within the planning system. Increases in core funding could be accompanied by increases in fees, local flexibility over fees, and the introduction of charges for added value services. These are clear objectives for the LGA.

8. The green paper seeks to address skills and staff shortages in the local planning authorities in a joint initiative with the LGA and others. The LGA welcomes the Government's desire to restore the image and standing of the planning system and looks forward to working jointly to encourage recruitment, retention and training to address skills and staff shortages as part of its wider work on recruitment, retention and skills with the Employers Organisation, referred to in the local government white paper.

9. On an appeal against non-determination of a planning application, the green paper proposes transfer jurisdiction over the application to planning inspectors and away from local planning authorities. The green paper also proposes to introduce delivery contracts for bigger applications, where applicants and local authorities will enter into agreements on the process and timetable for decision. The LGA is concerned particularly over what might happen between these two proposals - given the scope for applicants to render delivery contracts unworkable, this seems dangerous at first sight.

10. The Government refers in the green paper to the new set of Best Value Performance Indicators. It states that 78 authorities fail to meet the new targets contained in the indicators for decision making on different types of planning application. It warns these authorities that action may be taken against them if they do not improve. The LGA thinks that this is premature - to introduce new targets and immediately identify those failing to meet them as 'on notice' is unacceptable. Local authorities will re-orientate their services to meet the new targets and in short time, many more will be achieving them.

11. The green paper proposes to introduce a Local Planning Advisory Service to act as a source of best practice advice to help councils improve their performance on planning and has asked for the LGA's help to take this forward. The LGA welcomes the opportunity to take part and will seek to place this initiative within the broader improvement agenda it is working on already across local government with partners such as the Improvement and Development Agency.

LGA next steps

12. Many of the green paper's proposals represent a significant lobbying success for the LGA. The green paper also sets out many areas where the Government is committed to working with the LGA and others to take forward the planning reform agenda. But the green paper does raise some significant challenges to the role of member authorities in the planning system, in both development planning and development control, and the LGA will be urgently seeking to address these. In addition to providing a full response to the green paper, the LGA's key priorities will be to:-

* Work together with district and county councils to develop alternative approaches to local plan preparation, the outcome of which we shall submit as our response to the green paper.

* Secure sufficient core funding in the in the Spending Review 2002 and identify specific charging mechanisms to improve cost recovery in the planning process and enable the provision of services to improve outcomes.

* Work with DTLR and others on a range of initiatives, including recruitment and retention, a planning application checklist, a local planning advisory service and advice on the use of the private sector in development control. The LGA will ensure that these initiatives form part of wider efforts already being made by the LGA and its partners to tackle important improvement and staffing issues in local government.

Last update: 00/00/2002
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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