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Paper 6 - 28 March 2003 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

28 March 2003

PLANNING AND COMPULSORY PURCHASE BILL: NEW DEVELOPMENT PLANS FRAMEWORK - IMPLICATIONS FOR HAMPSHIRE

Report by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Planning Officers’ Group in consultation with the Chief Executives’ Group

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that the Association agrees to:

(1) work together on the preparation of Local Development Frameworks and explore options for joint plans;

(2) build on the current sub-regional studies nearing completion and develop them into draft sub-regional strategies for South Hampshire and the Blackwater Valley; and

(3) ask the Planning Officers’ Group (HIPOG) to continue to monitor the new legislation (and associated guidance) as it emerges and to promote/support the development of partnerships to ensure that the new arrangements can be effectively delivered in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS

1. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill proposes to replace the current system of Regional Planning Guidance (prepared by regional assemblies/Government offices), Structure Plans (prepared by strategic planning authorities, including Hampshire County Council) and Local Plans (prepared by district councils). It proposes a new two-tier system of plans:

(i) Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) prepared by regional planning bodies (regional chambers/assemblies), and

(ii) Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) prepared by district councils. There will need to be an LDF covering each district, but the Bill enables several district councils to prepare a joint LDF if they so wish.

2. Minerals and Waste Local Plans would be replaced by Minerals and Waste LDFs, but still prepared by county councils.

3. The LDF will comprise a folder of documents: a core strategy, a proposals section with a proposals map, and area action plans for key areas of change or conservation setting out detailed site-specific policies and proposals.

4. The content of plans will move from a traditional land use one to a more spatial approach, including investment and management policies e.g. on congestion charging.

5. The Government believes the new system will be easier to understand, will enable plans to be produced and updated more quickly, and will allow more meaningful involvement by local communities.

6. Documents published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to coincide with the Bill recognise the need for policy guidance, in some areas, below the regional level but above the level of individual districts. RSS will therefore have a strong sub-regional component, and will include specific sub-regional strategies for particular parts of the region concerned.

7. The Government envisages the following roles for ‘upper tier’ authorities (county councils, unitary councils, national park authorities) in respect of plan making:-

(i) assisting their regional planning body (RPB) in preparing RSS if the RPB so desires;

(ii) assisting the RPB in providing advice and information to district councils on LDF preparation if the RPB so desires (in both cases, the RPB may reimburse the upper tier authorities for expenditure incurred. The Bill envisages Regional Assemblies’ work on RSS being directly funded by Government); and

(iii) participating in LDF preparation by entering into a joint committee with one or more district councils if so requested by the district council or if so directed by the Secretary of State.

8. The commencement date for the new regime is expected to be April 2004 at the earliest.

9. The Government says it wants to move as soon as possible to the new system but equally it is anxious to maintain continuity in the plan system. So transitional arrangements for strategic planning are proposed:

(i) structure plans adopted before the commencement date remain in force for three years (i.e. until at least April 2007) or until replaced by RSS if that is earlier;

(ii) any draft new/revised structure plan which reaches deposit stage before commencement date can proceed to adoption under current procedures;

(iii) once adopted, such plans remain in force for three years from the date of adoption or until replaced by RSS if that is earlier; and

(iv) where a draft new/revised structure plan does not reach that stage by commencement date, work on it will cease and be adapted to assist with preparation of RSS.

IMPLICATIONS

10. The Bill, if enacted, will have the effect of removing the role of county councils as planning authorities, except with regard to Minerals, Waste and the determination of its own development. Its strategic planning function will only exist where other bodies, either Regional or District Councils view this as being desirable. The Bill will give significant new responsibilities to Regional Planning Bodies. It will also create a new land use planning framework through the preparation of Local Development Documents which, in shire areas, will be prepared by the district tier of local government. The Bill also makes provisions for some significant changes to the development control system and compulsory purchase arrangements.

11. The Bill allows for, but does not require, a sub-regional component in the new land use planning framework. Such sub-regional strategies will not be free standing documents, but part of the RSS.

12. Other than providing an advisory role to the Regional Planning Bodies, the Bill provides no defined role for county councils. It transfers the significant county council role in strategic planning - the distribution of regional housing figures, for example – to RPBs. This represents a significant change in, responsibility and decision making from county to regional level, and to some extent district level.

13. The Bill gives the Regional Planning Body a free hand in formulating the regional spatial strategy, although changes can be made by the Secretary of State which are binding on the RPB. This is in contrast to the proposals for formulating Local Development Documents at the district level, where there appear to be prescribed processes and procedures on the face of the Bill.

14. The Bill makes provision for joint arrangements. This would enable one or more district councils to agree with one or more county councils to form a joint committee to exercise their planning responsibilities jointly. In effect this is close to the proposal for an Integrated Development Framework formulated in the County Council’s Network (CCN)/Local Government Association (LGA) CCN/LGA model. However, unlike the CCN/LGA model the provisions do not detail how this would be made operational.

NATIONAL LOBBYING FOR CHANGES TO THE BILL

14. The LGA provided MPs with a briefing for the Commons Second Reading on 17 December 2002. The Association proposes that a statutory planning duty for county councils be introduced. Without this, the LGA fears there will be a reduction in funding for strategic planning and a subsequent loss of strategic planning skills which will be to the detriment of the Regional Spatial Strategies, the Local Development Frameworks and the county councils’ own community strategies. The LGA also has serious concerns about accountability, as the proposed system will increase the distance between local people affected by strategic-level policy and those preparing it at the regional legal. There will be a resultant democratic deficit.

15. County Councils are now considering what joint action to pursue in relation to the Bill, through the CCN. This is likely to concentrate on two key areas, which Hampshire County Council supports:

(a) Securing a statutory role for county councils in the preparation of regional spatial strategies.

(b) Securing a significant role for county councils in the preparation and certification of local development documents.

16. Amendments to secure practical arrangements for joint working may also be pursued, since these are not fully formulated.

17. As there are likely to be some areas of common ground between district and county councils (albeit not on securing a statutory role for County Councils), CCN is likely to work with the LGA to secure a co-ordinated approach.

HIOW AUTHORITIES RESPONSE

18. Some planning matters are of greater than local significance and require consideration at a level above that of individual Local Plans/Local Development Frameworks. Examples of these are the amount and distribution of land for new housing, major industrial and business sites, and major transport infrastructure. 'Strategic planning' deals with these matters by setting a broad strategy looking to the medium and longer term, and covering fairly large areas such as sub-regions which share common features.

19. It is argued that the size and complexity of the South East Region requires a limited number of strategic sub regional plans between the regional and local (district) level in order to properly plan the matters outlined above. The Government recognises the need for strategic planning, but sees the regional level including sub-regional strategies, providing the main strategic policies in future instead of the county level. It expects that in most regions there would be a number of areas requiring a sub-regional planning strategy. In addition, the Government sees some matters, in particular the distribution of housing provision to districts, as needing to be addressed on a comprehensive basis at the sub-regional level and incorporated into the RSS. Although excellent authorities may have freedom from the requirement to produce a Local Transport Plan, it is considered essential to have sub-regional transport strategies, as now, which link to local plans.

20. County councils have long established data collection and analysis expertise on matters like housing market analysis which is essential to the Government’s ‘plan, monitor, manage’ approach to new housing. County planning teams have local knowledge, skills, established networks of contacts, and are accountable to local people. The strategic planning of transport, education, health and social services is also undertaken at county level; under the present system these are integrated with the strategic planning of development through county structure plans.

21. Local planning draws on a range of specialists like ecologists, archaeologists, demographers, and economists. These specialists are within county councils recognising that it is usually not economic for each district council to employ their own.

22. On 3 December – one day prior to the Bill’s publication – a meeting of County, City and District Council Members discussed the implications of the expected legislation. The meeting was positive about the future role of Hampshire County Council in assisting with LDF preparation, particularly through providing specialist advice and undertaking work on matters which would be common to several LDFs.

23. District Council representatives at the meeting also saw an important role for the County Council in representing and articulating Hampshire’s interests at the regional level. In view of SEERA’s limited number of planning staff, the meeting felt that the County Council would need to play a leading role in RSS preparation while this situation continued..

24. Members felt there was a case for sub-regional strategies where significant development or change was expected in future. On this basis, such strategies were thought to be needed for the Blackwater Valley/Thames Valley corridor area (including parts of Berkshire and Surrey) and for South Hampshire (including Portsmouth and Southampton and possibly also Winchester). In the proposed New Forest and South Downs National Park there would, by definition, be only small-scale development/changes, while elsewhere in Hampshire it was felt that the main RSS would provide adequate strategic planning guidance.

25. The views of SEERA and other County Councils will need to be explored before any decision can be made on sub-regional planning, but South Hampshire and the Blackwater Valley are already defined as sub-regions in the existing Regional Planning Guidance.

TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

26. There is clear merit in continuing with the current round of District Local Plan reviews where there is a reasonable prospect of getting plans on deposit by April 2004. Potential slippage in the implementation date for the new Act, the focus of Comprehensive Performance Assessment on housing in districts, and the uncertainties and potential challenges to the new framework, all point to maintaining momentum on District Local Plans. In terms of waste planning, there is a pressing need for a planning policy framework to support the new facilities required to deliver statutory recycling targets and maintain centre of excellence status. The three strategic authorities intend to progress this through the preparation of a Minerals and Waste Local Development Framework, incorporating the work already done on the review of minerals policies.

27. With regard to the review/roll forward of the Structure Plan, there is a clear choice between a fast track approach to getting a deposit draft in place or in moving to the preparation of sub-regional strategies. As the period covered is longer and RPG is also under review, there is merit in pursing the new system earlier rather than later. Sub-regional strategies are capable of adaptation into either a Structure Plan (should the Bill be amended) or Regional Spatial Strategies. They can provide early guidance to Districts for their Local Development Frameworks. As the Regional Planning Body has a free hand in deciding what to include in the RSS, this approach could provide an early model of best practice for the South East.

ALISON QUANT
Director of Environment, Hampshire County Council

Date: 14 March 2003
Annex: 0
Contact: Alison Quant tel. 01962 845099 email alison.quant@hants.gov.uk

Last update: 18/03/2003
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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