I was able to spend yesterday at the Royal Town Planning Institute‘s annual The Planning Convention. Every year, planning professionals from across the country come together for a series of speeches, seminars, and plenaries designed to review the year’s issues and developments in planning.
And this has been a year like no other. From the Community Infrastructure Levy to the National Planning Policy Framework, and from austerity measures to the Localism Act, planning has undergone massive changes in the past year. These changes mean real things to our planning system, and in the long run to the shape, sizes, and types of communities in which we live. The Planning Convention brought together the best and the brightest from the fields of planning, public policy, architecture, and other related disciplines to help grapple with these issues.
During the closing address by Planning Minister Greg Clark, I had the chance to make a point on regional cooperation under the new regime. London is the centre of functional urban region which covers much of the southeast. While recognising the duty to cooperate, I asked the minister how we were meant to plan for the big strategic issues such as the labour market, travel to work, waste, airports, and housing? How can so many district councils mosaic together to plan for these issues? How can we plan for the wider southeast?
It was a very evasive answer which vaguely mentioned his belief in local authorities rising to challenges. This is not helpful to local officials needing real help to deal with these issues. In the past, though not ideal, we were able to coordinate the regional spatial strategies and the strategies of regional development agencies. Now we have none of these, and local authorities are left to fend for themselves with very meagre resources.
This is something the Assembly Planning Committee, which I lead, will have to grapple with.