Earlier this week, the government announced a review into practical planning guidance. This may be seen as a technocratic announcement but the impacts could be enormous.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in March cancelled most the guidance that was built up over 40 years. These were the rules on everything from protecting heritage sites to housing and the green belt. Obviously they needed to be replaced with something.
The review will look at what bits of the remaining guidance should be cancelled and what new guidance needs to be written.
It all sounds reasonable enough. But, as is the norm with this government’s planning policies, the devil is in the details.
Why such a rushed review? It was only given six weeks to carry out what is certain to be a monumental task. Every existing policy will need careful reading, analysis, and consideration – and six week’s time isn’t enough.
Why no consultation? There will be no public consultation, but how can something which affects so many aspects of our lives not be worth listening to the public or experts over? The review has recruited some respectable individuals, but surely it would benefit from a much larger pool of views.
The review, headed by former Liberal Democrat MP Lord Taylor, would be worrying even under ideal circumstances. This guidance represents the accumulation of 40 years of the very best in planning policy – it is the meat and potatoes of the system which has helped Britain to gradually build better communities over the past decades. Any changes must be given careful and measured consideration. A rushed and undemocratic review hastily assembled by a government with no respect for planning can’t offer that.