Drastic changes to UK planning

tliouk office at tlio.demon.co.uk
Mon Dec 6 15:15:09 GMT 2004

This e-mail contains the first half of an article from the October 
2004 issue of Town & Country Planning, which describes the 
bureacratic quagmire of the Regional Assemblies for the South East, 
East England and East Midlands, which sat to determine a new Sub-
Regional Strategy in Milton Keynes and South Midlands - with the 
report noting that there was a "community involvement deficit" and 
that in trying to rush through new housing schemes with hasty 
commissioned reports, they have probably not saved any time at-all.

Also, below that is an extract from written by Paul Mobbs 
entitled "New Labour, New Planning", explaining what Regional 
Development Agencies are, in a nutshell.


1). Taken from the October 2004 Issue No.10 Volume 73 of Town and 
Country Planning:

Planning Process `Taxed to the limit'

David Lock looks at the Panel report on the Public Examination of the 
Draft Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub-Regional Strategy – and 
finds that planning at the startegic level still feels like swimming 
in porridge

Readers may recall the so-called `Crow Report', the report of the 
panel (chaired by Professor Stephen Crow) which conducted the Public 
Examination of Draft Regional Planning Guidance for the South East 
(RPG) in 1999. It was candid advice to the Secretary of State on the 
scale of housing required in the South-East, and on the sensible 
locations of `areas of plan-led expansion' (APLEs) and `priority 
areas for economic expansion' (PAERs). In the face of shouting from 
the well-heeled country set just learning the joys of marching in 
support of hunting, the advice was mostly disregarded by a frightened 
Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, the Milton Keynes area was identified for study as 
an `APLE', and the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Study reported in 
September 2002 that the location did indeed have the propensity to be 
a strategic growth point through to 2031. The overall capacity was 
estimated at some 370,000 new homes and associated urbanisation. This 
report (reviewed in the March 2003 edition of Town & Country 
Planning) was underfunded, rushed and secretive, and its spatial 
concepts were crude and untested.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott welcomed the study in February 
2003 and used it to launch his `Sustainable Communities Plan', which 
included provision for 200,000 new homes in the South-East by 2031, 
additional to the rolling on of present planning requirements.

Very hasty `growth area assessments' (GAAs) were then commissioned 
and plonked onto Government websites without announcement in May 
2003. These broke the over-arching `growth area' concept down into 
its three parts as represented by regional offices of government – 
the South East, the East of England and East Midlands – and proposed 
the quantities, infrastructure requirements, and spatial options in 
more detail. Indications of a `steer' from some local authorities are 
quite clear: some spatial proposals are so specific that they could 
not possibly have been discovered, tested and proposed by the 
consultants in the time available.

A few days later the regional Assemblies for the South East, the East 
of England, and the East Midlands approved a Draft Milton Keynes and 
South Midlands Sub-Regional Strategy, founded on the GAAs. The draft 
was placed on deposit for public consultation on 18th July 2003 (and 
was reviewed in the September 2003 issue of Town & Country Planning) 
and was subjected to a Public Examination in March and April 2004 at 
three venues: Northampton, Milton Keynes and Luton. The Public 
Eaxmination Panel members were the planner Alan Richardson (Chair), 
Roy Foster and Chris White from the Planning Inspectorate, with Pam 
Perceval-Maxwell as Panel Secretary and Nick Leigh as Programme 

The Panel Report was published in August 2004. The major bundles of 
issues in the report appear to the writer to be as follows:

Representations not summarised or coded
Milton Keynes and South Midlands is a very large growth area, in 
which the main settlements are Milton Keynes, Northampton, 
Corby/Kettering/Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton and Aylesbury. 

The consultation period on the sub-regional strategy produced 1,627 
responses covering some 3,755 separate statements. The Panel was 
dismayed to find that the responses had not been summarised or coded 
and therefore that analysis could not start: "Neither the Regional 
Assemblies nor the Government Offices assumed responsibility for this 
task, and no resources were made available 
". The panel was forced 
to proceed "on the basis of our own reading of the ..original 
responses", and declared that "aside from the stress put upon the 
process, one issue of concern is that the Government Offices appeared 
slow to recognise that it is incumbent upon the Secretary of State, 
as the decision making authority, to consider all the representations 
made" (Paras 1.22 & 1.23).

Too many would-be participants
>From the unsorted pile of representations the panel had to choose 
which participants to invite to the Public Examination. The number of 
seats is necessarily limited as far as possible to 20-30 to enable a 
discussion. However, with the usual take-up of seats by various local 
authorities who had already had their say in preparing the draft, and 
by the single-issue pressure groups without which any planning 
discourse is considered flawed (even though they say the same thing 
all the time), there was an unseemly scramble for the remaining 
places among landowners and developers and their consultants.

A lot was at stake. The draft made specific allocations of major 
development over the next 30 years. The significance of that – and of 
the Human Rights Act implications of not giving affected persons a 
fair hearing – did not seem to dawn on either the Government Offices 
or the Regional Assemblies. The Panel was left trying to cram 
hundreds of legitimate interests into an impossibly tight programme. 
The excluded no doubt still feel disgruntled, and the High Court 

The status of the paper trail
The Panel spotted the `community involvement deficit' in the study 
and the growth area assessments referred to above. The report says 
that "local people and communities were not the only ones who felt 
that decisions about development were being imosed by a process in 
which they had not been involved 
.developers and landowners [felt] 
that matters which affected their interest had been determined 
without reference to them" (para 1.11).

The Panel recommends that "it should be made clear that the Growth 
Area Assessments have not predetermined spatial issues, and have no 
formal planning status" (paras 1.12).

The Panel recommends that the strategy is ruthlessly pruned back to 
deal with strategic matters only, and that specific spatial proposals 
are left for local planning processes properly to devise and test.

The attempt by the Regional Assemblies to cut corners by hustling 
consultants along to write hasty reports on slim and untested 
evidence has backfired. No time has been saved at-all. It would be 
better, says the Panel, to have done more thorough work, more slowly 
and with more resources, and to have tried to carry people along with 
the emerging ideas.

2). Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) - in a nutshell

Taken from article featured in Spring 2000 issue of Corporate Watch, 
written by Paul Mobbs entitled "New Labour, New Planning"
Ref: http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/magazine/issue10/cw10pd1.html

The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) – business-led quangos [7] 
that create policy on regional economic development and regeneration 
[8] – have begun the process through the production of regional 
economic development strategies. Although the RDAs are supposed to 
have regard for sustainable development, the new strategies are still 
focussed on large regional regeneration projects, usually based 
around `inward investment'. And all the strategies are heavily 
reliant on the continued maintenance and improvement of the trunk 
roads network.
The strategies of the RDAs are being augmented by the Regional 
Chambers (RCs) and Regional Planning Conferences (RPCs). RCs and RPCs 
are not legal bodies with specific powers – they are private 
associations of local authorities and industry lobby groups. But they 
are `recognised' by the DETR as representing the interests of the 
region, and are consulted about the regional planning guidance 
produced by DETR. It was envisaged that the RCs would form the basis 
for elected regional government, but so far there has been little 
effort to bring in democratic accountability. All members of the RCs 
are appointed, the majority by local authorities. Local authority 
dominance also means that the RCs are split down party lines and 
therefore heavily influenced by political agendas.
Regional planning guidance, which is evolved by the RPCs and then 
confirmed/produced by DETR, is also being used to justify 
developments before they come forward at the local level. The main 
impact of these has been the setting of targets for house building. 
Now regional planning guidance itself is being redrawn to give it 
much wider power and scope [9]. Everything from road improvements to 
landfills and incinerators is being discussed at the regional level. 
There is little public input because few details are given publicity, 
but more importantly the `examinations in public' exclude the public –
 only invited parties are allowed to take part (which usually means 
only local authorities, industry and government agencies).

In diggers350 at yahoogroups.com, Mike Birkin <tony at r...> wrote:
Forwarded from Mike at SW Friends of the Earth & scary stuff indeed.
I recently attempted to interview people from the SW Regional 
Assembly about changes to planning without success. This is 100%  top 
down from Europe and the ODPM. And the media are unable to explain to 
the public what's going on except through a bland  'position 

 Dear all

I attended a press launch this morning for the consultation into:

1) the spatial strategy for the West of England (i.e. the old Avon 

2) the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Strategy

I have to say it was pretty scary stuff. The strategies cover the 
next 20 years, and envisage a minimum of 190,000 new homes in that 
period - that's more than there are at present in the whole of North 
Somerset. The maximum could be 50% yet more than that. The main 
engine of this growth is the economy - apparently we have the second 
highest GDP per head in England and this is a good thing and we want 
more of it - it's good for the UK. As well as all the new houses we 
will of course have to have lots of new roads to move everyone 
around. The main purpose of the strategy is apparently so the WOE can 
get in its bid to government for the money for all the new 
infrastructure (i.e. roads) that will be required. Especially for 
 reaching the airport. There was a passing reference here to trains 
and buses.
OK so I  parody the attitudes somewhat, but only a bit I assure you. 
Perhaps the scariest thing was that the environmental impact of all 
this was not mentioned. Not once.
The WOE consultation document claims - point 9 under "quality of 
life" - that our economy will become carbon neutral in this period. 
I am not sure that the authors of this document have a clue what that 
means (I am not sure that I do, come to that) but I think that what 
it reveals is that they are in deep denial about environmental 
constraints, resource use, climate change, etc.

You can look at the documents on these sites:

Comparing the GBSTS Theme 3 map (road corridors) with the WOE Map B 
(Green Belt) is particularly instructive!


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