Drastic changes to UK planning
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
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
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"
The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) business-led quangos 
that create policy on regional economic development and regeneration
 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
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 . 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
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
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!
More information about the Diggers350