YES – RE-THINK WHAT THE PLANNING SYSTEM IS FOR, AND HOW IT SHOULD WORK

Have you seen this consultation currently out by the Welsh Government (WG)? (WAG is no more, we must learn to call them indoors in the Cardiff Senedd a Government). Do seek it out and give your views – it has not exactly been advertised widely, and it is obviously aimed mainly at those in the planners club. It is at:   http://wales.gov.uk/topics/planning/planningresearch/planningreview/callforevidence  

YOU HAVE ONLY A FEW DAYS TO ADD YOUR COMMENTS

Anything pertaining to planning attracts me like a magnet, because the longer I work with CPRW to protect our outstanding Welsh uplands and green areas, the more I see a system that is increasingly dysfunctional and community-unfriendly. Don’t get me wrong, I think our planning constraints, largely seen as necessary and codified first in the 1930’s and the 1947 Act, have been a huge benefit compared with other non-third world countries that have not conserved their countryside – Ireland and Portugal for a start, where’s the countryside? – but I fear the original intention is being lost, or worse, perverted by land speculators.  

What problems do I see in the current system? What do I think needs changing?

  • Growth – get away from the assumption of perpetual growth, exhibited in planning guidance by constant reference to ‘delivery’ of a ‘continuous supply’ of land. Let’s get real, it is not yet possible to manufacture and deliver land, like pizzas.
  • Sustainability – is a popular concept, promoted as a basic ethic by WG – but planners and politicians don’t understand what it means. Spell it out in planning terms – including that recycling brownfield land should be the norm, building on green fields should be a rarity when all other solutions for an absolutely essential development have failed.
  • Community agreement – (there’s a radical idea!) – make it a statutory requirement to prove that, say, 80% of the local population has seen and understands the implications of strategies such as LDPs. LAs should be required to provide an independent source of information and awareness-raising for local people, including doorstepping all residents, pointing out strategic and local proposals, recording that residents have understood the implications, etc. Then community groups should then be funded to campaign against proposals they object to – thus levelling up the completely tilted playing field we have at present.        

You see, I agree with a website I have just picked up on whilst researching for this post that the planning of an area should be carried out communally so that:

‘there will be more chance of being able to create and maintain built environments that satisfy both individual and community needs’

This site is http://www.communityplanning.net  I didn’t find it an easy site, it has an enormous content of other resources, and advice on campaigning, but not for instance on options for establishing a community planning group (or perhaps I haven’t found it yet). But it was rewarding to find a movement with the same views that I have reached. 

There are certainly many other relevant sources of information and radical thought about how we can live together (in planning terms, I mean!) that I haven’t found yet – I don’t pretend to be an expert. But I am aware of the UK Localism Act, neighbourhood planning, the triple bottom line (on sustainability). Get involved – one option is of course to join CPRW – check out  http://www.cprw.org.uk/