Practical plan pathfinder

Savills associate director Kathryn Jukes is sure that the profession will make planning reform work but regrets the loss of a regional tier that was finding its way.

Kathryn Jukes
Kathryn Jukes

Kathryn Jukes's enthusiasm for DIY shows she has a preference for getting things done. Her attitude to home improvements could equally apply to her favoured approach to planning and dealing with constant changes to the system.

Jukes identifies one highlight of her time as a planner as the two years she spent on secondment at the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber. She found that the people she worked with made a big difference. "There was a willingness to get things done - a real can-do attitude," she recalls.

It turned out to be a particularly interesting period to work there. Changes to the system opened doors and gave her the opportunity to get involved in a range of work. "They needed someone for the regional spatial strategy (RSS) review," Jukes explains.

"That's what I was taken on to do, but after a few months the government decided that it was going to introduce single regional strategies. So work on the RSS stopped and the focus moved to creating structures for the integrated strategy and drafting legislation."

In Jukes's view, the regional tier now being dismantled had a number of strengths, particularly in the northern regions of the country. "The level of effectiveness varied across the country," she recognises. "In the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber it was really well thought of.

"Everybody was supportive of the structures that were in place. In the south it wasn't seen as such a valuable tool."

The system allowed local authorities to promote their strengths while dealing with their weaknesses on a collective basis, she believes. Rather than creating competition, it allowed everyone to work together to greater effect. "It also meant that difficult decisions such as overall housing numbers were taken away from local authorities. As a consquence they could get on with other jobs that needed to be done such as identifying sites or dealing with regeneration issues."

Jukes is convinced that planners will adapt successfully to the present reforms, while conceding that only time will tell if the results are better or worse. "As one door shuts another one opens and everything evolves through time anyway. We're just going through that next cycle of evolution," she reflects. However, she is concerned about current demands for more detail on the changes.

"We've had local authorities waiting for more clarity on the 2004 legislation and how to prepare local development frameworks," she points out. "Now we're moving into an era of localism and the big society.

"That translates to me as 'the government's not going to do anything unless it has to do something.' Ministers are not going to be giving detailed guidance. It's going to be down to councils to make things work, which means they've got to get on with it."

Jukes feels that the current sense of marking time is a distraction when development needs to be encouraged to stimulate the economy. She maintains that there is enough guidance to implement the new system. "To date, those who have made the system work are those that have just got on with it. The system is always changing. It never stands still. If you sit around and wait, nothing happens," she argues.

She cites the example of a number of councils in Yorkshire that have adopted core strategies. Harrogate, Hambleton, Wakefield and Sheffield are now in a stronger position as a result, she is convinced. "They can get on with planning because they've used the tools available to put the core strategy in place," she says.

Jukes predicts that the effectiveness of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will vary between different parts of the country. This will depend on the success of existing joint working arrangements, she adds. "In Yorkshire and Humber we had strong regional structures that were backed by the local authorities," she explains. "We had good support from the regional level, with professional staff who understood the issues."

She worries that this will be watered down and LEPs will shed many benefits of the old system. She also notes that it could lead to work being duplicated in what is supposed to be an age of austerity. "My concern is that LEPs might not be the most efficient way of doing things when the regional-level structures actually worked," she says.

Despite such misgivings, Jukes detects a willingness across her region to make things happen. She draws a parallel with her DIY hobby: "All you need to do is work out where you are, where you want to get to and the stages you need to go through to get there." Now, she argues, it is up to local authorities to step up and do it themselves.


Age: 35

Family: Single

Education: Degree in geography, University of Hull; diploma in planning, University of Sheffield

Interests: DIY

2008: Senior planning officer on secondment to Government Office for Yorkshire and Humber

2007: Associate director, Savills

2004: Associate, Carter Jonas

2001: Senior planning officer, Halton Borough Council

1999: Planning officer, Vale Royal Borough Council

1998: Temporary graduate planning officer, Harrogate Borough Council

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