Spending review lays down changed policy landscape

Planners in both the public and private sectors will feel the impact of budget cuts, James Butler fears.

The overall picture of the comprehensive spending review is one of significant cuts in public expenditure across most departments. This has two impacts.

The first is that planners working in councils will be faced with having to do more with much less and compulsory redundancies are possible. The second is that the private sector will face even stiffer competition for the fewer infrastructure projects proposed.

For the most part the review did not deal with planning though initiatives such as the new homes bonus, powers to implement tax increment financing and open source planning were reaffirmed.

Interestingly, it was revealed shortly before the review that third party rights of appeal would not be included in the forthcoming localism bill. While the Campaign to Protect Rural England was unhappy, developers might argue that it was a bad day to bury good news.

There are rays of hope contained in the detail of the review. Deep in the appendices of the secretary of state's letter to chief executives is a new "open source planning" grant, designed to support local authorities in the implementation of the changes to the planning system.

There are proposals for investment in green technology, including up to £200 million for low-carbon development including wind power and manufacturing at port sites and a green infrastructure bank. The chancellor gave the go-ahead for some major transport projects including Crossrail and investment in Network Rail. There will be £2 billion invested in flood and coastal erosion management and the £530 million towards rural broadband will be welcomed in remote areas.

In planning terms, the changes to social housing provision are profound. There is provision for up to 150,000 new affordable homes, but this should be seen in the context of changes to tenure, housing benefit and houses in multiple occupation regulation. Unconnected policy changes can occasionally have major unforeseen effects. It will therefore take some time for the full significance of these changes to become apparent, but the government's determination to remodel the size and role of the state should not be underestimated.

Many members will be concerned about their jobs in the light of the review. Our Planners in the Workplace service can offer practical support for people facing professional change. Advice tailored for planners in local authorities is also available.

James Butler is RTPI communications and public affairs officer. For more details on job support, please visit www.rtpi.org.uk/item/4137&ap=1

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