TCPA chief planner criticises planning reforms

The government should abandon plans to reform and deregulate the planning system and instead create national and regional spatial plans for England, according to the Town and Country Planning Association's (TCPA's) chief planner.

Addressing the TCPA annual conference in London yesterday, Dr Hugh Ellis slammed the government's latest reforms and the abolition of regional spatial planning.

Ellis spoke about the TCPA report, The Lie of the Land, which calls for a national spatial plan for England, a return to regional strategic planning and a new government ministry to deal with sustainable development issues.

He said: "The constant reform and deregulation of the planning system serves no-one. A national plan is one expression and a new ministry is another expression."

Ellis said there was a "stark gap" between the "real challenges" facing the country, such as environmental pressures on the east coast, social and economic polarisation and the way the government was reforming the planning system.

He said: "Faced with that challenge, we get the relaxation of permitted development. The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which moves the idea of consent from the local to the national, is not how to deal with these issues.

Ellis said the scale of the challenge required a response comparable to post-World War Two reconstruction.

He also attacked the Localism Act's duty to cooperate, which requires neighbouring planning authorities to consult each other on strategic issues.

He said: "It's not strategic planning and it never will be and it was never designed to be. It's simply a process mechanism.

"So we do need to think about spatial change, housing and demographics in a way beyond the duty to cooperate and back into regional spatial planning. That's inevitably where we will end up I'm sure."

A similar warning was struck about England's "fragmented" political geography, which Ellis described as a "mosaic of local authorities and local enterprise partnerships".

He said local authorities coming together on a strategic level, such as London or Manchester, was "absolutely the answer to many of these issues".

Ellis said: "Its absolutely plain that places that get their strategic cooperation will win. Those places that can't won't."

A summary version of the Lie of the Land report can be accessed here.

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