'Don't underestimate resource requirement for joint plans', conference told

The level of resources needed for joint strategic planning 'should not be underestimated', the Planning for Housing conference in London was told yesterday.

Laura Ambler, West of England Combined Authority: level of resources needed for joint planning
Laura Ambler, West of England Combined Authority: level of resources needed for joint planning

Laura Ambler, head of housing and planning at the West of England Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership, told a seminar on joint planning that the resource requirements for such work are "quite significant."

The West of England joint spatial plan is currently undergoing examination after being submitted earlier this year. Ambler said the resources needed for preparing such plans "should not be under-estimated".

"That’s because the evidence base has to demonstrate that it meets the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework and the local plan regulations," she said. "What is a proportionate evidence base still has to be tested on the different types of strategic plans."

Ambler also told the seminar that getting senior buy-in - support and commitment from senior officers and members - for joint plans and avoiding project creep were two key tips for others going through the process.

"We have a robust governance arrangement that helps us to get senior buy-in," she said. The arrangements in the West of England, she said, encourages "brokerage and compromise", whilst still helping to ensure that the resulting plan "is something that’s technically robust to make sure it meets the soundness challenges".

"Make sure your scope is kept tightly under control as you’ll come back to it time and time again, so keep testing yourself on that scope, and whether you’ve got it right," Ambler said.

Stephen Kelly, joint director of planning and economic development for Greater Cambridge, a partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire councils, said that, in order to successfully develop a joint strategic vision for an area, there was a "need for long-term commitment from members and officers", as well as ensuring sufficient resources and community support.


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