Surge of documents set to engulf system

Imagine for a moment that an evil mastermind is hell-bent on causing as much chaos and confusion in the planning community as possible.

How would Ernst Stavro Blofeld or Professor Moriarty go about it? Storing up all the keynote policies and initiatives that have been in the pipeline over the past few years and letting them out at the same time would be one way of bringing the system to its knees.

As the cuckoo's call heralds spring and falling leaves distinguish autumn, Christmas must be coming judging by the barrage of policy statements, reports, codes and reviews the government is set to unleash. So what messages are emanating from all this white noise? We know that the planning system is crucial to dealing with climate change but it is also, according to one school of thought, fundamentally flawed in delivering major infrastructure, never mind important schemes, and must be reformed.

If the government wants to create sustainable communities, then the planning system must encourage more family housing. At the same time, it has set highly ambitious housing targets and wants to skew grant allocations to councils that permit more homes - just as very high land values mean developers mostly build smaller properties to maximise profits.

Amid all this, the planning profession is struggling to make sense of, never mind operate, a reformed system that baffles even the experts. Ever get the feeling that the fine line between genius and madness has just been erased? Sadly, planning is often the scapegoat of choice when really the blame lies at the door of incoherent and short-term thinking.

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