Richards on... development role revisions

What is the role of development management?

What does it actually mean? How does it affect the traditional divisions between policy and development control?

Contrary to some opinions, development management is not enforcement by any other name. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has driven a fresh approach that it does not refer to directly but is still an integral part of spatial planning. Development management is a change from reactive assessment of proposals to seeking and shaping developments.

Developments will need to be assessed on the way that they contribute to community needs, as expressed in sustainable community strategies and local development framework core strategies. Typical local plan policies written to prevent all foreseeable undesirable development should no longer be necessary. They should instead steer development to fit patterns of local distinctiveness.

This means that managers will need to consider the shape and structure of planning services. Communication between policy-makers and those whose job is to enable good development is vital. As spatial planning evolves, we should develop such enabling and communication skills alongside spatial awareness, urban design and land-use analysis. Professional judgement will be based on an understanding of communities' futures instead of a rulebook - a new and somewhat challenging world.

Regulatory planning activity will continue but will be restricted to assessing small schemes falling outside permitted development and could be better integrated into other services. Recognising the need for more guidance and direction for planners, the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) will be running a series of seminars on the issue from next month.

Sarah Richards is head of the PAS.

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