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Chief planner calls on councils to ‘stay proactive’ on local plans

Words: Huw Morris
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Local authorities must not stall on preparing their plans and should continue to be proactive while the government considers responses to the planning white paper.

Joanna Averley, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government chief planner, said the government is now “moving into the next level of detail in terms of describing, defining and designing the reform package and different elements of it”, which will take time.

“We then move into a legislative process, which will take upwards of a year, and then we'll be into implementation,” she told the Town and Country Planning Association’s annual conference.

“So it's numbered in years. I can't give me a precise timetable yet and that will be announced in due course.”

However, Averley said local authorities should not delay their plans while this work is progressing.

“I would really say to people, don't stop planning, don't stall your local plan preparation, but do continue to be proactive in both the preparation of your plans and your consenting processes. It‘s really important that we all do that.”

The chief planner said a key aim of the white paper is to have “local plans that are less weighty in terms of paper, but more meaningful in terms of content and intent”. Plans need to be “more visually engaging” and “more map-based”.

Local plans should be “more engaging documents, partly because the content is much more focused and refined to the local context, but partly that they don’t replicate and duplicate things that are already stated elsewhere in national policy”, she added.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher also told the conference that the white paper had received 44,000 responses, “so we have our work cut out to identify the key themes, and to look at the granular detail with which we’ve been provided”. Significant reforms will need major cultural change across the planning sector.

“Parliament can't just legislate and say make it so,” he added. “We need to engender a cultural and systemic shift in the way that we do planning.

“Getting it right, getting your input and driving that cultural and systemic change are crucial to making sure that the practical effects of the legislative changes we envisage can be implemented quickly.”

Image credit | RTPI