Here's what happened yesterday at the NGO meeting with Planning Minister Greg Clark. We will obviously continue to work with Government to find a way through this, but the ball is probably back in the Government's court.

If you are not a planner and want to get a better understanding of the debate about the proposed reforms, take a look at the RTPI's top five planning myths.  I think they serve to reinforce the view that there is neither justification for nor benefit from giving primacy to economic growth in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Here’s two of them:


“The default response to a planning application is ‘no’. Government wants to change the planning system “so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’” (Plan for Growth, HM Treasury, March 2011). Government statistics show that for at least a decade over 80% of planning applications have been granted – higher (around 90%) for the major commercial applications critical for economic growth.”


“Planning is a drag on economic growth. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has described the planning system as a “drag anchor” on growth, while the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills has talked of the distortions on the market of a “slow and prescriptive planning regime”. The certainty provided by the planning system is essential in supporting business investment decisions. Such certainties include, in particular, the knowledge that there will be customers and a workforce, that infrastructure will be provided, and that other developments would not be allowed that would prejudice a business’s investment. Unconstrained growth is not in the interests of business. In 2003, the then ODPM Select Committee Inquiry into Planning and Competitiveness said “claims that planning damages the nation’s competitiveness seem to have been made without evidence. The evidence that we have received suggests that business generally support the planning system and seek a number of changes in implementation, which do not necessarily require legislation.”

So what’s changed? The economic crisis has meant that decision makers are crying out for answers and they have stumbled on the planning system (again) as a constraint that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, too many people who are understandably focusing on growth but have little understanding of planning, have corrupted what could have been a sensible policy. The good news is that there is still time to put things right.