Ian Wilson, National Trust head of government affairs, was on the panel of Property Week’s online debate this morning: Localism Act 2011 – Planning for 2012.
He joined people from across the property industry:
Giles Barrie, Editor in Chief, Property Week, who chaired the debate
Killian Hurley, Chief Executive, Mount Anvil
Nigel Hughes, Director, Planning and Environment, Grosvenor
John Qualtrough, Partner, Bircham Dyson Bell LLP
Mike Straw, Director, CgMs Consulting
Dr Pauleen Lane, Deputy Chairman, Infrastructure Planning Commission
Up for discussion was:
• Will the planning changes deliver more homes and jobs?
• Neighbourhood Planning – what is it and will they work?
• National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) update
• Will the NPFF end the “town centre first” – “countryside last” planning policy?
• Will Localism Act speed up the delivery of nationally significant infrastructure projects?
• Banks’ role in lending under the new framework
• Will the New Homes Bonus work? Is it sufficiently attractive to promote growth?
• What will the development landscape look like in 10 years time?
Ian gave a summary of the National Trust’s position on proposed changes to planning policy. This was appreciated by property industry representatives who were keen to hear it from the ‘horse’s mouth’, rather than filtered via the media:
“We also feel planning needs some review – we are a developer and have our own frustrations with the system. Planning should be about delivering good quality places to live in.
“The principle of neighbourhood planning seems to be a really good one but it represents an enormous challenge for local authorities. It is absolutely right we see the Localism Bill alongside the NP, but it is unclear as to whether the NPPF will trump localism. We have huge concerns about transitional arrangements, for example.
“If we ask the question what the planning system is for, it’s not just about economic growth – there are other factors to consider. We want to see a system that values equally economic, social and environmental elements.
“We’re all aware of the huge challenges we face in tackling the housing shortage. But that housing has to go in the right place with the infrastructure in place. We need to ensure that the costs – economic and environmental – are as low as possible. That’s what sustainability is all about.
“We’re going to have a new, completely untested system – and if the NPPF is altered in the right way, we could have a good system. The debate we now need to have is about what kind of communities we’d like to live in.”
The seminar also highlighted that whilst we do disagree on some points of detail there is much common ground between the National Trust and good quality developers. They do not necessarily see the planning system as bad in principle but understand the benefits of working with communities to deliver the kind of places we would want our children to live in, places to be proud of!