The LI has responded to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation on the White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’. The white paper published in August 2020, sets out the Government’s proposals for “once in a generation” reform of England’s planning system.

Whitehall Riverside Leeds
CGI of proposals for Whitehall Riverside Leeds

Launching the white paper, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, set out how the reforms would simplify the system, while giving more emphasis to quality, design and the environment, and would support recovery from the pandemic. The policy team has worked closely with members to create a comprehensive, robust response, hosting a roundtable and workshop to gather input.

The full consultation is available here.

The key headlines from the response

  1. We support the ambition for reform of the planning system to increase the standard of design and to improve environmental outcomes. The system is not broken, but reform is needed.
  2. The best planning is landscape-led. This means planning places which respond to their existing environment, work with natural assets, and create Environmental Net Gain wherever possible. It is good for people, good for nature, and good for the planet.
  3. The foremost challenge for planning is climate change: mitigating it and adapting places to its effects. If the planning system is not in service to addressing climate change, it is not fit-for-purpose. This means building in the right place, with low-carbon materials, and designing places that are green, resilient, dense, and walkable.
  4. A plan-led map-based system, with use of zonal permissions where appropriate, can achieve this. However, an overly simplistic approach risks creating unintended consequences, and a cautious approach to Design Code-led ‘Growth’ areas should be taken.
  5. Local areas must retain the ability to raise standards through locally-set policy, beyond national prescriptions. This is essential for innovation and to respond to local characteristics.
  6. Proper consideration of detailed environmental matters (ecology, flooding, amenity, etc.) is vital for sustainable development design. There should be no simplified route to detailed consent without due consideration of these.
  7.  Raising the standard of design is essential and very welcome. This requires more professional attention, not less. Therefore whilst properly-skilled Chief Design Officers will be beneficial, new permitted development rights will not.
  8. Constraints should be included in national housing targets, but only if those constraints are accurately assessed. This must include broad landscape and environmental matters, including local designations.
  9. Proper sustainability assessment of both plans and applications is essential, and we agree this can be improved. The ambition must be to make EIA/SEA better, not just quicker.
  10. A digital-first system is the right ambition, if it results in greater transparency, democracy, and efficiency. In decision-making, qualitative human judgement will always be needed and should be the default.
  11. The replacement infrastructure levy will be a success only if it delivers more money for local infrastructure, including green infrastructure and its maintenance.
  12. Successful planning depends more-than-anything on diverse, skilled professionals; in the public and private sector, and across planning, design, construction, and management. Working with Professional Bodies to raise standards is vital.

We would like to thank all the members who inputted into our final response.

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations on the response.
    I would just like to mention “Design Codes”. I am glad that–with prudent qualification- the LI has stated support for them.
    When you travel around the country, you see some industrial / business parks, with totally inadequate tree planting and screen planting to the perimeter.

    I would like to see a very simple “model template” that would provide a “National Yardstick” giving Planning Officers, Council Members, Developers–and the local Public–an easily comparable minimum landscape standard” that would be easily understandable by professionsals aned public. Planners could of course justify a higher standard, in the context of their own local landscape.
    A national tempate –for example–showing suiatable arrangements for trees and hdges on the frontages of business units– could in fact set out a good generic standard. Far better than having no standard at all. Clear for all to understand, apply, and police!

    The LI response also rightly suggests (albeit not expressed directly) that greater expertise should be available in the planning appilcation process in terms of Landscape architectural advice to advise on quality and acceptability of applications.

    Sadly, understaffed local Borough, District or county planning departments are badly depleted in numbers of staff, and width of skills. 20 years ago, they often had a landscape design team in house or somewhere in the council, who could advise on qulaitty of submitted schemes, identify shortcomings, and suggest improvements. Do these groups exist now? Almost certainly, NO !

    Hence, some simple, national Landscape guidlines would provide a benchmark. If that resulted in asome generic designs, OK, but that is far better than the abysmal, inadequate landscape design- if it can be called that– of some developments (some very large ones) that I have seen over the last decade from the motorways of England and Wales.

    One flagrant abuse of the Planning process in my experience is when a development is given permission subject to a landscaoe scheme…..and that the Planning Permission requires “That the approved trees and shruibs shall be maintained and any dead plants replaced for a period of 5 years from date of this permission” . Or words to that effect.

    I encountered in my local area the ultimate, cynical inerpretation of this stipulation…. 5 years and a few days after the Permisison letter, all the planted trees on the site (a Self-storage site owned by a national chain) were felled and the shrubs removed, and replaced by bark mulch, leter replaced by “landscaped pebbles. The lovely silver birch gone, the ugly concrete blck buildings wre revelaed in all their boring splendour. What a loss !

    I protested to the company (a non-response) and the planning department (” 5 years is sadly the maximum we can require” and the chair of the Panning Committee (he was outraged , but could not do more than repeat the officers’ statement.

    I do hope that there will be a second opportunity fopr the LI to submit some further suggestions to the Governmemt.
    Mine would be– ” A landscape scheme approved as an essential part of a planniong application, should remain for the life of the buildings. I would suggest that an “expected reasonable life” of buildings and landscape should be stated by the Planning Authority as a” key stipulation” of the Approval.

    I welcome tyhe concept of acceptable

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