RIBA’s submission to Labour Party’s Planning Policy Review

Today’s Daily Telegraph (30.11.13) has an interesting article about the current state of the nation’s planning system, which is reproduced below. Under the heading “Planning system ‘heavily skewed towards the interests of developers over those of the public’, say architects”, DT journalist Christopher Hope reports on the RIBA’s submission to the Labour Party’s Planning Policy Review which berates the Coalition Government’s NPPF.

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The planning system is “heavily skewed towards the interests of developers over those of the public”, architects have claimed.
The Royal Institute of British Architects hit out at the Coalition’s “unhelpful” planning reforms which have left Britain with “poor development”.
The comments were made in a submission by the institute to the Labour party’s Planning Policy Review.
They will fuel fears among campaigners that the Government’s planning reforms have given developers the whip hand over communities fighting developments.
The planning reforms, which slimmed down 1,400 pages of planning rules to just 52 pages in a new National Planning Policy Framework, were bitterly fought by many Telegraph readers through the newspaper’s Hands Off Our Land campaign.
The NPPF writes into planning rules an automatic bias in favour of “sustainable development”.
In the submission, Stephen Hodder, RIBA’s president, said: “The broad thrust of the NPPF and in particular the strong policy on design and recognition of the role of design review within the planning system is to be praised.
“However, the National Planning Policy Framework is heavily skewed towards the interests of developers over those of the public.”
Mr Hodder said that the NPPF was biased towards short term profits for builders which led to poor quality homes being built.
He added: “The decision to entrench financial viability at the heart of decision-making is having a particularly pervasive impact, embedding a short-termism at the heart of the system which overrides any recognition of the longer-term costs that poor development will bring to communities and the public purse.”
The problems were made worse, he said, because cuts to council budgets had left in the planning departments with “a void in design expertise and capacity”.
Mr Hodder said another programme of wholesale planning reform was unnecessary.
Instead he urged more subtle changes to “bring about a culture shift which places a greater emphasis on the quality of place and addresses the imbalance between the economic, social, environmental and cultural roles of the planning system”.
Campaigners agreed with the architects’ concerns. Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Everybody was pleased that there was an emphasis on good design in the NPPF – that was one of the best parts of the NPPF.
“The tragedy is that at every turn, precedence has been given to number of homes over their quality. This is more evidence that the NPPF is not working out in reality as ministers say it is and minister urgently need to look at it again.”
In the summer the CPRE warned that “precious, inspiration and irreplaceable” English countryside is in danger of being eroded by poorly planned developments.
It launched a new charter to save England’s countryside, backed by MPs including Zac Goldsmith and Nick Herbert, as well as comedians Jo Brand and Sir Tony Robinson and Michael Morpurgo, the author of the children’s book War Horse.
The group warned: “The cards are stacked in favour of powerful developers. We need a democratic planning system that gives communities a much stronger say in the future of their area.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This Government has abolished the last Administration’s top down regional strategies and given local people more say on planning, whilst safeguarding important environmental protections, like the Green Belt.”
The final paragraph demonstrates how out of touch the DCLG actually is with the situation in the very many areas which do not have a Local Plan in place. Do any of us in East Devon feel that local people have been given more say on planning? Answers on a postcard, please.

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