Local planning authorities need integrity
Thursday, 02 August 2012
Chris Shepley (Planning 13 July) helpfully reminds us of the integrity and rigour of PINS. We need these qualities in LPAs and his comments should prompt us to look at how they measure up to them. I fear some would be found wanting.
While recent cuts, and those to come, will have severe consequences, we must ask: even before the Coalition Government, were some authorities adequately resourced? Local plan preparation is to be expedited. Many authorities will have to use consultants, a second best solution, but one in which professionally informed, in-house, guidance is essential. Will it be in place?
Some authorities undertake consultations subject to a fee. It is not unknown for a development manager to be given a target for application fees. Actions such as these and the attitudes they reflect are an affront to public service.
One suspects that many councillors, perhaps some planners, fail to see that the introduction of application fees, now irreversible, was a deplorable step, perhaps the start of a distorted view of service provision. The rot set-in long ago and some now see planning as a means of trading a permission for various benefits, and to hell with standards. This is an approach which could be attractive to cash strapped authorities: the control of development as a revenue/capital earning opportunity. Failures, since 1947, in the need to find political agreement on recouping some of the enhanced value of development land is no excuse.
Yet another trend inimical to good practice can be seen in placing the planning function into the hands of some chief officer devoid of any relevant experience or qualification. This damages career structures and can readily lead to the head of service being seen as a ‘fixer’, an officer more responsive to political whim than consistency and good practice. A professionally led planning department will more readily save time and costs for the benefit of all.
We have always had those in the development industry who approach planning and environmental protection as predators. Do some in the public service feel justified in taking a comparable attitude, as it were, from the other side of the fence?
Many thanks to our observant source, for bringing our attention to this, rather thought provoking piece, from Planning.