The UK Planning Perspective

In the UK, unlike in most other democratic countries, there is no constitution that enshrines and protects the rights of individuals. This means that the power of the state to enact laws and regulations controlling land use is wide-ranging and arbitrary. This has led to there being a wide degree of discretion built into the planning system.

Central government sets out national planning policy as Planning Policy Statements (PPS).  A local authority has the responsibility to determine local planning needs and to control development.  It is guided by Central government pronouncements and consults widely when devising a local or regional development plan, but at the end of the process it is not bound by it, but may take into account other ‘materials considerations’ when issuing planning decisions.  It is taken for granted in UK that the local authority will prepare such policies and implement them, there is no separation of powers.  This has the advantage of relating policy directly to administration but it also enlarges the role of the administrator and so swells local bureaucracy.

Where planning systems of other countries may merely attempt to anticipate trends (USA) or seek to meet common goals of the society or economy (France) in the UK the thrust of planning authorities is to try to mould trends in desirable directions.

Land and countryside preservation is a major issue in UK planning law, championed by both non-governmental organisations and by the local land-owning class. The early industrialization of Britain and its relatively small size mean that urban sprawl and containment are central issues for planners. And this philosophy of planning is set within the context of a long history of parliamentary government, where there is great power invested in civil servants in central government and the professions in local government.

The current economic and political situation in UK has brought the future of this planning system into the forefront of Government’s mind and there are plans to streamline the entire system.

The Planning Portal reports that ‘a new, simpler framework for the planning system that safeguards the environment while meeting the need for sustainable growth has been published for consultation.’

This website explains that National planning policy, the basis for every local plan and decision, has accumulated to over 1,000 pages during the last decade.

A draft National Planning Policy Framework – which streamlines national policy from over 1,000 pages to 52 pages – has been produced and is available to comment on as part of a consultation to get the planning system right for current and future generations.  The closing date for comments is 17 October 2011.

There are consultation workshops arranged across the country to hear directly from people with an interest. These will be in London on Wednesday, 7 September; Leeds on Thursday, 8 September; Birmingham on Tuesday, 13 September; and Bristol on 15 September.

Article written by Steve Cox on August 25, 2011