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‘First past the post' - National Planning Practice Guidance

Written by Gareth Young on . Posted in Our blog

1st April 2014

Over the years there has been one area of local government where we have struggled to adequately cover the topic; that of planning. Planning is probably the single most controversial part of local government and as an interested observer also one of the most complex.

Thankfully, we have been fortunate enough to receive a series of high quality guest posts to discuss elements of ever-changing Government policy. Today we continue that tradition with a guest post from a Regional Planning and Development agency, RCA Regeneration.

This post discusses the recently published ‘National Planning Practice Guidance’ highlighting a couple of elements that will be of interest to our readers; not least the hot topic of guard-railing! We hope you enjoy it as much as we did:

The long-awaited release of the ‘National Planning Practice Guidance’ on the 6th March 2014 marks a somewhat low key end to the Coalition crusade against bureaucracy in the planning system. Before we get to the issue of duty to cooperate and the NPPG approach to unmet need, let us just get something important out of way - guard railing. Yep that’s right, guard railing.

Presumably this item of street furniture weighs heavily upon the minds of civil servants in London, so much so that PPG sets out to eradicate this item of street safety wear once and for all: 

Barriers between the road and pedestrians are usually visually unattractive to the street scene, can form a hazard for cyclists who can be squeezed against them, and create the impression that the roads are for cars only; they should only be used when there is an overriding safety issue.

The above statement highlights everything that is warped about NPPG. Part ‘ladybird’ guide to planning, part NPPF gap filler and occasionally just downright odd, it takes a hardened soul to wade through the NPPG.

It is difficult to say how long this guidance would be if printed, but our best guess is somewhere near to 600 pages – for those of literary persuasion about the length of Great Expectations. The vast majority of text is devoted to non-technical explanations, though how successful this is when the text references the whole of the Town and Country Planning Act is debatable and just as your eyelids begin to droop you stumble across items that are actually quite important; such as the Duty to Cooperate.

This is a hot topic for those of us operating in the West Midlands largely as a result of the ticking time bomb situated at the heart of the Shires – namely Birmingham and its considerable housing under supply.

The NPPG sheds new light on the duty to cooperate – specifically that the duty to cooperate is not a ‘duty to agree’ and what to do if your neighbouring authorities never return your calls or come to your dinner parties anymore.

The answer is to keep meticulous records of every dinner date they skipped and every time they avoided you by ducking into a nearby shop as you strolled past.  As the NPPG puts it:

 Local planning authorities that are unwilling to cooperate with others will eventually have to bring forward their own Local Plan for examination. If they are unable to provide robust evidence to support a strategy that does not plan for the unmet requirements of another local planning authority they may fail the test of compliance with the duty to cooperate or the plan may be found unsound.

 

Hence the title of this article; first one to get to PINS (the Planning Inspectorate to you and me - ed), wins. Eventually the sins of your neighbours will catch up with them; in the meantime, watch out for that guard railing…  

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