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Planning Portal and Localism

by on December 21, 2010

Sorry, but it’s time to talk the the “L” word. Localism that is, not love although being the festive season a little bit of both wouldn’t go amiss.

Assuming that the Portal survives the icy blast of the spending review then I hope we’ll play our part in enabling the agenda.

We’ve certainly got the communication channels to reach neighbourhoods with information and tools and we’ve got the links to LPA websites (both technical and relational) to ‘link things up’. However the question is: in a time of decentralisation what should our role be?

Should we provide information only or would tools and forms help? (Don’t forget we can build them once and use them for many.)

What about lessons learned? As people and communities start to develop local plans should the Portal provide a place for sharing lessons, best practice, tips and tricks or leave it all alone and let something evolve by itself?

I’d love to hear your views.
Chris

From → Localism

10 Comments
  1. Viv Green permalink

    The Portal has been about standardisation; Localism is about diversity and individual solutions to local problems, so new areas of work based on Localism may be limited/not cost-effective. There are quite a few other sites out there already for practitioners to ask questions and exchanging ideas.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hopefully were about more than standardisation but I get your point.

      A big part of our job is helping citizens understand what they can and can’t do under PD and I’ve a feeling that job isn’t going to go away.

      I also think we may have a role helping both citizens and professionals to understand and get involved in local planning.

      All my best
      Chris

  2. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    The issue will be a growing departure from ‘standards’ which will create pressures on local resources, as Councils begin to diverge from the hard won ‘one version of the truth’ that the portal representsl.
    Localism depends on enabled communities and the Act may add meat on the bones in October but so far communities are being starved of resources to take an active role. Planning Aid will longer be accessible to them.
    In addition the cuts in councils funding that are seeing staffing and schemes shrink alarmingly, are destroying the Social Capital of funded community resources, making the 3rd sector the gap filler.
    But the resouces in 3rd sector need to grow to meet the challenge, and although CLG has a potential funding pot (http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/neighbourhoodsprospectus) its limited.
    The move to create local fee setting may finally allow full cost recovery, but thats not going to allow budgets to stabalise until 2012 leaving a gap down which local ambitions may slip. More for less is the political mantra and calling cuts ‘efficiencies’ makes customers think we are inefficient, therefore they expect the same or a better level of service. That will create huge dissatisfaction in services that will make BVPI 111 rates seem a distant dream of ‘the good old days’ and NI 157 targets will be abandoned as 8-13 week turnaround are scaruficed for more open space and planning gain contributions which take time to negotiate.
    An interesting 2011/12 and the Portal may be the only national forum that records the transformation of the planning system to either buttefly or moth!

  3. VerinaGlaessner permalink

    It appears that the idea for ‘localism’ has been borrowed from the German planning system, or a section of it known as Plan B or something similar. A major difference is that Germany law adheres to the Napoleonic legal system which decisively rules out the speculative element. We don’t. The whole system of neighbourhood involvement will therefore be hostage to speculative development pressures. The legislation therefore must take steps to remedy this. We already have a complex system of neighbourhood representation.What is the real agenda for change here?

  4. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    The crux of Localism is ‘the wisdom of crowds’ and the idea that local people are keen to work with Local Authorities. The idea seems to be that they will contribute the time and energy to put in place the rules around which the development of the area can be managed.

    It of course ignores reality.

    The issue of the rise of the NIMBY and the resistance to change of any sort in our Neighbourhoods is seen daily in planning services. But the politician only sees the small number of people in surgeries who are looking for negotiation and compromise.

    Most neighbours do not even reply to publicity about planning applications. Mosat neighbours have never been to a planning committee or community centre unless its a wedding or a sporting event.

    The neighbour planning ideal will fall to the ‘usual suspects’ who will be activists in one particular area of interst and the normnal man and woman on the street will be absent. They will be working more and more hours to pay the escalating bills that are the product of the cuts regime as jobs go, they will rarely intrude into that planning your area world., unless redundant and then job hunting will take priority.

    If we had people who had the interest in this, we would not be looking for ways to engage more in simply bothering to vote.

    Germany has a more politically active electorate, and so that comparison is of interest as we enter a brave new world, post October 2011. I hope it is not labelled as the world of the ‘Localised Anaesthetic’ after the Act takes effect post 2012!

  5. I had major issues recently – where a local community worked very hard in support of a planning application – which the LPA Officers wanted to refuse. The whole community, parish council, local school and church – lobbied for an approval. It was an excellent example of ‘localism’ and the local Councillors loved it – BUT not the officers who stood their ground in their interpretation of 1 local plan policy and completely ignored all the material planning considerations (as well as the other local plan policies that the application complied with). The officers knew it would be approved at Committee – but even then they were determined to make things as hard as possible for the applicant. At least 30 people from the neighbourhood turned up in support of the application (last on the agenda).

    Localism can’t work if no one gives it a decent chance, the same as the planning system itself. Vested and personal interests get in the way and there are too many LPA officers who dont know how to do a good job, certainly havent a clue about collaboration and engagement, they frankly dont care and certainly will fight change all the way (look at how long it took for BV to be accepted – although in many places it isnt still).
    AND – I am not tarring all LPA officers with the same brush.

    Wouldnt it be refreshing if everyone could say – well we know whats coming – how can we help to make it work?! But then, I guess thats not British!

  6. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    The local planners will work in support of ‘good’ schemes, hence the new label they have of ‘Development Management’. This means they work with the community and developers to produce good schemes based on plans and policies. and this is an unfunded and unrecognised aspect of what they do every day, the pre application role.

    BUT they are in a quasi-judicial role. They must not and cannot drive that scheme. They are ultimately the arbiters of its approval or refusal through the recommendation they make to members who have the vote on its outcome, if its going to committee.

    That is the reason for plans and policies which are the bench mark all must adhere to, unless there are good reasons not to. Even if the planner feels the scheme is good and serves community and wider interests, if it breaches policy they must defend the policy. Not to do so creates uncertainty and a poor place shaping outcome and opens the door to challange by may others.

    However those plans and ploicies are set by elected members and if they decide cahnges are needed in that plan, then its part of the democratic process, and so that plans or policy may itself ultimately be changed by those members locally or nationally.

    For the planner to change it by not adhering to it undermines the democratic process. That must not and cannot be our role. We simply advise and apply the law as it relates to this area.

    The politicians are elected by the community to repersent them, and they may ultimately change those rules. And so we now usher in Localism and Planning Neighbourhood policies and groups, neither a good or bad thing but part of goverment.

    Having returned from visits abroad I have often seen the evidence on the street of not doing things this way. Its a dangerous and unpleasant environment that has corruption and nepotism in its midst. We invested much social capital in where we are and continue to do.

    The best outcome seems to be if a planner has upset all sides in an application then its the right decision. If someone is happy, then someone else is not, and there is then a charge of bias!

  7. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    So Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “The ‘localism’ Bill will reverse the centralist creep of decades and replace it with local control. It is a triumph for democracy over bureaucracy. It will fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country, revitalising local democracy and putting power back where it belongs, in the hands of the people.”

    I await the allocation of the budgets to support that fundamental shake up to local government, a local governmant that has instead lost 25% of its budgets.

    To deliver what is in place at the moment will be challenging with a quarter of resources gone. To implement a fundamental change of this magnitude at the same time, will create a breathtaking opportunity for the collapse of the planning system.

    No doubt government will expect the funds to be found from that pot of money they refer to daily as efficiency savings. Does that mean that local government wastes 25% of its funding,? That may sit well with the media, but in offices up and down the country that 25% is starting to become visible in the empty desks of redundant or retired staff.

    It will soon drive up waiting times and drive down the quality of the built environment from the present level that took 10 years in massive investment to reach.

    But you get what you can afford to pay for, and that may mean localism will struggle to be what it should be, and instead fail despite the promise it may hold. FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL.

  8. geoffrey smith permalink

    Hi, Everybody is talking about taking steps to improve our ‘failed planning system’, but forgetting the many many bureaurocrats that formed the ‘system’. I am confident these people are merely waiting to adapt any nw system to suit their needs in disregard to society’s and business hope !!

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