I’m beginning to notice a growing trend in the method being used by this government to make our planning system fit it’s non-planning agenda.
The most recent demonstration of this, is a new consultation on whether or not the installation of security shutters should be permitted development. That would mean that, unlike now, any shop owner that wished to install steel shutters to their shop front, could do so without applying for planning permission. Whilst I have no wish to see planning rules imposed for the sake of it, allowing people to do things without considering the wider impact, is guaranteed to create undesired effects. In the vast majority of cases, a high street turned into a steel walled alley every night, is a very undesirable effect.
Window shopping is a free and enjoyable past time for many people, especially in the summer months and helps to keep a town centre alive and interesting, even when the shops are closed. Endless steel shutters would effectively make a high street a no-go area, telling any visitors that it is a potential trouble spot, where the occupants have had to put up the barricades.
The consultation document refers to the character of an area being protected, as in the case of conservation areas. However, the numerous bear traps that are present in the recently published (for yet another consultation) National Planning Policy Framework, are likely to frustrate councils wishing to control such things as steel shutters on the high street.
The government has recently thrown all of the existing detailed planning policy guidance on to one it’s red tape bonfires. It would now seem that DCLG, through it’s planning mouth piece, the Chief Planner, will ensure that things are done it’s way, by the issuing of letters such as the one referring to security shutters. Even though they’ve called it a consultation letter, it would probably be far more accurate to call it a, ‘this is what we’re going to do eventually letter’. Standby for a lot more of the same.