Lack of truth, or just a lack of understanding?

There’s an interesting convergence emerging in the amongst all the claims and counter-claims surrounding the NPPF consultation. The coming together is in respect of the comments made by John Howell, self-confessed author of the Tories Open Source Planning document and those made by the likes of Pickles and Clark, about what the term sustainable development actually means and how it came into being.

John Howell claims that the presumption in favour term was never meant to refer to individual planning applications, but only to development plans. The problem is, the NPPF refers to plans and decision making in the same sentence over and over again, lending a lie to John Howell’s claims.

Where the convergence comes, is in the claims being made, the latest in a speech today by Eric Pickles, that the presumption in favour of development has always been in the planning regulations in some form. However, dig down and you find that the presumption that has existed in the regulations, actually referred to land that had already been zoned, or identified as suitable for development. Put another way, it is land that is allocated, as in a local plan site allocations map.

So John Howell is right in that respect, the presumption was supposed to be all about plan making, not about individual applications. The problem seems to be, that those responsible for the NPPF, the so called wide ranging expert group, appear to have bastardised the presumption term into the catchall statement that is now causing us all so much angst.

Stupid stupid stupid

I like using film quotes to mimic what’s going on in real life; I just wish I could remember more of them.  However, one does keep coming back to me time and time again since the coalition government came to power and decided to mess about with the planning system – again!

The quote I’m thinking of comes from the 1997 Matt Damon and Danny Divto film called Rainman and goes some thing like, ‘you must be stupid stupid stupid’.  The whole quote is (just in case you’re interested) and read out by an insurance company executive whilst under cross examination:   “Dear Mrs. Black. On seven prior occasions this company has denied your claim in writing. We now deny it for the eighth and final time. You must be stupid stupid stupid. Sincerely, Evert Luftkin, Vice President, Claims Department.”

I could quite happily rewrite this to apply to those in government, who keep sniping and criticising the planning system and blaming all the ills of the country on it.  Don’t get me wrong, the system’s not perfect far from it and if I were somebody trying to get a planning permission and finding myself fighting an uphill battle, I might well have the same attitude – it’s all the b***dy planners fault.

However, those in government who are so critical, should actually know better, after all it they (the government of the day) and not the planners, who write the rules; the planners merely interpret and implement them via local policies.  It’s also worth remembering that those policies are approved by local politicians and not planners

So, Dear Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne, Me Cable, Mr Pickles, Mr Neill, Mr Clark and even Mr Shapps (who seems happy to use Eric Pickles as his rolling, sorry I meant roving, assassin), on at least seven prior occasions, the planners have written to you refuting your claims.  We now write to you again, for the umpteenth and final time to tell you the same thing. You must be …………..Sincerely, a profession trying to do your bidding.

So, ministers, stop whinging on about how it’s all somebody else’s fault, put your pens where your mouths are and get YOUR planning legislation changed.  Then perhaps those of us at the sharp end, who are trying make some sense of the mess you’ve made of it so far, can get on with making it work – again!