Planning policy is a crucial issue for Liberal Democrats. We believe in supporting and strengthening local communities – and the development of the built environment locally, and residential, business and other opportunities on offer, is critical to that. We believe that the revised National Planning Policy Framework has defined the broad parameters of the planning process, but we have further aspirations for our planning system to deliver strategic vision both nationally and locally.
The Liberal Democrats Communities & Local Government Parliamentary Committee – chaired by myself and Lord (Graham) Tope – is kickstarting a review of Liberal Democrat thinking on planning policy, through:
- A call for comments and evidence, particularly addressing the consultation questions set out below
- A collaboration with the Local Government Information Unit on a booklet of short essays from Liberal Democrats and other stakeholders
I have already convened an initial brainstorming session with Cllr Keith House, Cllr Chris Naylor, Baroness Parminter and Rob Banks, identifying key consultation questions as below. In parallel the Parliamentary Committee has overseen the commissioning of the Local Government Information Unit booklet with completed contributions already received from Lord Shipley, Sir Andrew Stunell MP, Cllr Adele Morris, Cllr Liz Green, Professor Antonia Layard and Marc Vlessing.
We will promote the consultation at the Autumn Conference.
Additionally Liberal Democrat councillors will be invited to a major consultative event on future planning policy at the Local Government Association in the autumn, which will include discussion of responses to this call and the launch of the Local Government Information Unit booklet. We will then meet with relevant professional bodies and other interested organisations before producing a paper for further consultation.
We are therefore now inviting submissions on the consultation questions from Lib Dem members, Lib Dem organisations, and relevant professional bodies and stakeholders. The deadline is 30th September. Please send all responses to [email protected]
Liberal Democrat Planning Policy – Consultation Questions
Liberal Democrats believe that if you give people responsibility, they will make responsible decisions on planning. How can we best ensure decision making for planning is at the right level:
a) What role should Central Government play? General comments invited here….
b) More specifically, how can we ensure a wider strategic vision from Central Government with regard to major national infrastructure projects and how do we ensure democratic accountability for this?
c) How can the planning system play a role in delivering business and growth (including addressing transportation) and in revitalising areas which fall into neglect? What role should
i) Central Government play
ii) Local Government play?
d) Do we want to abolish the Planning Inspectorate? What role, if any, should the Secretary of State play in any decisions which are not national and clearly should be resolved locally?
e) In two tier authority areas, how can we ensure full involvement from district councils where the county is the relevant planning authority eg, for minerals and waste? Gravel pit extraction and fracking are key concerns.
f) Publicly-owned land – how can we improve accountability for government departments – and other public land holding bodies (e.g. Network Rail) which “land bank”? How can local authorities and communities challenge to ensure that redundant land is either put into use or released for development where appropriate?
How can we deliver a vision at local level:
a) How do we get more leadership into the planning process, both from ward councillors and from the cabinet, to help get the maximum from planning opportunities and make plans attractive to local residents? Are planning officers currently trained to deliver strategic outcomes? Do we need to rethink current council structures in relation to planning, to make sure the links between other policies are fully compatible at Cabinet level – e.g. health policies
b) How can the planning system best be used to solve problems and concerns in a community (e.g. levering in access to and creating more green open space, affordable homes, school places etc)?
c) Neighbourhood Plans – how can communities be encouraged to engage with neighbourhood planning, what is the role for neighbourhood forums after Neighbourhood Plans have been adopted?
d) How do we agree for instance how many homes should be built in an area, and how can this be made to work and for whom? At the moment, for example, some officers still work on the old Regional Spatial Strategy numbers. Is there a clear and transparent process for calculating housing need and/or challenging the RSS figures?
e) Should planning seek to ensure different types of housing tenure are built into local plans (e.g. social rented/1 bed/2 bed etc)? How could we do this?
f) Should we support the LGA campaign to have more local “use classes” to help meet local needs?
g) What further could be done to support our high streets and district shopping centres (thinking about reviews by Portas and Grimsey)?
a) What needs to be done – if anything – about design quality, building/sustainability standards (re current Government consultation on standards) and enforcement?
b) Should there be top down standards from Central Government or should standards be set entirely at local level?
* Annette Brook is the Liberal Democrat MP for Dorset and North Poole.