Planning Consultation

Houses being builtPlanning 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


Section 1:

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?


Section 2:

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)?


Section 3:

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.

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  • As a Labour councillor, I don’t imagine that you’ll be very interested in my views, despite my being on Planning, but I would say that central government has no place interfering in local planning decision making, and I would point out that were it not for the support of your party in both houses, then Pickles wouldn’t be able to get away with very much of the stupidity that he regularly inflicts on local authorities. Perhaps you need to hear that from a councillor in your own party.

  • Malcolm Todd 4th Sep '13 - 12:07am

    Oh for the good old days of Labour government, when local authorities were free to make their own decisions. Oh, wait…

  • patrick murray 4th Sep '13 - 7:15am

    yeah, sorry si, you are going to get very, very short shrift with that kind of nonsense from this ex-councillor who served 6 years under a labour government.

  • Rabi Martins 4th Sep '13 - 10:38am

    So long as planning legislation is driven on a presumption that Planning Permission should normally be granted and right of appeal is only available to the applicant the public’s interests in influencing and preserving the character of their local area will be compromised That is one of the reasons Neighbourhood Plans have not found favour

    As things stand Localism and Planning are at odds with each other and will remain so

    Pickles and his Permitted Development Rights legislation shows total disregard to local opinion and
    has damaged the Planning System almost beyond repair

  • David White 4th Sep '13 - 3:18pm

    Well said, Rabi Martins, my former political neighbour in SW Herts.

    It is outrageous, in the unlikely event that the ConDems are truly keen on Localism, that there can be no appeal against planning permissions by local people.

    When I was a member of ALPC Planning & Highways Committee, it was but very rarely that we objected to a planning application. On the few occasions that we did so, it was for what were, locally, very good reasons.

    I can recall only one major objection, followed by re-submissions, followed by an appeal. It was for the expanasion of a scrapyard in the Green Belt which should never have been permitted in the first place. Eventually, we lost – of course!

    But, please Mr Pickles, at least give local councils and their electors a chance!

  • Helen Dudden 4th Sep '13 - 7:01pm

    We even have petitions on the subject here , these are mainly constructed by the Lib Dems.

  • Dominic Curran 6th Sep '13 - 3:57pm

    @ Si carter – my jaw literally dropped in astonishment at your comment. Do you have any knowledge of the days before 2010? New Labour devolved power to the regions and nations of the UK but massively centralised it in English local government. And it was hardly localised before then. There was no problem too local that couldn’t be decided in Whitehall under Blair and Brown. We’ll take no lessons on localism from labour!

  • “@ Si carter – my jaw literally dropped in astonishment at your comment. Do you have any knowledge of the days before 2010? New Labour devolved power to the regions and nations of the UK but massively centralised it in English local government. And it was hardly localised before then. There was no problem too local that couldn’t be decided in Whitehall under Blair and Brown. We’ll take no lessons on localism from labour!”

    Of course I have, and I’ll take no lectures from a party that supports the Tory centralisation of as many planning functions as it can take from local authorities.

    You’ve clearly been out of the picture for a considerable time, as you seem entirely unaware of what the present situation is. The next time Pickles’ goons call in a decision made locally at the behest of a large company, I suggest that you think back to your rather stupid comment. You’re unfit to run for office either locally or nationally.

    After 2015 it won’t matter anyway.

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