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2023: The Planning Profession

Recently we have seen increased measures and rhetoric from the Government which seeks to blame housebuilders for the housing crisis and infers that returning to the Localism agenda through measures such as street votes will deliver development.

For the moment, the Government remains committed to the 300,000 homes target but to a ‘fairer way’ of identifying how housing targets are identified.

With a general election due within the next 18 months, the rhetoric increasingly focuses on local people and communities and the Government seeking to hand back the power. It is also unlikely that the Government will introduce fundamental reforms to the planning system, so smaller measures such as ‘street votes’ are ‘quick wins’.

Increasingly the Government is enforcing the rhetoric that developers are ‘bad’ and are the problem with the system. This increasingly polarisation between the parties involved in planning is unhelpful and will never encourage local community support, nor positive working relationships between the various stakeholders.

The uncertainty as to how housing targets will be identified will continue to result in delays to local plans as local planning authorities wait for more certainty given limited resources and a desire to avoid abortive work. It is bad for the planning system as a whole and will discourage investment and growth at a time of substantial economic crisis across the country.

The devil will be in the detail of initiatives such as street votes – but inevitably they add another layer of complexity and change to a system which so badly needs stability. They are also likely to result in additional conflict and no doubt additional burdens on an already overstretched system.

The likely impact on our work in planning and development is considerable: no end in sight to the resourcing shortages and lengthy delays the development system is already facing; an increasing uphill battle for planners to be seen as part of the solution to the housing crisis and not the problem; an increasing conflict between Government, local planning authorities, communities and developers, and a slower delivery of homes.

We need to reinstall a sense of pride and authority in planners: we should be seen as competent professionals who are trained experts in the built environment.

Importantly, we must stop using the rhetoric of good vs bad; private vs public; developers vs communities. The Government needs to see the development industry and local planning authorities as all part of the solution to the housing crisis and we need to all work together as planners to bring forwards high quality sustainable homes which meet the housing needs of our time.

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