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Boyer's Budget Response

Digitising the planning system

The Budget (para 4.49) pledged ‘an additional £65 million investment to improve the planning regime, through a new digital system which will ensure more certainty and better outcomes for the environment, growth and quality of design’.

Grant comments, ‘It's absolutely right that the planning system should be brought into the 21st century and digitisation is the way to do that: planning is spatial and to use GIS to communicate on planning is entirely natural.

‘To elicit constructive comments on planning decisions though requires a step back: to seize imagination of the ‘silent majority’; to encourage them to engage and ultimately to create a more accurate balance the vociferous views of the ‘serial objectors’.

‘Is digital planning the way to do this? It is fanciful to assume that digitalisation alone can make planning appeal to young people: that takes much more than an app.

‘Essentially success will depend on how the £65 million is distributed. Spread across all local authorities, is under £200K per local authority isn’t enough for each to make a substantial change. But if £65m was to be invested in a single system which could be rolled out across all local authorities in the UK, the impact could be seismic. This could go a long way to garnering enthusiasm and new ideas, providing genuinely constructive involvement and changing the way in which planning is perceived.’

Brownfield development

The Budget (para 4.49) stated: ‘£300 million locally-led grant funding that will be distributed to Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Authorities to unlock smaller brownfield sites for housing and improve communities in line with their priorities, and £1.5 billion to regenerate underused land and deliver transport links and community facilities, unlocking 160,000 homes in total’.

Grant’s view is as follows:

‘Clearly the Government is going to great lengths to promote brownfield, over greenfield development. In principle this is what’s needed: it unlocks redundant and often unsightly sites, creates opportunities for smaller developers and in doing so, bring about innovation.

‘As ever, the devil’s in the detail. London is one of the cities which is set to benefit from this policy, but the Mayor for London set up a Small Sites Developments Team and it didn’t work because of the complications that accompany brownfield development and the fact that small sites don’t meet the strategic aims of the London Plan.

‘So while the funding is to be welcomed, there is so much more that’s needed to make this work – from revisions to strategic planning to local authority expertise and in reality £300m spread evenly across 333 local authorities is unlikely to achieve this.’

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