The planning white paper was a big deal for us. We held 15 workshops on various aspects of it, allowing practitioners to pull it apart and put it back together again. Clearly these presentations are going to be overtaken by events quite quickly, but we share them in case they are useful for briefing colleagues or horizon scanning. Although the housing numbers technical consultation was a different set of questions on a different timetable we share them here too.
What we saw and heard
For obvious reasons we in PAS don't participate in consultations, and we as individuals are careful to steer clear of strong opinions and emotions. Rachael shares some of her enthusiasm for bits of the white paper on the PAS blog. However we also encourage our audience to speak their minds about the good, bad and ugly of what they see in front of them. Unusually for us we decided to package up an anonymised but organised chunk of practitioner viewpoint to record how our audiences responded to the white paper. It isn't a consultation response, and it might only be useful for other places around the world thinking about planning reform more generally or indeed for posterity. It is a wide-ranging mildly cross and barely English document drawn from mostly direct quotes and questions pushed to us at the events detailed below. Planners behold your unvarnished voices.
Housing numbers technical consultation
Alongside the main white paper there was a technical consultation on the existing planning system. One of the four components of the consultation were changes to the standard method of assessing local housing need.
The "mechanics" events - an overview of most of the white paper
We held a set of workshops we branded the "mechanics" workshops where we took planners through how the various parts of the white paper would combine to produce a radical new planning system. Yes, lots of the detail is missing but we had some fascinating discussions about how the story laid out in the white paper might land in the messy, changeable and economically pragmatic world we inhabit.
Transition and local plans
A concern for plan-makers and government alike is how the proposed new changes will be introduced. No one wants councils to "down tools" but equally it is appropriate and sensible to avoid wasting time and money on work that will never produce a return on the investment. We spent some time working through various scenarios and how the various timetables meshed. Expect us to do more on this shortly.
The national infrastructure levy
The proposal to replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 regulations with a new national Infrastructure Levy attracted strong emotions. The team joked beforehand that people might queue up to defend the CIL regulations despite their beastly complexity and we were not disappointed. Sometimes it really is better the devil you know.