Monday, 24 March 2014
The planning system as Eric Pickles' JCB
Bare with me, but inspired by a recent trip to Diggerland, it occurred to me that the latest round of consultation from DCLG might best be described as a metaphor in which the planning system is a JCB operated by Eric Pickles.
Close your eyes and enjoy picturing the scene. Mr Pickles is trying to manoeuvre the system in a way that 'ensures further progress on decision making and housing delivery'. He has in his hands two levers: one for the development industry, a carrot, and, one for local government, a stick.
The carrot in this consultation is a proposal to 'aid the delivery of small scale housing sites' by introducing a 10-unit and 1,000m² gross floor space threshold for affordable housing contributions through section 106 planning obligations.
The stick is a proposal to increase the threshold for designating LPAs as under-performing, based on the speed of deciding applications for major development, from 30% to 40% or fewer of decisions made on time.
Less of a regulatory and financial burden on the developers of new homes, therefore, and an increased likelihood of LPAs being bypassed.
It is worth reminding ourselves that in June 2010, in the optimistic early-parliament dawn, Mr Pickles said in a speech that implementing a "localist" agenda would be the most important objective for his new department.
This consultation, coming in the world-weary late-parliament dusk, represents the contradictory, centralist localism that this Government might be remembered for. In that respect, the image of Mr Pickles' JCB burying that 2010 speech is perhaps an apt one.