Planning and transport groups voice concern that localism agenda does not impact on planning at the ‘larger-than-local level'

A wide-ranging group of 29 national bodies has written to the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, to urge national and local government to work with them to ensure that strategic planning – planning at the ‘larger-than-local level’ - is embedded in any reform of the planning system under the new agenda for localism.

The letter says: '...Our particular focus is that level of planning which Ministers have called “democratic decision-making that is larger than the local, but smaller than the national”...Our initiative is driven by twin concerns. First, we wish to ensure that any new Government policies truly improve the ability of the system to deliver positive outcomes for communities.

'...Secondly, we wish to ensure that this larger than local planning and investment – which we term strategic planning – is carried out to address the most pressing issues facing the nation such as economic recovery, meeting housing need and demand, sustainable transport, regeneration, sustainable development and growth, investment in our infrastructure, biodiversity loss, climate change, and reducing inequality.

'We support the drive to enable communities to contribute to, and take, those planning and investment decisions that are best taken at the neighbourhood level and to play a full role in implementing those decisions.'

Ann Skippers, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said: 'Ministers need to be very careful not to miss the bigger picture as the localism agenda gathers pace. Communities need some level of strategic thinking beyond the local level to deliver many of the things they want, such as hospitals, transport links, waste management and flood protection. The most pressing issues facing the nation, for example, such as the housing crisis, economic recovery, climate change and biodiversity loss, cannot be dealt with solely at a local level.'

'We have come together to offer to work with the Coalition Government and local authorities to help to develop thinking, policies and systems for planning to encourage and support joint planning across local authority boundaries so that the localism agenda may be used to enable democratic strategic planning to take place.'

The 29 signatories to the letter represent key voices in the environment, enterprise and business, communities, development, the professions and planning.

These organisations have noted a number of the recent announcements by ministers which demonstrate a continued role for strategic planning, including the encouragement for local authorities or other groups to work together and statements about Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Regional Growth Fund.

However, the organisations feel that some aspects of the planning reforms may also hinder solutions to the housing crisis, to investment in enterprise in different parts of the country, to providing a lead to tackle climate change, to rapidly expanding renewable energy infrastructure and to reversing biodiversity loss.

The organisations which have signed the letter understand ‘planning at the larger than local level’ to mean any form of planning – statutory or otherwise – which enables communities and groups of communities to express a vision for the future of an area wider than their own locality.

This approach to planning sets out priorities for investment and solutions to problems which must, of necessity, be addressed beyond neighbourhood or district boundaries. Importantly it can provide certainty to investors, infrastructure providers, community initiatives, developers and enterprises and help secure a prosperous and sustainable future for the country.

The letter was signed on behalf of, and with the support of:
Association of Building Engineers, Association of Consultant Architects, Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, British Property Federation, British Urban Regeneration Association, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Campaign for Better Transport, Chartered Institute of Housing, Construction Industry Council, Country Land and Business Association, Environmental Protection UK, Freight on Rail, Friends of the Earth, Institute of Historic Building Conservation, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Structural Engineers, Landscape Institute, Local Government Technical Advisers Group, National Housing Federation, Planning Officers Society, Rail Freight Group, Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Royal Town Planning Institute, Shelter, Sustrans, Town and Country Planning Association, UK Green Building Council,WWF-UK.

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