Perhaps the toughest question I’ve ever been asked is when talking with friends at The Voice of Authority. They asked me to name one good thing about the Planning White Paper.
It’s very easy to dislike this White Paper which is so short on detail that it is barely a green paper. However, I think we need to be careful about getting all misty-eyed about the existing system. We all know that it has its faults so, isn’t it about time it was replaced?
We Can All Agree, Change is Required
I think the prime minister is right to compare the current system to an old building. That been knocked about, extended, patched and repaired. It is creaking under the weight of all these additions and radical action is required before it caves in.
As such, I admire the ambition of the White Paper to simplify the system. In addition, its promise to be the most ambitious overhaul of the system we have ever seen. However, I need to make it clear that it is the ambition of the White Paper that I welcome. The prescriptions proposed are an altogether different matter.
Is it a Change for The Better?
Tearing down the system and starting again is a bold and ambitious move, as the Prime Minister says. Therefore, can only be welcome. Yet, that is obviously far from simple to achieve. Looking at the plans for the replacement structure, we’re wondering whether it will be as good as the current system. Furthermore, will the foundations serve us as well as the current system? Which was conceived more than 70 years ago. I am not convinced.
Is it For the People?
The current system was born out of the devastation of the last World War. It has the same determination to provide security and justice for citizens as the legislation that gave us the NHS. The White Paper contains no equivalent commitment.
The White Paper rightly references the global pandemic, economic slowdown and the climate crisis but fails to recognise how these forces impact disproportionately on BAME communities and offers no tailored prescription for easing those impacts.
No Exposition for BAME Communities
Diversity and Equality do not even get a mention in the Planning White Paper. This is a startling omission, especially after our Summer of Black Lives Matter. We have seen black British politicians and athletes subjected to racial profiling, in the full glare of public scrutiny through social media.
RTPI “Plan the World We Need”
“National strategies, policies and investment decisions must help plans to tackle place-based poverty, eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity across the built environment. Specific indicators should be developed to ensure that disadvantaged groups, including BAME communities, women and older people, can access secure, quality and affordable housing, along with services, jobs, infrastructure and amenities.”
That aspiration should be front and centre of the Vision for England’s Planning System. Only then do we stand a chance of building a new planning system whose foundations would be strong enough to stand for 70 years, like the current system.