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On the 10th July 2015, the Government published its 'Productivity Plan' - a comprehensive statement of intent that sees planning facing yet more reforms aimed at greater deregulation and streamlining.
"This plan addresses particular challenges in the form of a planning system regarded by many as one of the most significant constraints facing the economy, bringing delay and inflexibility…"
The transformation of planning is complete - it is now firmly embedded as an economic consideration in the Government's eyes. This was not always the case. Yet here it now sits alongside such unfamiliar bedfellows as workforce issues and trading and investment. Clearly, planning is now very much seen as a critical tool in delivering 'prosperity'. Whether this is right and whether it deserves to shoulder blame for the country's economic shortcomings are, of course, entirely different questions.
Nevertheless, attacking an "excessively strict" planning system, the Government looks to continue along the path it first laid back in 2011 with the Localism Act, followed by its cornerstone, the NPPF, in 2012. It is ironic that the current planning reforms can trace their origins back to a piece of legislation which has at its core the concept of 'localism'. On the one hand, there is talk of increased devolution of planning powers at a Mayoral level; on the other, the increased threat of designation for 'underperforming' LPAs. The latest picture emerging is one of greater centralisation, with a 'top down' approach at the fore which is at odds with the localism rhetoric used to champion the likes of Neighbourhood Planning. Perhaps localism is still important but not at the expense of productivity?
The dissatisfaction with the lack of Local Plans currently in place finds expression in the following measures where the Government will:
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