© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Winter 2015 Newsletter

Unplanned Planning

Deputy Editor Alan Bunting admirably conveys the sense of the  'deeply flawed' planning procedures revealed at The Society's public meeting on 8 October.

Today’s planning procedures, as set out in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and exemplified by St Albans District Council’s Strategic Local Plan, are deeply flawed, according to a recently-retired Hertfordshire local authority officer.  

Mike Carver, (above right with Tim Riley committee member) former East Herts District Council executive member for strategic planning, said improved procedures were needed. He criticised the failure of today’s processes to live up to the NPPF’s cardinal principles of sustainability, affordability, viability and deliverability.

It was evident that as councils strove to reconcile these admirable precepts, unavoidable conflicts had emerged, making the task impractical. National reorganisation, abolishing the former regional structures, had, said Mr Carver, led to muddle. Furthermore the reorganisation clashed with the proclaimed benefits of ‘localism’, often because too many other stakeholders were far from being local.

More crucially this led to the problem – massive but too often ignored – of infrastructure provision. Where new housing was planned, little attention  was paid to the associated need for highway upgrading, water supply or schools provision. Then government,  local authorities and developers became bogged down in prolonged arguments about who should pay.

Memos to Members

He criticised the loose phrasing of NPPF documentation, in that its wording could be challenged through the courts - how 'severe' was 'severe traffic'?  Even more contentiously, he cited the term ‘Green Belt’, a commonly accepted term subject to constant dispute, with no legal definition of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ that might  deter building thereon.

Planners were also unsettlingly aware that at any time, seemingly on a whim, central government could change the rules on permitted development, not least in the form of Green Belt reviews. It was not surprising, Mr Carver concluded, that councillors, let alone council tax payers, often could not understand planning processes, even though it was claimed that ‘public engagement’ was essential if local democracy was to be maintained.

Seniors Fair

The Public Halls were busy again on Thursday Oct 1 for the Annual Seniors Fair. Drumming up membership on our stand were Harry Downie (left) and Bob Fletcher

Tim Riley (Right) and Mike Carver