22 Dec Is Planning Full of Christmas Spirit?

A message from our Partner, Judith Norris. 

Being a planner means you play a form of roulette most days. There are infinite shades of grey in terms of policy and law. I have seen applications approved for residential development in totally unexpected places.

The converse is regrettably true for some of the more bespoke rural development we deal with.  The lack of a bus stop immediately means the sustainability test is lost while the failure of officers to understand the practicalities of land management is another major irritation.

Once the application is approved we are often bombarded with pages and pages of strangely worded planning conditions in convoluted English which often create as much work as the original planning application.

I am clearly the Christmas Grinch.

In my view permitted development is a major step forward for all of us but is often disliked by planning authorities because it is more difficult to frustrate. Class Q which allows barns in to houses subject to several reservations has added usefully to the rural housing stock. Other permitted development including the acceptance that our high streets have changed irrevocably is clearly sensible and will help to address the housing shortage as well as diminish the number of empty shops. It will be interesting to note the visual impact of the permitted development right that allows (with certain reservations) another storey to be added to houses and some business premises.

The Planning White Paper has been a major source of interest but I anticipate with the problems of Brexit and Covid there will be limited appetite for a major restructuring of planning at this time. I worry the ”Protected areas” will become too protected while the Local Plan is a form of zoning anyway. I find landscape designation irksome because I see areas outside AONBs and National Parks that are special, but are less valued. To me all landscapes matter as does a thriving rural economy.

Against the background of the Agriculture Act, and the Environment Bill, Biodiversity offsetting and Natural capital will become increasingly important, also presenting an opportunity for landowners to utilise land that may not be suitable for farming.

As I approach 2021 with some trepidation because of the economic hit of Covid and Brexit, but with some excitement because of the  emerging opportunities and the interesting world we deal with as rural planners . There is never a dull moment!

Happy Christmas, and best wishes for 2021.

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