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Budget Planning

In his Budget speech George Osborne affirmed the Government’s objective of significant reform to simplify and streamline the planning system alongside new financial incentives and mechanisms to support private enterprise. The Chancellor stated that the planning system is a ‘chronic obstacle to growth’ and used a raft of pro-development language not heard from his office since the mid-80′s.

Whilst the announcements made in the Budget can only be seen as positive for businesses and developers, it seems a rather unashamed swing away from the principles of the Localism Agenda, which seek to hand more power to local communities.

Under the provisions of the Budget and its accompanying growth strategy document, firms will be able to develop neighbourhood plans, theoretically meaning that businesses should be able to develop and implement local planning frameworks. However, the Localism Agenda seeks to hand the same power to local communities. It is highly unlikely that any two neighbourhood plans; one prepared by the local community and one by local businesses; will be striving for the same goals. How the differences are to be reconciled is anybody’s guess.

There was also the announcement that the answer to development and growth should be ‘yes’ wherever possible. Whilst this is welcome, this surely should always be the case both in times of boom and bust, and everywhere in-between. Businesses have always being saying ‘yes’ to development, whereas local communities invariably say ‘no - not in my back yard’. Dishing out equal power to business and communities will undoubtedly result in stagnation. Perhaps Mr Osborne should learn Newton’s Third Law?

With Eric Pickles being told by the High Court in November last year that his decision to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies was unlawful, will the measures set out in the Budget end up to be another case of ill-informed ‘planning by headlines’? Let us hope not for the sake of the economy, but only time will tell…

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