The latest of the Living with Minerals CBI conferences was attended by staff from Stephenson Halliday yesterday (17th November). A very well attended event included a range of speakers providing different views on how and why a national mineral strategy should be developed.
Of particular interest to planners was Ruth Stanier’s presentation. She is the Director of Planning at DCLG and delivered ‘a planning perspective on future mineral supply’. She identified three themes:
- Simplification of the planning system;
- The importance of the local plan; and
- The need for speed.
Ruth pointed to the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework, superseding the raft of previous policy and guidance notes as evidence of the simplification of the system.
At Stephenson Halliday we agree that the NPPF provides a more focussed document and is clearer in the tests it applies. However, is the publication of all the online practice guidance evidence that the NPPF is too focussed, and we are now seeing the re-introduction of that which was ‘swept away’ by the initial introduction of the NPPF?
Ruth also indicated that Local Plans are now at the heart of the planning system and around 80% of authorities have got to the stage of publishing a plan. An important point she made was that industry must engage with this process as much as possible to ensure that their interests are taken into account in the plan making process.
The final point was recognition of the need for speed, she indicated that the aim of the Government was to drive up the performance of planning authorities. The emphasis appeared to be on the speed of decisions with the introduction of ‘special measures’ for those authorities who do not perform and the current proposals for deemed discharge of planning conditions.
Two concerns we have is that the stated aim of driving up ‘performance’ does not seem to be matched with safeguarding resources in planning authorities, and that ‘performance’ seems to be being equated with speed- surely it is the quality of decisions which should be of greatest importance?
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