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RTPI response to Lord Taylor Review of planning guidance

21 December 2012

Colin HaylockColin Haylock, President of the RTPI, said: "The RTPI welcomes the speed and comprehensiveness of the Taylor Review's work.  Writing on behalf of six major organiastions we raised the issue of extant planning guidance in summer 2011 when the draft National Planning Policy Framework was published and are very pleased that Government has begun to tackle this issue. 

A proliferation of guidance from a wide span of decades serves no one's purposes and brings planning into disrepute by association. We welcome the concept of a Chief Planner as gatekeeper to a single fit-for-purpose guidance portal.

We welcome the Government's consultation on the report and will again be working in partnership to help ensure we secure a range of guidance which meets the needs of the wide range of users of the planning system."

The Taylor Review is a significant step towards meeting one of Colin's ambitions for the year, which is he announced in January, of getting a workable planning system in place in England.

RTPI responses to recommendations

Government should be clear what is government planning guidance, and what is not. 

  • The RTPI has consistently called for a (limited) government role in planning guidance and we would take this as being an implicit recognition that there should be some.
  • The RTPI agrees guidance should provide essential information and exclude best practice. It should not repeat statutes and regulations.  We called for this in 2011 and are pleased to see this recommended.

There should be a web-based live resource hosted on a single site, accessed via links within the NPPF, kept under annual review and free of charge. 

  • We welcome this suggestion, and indeed there is a small precedent in the form of the Plan Making Manual hosted by the Planning Advisory Service. On charging we are concerned at the apparently increasing amount of planning data - even data pertinent to Parliamentary discussions - which is no longer collected by the public sector and which therefore is charged for.  At least planning guidance should be exempted from this.

The Taylor review was not charged with reviewing guidance badged by departments other than CLG (unless jointly badged), However the Taylor review sensibly suggests that the only government planning guidance to be afforded that title must be on the single website. 

  • We wholeheartedly support a recommendation that it should be the government's Chief Planner who manages a sign-off process for any guidance badged as government planning guidance, and therefore, we would hope, constitutes a material consideration in planning.

The Taylor Review was tasked with considering the scope of the "planning sector" to produce appropriate guidance.  The Review recommends that the guidance website could signpost best practice guidance produced outside government, stopping short of endorsing it. 

  • Many organisations are eager to produce advice on planning matters. There was a risk at one point that there could be a proliferation of (maybe even conflicting) "guidance". 
  • We are concerned that signposting to best practice risks being seen as a kind of low-level Government endorsement. The amount of time and effort CLG would need to commit to maintaining signposting and deciding which material merits sign posting should not be underestimated, and we would not wish to see resources unduly diverted from the more important task of updating Government guidance.

The Review contains four annexes covering guidance to be cancelled, revised, retained temporarily, and actually created afresh to respond to current conditions such as the NPPF. 

  • The RTPI sent a list to Greg Clark, former planning minister on behalf of six leading organisations in the sector in May. We are pleased to see some of that list appearing in the Taylor Review list such as flood risk, updating housing assessments (SHMAA and SHLAA) and creating viability guidance.

 The Taylor Review recommends an urgent consultation on the planning guidance question.

  • We would welcome the opportunity to respond to a consultation on the work of the review. We continue to promote the very best in planning practice  and look forward to continuing to work with other organisations to achieve this.

Background

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor was asked to review Government of practice guidance in October this year, an issue that the RTPI raised in 2011.

Trudi Elliott, the RTPI's Chief Executive, sat on the review group in a personal capacity along with Simon Marsh (from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), Andrew Whitaker (from from the Home Builders Federation) and Councillor Mike Jones (Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council).

Remit of the review

The group was tasked to consider:

  • the existing suite of planning practice guidance either owned by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), or owned jointly by DCLG and other government departments or agencies
  • what new practice guidance may be needed to support effective implementation of the National Planning Policy Framework

Drawing on any appropriate expertise they may wish to consult, the group was asked to make recommendations as to:

  • the scope and form of practice guidance that should be provided in future by government to support effective planning
  • what new or updated practice guidance should be published, with clear priorities
  • what guidance should be cancelled

The group was also asked to consider the scope to encourage the planning sector to produce appropriate guidance.

RTPI page on Taylor Review