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Barker report recommendations a mixed-bag

15 December 2006


The Barker Report received a mixed reception from the RTPI when it was launched, early on December 5th 2006.

The report made a number of positive suggestions on issues such as resourcing and training for planning authorities, a national infrastructure commission set within a framework of public involvement and a recommendation to review green belt boundaries. However it also failed on a number of key points such as the introduction of a 'presumption to development' and an easing of development in unsustainable out-of-town retail and business parks which could threaten town centres.

The RTPI was featured on the World at One on BBC Radio 4.

The RTPI issued a number of press releases on six key areas of the report these are as follows

Measures to remove decisions on national infrastructure from the planning system

The RTPI has long called for an independent body responsible to Parliament to take national infrastructure decisions at a national level. Crucially this framework must include statements outlining how the nation will be consulted on issues.

See Press Release 1

A presumption in favour of development where a plan is indeterminate or out-of-date

The RTPI believes this is wholly inappropriate as it will become a charter for poor quality development, lead to planning delays and is an endorsement of poor local authority performance.

Refer to a press release 2

Replacing the test of 'need' for out-of-town development

The RTPI has always had a pro-active and positive stance on keeping town-centres vital, attractive and competitive. The proposed new test of competitiveness in relation to town centres has not been thought through. See Press Release 3

Green belt land should be regularly reviewed and used to support sustainable development

The RTPI agrees that the primary purpose of green belts is to prevent urban sprawl, and that the boundaries do need to be reviewed periodically. But what the Report should have offered is a set of clear sustainability criteria against which any proposed changes should be tested.

Refer to Press Release 4

Planning staff to be better paid, departments better resourced and the profession to be given more gravitas

The RTPI has been lobbying for some time to better resource planning departments and is glad to see these recommendations.

Press Release 5

A new system of negotiated agreements between affected parties should replace the need for planning permission in some cases

The RTPI comments that developers should be required to take appropriate action to reduce or off-set the impact of their developments on the neighbourhood and 'side agreements' between developers and individuals does nothing to add to the existing system - potentially it excludes the consideration of other people's interests. Press Release 6