News story

New streamlined planning guide launched online

Planning Minister Nick Boles launches new national online planning guidance resource for public testing and comment.

New online national planning guidance will give much needed simplicity and clarity to the planning system and bring about better community involvement, Planning Minister Nick Boles announced today (28 August 2013).

The government is launching its national planning practice guidance as a new online resource. The user friendly format will make planning guidance more accessible and will make it easier to keep up to date.

The existing technical guidance, often complex and repetitive, is catalogued in 230 separate documents and at 7,000 pages is almost impossible for residents and businesses to use effectively.

Following an external review, ministers have proposed a new streamlined planning practice that will provide the support for growth and creation of jobs and homes that the country needs. It will also provide clearer protections for our natural and historic environment by giving power back to communities who are generally best placed to make local decisions.

Today sees the opening of the new tool in test mode and for comment: none of the current planning practice guidance will be cancelled until the final online guidance is in place and live later in the autumn.

The new and easy to use web pages of advice set out guidance on a range of issues including:

  • a new affordability test for determining how many homes should be built
  • opening up planning appeal hearings to be filmed
  • discouraging councils from introducing a new parking tax on people’s driveways and parking spaces
  • encourage more town centre parking spaces and end aggressive ‘anti-car’ traffic calming measures like speed bumps
  • housing for older people - councils should build more bungalows and plan positively for an ageing population
  • new neighbourhood planning guidance to help more communities start their own plans
  • new local green space guidance to help councils and local communities to plan for open space and protect local green spaces which are special to them

Planning Minister Nick Boles said:

Planning shouldn’t just be the preserve of technocrats, lawyers and council officers. Yet up to now even the experts have struggled to plough through all the background documents and find the right advice. To be effective our planning system needs to be supported by practical guidance that anyone can consult and follow.

Having stripped away outdated advice, our new user friendly website brings together a simplified set of clear, concise guidance and publishes it altogether in one place. This will make the planning system much easier to navigate for everyone involved.

Today’s launch follows an external review that looked into streamlining some 7,000 pages of practice guidance which explains statutory provisions, planning and the planning system. A vast amount of the material included very outdated documents – some going back to the 1960s – which have been superseded.

Lord Taylor added:

I believe the work that has been done to reduce and revise the existing planning guidance and launch the new online resource transforms the effectiveness, accessibility and accountability of the government’s planning guidance.

By opening the draft guidance suite to public testing and comment we now have the opportunity to make sure it works and doubtless improve it. I would encourage anyone with an interest in the planning system to use the next 6 weeks while the site is open for comment to submit their feedback to help make the site even better.

The government accepted that the existing guidance needed reform and consolidation. In light of the positive response to this consultation, where 86% of respondents agreed with the recommendations, the government set out in the Budget plans to publish significantly reduced planning guidance, providing much needed simplicity and clarity in line with the recommendations.

The review follows the National Planning Policy Framework which distilled around 1,000 pages of planning policy into a streamlined, easy to understand 47-page document. This guidance review will not involve any changes to national policy set out in the framework.

None of the current planning practice guidance will be cancelled until the final online guidance is in place and live. There will now be a 6 week window where the new guidance is open for informal comment.

Further information

The new National Planning Practice Guidance online resource is being opened initially in a test mode for 6 weeks for public comment with a final go-live planned for the autumn.

The review, announced on 16 October 2012, was led by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor with Trudi Elliott (Royal Town Planning Institute), Simon Marsh (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), Cllr Mike Jones (Local Government Association - Cheshire & Cheshire West) and Andrew Whitaker (Home Builders Federation). Local authority planner, Steve Ingram, Huntingdonshire District Council, and planning professional, John Rhodes, director of Quod planning consultancy, joined the review group at the beginning of 2013 following the publication of the review group’s report. Keith Holland from the Planning Inspectorate and Paul Brown QC of Landmark Chambers also advised the group. All group members were unremunerated and sat as individuals, not as representatives of their organisations.

On 21 December 2012 the government welcomed the report of the Taylor review of planning practice guidance, and announced a short consultation on the review group’s recommendations. The review group’s report made 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; and what guidance should be cancelled.

The recommendations were that the planning guidance should be:

  1. clear, up-to-date, coherent and easily accessible, provide essential information and exclude best practice and case study material
  2. provided though a web-based, live resource, hosted on a single site as a coherent up-to-date guidance suite
  3. actively managed to keep it current - held as a critical task by the department and reviewed annually using open source methods
  4. the Chief Planner to act as gatekeeper on material to go on to new guidance website
  5. material will need to be readily printable and date stamped
  6. guidance should be freely available but with bulletins for professional planning audiences of changes
  7. Planning Inspectorate guidance should be incorporated into the new guidance set and the Planning Inspectorate to advise on future material
  8. only material on the government planning practice guidance website to be considered as government planning guidance
  9. guidance website will signpost other relevant organisations’ websites but not specific documents to avoid endorsing
  10. aim for July 2013 for new website with revised guidance
  11. immediate, short, formal consultation on these recommendations
  12. achieve immediate cancellations by 28 March 2013 and preparation on rest
  13. future updating through open web based comments, with formal consultation once new guidance revised
  14. (to 18) guidance categories (immediate full cancellation; part cancellation and retention of some useful material; guidance to be retained until replaced; and areas for new guidance where none currently exists) and priority list of areas

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