Kate barker’s review of land-use planning has set a number of interested parties worrying about a US style liberalisation of the planning regime. It might not be that drastic but it’s certainly radical.
The report reflects many of the government’s concerns about the limiting nature of the current planning regime, which is felt by many to be holding back much needed development, UK competitiveness and regeneration.
The report largely comprises an analysis of the impact of planning on the economy rather than a robust recommendation for reform but there are hints of more to come. Kate Barker suggests that recent changes to the planning system have not speeded up the process, which is still too slow and cumbersome.
Worryingly for the environment lobby she has also pointed out the proportion of land protected from development e.g. green belt, National Parks etc is twice the average in other countries in OECD countries.
The report also makes the point that, sometimes urban sites that are developed in preference to Greenfield sites have greater bio-diversity than less valuable open space beyond the urban boundary.
It also suggest that the government should have much more control over the location of major infrastructure projects e.g. power stations, reservoirs etc.
Perhaps most worrying for environmentalists is the report suggests that planning should be sensitive to “price signals” – in other words easing the release of land in response to market demand.
The report also highlights concerns that UK retail is undermining the UK economy quoting the fact that UK shops are 20% less productive than their US counterparts (although the UK economy generally is over 20% less productive than the US). Barker states that the most productive shops are single storey with floor plates of at least 3,000 sq metres (just over 32,000 sq ft). This type of unit is difficult to accommodate in many town centres and certainly is woefully lacking in Brighton & Hove.
Barker also recommends that the government pay much more attention to making town centres more attractive and vibrant which Brighton & Hove has been doing for over a decade.
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