BWBLOG: Iqbal Rassool: A Crystal Ball for New Policy and Public Information
30 April 2014
Whether it is the poorly communicated publication of National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG) or the instant release of new flood maps from the Environment Agency, there appears to be very little consideration made by government to the impact new information can cause on development aspirations. It effectively moves the goal posts overnight and surely this is avoidable.
Under cross-examination at a recent Planning Inquiry, I was confronted with a line of questioning associated with flood risk at a site, which highlighted a general barrier to the efficient delivery of development schemes through planning. In this particular example CLG had published NPPG, superseding the previous NPPF Technical Guidance, and the LPA had published new SFRA information a short period before the Inquiry. Neither of these items created an impact to the particular scheme, but it does beg the question “How can issues which have the potential to form material planning considerations get published into the public domain with little or no advanced warning or announcement”?
On many occasions I have been involved in Flood Risk Assessments using what was considered to be the best available flooding information, only to be informed after completing the assessment, that unbeknownst to the EA officers involved, a new flood model of the area had been released, effectively rendering the assessment as inadequate. This type of thing is a huge waste of resources and slows down the delivery of developments.
To use a comparison, it is common place for people to express frustrations when utility companies fail to coordinate streetworks and cause huge disruption to the local population. This lack of coordination is potentially understandable as these are private companies and sometimes competitors. However I fail to understand why the production of any publically funded study or policy cannot be presented in a coherent, transparent programme, to allow the development sector to understand what new information is on the horizon and hopefully allow developers to work to the best information available. Such a system would make a huge difference to the quality and efficiency of the planning process and would clearly underpin the government aspiration to remove unnecessary barriers from the process.
If you concur with this view and wish to help pull together your own experiences to collate into a formal request to government to implement change, please contact Iqbal Rassool.