On the tenth anniversary of the Planning Act 2008’s debut, communications specialists Copper Consultancy, planners and designers Barton Willmore and solicitors Womble Bond Dickinson have launched a study into how the act can evolve to better meet the fast-changing needs of the UK.
Designed to understand the development industry’s views of the planning procedure for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), the research will capture lessons learnt since the regime’s introduction, assess how fit for purpose it is, and identify areas of improvement and expansion. To capture a wide base of opinion, the survey seeks views from those who have been involved in the regime, and importantly, from those who haven’t but may see its advantages.
Early indications from the study’s initial survey, designed to bring focus to next year’s in-depth research, suggest that opinions have shifted in the ten years since the act was launched, not least when it comes to requirements for housing. For example, the survey asks about the viability of using the NSIP regime for consenting large-scale, mixed-use settlements. Early results show over 90% of both groups are open to the idea – although a wide range of conditions for its use still apply.
Andrew Weaver, Copper’s director of infrastructure and major projects, added: “Some of our initial findings have been eye-catching. With the need for housing so high on the national agenda, we will be interested to find out whether large-scale, mixed-use developments might be emerging as a strategically important need for the UK. It certainly seems that the greater the societal contribution of the settlements, the more applicable industry perceives Development Consent Orders (DCOs) to be for them.”
Kevin Gibbs, head of strategic planning at Womble Bond Dickinson added “As we see the government supporting 23 new garden places and championing ambitious communities to deliver many more, it’s not surprising to see the emerging popularity for a wider use of the system. But it’s over 50 years since garden communities have been delivered and at that time there was a national appetite for major public-sector funding and control - this is not the case now. An updated system must be fit for purpose drawing on funding and expertise from both the private as well as the public sector.”
Highlighting the importance of all those delivering major strategic development across the UK to take part in the survey, Ben Lewis, infrastructure and energy director at Barton Willmore, said “We are keen to reach many more through this initial research, including not only those who have utilised or are familiar with the Act and DCO processes, but also those who are delivering strategic development of all types UK wide and see the regime as a potential alternative to traditional consenting routes. We therefore urge those both within and outside the regime to complete our short survey.”
Take part in the survey: