Town hall leaders have warned of a ‘planning void’ if the government’s controversial proposals to reform the current system go ahead.
The County Councils Network (CCN) has warned the plans include the removal of the duty to co-operate, which encourages district councils and county councils to work together on local plans.
The CCN claims if the duty was scrapped there would be no mechanism to compel those local authorities to work together on planning and infrastructure in their areas.
It comes as a new report from Catriona Riddell Associates calls for closer collaboration between all local authorities in setting out long-term visions for their areas.
The report calls for the creation of strategic planning advisory bodies in all areas, comprising of all council leaders, mayors, local enterprise partnerships and leaders from the health and environment sectors.
The advisory bodies would in turn produce a strategic integrated framework – identifying what areas need to be connected to improve growth and create new jobs, alongside addressing climate change issues.
These frameworks would then provide a basis for individual councils’ local plans.
The government’s planning reforms have faced heavy criticism from Conservative MPs and the Local Government Association (LGA).
‘With the government planning to scrap the duty co-operate, and coronavirus forcing us to think about the recovery and future for our local economies, there has never been a better time to consider a reinvigorated strategic spatial planning system and this report provides much food for thought,’ said CCN chairman, Cllr David Williams.
‘We will take these recommendations on board as we respond to the government’s planning proposals but what is clear that if we want to move to an ‘infrastructure first’ approach to housing, then we need the means to bring all key local stakeholders round the table.’
Catriona Riddell Associates’s director, Catriona Riddell said: ‘Strategic planning is about more than just sorting out housing numbers or delivering cross-boundary infrastructure. If it is do an effective job, it needs to provide a mechanism for integrating all the different components that support ‘good’ growth and a clear framework for investment in places.
‘The proposals in this report would fill a large void in the current planning system and in the government’s proposed planning reforms, offering an integrated solution to supporting sustainable development across England.’
A government spokesman said its preferred option is that the duty to co-operate is replaced with more effective ways to plan strategically, where needed and that further consideration will be given to this issue.
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