This uncomfortable feeling of in-betweenness is familiar to anyone engaged with the planning system in 2021.
No real progress on planning reform, on local government reform (save for now being branded as “levelling up”) or on reform of EU-derived environmental legislation.
In the meantime, we have all been experiencing slower decision making on the part of local planning authorities (Planning consents issued within statutory 13 weeks fall to lowest levels since 2016 (Michael Donnelly, Planning Resource, 20 December 2021)), plan-making has slowed (with spurious excuses on the part of some authorities it must be said – Why the PM’s suggestion that greenfield housebuilding is unnecessary could further delay councils’ plan-making (David Blackman, Planning Resource, 4 November 2021)) and the Planning Inspectorate’s statistics have worsened (Number of appeals cases on PINS’ books rises again but decision numbers increase (Michael Donnelly, Planning Resource, 22 December 2021)). Sam Stafford’s 50 Shades Of Planning 14 December 21 blog post Life On The Front Line is unmissable reading, with its first hand accounts by local authority officers faced with an unprecedented resourcing crisis. I don’t care what our government department is called – it needs to be reading the dashboard and acting accordingly.
All year we have all been running hard on our individual hamster-wheels, working to each short-term deadline within these elongated processes. The policy twists and turns, to which our work has to respond, have been as dizzying as ever.
There has invariably been something new to write about as I’ve approached the end of the week and thank you all as ever for continuing to read and provide your feedback.
The four most popular Simonicity posts this year were:
1. Beautiful Day (30 January 2021)
2. I’m Sorry I Haven’t A CLEUD (12 June 2021)
3. Plug Pulled On Local Authority Meetings (26 March 2021)
4. Sad When Our Planning System Is Media Laughing Stock (10 September 2021).
I’ve already mentioned Sam’s 50 Shades of Planning. Clenched fist in solidarity as well to Zack Simons’ #Planoraks blog and to Nicola Gooch’s LinkedIn blog posts. I often read what they’ve written and think that I can probably get away that weekend with just posting a link to it and “I agree”.
Zack, Nicola and so many of you have also been generous with your time in appearing on or tuning into the weekly Planning Law Unplanned rooms that I started on the clubhouse app in February, aided and abetted of course by Paul, Charlie, Caroline, Victoria, Jonathan, Jo, Jon, Spencer and George. I have been keen to give a voice to as many people as possible and, through being fleet of foot, to use the slots to explore themes in a way which isn’t possible on other platforms.
The clubhouse app first allowed sessions to be recorded in November. Since then these have been the most popular (do give them a listen):
1. Zack Simons and Kate Olley on the Tulip appeal decision and the High Court ruling in Sage respectively
2. Catriona Riddell and other guests on the County Councils Network “Future of Strategic Planning” report
3. Scott Stemp and other guests on the strange world of planning enforcement
4. Many of my colleagues in “START ME UP: How Town Legal started up – and why”
We haven’t yet decided whether we’ll have a session on 4 January but at 6 pm on 11 January we have a fascinating discussion lined up: “MAKING DRAMA OUT OF A CRISIS: theatre vs covid”, featuring Broadway theatre producer (and ex US environmental lawyer) David Siesko; chair of Shakespeare’s Globe (and former planning lawyer) Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE, and theatre manager/Theatres Trust cultural policy manager Tom Stickland. Link to app here.
Here’s to 2022.
Simon Ricketts, 30 December 2021
Personal views, et cetera