Wakefield Civic Society responds to Planning for the Future White Paper

Along with many other civic societies across the country, Wakefield Civic Society has submitted a response to the Government’s White Paper consultation Planning for the Future.

The White Paper sets out to streamline and simplify the planning system in an attempt to help solve the housing shortage by offering greater certainty of outcome to developers. However, we think the premise that it is the planning system itself that causes that shortage is wrong; reasons for the housing shortage are much more complex and rooted in structural economic issues.

In summary, while there are some positive aspects contained within the proposals, many of the proposals lack detail and look as if they have not been thought through with any vigour. They leave too many questions unanswered and fundamentally shift the locus for discussion on planning matters away from the individual to the generic. In so doing, they introduce a democratic deficit by denying members of the public the right to comment on planning applications at the time they are lodged, assuming that the public will be content with being given a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to comment on zoning schemes and design code content.

Planning is a complex matter. Streamlining and simplifying the process must not be at the expense or producing poorer outcomes in either quality or aesthetics. Local people have local knowledge and they should be encouraged to participate in the planning process at all stages. It is unreasonable to suggest that it is local engagement that is to blame for problems with the current system. Buildings are designed to last a long time (or at least, they should be). What, ultimately, is wrong then with devoting a little more time to get the very best possible outcomes in place-making when the resulting product could be around for 40 to 50 years and possibly much longer? The planning process should be seen against the longer-term scale of how long the building/infrastructure/etc is design to last for.

We feel that, as drafted, we cannot support the proposals.

You can read the full response we have submitted here.