Monday, May 21, 2007

Concerns about planning white paper

Changes to the planning process seem to be afoot. 'Streamlining' is being talked about. I am a bit confused as to whether this is about the small end - i.e. conservatories, extensions etc - or the big end - i.e airport terminal plans, new rail links etc. Indeed, it could be both.

I think my confusion seems to be justified given that we seem to be in "pre-announcement spin" mode. A quick news google for "planning" brings up three different, potentially conflicting angles on this one story:

Planning Steamroller Set To Roll
Planning Changes To Slash Red Tape
Kelly to advocate 'greener' planning

The planning "commission" ,which is being talked about, scares the living daylights out of me.

Not surprisingly, architects are very keen on the idea and we had Professor Maxwell Hutchinson, the BBC's tame architect, complete with the usual middle-aged tellyman's chestnut hairdye job, railing at "nimbies" this morning on BBC Breakfast.

Professor Hutchinson quoted the examplen of the cross-channel rail link. He said that France got their link built fast, while we were years behind - and this, he maintained, typified the problem with the UK planning process.

But just hold on a moment...Northern France is possibly the most boring, featureless landscape in Europe and any attempt to cheer it up with a railway must have been welcomed with open arms. Kent, on the other hand is a beautiful network of natural and built features and it is not surprising that people wanted to be careful before ploughing a railway through it. I would also cite the example of the French countryside, littered as it is with advertising hoardings. If that is what the "streamlining" of the planning processes and sidelining of "nimbies" advocated by Professor Hairdye leads to, then the French can keep it.

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