The changing roles of Government in planning

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The Planning White Paper of 2020 clearly forewarns of a change in the roles of Central Government and Local Government in planning in the future.   It appears to shape a much more dictatorial position for Central Government of setting out standardised policies, publishing a National Design Code and specifying standardised formats for planning applications and conditions. However, the most significant change that is foretold is the automatic granting of outline planning permission for development on sites in a new ​“Growth” category of land allocation. 

Turning to Local Government, the proposal is to take away certain roles with one hand and give increased roles with another. Local planning authorities will still be the main determining party of all planning applications in the ​“Renewal” and ​“Protected” categories of land allocation (at least where development still needs planning permission further to recent changes to the General Permitted Development Orders and Use Classes Orders) and will still set local policies, albeit they will be expected to perform these roles under tighter timelines. It is also proposed that local authorities be tasked with preparing local design codes. 

Does this ​'cut out the middleman', aka the London Mayor? It is notable that there is no mention of regional government in the Planning White Paper and the Directions of Mr Jenrick to Mr Khan in relation to the new London Plan make it abundantly clear that it is not for the Mayor to decide the location of tall buildings, to re-interpret Green Belt policy or to give additional protection to industrial land. However, MHCLG have been at pains to state that it is not the intention to do away with the GLA. 

It cannot be disputed that the new built environment in London has been transformed since 1998 when Londoners voted in favour of a directly elected Mayor to represent London's interests. The London Mayors (whether Livingstone, Johnson or Khan) have encouraged and promoted some of London's now most iconic buildings and have presided over the creation of many and varied new exciting urban places for people to work in, live in and enjoy. Each has led on cross boundary developments and championed a step change in density across the capital. 

However, has the line been overstepped by the proposed detail and control within the new London Plan? And are we now seeing the beginning of a real change in the dynamics of the planning role of the London Mayor as we have previously known it? 

So what will be the future role of the London Mayor in planning? We will have to wait for the ​'main picture' to come forward later in 2021, further to 2020's ​'trailer.'