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Thread: Wanted: a primer on town planning in the UK

  1. #1
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Wanted: a primer on town planning in the UK

    I am an urban planner in the US and am curious about how the town planning process operates in the UK.

    The typical US model:
    • Comprehensive plan representing the desires and wants/needs of the local populace (usually done at an independent municipality level)
    • Areas delineated as "Residential", "Commercial", "Industrial", etc on the comprehensive plan.
    • Zones created where each type of area is allowed to locate
    • Generally, grades of each area type (ie R-1, R-2, C-3, C-2a, I-1, I-4, etc.)
    • Bulk and dimensional standards (lot coverage, building setbacks, building height, etc) established for each grade of area type.
    • Construction could occur under the rules of the individual "zones" by "as-of-right" - submit a plan to the municipality and staff can allow construction provide compliance with "zone" requirements or "mandatory commission/board review" - submit a plan to the municipality, staff reviews for compliance with "zone" requirements, then sends it to an elected or appointed commission/board for approval.

    How does planning in the UK differ or not differ?

    Also, I tried looking at the Royal Town Planning Institute website, but that didn't really get into the nitty-gritty.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  2. #2
         
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    I'm trying to think of a succinct answer to this. But its nigh on impossible! Before I launch into a 20,000 word opus, I have to say that the Planning Portal website is a good start for newcomers. It can be found here: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk

    Make yourself a nice cup of tea, maybe get a sandwich, settle down, take a deep breath and read the following:

    The planning system in the UK is, firstly, a bit of a misnomer. Scotland has its own way of doing things - not too dissimilar but still distinct. They like to do things their own way up there. So I'll tackle the planning system of England & Wales.

    Currently there is a period of flux in the system over here. In 2004 the Government decided they wanted a different way of doing things, and adopted the approach of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) through publication of the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act. We currently, therefore, have the 'old' way and an emerging 'new' way. The old system is still largely the process through which development is appraised, controlled, encouraged etc, so its best I tackle that first.

    We had a structure where there were essentially 3 levels of planning policy - national guidance, regional guidance and local plans. Local plans, dependent on where in the country you are, are also broken down into Structure Plans & Local Plans where the 'traditional' shire county approach to administration occurs or Unitary Development Plans (UDP) which were essentially a combination of Structure Plans & Local Plans an applied to the larger urban areas (Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle etc - i've purposely excluded London here. Each London Borough does produce a plan but also takes guidance from the Mayor of London). I won't go into much more detail about these arrangements as they are in the process of being binned.

    However, in an effort to streamline the system the LDF approach was adopted. This essentially stripped the County level plans (Structure Plans) out of the system. Those authorities that had responsibility for the production of Local Plans and UDPs now have to produce LDFs, following guidance directly from regional planning documents called Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS), which in turn incorporate and conform to national guidance that comes in the form of Planning Policy Statements. Its probably fair to say that LDFs quite closely resemble the old style UDPs, and in theory those authorities who have previously produced UDPs shouldn't find it too hard to switch...

    An LDF is a portfolio of documents each with a specific job. The following is a brief (HA!) overview, in each LDF there are:
    • Development Plan Documents - these contain a number of further documents (see below) that are in essence the nuts and bolts of steering development in a given area
    • Statement of Community Involvement - sets out how each authority intends to engage the public in the planning system
    • Annual Monitoring Report - does exactly what it says on the tin. A report stating how the well the targets, aims and objectives of the LDF are being met
    • Local Development Scheme - a timetable for LDF preparation, production and review

    The Development Plan Documents is a folder of further documents which provide local guidance on development. They are:
    • The Core Strategy - exactly what is says it is, sets out more strategic aims for the area concerned e.g. increase employment opportunites, reduce environmental impact
    • Site Specific Allocations - names sites where certain types of development will be allowed, usually 'Employment Land', 'Housing', 'Retail'.
    • Adopted Proposals Map - Illustrates Site Specific Allocations and also illustrates green belt designations, ecologically important sites and so on.

    Specific guidance on dimensions of development, or what types of development are appropriate to given areas etc are usually contained within further, non-statutory documents called Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs). These expand or add detail to policies within the Core Strategy or Site Specific Allocations. They could be design guides, development briefs for particularly important sites, a masterplan or issue based papers, e.g. 'existing industrial uses in residential areas'. SPDs are produced as and when the relevant Council likes!

    Without losing you too much I think i will stop there. Its not the greatest overview, and there are many many different facets to the system over here that I haven't touched on or even began to explain, for example, the Use Classes Order, Compulsory Purchase Orders, Conservation Areas, Housing Market Renewal or Area Action Plans. I am happy to expand on these as and when someone asks...but right now my fingers are tired and my stomach thinks my throat has been slit, so I'm off for lunch!
    Last edited by HarryFossettsHat; 09 Mar 2007 at 7:50 AM.

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Thanks for the quick lowdown on the system. I'll have to investigate further myself.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  4. #4
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    The good old BBC has an excellent jargon free guide to the planning systems in England and Wales. It can be found here;

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/A1939944

    As a planning student it is slightly confusing that England, Wales and Scotland each have their own systems!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by GaiaGirl View post
    The good old BBC has an excellent jargon free guide to the planning systems in England and Wales. It can be found here;

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/A1939944

    As a planning student it is slightly confusing that England, Wales and Scotland each have their own systems!
    Ooh good link. Wales hardly has a planning system of course... what the hell do they do in Northern Ireland nowadays?

  6. #6
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    but if you fancy a book to read...

    ...the following tome by cullingworth & nadin is the planning student's bible

    Town and Country Planning in the UK, 14th Edition

  7. #7

    UK planning legislation

    If you're interested in reading the letter of the law, the recent changes to the UK planning system came about through this act of parliament:

    Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004)


    Also, it's worth noting that the conservation areas and listed buildings legislation is dealt with under a separate act. This is the one that governs the protection of the historic environment etc.

    Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act (1990)

  8. #8
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    Hello all,

    This may be too small scale, but perhaps helpful to you:

    http://www.planning-applications.co.uk/
    Last edited by mendelman; 11 Oct 2007 at 11:00 AM. Reason: Turned the url into a link

  9. #9
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    Ill try and explain the scottish system...

    We also have a 3 tier system

    National
    Regional
    Local

    At the National level we have the Scottish Parliament and the Civil Service (the Scottish Government). They produce the following

    Scottish Parliament
    • Legislation

    The Scottish Executive
    • National Planning Framework for Scotland
    • Circulars
    • Scottish Planning Policy (SPPs)
    • Planning Advice Notes (PANs)
    • Circulars

    At a regional level we dont have regional government as such anymore (was disbanded in 1996), but we still have a 3-tier system, and ill explain why. At present, we term anything below national as 'local planning' and it is done by Local Authorities (A Council)

    Local authorities produce a Development Plan which is split into 2 documents

    • Structure Plan
    • Local Plan

    The 32 unitary local councils in Scotland have full planning powers for their area.

    Despite this, the current legislation still requires local authorities to prepare structure plans. This may involve joint working between local authorities (e.g. four local authorities were involved in preparing the Edinburgh and the Lothians Structure Plan 2015, approved June 2004).

    Structure Plans are strategic documents and set the frame work for the 'local plan'

    A Local Plan sets out detailed policies and specific proposals for the development and use of land, and provide a detailed framework for development control for a period of five to ten years.

    Scotland is also modernising its planning system in order to strengthen the involvement of communities and speed up decisions. At a regional level, Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) will be prepared for the 4 largest city regions and their hinterlands. A non-elected joint committee will oversee their preparation. This is necessary because Scotland has single tier local governments, generally smaller than a city region, working together to prepare regional plans. A real challenge is for local authorities to work together. SDPs will be focused on matters that are genuinely strategic and will adopt a long term perspective (15 years minimum).

    At city-wide level, ‘community planning’ is also highlighting that the process of preparing plans is as important as the actual plans themselves.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by tripwire View post
    ...the following tome by cullingworth & nadin is the planning student's bible

    Town and Country Planning in the UK, 14th Edition

    OMG! That's still around?!?!?!?

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Moved from the former Planning in the UK forum.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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