Harlow Civic Society (HCS) has submitted a response to the government white paper ‘Planning for the Future’, claimed to make the planning system for development ‘simpler, faster and more predictable’. 

Although we agree that the current planning system does need changes, Harlow Civic Society (HCS) believes that the wholesale changes set out in the document would result in an unacceptable reduction in democratic oversight of the planning process and in the opportunity for the public to comment on planning applications. The proposals may reduce the risk for developers and make it easier to get planning approval but without any guarantee of the quality, suitability or affordability of developments. 

In our view it is essential that democratic oversight and public consultation are maintained and extended. We do not support the proposals for ‘a streamlined and faster development management process’. In our view the focus of the planning system should not be on speed, rather on achieving sustainable, high quality developments to meet the nation’s health, housing, well-being, employment and infrastructure needs. 

The white paper speaks enthusiastically of High-Quality Design and a ‘FastTrack to Beauty’, to be achieved by swift approval of developments that accord with local design guides and codes. We support the production of strong design codes and standards, but not at the expense of democratic oversight and consultation. Design codes must be comprehensive and include not just aesthetics, but everything needed for healthy homes and places.

Whilst we would support some of the points proposed, we fundamentally disagree with their broad thrust; namely the significant reduction in democratic accountability and the assumption that a more permissive approach with standardised codes will result in private developers providing more high-quality places and homes. 

What we need is more planning, not less. We need a system focused on climate change, health, well-being and the powers needed to create high quality developments with sufficient decent and affordable housing.

In our view, the ‘Planning for the Future’ proposals will not achieve this.

We believe that there is an alternative to the Planning White Paper, namely, the ‘Common Ground’ proposals by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA). In our view, this would provide a democratic planning system which would positively promote the long-term sustainable development of the nation and the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals.

You can read our full response on our website here: http://www.harlowcivicsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Planning-for-the-Future-Harlow-Civic-Society-Response.pdf

Find out more about Common Ground proposals on the TCPA website here:


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