HPA Co-Chairs RIBA Seminar on Planning

In his role as Chair of RIBA North West, HPA director Richard Wooldridge was invited to co-chair a seminar on Planning at the RIBA Members Forum in London, where he presented the issues and current problems of the Planning in the UK.

Collaborating with Tom Bell, Chair of RIBA Wessex, this was an opportunity for RIBA Members to constructively discuss difficulties surrounding the current state of the Planning System and raise suggestions for future improvement.

PLANNING ISSUES

Richard and Tom both shared their personal positions on UK Planning – specifically, its effect on not only architecture practices and similar trades, but everyday society. Essentially, a soft launching of new national initiatives, both Chairs were able to receive feedback on common problems and misconceptions of the Planning process, promoting a path to suggest how the current system can be improved.

The Chairs deduced 4 key issues for Architects, which were as follows: Pay, Planning, Planet, Procurement. It is no secret that Planning links all four, collectively. When the Planning the system works well, it creates economic growth and provides environmental benefits, as well as creating a steady stream of projects for Architectural practices. When the system doesn’t work well, projects are put on hold or even cancelled.

There are multiple explanations and reasonings behind the frustrations of Planning, which are not entirely inadmissible. Pre-Applications and Advice are taking so long to return to practices that opportunities onsite expire, which doesn’t look good on either the Architect or Local Planning Authority (LPA) involved. Slow decisions reflect poorly on LPA’s but the hard truth of the matter is that they are still recovering from Covid backlogs – a major issue in such time-sensitive environments.

In fact, the majority of LPA’s and Officers are embarrassed by the situation and inconsistency. Only recently in June 2022, was a statement released by a Planning Authority in Cumbria, revealing that: “We appreciate that you may be disappointed. This is not the Planning service that we want to provide.”

It isn’t individual Officer’s faults; it is the system as a whole. Most authorities are suffering from lack of funding, others are still working from home. Whilst Applicants and Planning Agents are advised not to chase Planning Officers, there remains no answer if they don’t and, often, LPA’s will form decisions without any contact at all.

RIBA INPUT

RIBA Regions and Branches are aiding aspirations to create a National debate about the future of the Planning System, by collecting examples and feedback from Architects where the Planning System has worked and where it hasn’t. RIBA Members are also being encouraged to involve LPA’s in this discussion, so they can provide their views on the system and how it can be resolved.

The RIBA team want to consider all aspects that can lead to poor Planning efficiency, as well as championing best practice. Their aim is not to highlight the current problems in the Planning System in a negative light, but to reason the best strategies for progression and improvements..

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

So, what can we do to move the debate forward? The government have already acknowledged that the Planning System needs resolving, but the question remains to what extent will they decide to actually fix it?

By collating together information and data accumulated from practice, RIBA Members are hoping to lead a discussion with the Government and other professional bodies, so they can find solutions to the problems of the Planning system in the UK – and, optimistically, make a lasting change.

To explore more about the issues discussed in Planning, read Sam Stafford’s excellent 50 Shades of Planning blog here.

To find out the latest news at HPA, click here.

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