Headlines: July 26th, 2004

The Improvement and Development Agency is taking on a new role to help local authorities implement legislation that will replace the current system of local plans and assist them in coping with large-scale developments. The Agency is setting up a Planning Advisory Service and recruitment advertisements for the manager of the new service will appear soon.The plan making system is set to change under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. It sets out the need for a regional spatial strategy for each part of England and for Local Development Documents to replace local plans, unitary development plans and structure plans. The new system will adopt a spatial planning approach, which goes beyond traditional land use planning and brings together policies for the development and use of land with others that influence the nature of places and how they work.

The new system will see the introduction of a requirement for planning authorities to produce Statements of Community Involvement – policies for involving interested parties in preparing and revising Local DevelopmentDocuments and for consultations.

The new Advisory Service will offer practical support and guidance to local planning authorities on how to improve core services. The idea is that it willbe seen as a ‘critical friend’ and an initiative that will draw on existing expertise in the planning community. It will offer a range of services,including a website and more tailored support.

IDeA says the system is topical because the recent Egan review of skills forsustainable communities identified planning as the central process fordelivering the Government’s vision of sustainable communities. It also highlighted a shortage of relevant planning skills and recommended changes tokey areas of the current planning process.