We heard countless examples where the differing opinions or approaches of one partner could undermine the overall quality of a scheme, causing immense frustration for the others. There was a clear desire among people we spoke to for masterplans to be flexible and to ensure early engagement of communities and public authorities in the planning process. This includes the local authority, the housing developer and other contractors as well as the local highways authority, local education authority, Environment Agency, waste disposal authorities, utility providers and local health service providers. This is not only important in delivering a high-quality scheme, but can also prevent delays (and extra costs) further along the line and make it easier for partners to promote wider policy objectives such as improved public health. The new “Duty to Co-operate” in relation to planning for sustainable development in the Localism Act will not solve all these problems. The Duty to Co-operate requires local planning authorities, county councils and other bodies with statutory functions to co-operate with each other in preparing development plans, supplementary planning documents, marine plans and “strategic matters” such as infrastructure development.105 While it should help in preparing more comprehensive local authority development plans, which need to identify strategic sites, it does not apply to every type of scheme, does not specify that co-operation must continue beyond an initial agreement about local development plans, and does not so far include bodies outside the public sector such as utility companies.
104_ The Callcut Review of housebuilding delivery, November 2007. See page 23 for a description of the current trader model. 105_ Strategic matters are defined as “sustainable development or use of land that has or would have a significant impact on at least two planning areas, including (in particular) sustainable development or use of land for or in connection with infrastructure that is strategic and has or would have a significant impact on at least two planning areas, and sustainable development or use of land in a two-tier area if the development or use (i) is a county matter, or (ii) has or would have a significant impact on a county matter.” Localism Act, Section 110, Paragraph 4.
The Department for Communities and Local The Department for Communities and Local Government should clarify the extent to which Government should clarify the extent to which Duty to Co-operate applies to individual Duty to Co-operate applies to individual projects. projects. If necessary, it should look for a If necessary, it should look for a suitable suitable opportunity to extend the Duty to opportunity to extend the Duty to include planning include planning for individual large scale for individual large scale mixed developments Recommendation 11 mixed developments and in the meantime and in the meantime consult on the best way consult on the best way to define these in to define these in legislation. DCLG should legislation. DCLG should also discuss with the also discuss with the regulators of the utility regulators of the utility companies (such as companies (such as Ofgem and Ofwat) the scope Ofgem and Ofwat) the scope for requiring these for requiring these companies to co-operate companies to co-operate with public bodies on with public bodies on planned developments. planned developments.