The Plan, the whole plan…

Tony Johnson looks at the Draft Local Plan update


Launched last week – by now you should have received your copy of the Right Homes, Right Places leaflet – the public consultation on the Local Plan Update (LPU) has started.

With the old Local Plan long having been ruled obsolete by Government decree and Planning Inspectorate diktat, our Borough’s green places are under pressure like never before, so this week’s commentary looks at what IS in the Plan and what isn’t.

Why do we need a plan?

During Britain’s industrial revolution, there was a laissez-faire system in place and the result was William Blake’s “dark satanic mills” where the average person was fortunate to live much past the age of 40.

Two centuries later and expectations have changed as we’re better sheltered, better fed and better educated than before, plus we have safer employment as well.

But this didn’t happen by accident, so Local Authorities like WBC are required pull the draft Local Plan together for us to consider.

What should be planned

To give you an idea of what’s involved in creating a Local Plan, there’s some simple choices you make when deciding what you need and what you want in your life.

Daily needs can be as simple as home, work and travelling between them. If you’ve a young family, then this becomes home, school, work and travelling from one to another and back again.

To support this, there’s minute to minute necessities such as mains water, electricity, gas, drainage and communications, then weekly things like food shopping and waste disposal.

Then from time to time you’ll need doctor’s and dentist’s surgeries, a hospital perhaps and elderly care homes.

Somewhere in between, you’re going to want leisure spaces, cinemas, libraries, restaurants, greenery, sports facilities and so on.

And if you’re to have any choice as to what you can afford and when and where you can get it, then somebody needs to provide it all, getting it in place by the time it’s needed and built in a way and with available resources so that it isn’t too costly – environmentally as well as financially.

What’s In?

The Right Homes, Right Places leaflet forms
an introduction to the 260-page LPU titled Draft Plan 2020, which itself is an overview of the
90 documents totalling 2,975 pages that have been published on WBC’s website – in 10 sections.

It’s going to take a while to absorb all this, so what follows comes form a brief skim of the 260 pager itself.

In the “spatial strategies” it describes where the five big developments are going to be located, together with the new schools, while in the “housing strategies” it talks of the numbers of homes of each type to be delivered.

In the “economy: jobs and retail strategies”
 it talks a little about employment and then about shops.

The “connections strategies” talk of the goals of sustainable transport with shorter journeys and makes the point that we are to “maximise integration of and interchange between transport modes” (translations into English will be welcomed), and mentions a Local Transport Plan.

And what isn’t?

At a strategic level, I haven’t found anything yet about finances (i.e. how everything’s funded), nor anything on a Clinical Care Strategy (i.e. Hospital beds, doctors appointments etc) nor even a Design and Community Code of the sort that Poundbury uses so effectively.

At a tactical level, I couldn’t find numbers of parking spaces and vehicle chargers per house, nor when the A329M is going to be fixed. Nor was there anything to indicate that the Borough will stop flinging resources at expensive civic vanity projects and start using the dosh to solve the problems that the last Local Plan caused.

In between those two levels, there was nothing to show that the Borough had learned how to manage the 5 year land supply, nor were there any goals or metrics being set so that residents can understand whether everything’s working to plan or not.

Opinions vary

So there you have it.

The plan, the whole plan, and nothing but the plan.

Or perhaps that should read

The plan, the hole plan, and nothing like a plan.

Your opinion counts

When you’ve absorbed all you want, there’s an online survey or a written report form where you can tell WBC what you think – constructive as well as critical comments are equally important.

If you’re a fan of Soylent Green, you might want to look at whether this LPU is going to solve or add to the problems that the last Local Plan gave us (traffic jams, doctor’s appointments etc).

If you’re an opponent of Readingstoke, you’ll probably want to put forward a well thought through alternative, then get on the case of proving how it’s better than WBC’s proposal.

The Acton Diet

January’s Full Council meeting had no debate on the Local Plan.

February’s Full Council meeting will focus on the Budget.

March’s Full Council meeting takes place the day before the LPU consultation closes.

Having previously banned opposition parties from the (secret) Grazeley working group, WBC is allowing less consulation time for a complex Local Plan for Housing than Government is allowing for changing the publication of some Housing Supply statistics.

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