Osborne on Pickles: He’s so cuddly – I just want to give him a big hug…

Well its a topical pun in a month that began with…

Day one – Saturday: Eric Pickles announces that current permitted development rights to create a flat in disused space above a shop (Use Classes A1 or A2) will from 01 October be extended to allow you to (wait for it) create two flats in a disused space above a shop. Red tape – thoroughly cut (presumably using a set of nail scissors).

Day two – Sunday: After the summer’s mini-media storm (well just the  Telegraph) around the Chancellor’s apparent aim to push through yet more planning reform to destroy the beloved countryside in the name of economic growth, he appears on the Andrew Marr show to discuss the very thing which he clearly sees as the scourge of all economic success. Osborne’s main idea seems to be to encourage lots of building in the Green Belt but without changing any planning rules.

Day three – Monday: The Financial Times reports Eric Pickles defiantly insisting that the Green Belt will be protected. And those same planning rules will ensure it.

Day four – Tuesday: A reshuffle. The Chancellor fails to have Pickles airlifted out of his way but does manage to lever in Nick Boles as planning minister. Boles once said “I mean, bluntly, there comes a question in life. Do you believe planning works? That clever people sitting in a room can plan how people’s communities should develop, or do you believe it can’t work? I believe it can’t work, David Cameron believes it can’t, Nick Clegg believes it can’t. Chaotic therefore in our vocabulary is a good thing”. So can we look forward to even more chaos in planning? Great. Boles replaces Greg Clark who oversaw the NPPF and the Localism Act and ironically ends up in the Treasury (perhaps to advise the Chancellor on planning matters).

Day five – Wednesday: Boris Johnson creates a little stink about Heathrow expansion. But Government policy definitely has not changed – they will not build a third runway in this term. Not this term. They need to rehouse the displaced populous in the Green Belt first.

Day six – Thursday: In a written statement Pickles announces a “package” of “measures” aimed to (yaaawn) “slash unnecessary red tape across the planning system”. As ever with these kind of announcements, which are of course aimed at headline writers rather than professionals, it is somewhat difficult to separate the wheat from the guff but I think what we have is yet another series of tinkering ideas which the Government will consult on and (on the basis of past performance) half will line the recycling bin this time next year. For what its worth what the Government are now thinking is:

  • To further burden the Planning Inspectorate by getting them to take over from poorly performing planning departments;
  • Having a three-year permitted development holiday – homeowners can build bigger extensions but just for a while. Businesses will get a similar deal;
  • Reviving the idea of permitted development rights for changing business premises to residential dwellings  (only in July did they said it would not be implemented following the initial consultation);
  • A series of measures to help developers out of Section 106 agreements (or at least renegotiate them) where these are shown to be stalling development;
  • Proposals to speed up appeals (not a new announcement and we are still waiting for the consultation);
  • Proposals to allow three flats to be created in unused spaces above shops.

Ok I made that last one up just to bring me back to the original pun – all over the shop. They really are.