The Civic Voice, the national body of which The Society is an active member has published its planning manifesto for the 2019 General Election. Its recommendations are clearly important for many Local Planning Authorities and their local societies. It reflects the Trust’s visits to Societies throughout the country, particularly by  the Executive Director, Ian Harvey (members may recall his visit to Ipswich and his dislike of the Willis building). We are lucky to live in  Ipswich where our Planners are well staffed, able, scrupulous and effective.

They want an Accessible, Balanced and Collaborative Planning System. Citizens and groups making objections, often highly expert, detailed and well-argued, at the full application usually have only a minimal effect. Developers have bought the land, worked out how many dwellings they can fit in and give away as little as possible so that their 25% profit is reached.

At present, planning officers encourage early discussions concerning your proposals (free to householders but commercial developers are charged.) This may result in a formal pre-application (pre-app). These are  kept highly confidential. Civic Voice would have an open pre-app conversation with planners and affected parties; additionally, they would have an independent ‘moderator’ to oversee this process to ensure that it was transparent and that everybody was heard. The Ipswich Society thinks that this is a sensible step and would be helpful; however, the attitude of secrecy that applicants currently have in regard to pre-apps make it unlikely to be agreed by developers.

Civic Voice makes no comment on the overwhelming role that the big developers play and they make no suggestion as to how to ensure that plans, once approved, remain unchanged and not value-engineered into a cheaper and tawdry version that is unrecognisable.

The Society would like to see the Section 106 or CIL agreements made public. These legal agreements between the local planning authority and the developer regulate the affordable housing and the monies the developer pays towards the mitigation of the effects of the build on transport, education and health infrastructure. The money comes from the profits and so each side employs experts to assess how much the developer can/should afford to pay. Currently, none of this information is available. It is, after all, the money that is going to be utilised for the public good.

Mike Cook