Do you drive a Maserati?
September 19th, 2011 by Louise Humphreys
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles recently used a speech at a property conference to lambast "Maserati-driving" planning lawyers for driving up planning costs at a time when the number of planning applications are falling.
Mr Pickles said:
"I don't see a system that allows planning silks to buy a Maserati or spend an extra week at their villa in Tuscany as one that is going to improve the lot of my fellow man."
Now I know that technically by using the word "silks" he is not aiming his comments at the like of me, a mere planning Solicitor, but I do find his words insulting.
If the planning system is complex, which it is, then regrettably the finger of blame must be pointed to successive governments. After all, they are the ones who create the legislation (including statutory instruments) as well as the morass of policy guidance notes, policy statements and circulars. It is then left to council officers, developers and the public to try to make sense of it all, that's assuming that they haven't given up after page 1. And just when you think you've got to grips with it, lo and behold some bright spark at Whitehall decides to change it. Is it really any wonder that mistakes are made or that there are disputes over interpretation?
So, will the much lauded Localism Act and National Planning Policy Framework (which I assume is the system that Mr Pickles thinks will bring an end to Tuscan holidays) actually be any different. In a word - NO.
No matter how the Government tries to convince me otherwise, the NPPF fails to provide any meaningful interpretation of even the most basic planning issues. And that will only lead to more confusion. But then, no matter how simple people think a system is there will always be disputes.
And for the record I do not own a Maserati or have a villa in Tuscany. If only.