Strategic Planning? An Absent Link in the Current System


The planning system is cyclical in its approach to policy, with County Level ‘Structure Plans’ from the 1980s having been replaced with ‘Regional Plans’ in the 2000s. These have then been replaced in more recent years with ‘Neighbourhood Plans’ and a focus on empowerment at the local level.


However, this has left a gap in overarching planning policy to allow joined up thinking on the delivery of larger scale infrastructure and growth to areas. In reality, this strategic overview is still required. It has just needed to be delivered via collaborative working without funding; at a time when services are already stretched this is not a good approach, but it is vital that it is successful.


There are already a number of examples of such joined up thinking, including the intended Oxford – Cambridge Growth Arc which has recently been scrapped, and the Leicestershire Growth Plan to 2050, which is supposedly going to be scrapped. This does not therefore suggest positive outcomes for the work being undertaken on the Southwest Hertfordshire Strategic Plan 2050.


Nonetheless, the uplift in housing requirements to the largest urban areas by 35% in December 2020 results in the need to establish cross-working arrangements to deliver this expected level of growth in numerous parts of the country. Whilst the 2050 plan is set to be scrapped in Leicestershire, as a county they have still been proactive in reaching an agreement for the county’s district and borough authorities to deliver the 18,700 houses and 23 hectare of employment land shortfall of Leicester City. This will provide stability to the area, but also offers opportunities to developers. Could this be the new blueprint to offering transparency on the delivery of development?


In terms of how Hertfordshire will progress, hopefully the policy document will be successful in unlocking the development needs that have been shackled by green belt policies for the last few decades. Should this not be successful though, then Leicestershire provides hope that there can still be a ‘Plan B’.


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Jonathan Weekes  Article written by Jonathan Weekes, Regional Director – Aitchison Raffety