Countdown on the planning white paper – is digitisation one of the positives?

21 October 2020

With only eight days to go until the consultation on the white paper closes we have all seen a lot of commentaries about the potential impact of the ‘planning for the future’ white paper.

Concerns have been raised across the sector about the aims and proposals and whether these can become a reality, with the white paper raising more questions than answers as to how the ‘radical reform’ can actually be achieved. 

One proposal, however, that most would agree is a positive is the use of digital technology to make more information available to those involved in the process, in particular the proposals regarding the new-style digital local plan. Improved accurate online information would make the planners’ job much easier and give more easily accessible information to those seeking to obtain planning permission related to a particular site - but is this really achievable? 

The aim to make more information available digitally is something that the Government has already been moving towards, as can be seen from the extensive guidance on the publication of developer contributions data linked to the new obligations relating to infrastructure funding statements which need to be published by 31 December this year. This was introduced via an amendment to the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 on 1 September 2019. More information on this can be found on the GOV.UK website.  

What is also clear however is the money, time, expertise and resources needed to comply with even a relatively basic data standard, such as the one proposed for developer contributions, is not within the reach of many local authorities. If the government really wants to make digital plans a reality then this will need to be heavily resourced and via a standard system which can be rolled out across the country. This will need to be created without relying on under-resourced local authorities to deal with it on an area by area basis. 

Whilst the digital plan seems a bit like a pipe dream at the moment, it is clear that increased digitisation of the process is already happening and there will be more to come. Valid concerns have been raised across the sector that a fully digital online system would exclude those who don't have access to this information and these issues will also need to be overcome along with the resource issues of already struggling local authorities. 

There are still a few days left to respond to the consultation which ends on 29 October. For more commentary on the proposals contained within the White Paper see our other articles on the subject. The consultation can be found on the GOV.UK website.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2020.