Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bradford's LDF consultation will be a disgrace...

The current planning legislation and the legislation wending its way through parliament in the form of the Localism Bill speak often and loudly about ‘community engagement’, about ‘consultation’ and about ‘community-led’ planning. Let me tell you the truth.

Planners – or those planners charged with drawing up local plans, spatial strategies and ‘development frameworks’ – do not think the public, you and me, are qualified to know about such lofty matters. I recall being at a briefing about localism and communities developing local neighbourhood plans when a senior planner at a large metropolitan authority (not Bradford for once) described such devolution and public involvement as “the thin end of the wedge”.

By way of illustration might I present Bradford’s “LocalDevelopment Framework Core Strategy Further Engagement Draft” – currently so draft that the page numbering is inaccurate but that amounts to over 300 pages.

But this is just the beginning – there are some other documents, some of which the council has yet to publish. These include:

Open Space Assessment
Bradford District Baseline Study
Bradford District Retail & Leisure Study
Conservation Area Assessments & Management Plans (various)
District Wide Transport Study
Draft Settlement Study
Employment Land Review
Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment
Local Infrastructure Plan
Sports & Recreation Facilities Assessment
Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
Affordable Housing Economic Viability Assessment
Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment
Strategic Housing Market Assessment

Each of these documents will be over 100 pages – some much more than that. All of them will be hard to come by and laden with impenetrable technical language. It is truly a monument to the last government’s bureaucratic mindset and to the planners’ belief that only those will their occult knowledge can possibly create a strategic spatial plan for Bradford.

I am at a loss to understand how the ordinary public – the men and women whose local amenity and environment will be affected by these decisions – are able to engage with a process involving over a thousand pages of jargon-filled planning mumbo jumbo. This is not the local planning process we were promised when the “Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act” was passed by the Blair government.

People like me – with a little time and some knowledge – will try to understand what the planners are saying, will challenge their arguments on population growth, housing need and the distribution of employment, and will endeavour to get across to our local residents what the proposals are saying. But this massive, overweening, so-called “evidence base” will mostly go unchallenged except by those with the money to employ the experts to go through the documents and comment.

The Bradford LDF is planning to remove significant tracts of land from the ‘green belt’, to increase the size of villages like Denholme by approaching 50% and to force huge crowded “urban extensions” on to the fringes of the City. And it is that list of documents above that will be used to justify this pillage and to ignore the pleas of local communities for a conversation about the place they live. A conversation that would allow the negotiation of new housing – affordable and market – places for new employment and places that need protecting. Not from the view point of some expensive, besuited consultant but from the local people who the plan will affect.

It is a disgrace.



Lysistrata said...

Thank you again for a concrete example of the general bonkingness of modern civic decision-making.
FFS is the only response.

Mike Chitty said...

And a lack of public engagement will probably be blamed on apathy...