Consultation on the NPPF ended last week yet Whitehall has continued to find itself deflecting criticism about the reforms. I, personally, have been quite fascinated by the lively debates that the consultation’s sparked and at times I’ve even found my own views on what I believe the fundamental principles of planning to be, challenged.
But, away from the academic side of things, this recent coverage of the planning reforms coupled with the high profile shenanigans at Dale Farm, got me wondering what effect it’s all had on the public’s perception of planning.
At a time when people generally seem disconnected with government activities, and are faced with what seems like constant gloomy news about unemployment levels, spending cuts, and now the European Debt Crisis, has it had an impact or are people even bothered?
Well, the RTPI was certainly concerned and that prompted the launch of its myth busting campaign back in September (The Planning Myths document can be found here and is well worth a flick through) and the Government retaliated with its rebuttal (in the interest of fairness, that document can be found here). What did people take away from all this “tit for tat”?
It’s difficult to compare this to other Coalition reforms that have generated widespread public interest. With the health sector proposals, for example, most people felt they were able to express some sort of view having had some direct involvement with the services most affected. Although the results of planning (both good and bad!) can be seen as soon as you step out of your front door, I suspect most people don’t feel they’ve ever really had any connection with it. So, on that basis then, should we be supporting the view that any publicity is good publicity in helping to raise the profile of planning?
I’m not sure that the layperson is any clearer on the complexities of the planning system as a result of the recent media coverage, but for some they may now be more aware that one exists! If that is the case, perhaps the CLG’s latest consultation on Neighbourhood Planning Regulations was a strategically timed one in that it is intended to piggyback on the interest generated by the NPPF and will get the general public rushing to view and comment on proposals that could have much more of a direct impact on their local community – we’ll wait to see if the tactic was a good one!