Apart from the rather shoddy timing of its publication (the afternoon of Friday 21st December) the Taylor Review presented to the government last week does actually make quite pleasant reading.
In October 2012, Lord Taylor of Goss Moor was tasked with reviewing the current planning policy guidance. The government were keen to take this opportunity to streamline existing Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance and other cross departmental guidance. The review was also to consider how guidance can be updated in the light of the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework. Lord Taylor (who previously led a review on Rural Economy and Affordable Housing in 2008) was assisted in this task by an independent working group.
The Woodland Trust is fully supportive of the need for this review. Planning guidance is very clunky – when trying to find specific information you have to wade through many out of date versions of the same document as well as accompanying letters and out of date case studies.
The review has declared that the current guidance is unfit for purpose. In reviewing the documents it came up with how they can be updated or replaced. Key to the review’s vision is that guidance should take the form of a fully functional website that will be the responsibility of DCLG’s Chief Planner. The idea is that this website shall be kept up to date with annual reviews and that it should provide an easy to use fully accessible tool for everyone.
As well as considering existing guidance the review has also considered the need for new guidance, particularly in the light of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Act. Topics highlighted here were included; Neighbourhood Planning, Climate Change and the Local Green Space Designation, all aspects that we see a real need for guidance on.
We shall of course be responding to the consultation which is due in on 15th February 2013 and pushing for the best outcome for woods and trees. Although we are pleased with the Taylor Review, just like the Independent Panel’s ‘Forests Report’ it is how the Government acts on it that is critical. We shall be watching them very carefully to ensure that the changes made are positive and not just an opportunity to promote development over all other goals.
Victoria Bankes Price, Planning Adviser