The reason for this is that Parliament has decided to compel local government to have a senior advisor in these policy and service delivery areas, and because Parliament decided that the officers concerned needed a degree of protection from the exertion of undue political influence over their professional work. Meanwhile, the senior planning officer role has increasingly been downgraded, often submerged in a wide-purpose Environment Directorate, and such officers are sometimes placed on short term contracts to ensure they behave themselves politically. In some authorities the planning function has been split between Directorates typically Development Control is split from plan-making.
The Bill offers an important opportunity to ensure that these bad practices and tendencies are restrained and the commitment to the delivery of integrated, positive planning at the highest level of the authority achieved through a statutorily recognised senior planning post. A senior statutory post of Chief Planning Officer is the only way to establish an enduring and positive role for planning at the highest level of local government.
The Association enthusiastically supports clear statements of national policy (such as on airport provision) as promised in the July statement, but believes that such national policies must be set in the context of a national spatial framework, which in turn is developed within the context of The Bill provides for a national spatial framework for Wales. As has been demonstrated in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and by the rapid progress already made in Wales, such an exercise can be undertaken quickly and can deliver important strategic benefits. In principle, the TCPA considers proposals to build on the success of the established Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) system to be a positive step, believing that the regional level is often the most appropriate for making strategic decisions.
Therefore, the TCPA generally supports the move towards regional planning and directly elected regional assemblies. It also welcomes the statutory footing that the enhanced RPG the proposed Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) will have. The TCPA’s concern, Home Buyer’s Australia however, is that until elected regional assemblies are established in a region there will remain a democratic deficit and inadequate accountability. The Association therefore recommends that for regions where directly elected regional government does not exist, RPBs should be required to invite County Councils to prepare sub-regional elements of the RSS. The Secretary of State’s intervention powers in the proposed RSS process are currently very broadly defined. The TCPA would like them to be more tightly defined in relation to a national spatial framework.