• Development Intelligence

Planning White Paper – Why Governments fail to grip planning

Image taken from Planning White Paper

What do the following all have in common: Peter Walker, Geoffrey Rippon, Anthony Crossland, Peter Shore, Michael Heseltine, Tom King, Patrick Jenkin, Kenneth Baker, Nick Ridley, Chris Patten, Michael Howard, John Gummer, John Prescott, David Miliband, Ruth Kelly, Hazel Blears, John Denham, Eric Pickles, Greg Clark, Sajid Javid, James Brokenshire and Robert Jenrick?

You guessed it. They have all been Secretary of State with responsibility for planning. 22 of them in fact since 1970. On average that’s about two years four months each. But it didn’t pan out like that. Tom King lasted just six months. David Miliband, Ruth Kelly and John Denham managed about a year. Chris Patten, Michael Howard and James Brokenshire almost managed 18 months. John Prescott lasted the longest, but many of us wished he hadn’t. That nice, young, fresh faced Mr Jenrick will move on to greater things before you know it.

Then there are Planning Ministers. 19 of them since 1997. That’s almost one a year. It’s sort of an annual appointment really.

Then we have the shapeshifting of the department responsible for planning. For many, many years we had the DOE. Then New Labour arrived and things really got going. First we had Prezza’s DETR which, when he got bored and moved on, became DTLR. Then Prezza got control again with the ODPM. Then we had DCLG which strangely changed itself to CLG for a while before the Tories came up with MHCLG.

And then we have ‘Major Planning Reform’. Like any good soldier, he just won’t die. In our chairman’s professional life in this industry, this new White Paper is the fifth major reform in 25 years. A new system is created, barely bedded down with a hint of calmness finally settling, when a new minister turns up from a new government and throws all the balls in the air yet again.

What business could run itself effectively with this endless game of musical chairs going on almost constantly? It’s frankly any wonder that anything ever gets a planning consent at all!