Jim Birrell provides a lighthearted take on the planning review
It was a time of turbulence and tempest. Two men and a wise lady told us so in 60 pages of inspiration, perspiration and independence of thought. “Your system for the planning world is not broken but it badly needs fixed, repaired and you must speak with your people more and mean it”. Suggestions were made on every page to build more homes, join up the roads and pipes and pay for them, think strategically but plan locally. Your nation is small, but beautiful and it needs to plan accordingly at the top table of Scotia Land. Clear messages were made of simplification, clarity, reduction, and more use of the new modern creations of the digital variety. Unfortunately, we are also under siege from the Land of Acronym and we have to ensure our PPFs, SPPs, NPFs, RPPs, LPPs, SPZs are all in alignment with the stars.
Men and women in high office, under their leader, John, son of Nairney, received all these words of wisdom and embarked on a consultation exercise which knew no limits. It was shared across the land and involved the great and the good from every planning nook and cranny. Workshops and forums, Think Papers and tweets aplenty, seminars and discussion groups were the name of the game. There was a lot of things said and lots written but everyone felt it needed to be done. Places, People and Planning became the universal language. New conversations took place in Committee rooms and bars which had to include, quality of place, community engagement, people in planning, more money for planners and “game changers”. We needed to get it right to retain our pole position as the undisputed world champions of planning. A sage called Hague from the Watt of Heriot made clear that a world class system could not be based on ideas from south of the Great Wall of Hadrian. We deserved better than that and their system was not working anyway.
After the toing and froing, lo and behold the John Team set out 20 commandments for the people to have their say again. The Position was Stated but clearly no decisions had been made. There was fury and confusion across the land because the people just wanted to get started. But we needed to be consulted again to make sure we understood what had been said the first time around.
Although consensus appears to have won the day on the commandments some commentators from the Land of Promises announced that the people are revolting and demanding that they want to plan their own place and they want access to the same privileges of appeal as The Suits who pillage our lands for profit and gain, to build their version of the homes we want and need. This age-old conundrum, and all the other ones, need to be resolved or The System will collapse and we will need to start consulting all over again.
At the same time, our nation’s leader and Minister of the First Order presented a Programme for Government which outlined the way it was going to be in the future for the big-ticket items, such as climate change, environment, education and cars. She is wise beyond her years and she made sure that planning was included. I was contacted by a prophet from the West who assured me that we will now have more control over bookies and burger vans so all is right in the planning world.
In an exclusive interview with me last week, Crag McLaren Mercedes, head honcho at the Regal Institution for Planners Scotland (RIPS) said that he is sure it will be alright on the night.” We nearly got it right in 2006 but this time we have covered all the bases. We do not really have any details yet but we have the direction of travel set out and we will keep our communication channels open”.
After thorough research, it has become clear to me that all the final decisions will be made by Bill Planning, in the autumn and he is the leader of the political people and he will have the last word. He must be a very clever chap as he has to get it all right and in the right order or there will be mayhem and more confusion across this great land of ours. Fear not however, as in the Great Hall of All Parliaments, the best minds in planning will be interrogated one more time to see if they know what is happening and what their final words on the matters at hand are. Our Leaders, represented by Will Political, will then lead us through the maze of uncertainty and complexity and tell us what Instruments of Statute and Torture will be introduced and the Circular Regulations which must also follow on. Fear not brave planners as Bill Planning will tell us all what has been decreed and what we will have to do. I just hope he has been listening to our earnest pleas and that his Purse of Public is filled to the brim to pay us our dues and also the taxes which we will incur on carrying out the new duties given to us.
NB These views are from the authors own imagination. Inspired by, together with sincere apologies to, Sir Chris Shepley of Grotton. No animals were harmed in the making of this article, only people
Jim Birrell is an independent consultant and commentator on all things planning. He is currently contracted as Planning Review Programme Manager for Heads of Planning Scotland and he is celebrating a 50 year planning career this year.
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