Planning, coronavirus, virtual committees, Housing statistics update and more...

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April 2020

Planning Advisory Service

April 2020

Very few people will be living the same life as they were a month ago. Whatever your situation - healthy or ill, working or not, alone or with family - we are sharing a common experience. We are all distant from our normal lives. Planning is changing at pace, trying to balance the needs of the economy with both the capacity of the system and the overriding responsibility to care for others in a crisis.

Here at PAS, we're trying to give you enough information to continue whilst leaving you the space to adapt and change. We are working and hope that you all know to contact us if you feel that we can help you (

As well as trying to give you the information you need, we are also trying to continue with as much of our programme as is possible. We are improving our website and we will be running a lot of our previous face-to-face work virtually. The idea is to make it as easy as we can for you to access important updates and training. We are also looking to the future, considering what planning may look like in three, six, nine and 12 months’ time. Are there ways in which the planning system could work to ease our economic and social recovery? And also, are there ways of working, trialled through crisis, that should continue or evolve as we stabilise?

Thank you to everyone who that is sharing their thoughts and new practices in response to the present situation.

Please take care, look after each other and be in touch if you need us.

Kind regards,

Anna Rose
Head of PAS

Planning, coronavirus, virtual committees

These are extraordinary times, and to some extent we have set aside our work programme to help you respond to them. Our FAQ page brings together our thoughts and advice on the most immediate challenges.

We have also begun a "hints and tips" guide to running a virtual planning committee and accompanying it is a video of a “fireside chat” that Martin from PAS had with three excellent councillor peers on their views of how committees respond to the present challenges.   

We have three excellent blogs of how we are rethinking our normal planning work:

Validating applications: validation during coronavirus – a guest blog by Debbie Tresidder from Cornwall

Planning Committees: Virtually Better Planning Committees – by Martin from PAS

Local Plans: Speeding up plan making – by Nicola from PAS

And there are some interesting discussions going on in the PAS Khub Discussion Forum

Better public engagement in local plans Monitoring housing completions in "lock down" Dealing with paper applications

We are about to start on some thoughts about public participation, and no doubt there will be some other updates required in the short- and long-term. Alongside this we are changing how we deliver our work - with no immediate prospect of events or travelling we are going to have to up our online game. If you have any ideas or requests do get in touch either on email or via the KHub

Housing statistics update and standard method conjecture

In case you missed it, the ONS has just done some really useful updates to the way they package and share key statistics, and the Geospatial Commission also has some big news:

The ONS’ GSS Strategy Delivery Team is pleased to announce the publication of:

The Geospatial Commission (GC) announced that UPRNs and USRNs are going to be released in July. This is a high value dataset created by local government and it is going to revolutionise what can be done with datasets linked by property.

To celebrate the GC has put together a new webpage bringing together open housing, land and planning geospatial datasets.

We know that MHCLG had intended to consider and possibly update the standard methodology for calculating local housing need before autumn. There has been speculation that the method will be updated with the new, generally lower household projections but perhaps with a sharper focus on affordability.

The "Planning for the Future" statement suggested something more fundamental - a new approach which encouraged building within and near urban areas. It is difficult to predict what happens next or when. This sort of uncertainty can have a terrible impact on local plan progress, and 2023 remains the target for full local plan coverage. Our advice is to allow for several scenarios and ensure that your planned production timetable recognises the potential for a change to the standard method in the Autumn.

New PAS Local Plan Reg 22 Statement Advice Note & Template

We have produced an advice note and template to help LPAs produce their Local Plan Regulation 22 Consultation Statement of Main Issue for examination. 

The note gives advice on how to make the submission statement not just to fulfil the regulation requirements but as an opportunity to draw the Inspector’s attention to the issues that are most pertinent to the LPA’s Local Plan and, more importantly, the council’s responses to these challenges. 

Developer contributions - Start with the spend in mind

Local authorities have a fundamental role in leading the coordination and delivery of infrastructure. This will be ever more critical post pandemic as we consider the impacts and demands on people, places and public health. To help senior leadership teams understand how developer contributions can contribute towards the delivery of infrastructure to support development and places we have published advice on the role of CIL and Section 106 which includes key questions that will help you to 'health check' your systems and resources.

PAS Local Plan Digital Data Standards Project

Alongside the main contract we do for councils on behalf of MHCLG, we also do the occasional bit of commercial work. Recently we were part of a bid with dxw digital to do some inventing and testing out how people might use data to explain their planning policies. It's called an 'alpha' so it's early days, but we are looking forward to being on the inside of one of these trendy projects. We have, for the moment, enough volunteers - Richard explains a little bit more on the PAS blog

RTPI Awards for Research Excellence – open for entries

The RTPI Awards for Research Excellence 2020 are now open for entries. Closing date 18 May.

PAS Planning Quiz

We know that planning teams up and down the country are making time for some informal get-togethers. Work is a big part of all our lives, and it can leave a big hole. Some are having a virtual pint, others are quizzing to continue the friendly banter which is part of the social side of work. It's quite a lot of effort to assemble a good quiz, so we've put one together for you. It's a weird mash-up of some notes we made for ourselves when we recently swapped projects around along with some random bits and pieces. We guarantee no one will know it all and you may need to work in teams to have any chance of a good score. Let us know if you'd like a copy, and if it goes well let us know and we'll make another for next month.