Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 16th December 2015

This week, Crawley Borough Council will adopt its Local Plan, in so doing setting out how all the land in Crawley can be used for the next fifteen years. I know council issues can seem quite dry, particularly planning, but when it comes to our responsibilities this is a big deal.

Many councils struggle to get a plan passed at all. Only two years ago, Crawley Borough Council, at the time Conservative-controlled with a majority of four, voted to reject its own plan. During the debate Labour proposed various improvements the administration ruled out, claiming the planning inspector wouldn’t find them viable. Two years on the planning inspector has given their approval and a Labour administration with a majority of one are set to adopt the plan. That’s the difference leadership makes.

So what does this all mean for local residents? The UK’s planning system takes a lot of flak but it’s one of the best in the world. Its role is to ensure that the needs of a place are met and that any new development which comes forward fits within its locality with the maximum positives and minimum negatives.

The bit of the planning system which most people see is development control, the process through which councillors rule on planning applications for local development, such as whether a playing field at the end of your road is going to become a Tesco. Yet, in terms of the overall framework of planning this is only the tip of the iceberg.

For councils to be able to take planning decisions and have them upheld on appeal they need to be able to show Government how those decisions fit with the planned long-term development of their area. The National Planning Policy Framework passed in 2012 rigged the planning system in favour of developers, the Local Plan is how we take back the power to ensure development in Crawley is in line with the town’s needs. It’s what protects local playing fields and conservation areas and tries to ensure new housing in Crawley is affordable to local residents. It’s a big deal.

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