Skip to content

Planning and local democracy: of zoning laws and revolt: part 2

  • by JW

Advice to East Devon: “Just produce a sloppy, stupid, back of the envelope plan showing housing in the worst possible places. You will get masses of objections and the plan will fail at examination.”


East Devon’s district council wants to get on with its local plan – in a transparent and robust manner:

District Council determined to improve probity in planning – Vision Group for Sidmouth

This is after it had rejected Exeter imposing its housing estates on East Devon:

East Devon rejects Greater Exeter Strategic Plan: the response – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And this is very much in the context of this council, along with many others, being very unhappy about central government’s proposals to get us building more housing:

Planning and local democracy: of zoning laws and revolt – Vision Group for Sidmouth


The excellent Andrew Lainton, who runs his own town planning and regeneration consultancy and a very good blog, was recently quoted in a piece on the rise of the Nimby:

Nimbyism, avocado politics, land-banking – what’s to blame? – Vision Group for Sidmouth


He is very open to the idea of ‘zoning’:


‘Planning for the Future’ doesn’t say it upfront that ‘they do it better over the pond’ or that ‘we used to do zoning well – then mucked it up in 1948’ but they are implicit – and the first point is very much tucked away later in the report:

“In Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, you can get twice as much housing space for your money compared to the UK”

… continental zoning systems: they produce THE model of modern high-quality sustainable planning.

So let’s not be cynical that a push towards zoning is designed to produce a charter for ugly sprawl and a bonfire of regulations designed as a charter for developers. This is the instant knee jerk response of bodies such as the TCPA and RIBA. A considered response would start with the core of the concept – the British regulatory system – unique in the world – produces sub-optimal outcomes. Start with that and deal with that.

On a Standardised Approach to Zoning | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Last week he provided a very clear picture of what ‘zoning’ actually means:


As I have written on here many times in the last few weeks the government only has itself to blame in terms of importance and mistrust for creating a climate of opposition to the planning white paper.

Chief amongst the complaint is that the reforms are ‘anti-democratic’ in reducing the chances to ‘object’ to a proposal from two to one.

The irony is that most progressive opinion in the world is that ‘existing’ zoning systems give too much of an opportunity to resist densification through site-specific objection and this is excluding groups in terms of race and income.

This illustrates a number of fundamental misunderstandings of what zoning is and is not…

The Progressiveness of ‘As of Right’ Zoning | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


And here he is again in Nimby mode – where he is very sympathetic about the loss of the Duty To Cooperate, the 5 Year housing land supply and more. The (perhaps not wholly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion to East Devon is that they create a ‘bad local plan’:


I’m not in the business of advising NIMBY local authorities but I will point out fatal flaws in the Planning White Paper.

The White Paper proposes to abolish the DTC and the forward looking 5YHLSS. It also proposes no formal requirement to examine alternative realistic plan options (as required by the SEA directive). It leaps directly from a call for proposals to a submission plan. New plans have to be in place within 30 months. The assumption being presumably no need as growth areas will be in place.

So what if you are the kind of authority like Wokingham or East Devon that wants to build far less. Easy just produce a sloppy, stupid, back of the envelope plan showing housing in the worst possible places. You will get masses of objections and the plan will fail at examination. Job done.

Thank you Planning White Paper for messing up zoning reform and incentivising the one thing we have too much of: bad plans.

How to Deliberately Mess Up Your New Zoning Local Plan to Build Less Homes | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions