Interview with Senior Principal Planner, Liz Alexander

31st January 2018

As a newly promoted Senior Principal Planner, Liz deals with a lot of Bell Cornwell’s strategic work. We get to know a bit more about her new role and her predications for the current strategic planning issues.

Congratulations, you have recently been promoted to Senior Principal Planner – How has your job role changed?

Thank you! In reality the day to day role has not changed that much, but I am generating more work and therefore needing to delegate more work to some of the other planners at Bell Cornwell. I am also carrying out more marketing to make existing and new clients aware of our strategic and neighbourhood planning roles.

You take care of a lot of the strategic work that comes in, what is it you enjoy so much about this side of planning?

I really enjoy the work around initially appraising a site and assessing the best way to promote it through the planning process. This can involve all aspects of site promotion and will depend on the state of play of the Local Plan and whether there is an emerging Neighbourhood Plan.

I also enjoy the challenge of making the best possible case for the site’s allocation to maximise the chances of success. This can involve different approaches, such as questioning the Council’s housing numbers and setting out the contribution that a site can make towards delivering a local or neighbourhood Plan.

You have also put a lot of time into promoting the neighbourhood planning work that you do, tell me more about that.

I get involved in neighbourhood planning in a couple of main ways – the first is linked to the strategic work. If a client has a site in an area with an emerging Neighbourhood Plan, then it is important to promote the site as suitable for inclusion in the Neighbourhood Plan, by making representations and engaging with the neighbourhood planning team.

The other work that I do is helping neighbourhood planning groups to prepare their neighbourhood plans (if we don’t have a conflict of interest!). This can involve any aspect of the plan, for example, advice on running consultation events, or advising the group on site allocations and helping them to draft policies to guide the future development of their area.

What do you think are the key strategic planning issues at the moment and what is expected to happen moving forward over the next few months?

The Government’s focus on housebuilding remains, with the autumn budget setting out the aim of raising housing supply to an average of 300,000 homes per annum. Some financial support mechanisms accompanied the budget.

However, the intent to increase housebuilding continues to be fettered by the slow-moving planning system! A number of Local Plans in our area have been very slow to emerge and this does not help increase certainty for local people or applicants about where development should go, and leads to speculative planning applications and appeals. The Government’s review of the methodology for calculating housing need has also, in some cases, slowed progress on Local Plans down, and led to a decrease in the numbers being planned for.

I hope that the 20% increase to planning application fees which is now in place genuinely leads to an improvement in the speed of determination of planning applications, and the ability to negotiate effectively with local authority planners on behalf of our clients.

Another key issue is that the Green Belt continues to be protected which can in some area, mean that there’s a real lack of availability of land for new homes.

We’re expecting a new NPPF in the next couple of months, hopefully it is less generic and open to interpretation than the current version!

 

 

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