If you're not a
member already –
you really should be! Read more about member benefits
‘England isn't working to its full potential'. This report re-states that sentiment, self-evident in many ways, almost four years after a TCPA-appointed cross-party Commission on the Future Development Needs and Priorities of England recommended a national framework to guide key infrastructure projects. Without this framework to develop rounded, country-wide strategies, and to set priorities, we feared that the country would drift directionless, reinforcing a belief that the winner takes all.
We return to this theme in a rather different climate. England is emerging from recession, strengthening our view that this island as a whole (we hope to later address broader infrastructure issues throughout Britain) needs a strategy to make markets work better throughout the country. This theme unites all major political parties, business, local councils, and many sections of society. It is a mantra which underpinned the TCPA Commission's 2006 Connecting England report, which was warmly welcomed by a string of organisations, including the CBI, and - yes - privately by some key players close to the heart of government.
Who, after all, could argue with a planning framework - emphatically not a national plan - aimed at underpinning a market economy and ensuring that all cities, regions and localities benefit? Our guiding, pro-market principles for a national strategy, or planning framework, that truly brings England (and, implicitly, Britain) together touched a sympathetic nerve across parties and caught the imagination of many. Now it is time to take this concept forward.
We thought that some of the original recommendations - from ‘region-proofing' key planning decisions on nationally significant projects, to a coherent, joined-up transport strategy embracing rail, road, air and ports - might have been taken on board by the Government in the run up to the 2008 Planning Act. That legislation is a step in the right direction. But to the disquiet of many, the sum of the parts of 12 National Policy Statements currently rolling out of Whitehall - crucially on transport and energy - do not yet add up to a national strategy. They are not yet sufficiently joined up.
At the same time, some of our great conurbations and cities - not to mention former industrial towns, seemingly cut off from the economic mainstream - are languishing well behind their mainland European counterparts, which are often blessed with considerably more freedom than their English equivalents. Strong devolution to cities, conurbations and localities goes hand in glove with a highly focused national framework.
In this follow-up project to the Connecting England report, the TCPA has been generously supported by the Local Government Association, which added considerable value to the venture. The LGA's Prosperous Communities II report, published in 2007, neatly complemented Connecting England. Like the LGA, the TCPA - the country's oldest planning organisation - wants to engage with the Government, and all interests, rather than mindlessly criticise. We hope, at the very least, that the recommendations, and researches will make a valuable contribution to the debate about England - and, ultimately, about Britain - in an election year.