I’ve been sitting today in a conference where planners were explaining how they managed applications relating to renewable energy. One senior planner explained, repeating the point with emphasis, that it wasn’t possible to take account of the interests at stake or the question of ownership. Another suggested that it was not feasible for the Scottish Government to look for any social advantage from planning decisions, and difficult even to require developers to compensate people who lose out in the process. The best option communities could hope for was a chance to buy shares in development.
If they’re right, something rather strange has happened to the planning process in the last few years. There was a time when the texts on planning – such as Eversley, The Planner in Society, or Pahl, Whose city? – made great play of the role of the planner in allocating scarce resources. There was little doubt that planning created value – granting permission can have a massive effect on the value of land – and people believed that where value was created by the community, there was a strong case for the community to realise some of that value, rather than gifting it all to developers. No more, it seems.