It was Bob Dylan back in 1964 that said “the times they are a-changin’ ”.
That phrase was as relevant then as it is now, particularly so with the seismic geopolitical adjustments we see domestically and internationally.
Although not a seismic adjustment per se, the adoption of the Island Development Plan by the States of Deliberation on 2 November 2016 is a major shift in policy.
It represents the biggest adjustment in planning rationale for well over a decade. In a sense, gone are the outdated shackles of the Urban Area and Rural Area Plans, making way for a flexible single Plan which is designed to be ‘more futureproof’.
We say ‘more futureproof’, because it is very difficult to comment with any degree of certainty as to how this Island community will look in 2026. For it is 2026 that is the planning equivalent of a “best before” date, and when the ten-year lifespan of the Island Development Plan comes to an end. That is unless it is extended by resolution of the States of Deliberation.
We at Ferbrache & Farrell thought it would be helpful to share our practical experiences of the changes so far, now that three months have elapsed since the new regime was implemented.
It is very likely that as the new planning system matures, there will be new opportunities, be they methods of working with the Development & Planning Authority, or the interpretation of the new policies themselves, or even the treatment of the Island Development Plan on appeal.
In our view, the 372 pages of the Island Development Plan have successfully embraced a highly complex and diverse series of planning considerations. The language itself used in the document is subjective in parts, and flexible in tone, designed to assist decision makers (and applicants) rather than to stifle them.
In practice, that spectrum of interpretation gives to the planning officers a scope to engage that they may not historically have had.
In the short time since November, we have witnessed the benefits that early engagement provides, in an open and transparent way. In anything, there is always scope for improvement, but the change in policy considerations (and thus outlook) is refreshing.
A very pertinent example of a change in direction under the new regime relates to parking standards. We should more properly describe these as the “Parking Standards and Traffic Impact Assessment Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance” of November 2016. Getting past the lengthy title, the guidance is actually very clear and quite straightforward. In certain new build developments, and in changes of use, and in extension of existing uses, parking requirements are now set to a maximum standard, rather than a minimum standard. This is a diametrically different position to the old regime. The Planning Guidance also states that although there is an expectation for the standards to be met, they are intended as guidance and are not inflexible.
Even in these very early days, it is already apparent that the statutory ‘toolkit’ for planners has been improved. We are looking forward to participating in the next chapter in Guernsey’s planning history.