Website blog reveals Government’s problems with the Planning Bill

From: Echelon
Published: Mon Jul 21 2008

Developed by learning publishers, Echelon Learning, for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the Planning Matters website is both a job support and learning resource for planners. Its legal commentary, in the form of a fortnightly blog on new planning legislation and its interpretation by the Courts and local authorities, is a popular draw to the site.

According to David Hill, Echelon’s managing director: "It’s not just the legal commentary that gives this site its ‘up-to-the-minute’ feel but the commentary’s extreme topicality is one of the reasons why this site is becoming a sine qua non for anyone connected with the town planning sector."

The current edition of the blog comments:

‘It seems that the Government is no better at organising its business in the House of Lords than it is in the Commons. The Planning Bill started its passage through the Lords in much the same way as it ended it in the Commons, with a late start to the Second Reading debate on Tuesday the 15th, so that their Lordships were kept up well past their bedtime before the Bill was finally given a Second Reading.

‘This prompted the Earl of Caithness to complain that this was the worst Second Reading of a major Bill that he had ever attended in his 38 years or so in the House… When it had become clear that a preceding Bill would badly over-run due to late government amendments [no change there, then] the Chief Whip should have deferred consideration of the Planning Bill to another day, so that the House could start on it at the usual time...

‘Major concerns expressed in the debate still centred … on the regime for dealing with major infrastructure projects... Coming up fast on the rails as a second major area of concern is the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), covered by Part 11 of the Bill. Not the least of their Lordships’ concerns was the lack of detail in that part of the Bill, coupled with the likely complexity of the detailed regulations which will be required to put flesh on the bones of the CIL.

‘Two major problems are now coming to the fore regarding CIL… The first is the possible blighting effect which it might have on development… The second area of concern is the failure of the Government (at least up to now) to provide any exemption for charities…

‘There was even a threat that unless the Government comes up with more information on how the levy will work, and provides workable exemptions and thresholds to prevent injustice to charities and other not-for-profit developers (including farmers, householders and other land users) the Lords might remove Part 11 from the Bill altogether…

‘There are rumours circulating at Westminster that the Government is in difficulty in getting the promised subordinate legislation drafted, and there is even a suggestion that they may be quite content to see the CIL fail, as this would give them the excuse to reintroduce a Planning Gain Supplement, which they would prefer. CIL is rapidly turning into Gordon Brown’s ‘Poll Tax’ – the political equivalent of the Ancient Mariner’s albatross…

‘As Lord-Dixon Smith (leading the debate for the Opposition) observed, the Lords look as though they could be in for a long and detailed Committee stage. It is unfortunate, he continued, that that will have to happen in the spillover period of a Session, as it seems unwise for the Lords to have to consider such an important Bill with their backs to the wall. However, that was the Government’s choice. He hoped that they would not live to regret it.’

In addition to the site’s blog, Planning Matters offers bespoke planning modules, a suite of interactive self-assessment activities, a portfolio of useful web-links and related articles and journals, and a library of generic management skills materials.

Content can be acquired on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis from £2 and £50 respectively. Similarly, access to the site’s legal commentary can be obtained from £50.

Hill added: "We’ve noticed that good quality blogs – containing valuable, up-to-date insights on the latest news in a particular sector – plays a powerful part in attracting visitors. Consequently, the sites we run – not just Planning Matters but also the Learning Matters website ( for example – contain high quality blogs, written by well-connected, knowledgeable ‘insiders’."


Media contact: Peter Muir Tel + 44 (0)1296 715228; Email:

Sales contact: David Hill Tel + 44 (0)20 8568 1500; Email:

About Echelon Learning Ltd

Echelon Learning is a consultancy-led publishing house that integrates electronically-delivered knowledge and learning into the development of management skills and business performance.

Echelon Consulting spearheads the company’s service with the development of new content in meeting clients’ requirements. This is usually derived from analysing employee knowledge and learning needs captured during client learning programmes.

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Echelon e-Learning provides the electronic systems which enable content to be published, distributed and usage tracked, and offers work-based solutions to a global audience. Echelon’s blended learning based on a bespoke site populated with material selected to support specific courses, builds knowledge prior to the event and refreshes application when back at the desk.

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