Local Plans in British Land Use Planning by Patsy Healey

By Patsy Healey

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Local planning authorities often had "bottom drawer" plans which were never even the subject of political scrutiny (McLoughlin 1973b). Hebbert (1977) argues that in the 1950s land use policy became predominantly localized and incremental, backing away from the centralized and planning form of the 1947 Act conception. However, some "policy consistency and continuity" was produced through development plans, not because of centralization of policy control but through a common policy direction pursued at the local level.

The Minister for Town and Country Planning was expected to ensure policy consistency by approving plans, overseeing land purchase and monitoring development control through appeals. However, as Haar noted, the Ministry had "only a general mandate for securing consistency and continuity in the planning of land. And this vague direction gives the Minister no real field in which his is the last word, or for which he must bear responsibility. e. 30). There was some debate on the type of authority which should exercise the plan-making and regulating activities of the system as a whole.

The general use of green belts to resist development was encouraged by central government from 1955 (MHLG Circular 42/55). Meanwhile, through development control, planning authorities sought to improve the quality of the built environment, marginally influencing building design, and the street scene through advertisement control. As the finance available for public investment was reduced and confined to specific programme needs (for schools, hospitals etc), so the emphasis in development control shifted from allowing development only if it was demonstrably in the general interest, to refusing it only if it demonstrably was not.

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