Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control

Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control

Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control

Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control

Synopsis

The British system of universal development control celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997. This book traces the history of the development control system in Britain from early modern times to the present day.

Excerpt

The genesis of this book lies in the work on Britain in my earlier book, Controlling Development, which presented a comparison of the French and British planning systems. There, in order to be able to explain the essential characteristics of British development control I thought it was necessary to devote some space to the evolution of the system. This enabled me to set the British system against the very different evolution of the French approach to the control of urban development; the ultimate purpose was to contrast the treatment of the fundamental problems of uncertainty and discretionary power. Although at the time I was unaware of Stephen Crow's article Development Control: the Child that Grew up in the Cold (Crow, 1996), I became convinced that there was a great deal more to be said about history of the development control system in Britain that would offer more insight into the present disarray in the system and-perhaps-help identify ways forward.

The past 25 years has not been short of histories of the planning system in this country and indeed elsewhere in Europe. From Ashworth's (1954) pioneering study in the 1950s, the task of explaining the way in which planning had developed was taken up by the late Gordon Cherry and continued by Anthony Sutcliffe, Stephen Ward and others. In this respect, the setting up of the International Planning History Society under Cherry's and Sutcliffe's leadership was formative in making planning history a distinct sphere of study within the more general field of urban history. Most of this work has, however, focused on plans and policies, and if the implementation of those plans and policies through mechanisms for approving projects has not gone entirely unremarked, it has seldom taken pride of place. I believed there was a case for exploring the history of British planning through the control of development, not the preparation of plans.

The very fact that I could consider-as indeed does the profession as a whole-that the development control system is a distinct entity with a history to be explored already says a good deal about the nature of development control in Britain. Nowhere else would the process of determining applications for development projects be considered a 'system' in quite this way. Yet that perception sits oddly alongside Crow's portrayal of development control as an expedient device grafted onto a system of plans. This suggested that the expedient device was drawing upon an older tradition of decision-making. There was clearly a case for looking at the antecedents of development control under the planning acts.

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