Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Contextualising Development Pressure: The Use of GIS to Analyse Planning Applications in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Contextualising Development Pressure: The Use of GIS to Analyse Planning Applications in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Article excerpt

The development control process provides a rich yet tantalising source of information for those wishing to examine development pressures in rural Britain. All development as defined under the planning legislation requires an application to the relevant planning authority. It should therefore be possible to assess the extent and location of demand for different kinds of development by a careful analysis of past and current records of planning applications. It should also be possible to use planning applications as a way of understanding and responding to changes in development pressure. They should complement the wide range of data available for the assessment of change in rural Britain (Haines-Yoimg and Watkins, 1996). In practice, however, these data are fraught with difficulties-statistics are collected differently by the many different authorities concerned; definitions and classes of development vary; and many data are stored on paper in filing cabinets. The truth is these data are collected to facilitate the administrative process of development control, rather than to help in the analysis of development pressure.

In this paper, we reassess the way in which development control statistics can be used to inform planning and policy decision making in rural areas. We consider their value as indicators of local change and the way in which they can be used to document systematically different types of development pressure. When analysed within a geographical information system (GIS) we show how, using the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as a case study, the statistics can provide a powerful tool for policy audit at different scales-whether they be landscape character areas, or administrative zones such as district and county councils. The study gives an indication of the strength of different types of development pressure in the AONB and discusses the vulnerability of different landscape-character areas to applications concerning equestrian activity, telecommunications and agricultural conversions. We argue that such forms of analysis provide the opportunity to unlock the potential of these data to provide a subtle interpretation of development pressure within different landscapes.

Development control studies

Key debates on the utility of studying development control data occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, with a number of studies examining the definition and measurement of development pressure (Brotherton, 1982, 1984; Blacksell and Gilg, 1981; McNamara and Healey, 1984; Larkham, 1990a, 1990b). Other studies concentrated on the analysis of planning applications data (Anderson, 1981; Brotherton, 1982; Foley and Hutchinson, 1994), some in National Parks (Brotherton, 1982; Anfield and Curry, 1989) and others in AONBs (Anderson, 1981; Preece, 1981). This debate proved inconclusive vis-à-vis the value of development control data and, in recent years, with the exception of work by Brotherton (1992a, 1992b, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1994) and an ESRC-sponsored seminar in the late 1980s on disaggregated data (Hebbert, 1989), 'interest in such quantitative analysis appears to have waned somewhat* (Wood, 2000, 97).

Recent research has centred on the analysis of the development control mechanism itself and the processing of applications for planning permission. Gilg and Kelly (1996) refer to a shift towards a focus on the processes leading up to the decision and the interactions between the different groups involved, rather than on the data themselves (Home, 1987; Healey, 1989, 1991; Brotherton, 1992a, 1992b, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1994).

It is the literature covering the use of development control data that is of particular interest to this study. Development control data have often been subject to strong criticism (Brotherton, 1982; McNamara and Healey, 1984). Gilg and Kelly (1996) put this down to inherent flaws in the data and the difficulty of analysing them in anything other than a simplistic and mechanistic manner. …

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