Planning Reform Day artwork
50 Shades of Planning

Planning Reform Day

  • E26
  • 1:00:12
  • August 14th 2020

The decorations have been taken down, the uneaten party food has been frozen for next time and all of the summary emails from planning consultants have been diligently saved in the ‘Government Policy’ folder. Another Planning Reform Day has been and gone, but this was a bigger one than usual. The sector had been whipped into a frenzy ever since Policy Exchange, from whence Downing Street’s housing and planning advisor came, published it’s ‘Rethinking the Planning System for the 21st Century’ report in January. ‘It’s this week!’. ‘No I’ve heard it’s next week’. It’s a White Paper’. ‘No, it’s a Policy Paper…’ And so it went on until, all of a sudden, everybody agreed that it was midnight and then, like a general election result, planners had to decide whether to stay up really late or get up really early (or both).

And now, a few days later and as the excitement subsides, we are left to ask ourselves what the ‘Planning For The Future’ White Paper really means. Is it ‘radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War’, as Her Majesty’s Government would have us believe or is it ‘a developer's charter that will see communities side lined in decisions’ as Her Majesty’s Opposition would have us believe?

The Government put together a task force to draft the White Paper and for this episode Sam Stafford puts a 50 Shades task force together to interpret it. Matthew Spry (@mspry_) is a Senior Director at Lichfields; Ruth Stockley (@RuthStockley3) is a barrister at Kings Chambers; and Anna Rose (@EPlanna) is Head of the Planning Advisory Service at the Local Government Association.

Some associated reading.

Planning for the future

Changes to the current planning system

Lichfields' analysis'

Rachel Coxcoon's Twitter thread about zero carbon homes

Simon Ricketts' blog about the White Paper

Some associated watching.

HIGPNFY with Chris Katkowski QC

50 Shades of Planning

Sam Stafford started posting on the 50 Shades of Planning blog in 2012 and in 2019 turned it into a podcast. 50 Shades of Planning is about the foibles of the English planning system and it's aim is to cover the breadth of the sector both in terms of topics of conversation and in terms of guests with different experiences and perspectives.

50 Shades episodes include 'Hitting The High Notes', which is a series of conversations with leading planning and property figures. The conversations take in the six milestone planning permissions or projects within a contributor’s career and for every project guests are invited to choose a piece of music that they were listening to at that time. Think Desert Island Discs, but for planners. If you would like to feature on 'Hitting The High Notes', or know somebody that would make a great guest, please email [email protected].

If you have listened to Episode 45 of the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast you will have heard Clive Betts say that...

'In the Netherlands planning is seen as part of the solution. In the UK, too often, planning is seen as part of the problem'.

Sam said in reply that that would look good on a t-shirt and it does. Further details can be found here:

Sam is on Bluesky ( and Instagram (@samuel__stafford), and his blogs can be found here:

As with the 50 Shades Blog, the 50 Shades Podcast is a platform for Sam's personal opinions, which may or may not represent the opinions of his past, present or future employers.

50 Shades of Planning is produced in association with Cavendish (

The image of the Piece Hall is used with the kind permission Ellis Robinson (I: @ellisjrobinson) and has been turned into the 50 Shades logo by Vicky Payne (I: @_.vicky_payne._).

Why Fifty Shades? Well, planning is not a black and white endeavour. There are at least fifty shades in between...

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