David Lock Associates

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by David Lock Associates's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from David Lock Associates is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
Founder David Lock CBE
Approved NE expansion of West Midlands
at Langley, David Lock Associates Ltd for
Birmingham City Council
David Lock CBE founded David Lock Associates Ltd in 1989
in response to the challenges of town planning. Now
the company’s strategic planner, David is still motivated
by his founding aims, which he says are carried through to
all aspects of their work. As a vice president and former chair
of the Town and Country Planning Association, he tells
Parliamentary Review
about the pragmatic solutions for small-
scale development control.
The town and country planning sector is challenged in finding ways of making
larger than local, long-term plans for areas facing great change through growth or
decline. Such areas feel the loss of Regional Spatial Strategies: their abolition has
left no accountable and transparent forum for discussing the bigger picture and
longer view.
Policies of restraint, such as the Green Belt, were balanced by commitment to
strategic growth points such as Milton Keynes or the Thames Gateway. Now, each
local authority is required to accommodate its housing and employment needs
within its own boundary and is struggling.
Pragmatic solutions are emerging: formal Joint Planning Units in some areas are
producing strategic plans. Ad hoc clusters of local authorities are also attempting
types of joint long-term plan. But people and businesses in the affected areas are
barely involved, and the unelected Local Enterprise Partnerships, which cover vast
areas, struggle to be heard and are making their own plans. Strategic planning,
where it is needed, is rather chaotic and opaque at present: we hope for more
focus and urgency in processes designed to get things moving; more transparency
»Founder: David Lock
»Established in 1989
»Based in Milton Keynes
»Services: Town planning,
urban planning and master
planning consultancy
»No. of employees: 72
»Now an employee benefit
David Lock Associates
and thorough engagement of the
public, business and interested
parties; and accountability for the
delivery and consequences of agreed
We need to rekindle our national
reputation for excellence in strategic
plan-making. It is only at this scale
that the mitigation of the effects of
climate change, such as flood risk and
transport, can properly be shaped.
Local plans and neighbourhood
Political leverage has been powerful
in inducing most local planning
authorities to get on with making
statutory local plans: if a five-year
deliverable supply housing plan cannot
be shown, speculative “sustainable”
developments enjoy a presumption of
approval. However, local plan-making
is still tortuous, the engagement of
people and business is shallow, the
examining inspector’s brief is too
constrained and government guidance
is too frequently revised. Thus, local
plans, when eventually complete, have
questionable legitimacy. We hope for
a simplification of scope, meaningful
public engagement and magisterial
public examination by inspectors
interested in quality as well as speed
and less frequent policy-tweaking at
the ministry.
The making of neighbourhood
plans, which carry legal weight, has
excited much political support. It
is planning on the cheap: council
staff have minimal involvement;
volunteers, including those with vested
interests, do the work unpaid; and
the quality standards for their work
have necessarily been lowered. We
hope to see the public’s enthusiasm
for local planning, which has been
unleashed at neighbourhood level,
steered gently towards properly
resourced plan-making led by the local
Sharing the rise in land value
that planning permission creates
It can be a shock to be reminded
that the right to develop land in
the UK was nationalised in 1947. It
is the cornerstone of our planning
system. Irritation at this is occasionally
expressed, but it is the regulation of
land use that enhances its value once
planning permission is obtained. Those
values are significant in our economy,
providing security for loans and, for
example, funds for retirement. It is also
the root of the power for people to
shape new development and where
There are powers by which planning
authorities can require some
development value to be used to
mitigate impacts. This may be funding
for bus services, a nature park or for
a proportion of subsided housing
that will be locally affordable. The
Community Infrastructure Levy enables
councils to apply a pro rata tax on
commercial floorspace or each house
to contribute to the wider needs of
the area. This is not controversial
Approved SW expansion
of Canterbury. David
Lock Associates for
Corinthian Land
We need to
rekindle our
reputation for
excellence in
strategic plan-
Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
within bounds: too much and the
development will be non-viable and
the land will be left idle; too little
and gross profiteering by developers
Aside from CIL, there is a scramble
for money from a possible planning
consent from council departments
and public agencies. The “bids”
are typically posted by the planning
service, unedited, to the prospective
developer. This is a wasteful free-for-
all. We hope for a review of the whole
issue of “developer’s obligations”,
as these taxes are called, and for
the future of CIL to be placed in
The power to take private land at
current use value, compulsorily if
necessary, has been a key feature of
the New Towns Act and Planning Acts
since the 1940s and is now specifically
available to local authorities should
they wish to start a small new town.
As dismaying as the exercise of such
power can be to the landowners
in these locations, negotiated
settlements allowing more flexibility
are commonplace. Farmland is not yet
development land: all infrastructure
must be provided first. We hope to
see that power of the New Towns Act
deployed more often – it has enabled
32 new towns to be built, ultimately at
no extra cost to the taxpayer, thanks to
sharing the unearned value generated
by the granting of planning permission
to build the town.
Popular support for small-
scale control of development
People in the UK cannot do as they
please with their land and buildings.
This control defuses angry quarrels
over the use of land and enables
unlawful uses to be stopped. At
the local level this is a highly valued
planning feature: it avoids the need for
face-to-face confrontation as letters
can be written to the planners.
To ease the constraint, ministers
maintain a schedule of “permitted
development” that grants planning
permission without need for an
application. Unfortunately, in the hunt
to find fresh sources of new homes
of all tenures, recent changes to the
schedule now enable random office
blocks, factories and warehouses to
be converted to homes which can be
appallingly small in size, with no green
space, and sometimes even without
windows. No “developer’s obligations”
are required. The unintended
consequence of this has been to create
future slum housing in some very
unsuitable places, and it misjudges the
public support for the detailed control
of development. We hope these
relaxations will be reconsidered: they
discredit the innocent planning system.
It can be a
shock to be
reminded that
the right to
develop land
in the UK was
Village clusters growing in the former brickfields,
Bedfordshire. David Lock Associates for O&H Properties
The Oxford to Cambridge Arc to 2050,
approved vision by government advisors


This article was sponsored by David Lock Associates. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development