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No houses, no roads, no pizza and definitely no ice cream!

As the HBA prepares to release the first chapter of its report on planning and productivity, the second weekend of June 2023 exampled how backward the UK has become in relation to planning, as two industries have felt a slap down by the public sectors god like complex.

The first involved a planning application for a Papa John’s pizza shop in Tyneside, as central governments planning inspectorate blocked the move due to concerns around childhood obesity. This was despite the local council already bringing in rules to stop takeaways opening within areas where childhood obesity was above an acceptable rate and the shop ensuring it was not within that catchment area. Yet planning inspectorate concluded that distance was less of a concern than any potential exposure.

To say this is over-reach would be an understatement, but it should come as no surprise because a month earlier, Michael Gove, the secretary of state who oversees the planning inspectorate, rejected a planning application on grounds of ‘ugliness’. Despite the project being praised by the planning inspector dealing with the case and submitted by multiple placemaking and design award winners, Berkeley Group.

With central Government deciding what is pleasing on the eye and what food you should consider eating, we would hope local government might be more sensible, but they too engage in over-reach. On 14 June 2023, Greenwich Council meets to ratify its proposal to ban ice-cream vans on thirty of its streets. Some reasons are understandable, such as pollution caused by idling but others less so, for example ‘nuisance’ long queues causing ‘clutter’.

The ’cluttering of views’ is a particularly interesting comment, as it centralises on the impact of local tourism on World Heritage Sites and Conservation Areas. However, it ignores the fact that the queues exist because tourists and local people frequent and value the ice cream vans. And some might argue the 100 plus year history of this very British institution should be conserved as part of British heritage.

Electric ice cream vehicles may be permitted to ‘assist with improvement of air quality’, though that doesn’t fix the ‘clutter’, and in the reports, the accessibility element of mobile ice cream sellers was not noted in regard of the 15.7% of disabled residents.

Stipulations on roads which are not closed to the vans are being brought in, ensuring no trader can operate for more than fifteen minutes at a time and sellers must not return to the same street on the same day.

Although these two stories poke fun as the thin end of the planning wedge, they illustrate the over-reach and personal politics that has crept into planning. A system where housing supply is restricted by people who own homes, services such as eye hospitals don’t have enough places for new entrants because expansion might blight your view and transport infrastructure is opposed because people working from home, now have more time to tell people off for needing to travel to work.

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