125 episodes

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 samstafford@hotmail.com.


If you have listened to Episode 45 of 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html


Sam is on Bluesky (@samuelstafford.bsky.social) and Instagram (@samuel__stafford), and his blogs can be found here: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com.


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 partnership with Cratus Group.


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

50 Shades of Planning Samuel Stafford

    • Government

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 samstafford@hotmail.com.


If you have listened to Episode 45 of 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html


Sam is on Bluesky (@samuelstafford.bsky.social) and Instagram (@samuel__stafford), and his blogs can be found here: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com.


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 partnership with Cratus Group.


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

    What do we want?

    What do we want?

    With a General Election now imminent Sam Stafford thought that it might be interesting to try to compare what is being offered by the main political parties in relation to housing, planning and development with what the housing, planning and development sector would like to see being offered.


    In a conversation recorded at Outset Studios in Shoreditch Sam speaks to new friends of the podcast Richard Blyth, Tony Mulhall, Marie Chadwick and Ian Fletcher, and old friend of the podcast Paul Brocklehurst, about the policy proposals that their respective organisations are promulgating.


    Richard is Head of Policy & Practice at the RTPI; Tony is a Senior Specialist at RICS; Marie is Policy Leader at the NHF; Paul is Chair of the LPDF; and Ian is Director of Real Estate Policy at the BPF.


    Sam invites them all to outline their respective manifestos and then they focused on two key areas that everybody agreed need to be addressed: the need to get more resources into LPAs and the need to reintroduce strategic planning whilst at the same time getting local plans moving again.


    Towards the end of the episode Sam also asks Marie about the issue of RPs not bidding for S106 sites, which is a very live one at present.


    Some accompanying reading.


    Blue belt, grey belt, wild belt – the manifestos compared


    https://lichfields.uk/blog/2024/june/20/blue-belt-grey-belt-wild-belt-the-manifestos-compared


    RICS’ Land & Rural Manifesto overview


    https://www.rics.org/news-insights/rics-uk-general-election-land-and-rural-manifesto-review


    The BPF General Election Manifesto


    https://bpf.org.uk/our-work/general-election-2024/


    LPDF’s 10 Point Plan for a Step Change in Delivery


    https://lpdf.co.uk/latest-lpdf-publications


    RTPI’s Planifesto


    https://www.rtpi.org.uk/new/our-campaigns/rtpi-planifesto-2024/


    Some accompanying viewing.


    NHF’s campaign for a Plan for Housing


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmM3WLCjcwQ


    Some accompanying listening.


    Manifesto by Roxy Music


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjkVYOArUQM


    50 Shades - T-Shirts!


    If you have listened to Episode 45 of 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html

    • 54 min
    Efficiency Savings

    Efficiency Savings

    In February 2024 Planning published a special report by Joey Gardiner entitled ‘how cost-saving consultants disrupted council planning services’. 


    Cash-strapped councils have been following management consultants’ advice to split up their planning teams. Staff have been put into central departments to handle additional non-planning tasks. But the upshot, say critics, has been declining performance and a staff exodus.


    Joey’s piece highlighted the tumult at Tandridge, which in 2020 was formally threatened with designation over the quality of its decision-making. A subsequent PAS review of the council’s development management service, which was published in 2021, laid the blame squarely on a team structure “developed during the corporate restructure” that it said was “not fit for purpose”. 


    That local government has borne the brunt of the age of austerity is well known. According to the IFS, during the 2010s, councils’ overall core funding per person fell by an average of 26% in real terms, with higher council tax revenues only partially offsetting a 46% reduction in funding from central government. 


    Those in the sector know that planning and development has borne the brunt of that. Again according to the IFS, spending per person on planning and development fell by 58% between 2010/11 and 2019/20, which was second only to cuts to services for young people and Sure Start. Perhaps less well known, and what Joey’s article has helped to shine a light on, is the impact on planning services of the kind of whole-authority service transformations that some authorities have undertaken to in order to deal with these financial pressures.


    To explore this issue further Sam Stafford invited four of the people quoted in Joey’s article to expand upon their experiences with him. They are old friends of the podcast Mike Kiely, Gilian MacInnes and Paul Barnard, and new friend of the podcast Peter Ford. In a conversation recorded at Soho Radio Studios at the end of April 2024 they talked about the pressures that LPAs have been and are under; why the nature of planning services do not lend it to whole-authority service transformations; and the impact of such upheavals. They also talked about whether there are too planning teams and whether Chief Planning Officers could and should be at the top decision-making table.


    The episode starts though with a brief conversation that Sam recorded online with Joey Gardiner recently about his special report for Planning. Sam asked Joey how he went about putting the report together; what he found most striking in so doing; and what feedback he has had on it.


    Some accompanying reading.


    How cost-saving consultants disrupted council planning services (£)


    https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1860857/cost-saving-consultants-disrupted-council-planning-services


    Tandridge District Council - DM Review


    https://tandridge.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s4234/Appendix%20A%20-%20Development%20Management%20Review.pdf


    Guildford Borough Council - Development Management Establishment Review


    https://democracy.guildford.gov.uk/documents/s26379/Item%208%20-%20DM%20Budget%20Exec%20Report%20revised%20for%20Autumn%202022%20-%20FINAL-%20V4.pdf


    How have English councils’ funding and spending changed? 2010 to 2024


    https://ifs.org.uk/publications/how-have-english-councils-funding-and-spending-changed-2010-2024


    Some accompanying listening.


    Episode 84 of Room 106


    https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep84-how-cost-saving-management-consultants-are-impacting/id1596110607?i=1000649057189


    A Shared Sense Of Purpose - Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan (Vince Clarke Remix)


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpeRnH2FLA4

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Neutral Impact III (and a bit of Green Belt)

    Neutral Impact III (and a bit of Green Belt)

    When Sam Stafford first covered nutrient neutrality, in February 2021, he described the process of eutrophication as a bit like the podcast itself: a little niche, but very important.


    When Sam published a second episode in September 2022 it had grown in importance to the extent that Prime Minister Liz Truss had pledged to "scrap nutrient neutrality rules".


    A Government press release issued in August 2023 stated that “through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), the Government will do away with this red tape and allow for the delivery of more than 100,000 new homes desperately needed by local communities."”


     The LURB amendments in question were subsequently defeated, nutrient neutrality rules have not been scrapped, and 2 June 2024 marks the fifth anniversary of Natural England’s first advice note for LPAs in the Solent Region. The question that Sam posed in that second Shades episode remains just as pertinent: how far away is a satisfactory resolution in those parts of the country that have been affected?


    In order to provide an updated answer to that question Sam invited old friend of the podcast Rachel Jones and new friends of the podcast Andrew Smith and Gemma Nelmes to share their experiences. Rachel is Ecology Manager at Wiltshire Council; Andrew is Head of Development Management at the Lake District National Park Authority; and Gemma is an Associate at Stantec.


    Eagle-eyed Listeners may have spotted that the title of this episode is Neutral Impact III (and a bit of Green Belt). Sam has very kindly been invited by Richard Kimblin at No. 5 Chambers and Sarah Young at LUC to contribute to a Green Belt Summit that they are holding on Wednesday 3 July. It is in London, but will be available to view online as well. The three of them had a brief preparatory chat last recently about the spur for the summit and the hopes for it. That chat features in the final section of the episode.


    Some accompanying reading.


    100,000 more homes to be built via reform of defective EU laws


    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/100000-more-homes-to-be-built-via-reform-of-defective-eu-laws?pk_campaign=newsletter_6337


    Natural England and Dorset Wildlife Trust buy Lyscombe farm


    https://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/24310589.natural-england-dorset-wildlife-trust-buy-lyscombe-farm/


    Claims that developers are responsible for water pollution are a load of poo


    https://capx.co/claims-that-developers-are-responsible-for-water-pollution-are-a-load-of-poo/


    Is the Government backtracking on environmental protection?


    https://capx.co/is-the-government-backtracking-on-environmental-protection/


    PAS Nutrient Neutrality Programme


    https://www.local.gov.uk/pas/topics/environment/nutrient-neutrality-and-planning-system


    Natural England Framework for Wetland Mitigation Proposals


    https://storymaps.arcgis.com/collections/6543a2f8de0348f683187ff268a79687?item=4


    Information on Nature Based Solutions as Nutrient Mitigation


    https://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6680815300509696


    Natural England’s nutrient mitigation scheme for developers


    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/natural-englands-nutrient-mitigation-scheme-for-developers


    CIRIA publishes new guidance on SuDS construction


    https://www.ciria.org/CIRIA/News/CIRIA_news2/CIRIA_publishes_new_guidance_on_SuDS_construction.aspx


    Green Belt Summit Details


    https://www.no5.com/2024/05/greenbelt-summit/


    Fields in Trust


    https://fieldsintrust.org/


    England’s nature chief calls for building on green belt to solve housing crisis


    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/nov/18/england-nature-chief-tony-juniper-thinks-green-belt-land-solve-housing-crisis


    The Green Belt. What it is and why; what it isn't; and what it should be


    http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2023/05/the-green-belt-what-it-is-why-it-is.html

    • 58 min
    Love Thy Neighbourhood Plan

    Love Thy Neighbourhood Plan

    What are we to make of neighbourhood planning? Friend of the podcast Ben Castell considers it a “grassroots planning revolution”. Perhaps less favourably it conjures for others images of corduroy and tweed-clad councillors convening a parish council working group to thwart plans for an incinerator or, worse still, new housing.


    With neighbourhood planning now part of the furniture, but with the current opposition and possible next Government talking about ‘taking planning up a level’, Sam Stafford thought it time for the podcast to evaluate the story of neighbouring planning so far, which is lead in this episode by the afore-mentioned Ben Castell.


    Ben is Planning Director at AECOM, where he has worked with a number of neighbourhood planning groups, and has also had two stints as Chair of his local Neighbourhood Forum.


    Ben convened a group of planners with nuts-and-bolts experience in this field for a conversation recorded online in April 2024.


    Samantha Banks is the Neighbourhood Planning Programme Manager at Locality, which has provided the government’s Neighbourhood Planning Support Programme since 2013. Samantha previously worked as the Neighbourhood Planning Manager at Herefordshire Council, leading a team that supported over 100 town and parish councils produce neighbourhood plans.


    Graeme Markland has been the Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Officer at Thame Town Council since 2016 and before that was a technical and planning officer at Luton Borough Council and the Luton and South Bedfordshire Joint Technical Unit.


    Leani Haim is a Planning Director at ONH, which provides planning and development services to town and parish councils, neighbourhood forums, landowners and developers. ONH has supported over 200 neighbourhood plan projects.


    Now it is fair to say that Ben, Samantha, Graeme and Leani are all neighbourhood planning enthusiasts and for balance, in addressing the question as to how successful the enterprise has been, a more sceptical voice was required. About two thirds of the way through then Listeners will hear from another friend of the podcast, Simon Ricketts, who fits that bill and who kindly recorded his thoughts in advance so that Ben, Samantha, Graeme and Leani could mull them over in the final section of the episode.


    Some accompanying reading.


    Independent research on the impacts of neighbourhood planning


    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-research-on-the-impacts-of-neighbourhood-planning


    Neighbourhood planning in England: A decade of institutional learning


    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305900623000107#bib169


    Locality’s Key Neighbourhood Planning Data


    https://neighbourhoodplanning.org/toolkits-and-guidance/key-neighbourhood-planning-data/


    Locality’s Toolkits and Guidance


    https://neighbourhoodplanning.org/toolkits-and-guidance/


    Neighbourhood planning areas


    https://communities.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=d195c3134caa46b5a638ad0c4f0cce77


    Planning Practice Guidance


    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/neighbourhood-planning--2


    Some accompanying listening


    You Woke Up My Neighbourhood – Billy Bragg (Ben’s choice)


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnHxAxaara0


    Who’s In Control? – Sea Power (Sam's choice)


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5Lf0IiEZt8


    50 Shades T-Shirts!


    If you have listened to Episode 45 of the 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html

    • 59 min
    Grey Belt

    Grey Belt

    Sam Stafford was in London recently and took the opportunity to catch up with friends of the podcast Catriona Riddell, Shelly Rouse and Nicola Gooch at Soho Radio Studios. One topic, the hot topic of the past few weeks, dominated the conversation.


    “Labour pledges housebuilding drive on Grey Belt with ‘golden rules’ to boost public services, affordable homes and improve green spaces”, so announced a press release dated 19 April.


    Keir Starmer has today set out five ‘golden rules’ for Grey Belt housebuilding, pledging to deliver affordable homes, boost infrastructure and public services like schools and GPs, and improve genuine green spaces.


    While reiterating that Labour will always take a 'brownfield first' approach to housing development, Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner are also pledging to release some land currently classed as Green Belt to build the homes Britain needs.”


    On a visit to a housing development today, the pair will outline Labour’s plans to create a new class of 'Grey Belt' land to ensure grey and poor-quality parts of the Green Belt are prioritised, and that any development benefits local communities.


    Plenty in there then for the gang to get their teeth in to. They discussed the practical issues associated with creating a new class of designation and how that might rub up against, for example, mandatory BNG. They also talked about how Grey Belt might interact with a mechanism for cross- boundary strategic planning, which Matthew Pennycook has said that Labour will introduce to overcome housing delivery challenges around towns and cities with tightly drawn administrative boundaries. All of that, as you will hear, led them on to local plan reform and what the next version of the NPPF looks like, as well as a remarkable statistic from Shelly on how much a local plan costs to prepare.


    Some accompanying reading.


    Labour’s planning proposals


    http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2024/04/labours-planning-proposals.html


    The 80-year planning war over a Surrey airfield (£)


    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-80-year-planning-war-over-a-surrey-airfield-lvjb3svr7


    Some accompanying viewing.


    What is Grey Belt land and why does Keir Starmer want to build on it?


    https://youtu.be/4OvsXqdpy4s?si=S6mfS_uL-R15v-3b


    Some accompanying listening.


    Darkness on the edge of town – Bruce Springsteen


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8HXvt-v5v0


    50 Shades T-Shirts!


    If you have listened to Episode 45 of the 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html

    • 47 min
    A Hillside to die on

    A Hillside to die on

    Sam Stafford was in Manchester recently and took the opportunity to catch up with friends of the podcast Greg Dickson and Claire Petricca-Riding.


    During a conversation recorded at Reform Radio they talked about another exciting few weeks in the fast-paced, ever-changing, rock and roll world of town and country planning. They talked about RPs not bidding for Section 106 sites, they talked about the 'Accelerated Planning System' consultation, so the proposals for the new Section 73B, the ten week determination period for major commercial applications, and restrictions on the use of extension of time agreements. They talked about the Flood Risk Sequential Test and touched on the Government response to a consultation on operational reforms to the NSIP process.


    Some accompanying reading.


    An accelerated planning system


    https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/an-accelerated-planning-system-consultation/an-accelerated-planning-system


    Simon Ricketts’ S73B Blog


    https://simonicity.com/2024/04/01/section-73-or-section-73b/


    Zack Simons' Flood Risk Sequential Test Blog


    https://www.planoraks.com/posts-1/buildin-in-the-rain-flood-risk-in-the-courts


    Pre-application advice and Planning Performance Agreements


    https://www.local.gov.uk/pas/development-mgmt/pre-application-advice-and-planning-performance-agreements-ppas


    Power & Partnership: Labour’s plan to power up Britain


    https://labour.org.uk/updates/stories/labours-plan-to-power-up-britain/


    A Westminster Hall Debate on 13 March 2024


    https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2024-03-13/debates/65995D50-E335-444C-8065-405F91548338/PlanningReform


    Labour’s planning proposals


    http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2023/10/labours-planning-proposals.html


    Some accompanying viewing.


    The fine kind of rain that soaks you through - Peter Kay


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk8xHtbkhR8


    Can you imagine a world without lawyers? - The Simpsons


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG3uea-Hvy4


    Some accompanying listening


    Hillside Song - My Morning Jacket


    https://youtu.be/XmLiKGpSC4g?si=4TkfP6YMFgfUYfJ1


    50 Shades T-Shirts!


    If you have listened to Episode 45 of the 50 Shades of Planning 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: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com/2021/07/50-shades-of-planning-t-shirts.html

    • 46 min

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