In the news: drawing up a local development order

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 16 Mar 2014

Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee has approved plans to use local development orders to speed up the building of new renewable and low-carbon infrastructure developments.

The council is proposing to launch a “call for sites” to give businesses, landowners and residents a chance to submit potential locations for new solar farms.

The LDOs could also permit new hydrogen and electric car refuelling infrastructure and microgeneration and energy conservation measures on domestic properties.

David Dewart, service manager of building control and planning special projects at the council, has been leading the process of drawing up the orders.

Q. Have you previous experience of LDOs?

A. We have done a few LDOs here in Swindon – we have seven adopted on employment sites which I took through the process. One seeks to regenerate a rundown street on the edge of the town centre.

Q. What is the reasoning behind this latest LDO?

A. We have been playing around and are trying to push the LDO concept a bit further. We want to take them a bit beyond relaxing planning controls on non-contentious development. They are potentially a powerful tool to nudge people into meeting social and environmental aims – if the development is the right sort in the right location. The council has a strategy to generate a significant proportion of energy through renewable energy sources.

Q. What has your role been in developing the LDO?

I wrote the report which was approved by councillors. I have been involved with briefing members on the aims and issues. In addition, I developed the idea through meetings with other key officers to sound them out on whether or not it would be a goer.

Q. What is your professional background in planning?

A. I got my first degree in environmental planning from Queens University in Belfast in 1998. I started work as a planning assistant in Cambridge covering minerals and waste. I went into a private consultancy in the same area for a couple of years before joining Swindon in 2002, where I worked in the policy team for five years, eventually becoming team leader. Now my role involves managing building control, land charges and planning special projects, such as this one.

Q. What are your career highlights?

A. I worked on the planning issues for a large solar farm. In addition, I worked on Swindon’s central area action plan, and its local plan. I have appeared as an expert witness at lots of big appeals.

Q. What originally made you become a planner?

A. I have been fascinated since an early age as to the ways that towns and cities evolve and grow.  Geography and economics were my strongest subjects at school and taking a planning degree course felt like the perfect fit for me.