Virtual Planning Roadshow on Unitary Authorities

Our most recent Roadshow on the historic change affecting local government in Northamptonshire, scheduled for April 2021, took place by video conference on February 11, 2021.

The speakers were

  • Debra McConnell and Jackie Copley of CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester
  • Brian Skittrall of CPRE Northamptonshire

Below are reports on the evening from Yvonne Dean and Robin Jones, followed by links to the speakers’ slide presentations.

Yvonne Dean summarised the meeting for those who attended:

Although wide-ranging at the beginning of the evening, the advice for all of us as CPRE and Parish Councillors was invaluable.  As we anticipate the change to unitary authorities, even though existing core strategy documents and local plans will still be relevant, too often we are fighting rearguard actions.  We are not armed with enough knowledge either to challenge development or to negotiate the use of brownfield sites as a priority, which as Jackie Copley pointed out is now part of the NPPF.  

CPRE Lancashire’s use of a demographer to negate local authority assumptions led to saving the development of 30,000 extra houses.  Another helpful and important point that we learned was the benefit of the banding of parish councils into groups, in order to get advice for local issues and share resources.

Our guest speakers were most generous with their time.  Their Q&A session exposed the more detailed issues that some of you raised.  We certainly learned that It is helpful to have questions in advance, so that these do influence the content of the presentations.

If you want to suggest topics that you feel should be covered in future Roadshows, please let us know by email to


Robin Jones reported on the meeting for our newsletter Outlook:

Our second virtual Roadshow focused on how reorganisation into unitary authorities will impact local government and planning in the county.  It proved an interesting and informative event for the 40+ attendees.

Debra McConnell, chair of CPRE Lancashire, began the evening with a short description of her county. It has it all – huge built- up areas, green belt, AONBs and of course no shortage of unitary authorities. Debra’s presentation and that of her co-guest, Jackie Copley, initially made Lancashire sound like a foreign country when compared with rural Northamptonshire. However, as Jackie explored the problems faced by CPRE Lancashire, it became clear just how much we actually have in common. Whatever shape the local planning authority takes, the fundamentals remain the same – right now the need to ensure that the Planning White Paper currently under consideration is drastically reformed before it reaches the statute book.

We were lucky to have two such informed speakers to give us a wider perspective, but ultimately the Roadshow was about our county’s reorganisation into two unitary authorities, North and West Northamptonshire. Brian Skittrall, CPRE trustee and Wellingborough councillor, took us through the transformation process in which he and many others have been involved. He and colleagues certainly appeared to have put in an enormous amount of work to ensure its success.

Dealing with questions from the audience, Brian stressed the importance of responding promptly to consultations for higher level planning documents such as Core Strategies and Local Plans. This is because once adopted any developments outlined within them are almost impossible to roll back. He also highlighted that Neighbourhood Plans can give communities a greater say in the developments that happen within their parish.

Debra McConnell and Jackie Copley's presentation is no longer available online - it may be requested at

Brian Skittrall's presentation (with further annotation) on the move to unitary authorities in Northamptonshire