Green Belt Reviews – Delay until After the Election – But the Result will be the Same

Apologies with my blog being down, and me being in Indonesia, could not break the amendment to the SHMA guidance over Green Belt reviews two weeks ago.

The wording is identical to the letters that were issues in the ‘reigategate’ saga.  I.e Green Belts can be seen as a ‘constraint’ when deciding whether to meet OAN in full.

I said at the time despite denials this was a subtle change in policy designed to send the signal to LPAs to delay decisions on Green Belt reviews until after the next election.  People poo pooed it at the time but no-one is saying this isn’t stealth change in policy now.

However an LPA still has to demonstrate through the DTP that if they arnt meeting OAN in full that they have asked other LPAs to meet it, have worked positively and proactively with them, and assessed whether the meeting of the need in a displaced location is the best SEA location.  If they cant they will still be found unsound as plans as a whole still need to meet OAN in full.  That policy has not changed.

In other words Pickles is taking advantage of the delays inherent in the DTC system to punt decisions past the general election with the same inevitable result.

It seems to be having an effect with Guildford, York and Mole Vally all stalling.

Three  thing that haven’t changed.

1) The Gallagher case requirement to split the decision on what the OAN is and whether it should be met

2) the requirement for plans to be evidenced to be sound – so the ‘boles doctrine’ of LPAs having to decide themselves not inspectors to carry out Green Belt reviews remains, but no LPA in the country as far as I can see is still holding out to not do one apart from in London (different system- London Plan does not have to be sound) and if they did there would be insuficient evidence to support a sound plan and of course failure to meet the SEA requirement to consider relaistic alternatives

3) The requirement to meet the exceptional circumstances test (not the VSC test) on plan reviews, and housing need is material to this it is not to VSC.

4) the requirement to meet displaced OAN through the DTC.

This of course is being used by Pickles, togther with the Lyons Review to claim that Labour now is threatening the Green Belt.  The case of course is that planning approvals in the Green Belt have doubled since the NPPF and (pickles measures them by applications not number of units tut tut) whilst labour is planning Garden Cities (To take diplaced need from the Green Belt) which in the lonmg run would lead to far less Green Belt loss.  The situation remains, Pickles Policy is to meet OAN without a national new town policy, and as long prediucted in this blog this has and will require major chunks of Green Belt deletions.  Pickles Legacy.

Note:  Labours ‘right to grow’ in the Lyons review is implemented – as recommended on this blog – as a natural extension of the DTC and SEA best option.  LPAs would only have a right to grow if the urban extension was the best strategic option – sensible.  The only difference would be to have the SoS have back up powers to put in place joint plan  making structures where LPAs fight like raats in teh sack – as at Oxford and Luton – entirely sensible and inevitable whatever party wins the election.

So actually there is hardly a papers width between the parties on the issues – apart from pickles Niave view that one days everyone will get together and agree under the DTC, and his opposition to the one policy that will save the Green Belt – Garden Cities.  Pickles as ever is the hand maiden of needless sprawl.

Sorry to have been Away

My wordpress account was hacked, some spam added, and I was blocked.

The key event in recent weeks has been the shift in emphasis in Green Belt Guidance.

I will blog about this shortly.

All Inspectors Decisions Should be Written Like this Decision

Inspectors decisions have sadly become more and more legalistoic and abtuse.  This is uncessary, even for lawyers.

Judge Sally Hickman shows a simple straightforward explanation of reasoning is possible in this family law case, inspectors take note.


Summary after each section

‘what I have to decide’

what each party is seeking

‘what my decision is’

Why Tony Mendes of Car Giant Has QPR Stuffed

The announcement of a Mayoral Development Corporation around the new Crossrail Station at Old Oak Common has led to a flurry of development interest, not least from QPR who want to a develop a new stadium led development plus 24,000 homes funded entirely by its shareholders including Lascsmi Mittal. Their plan has the support of the Mayor and the Boroughs.

But they have one problem – a used car salesman.  Tony Mendes of Car Giant owns 45 acres of the site and is refusing to sell.  He has called the QPRE plan ‘”speculative and presumptive”.

What is he playing at?  Clearly he has been taking very good professional advice.  You see the only way a site could be compulsorily acquired would be for a public purpose.  A stadium for QPR is a private interest not a public one. As Car Giant rightly state “In regards to the threat of CPO, there is no legal basis on which to serve a CPO on Cargiant. We are a willing developer,”

Hence the grand planning dodge of the ‘community stadium’ concept which has arisen in recent years, especially but not exclusively in Green Belt sites, after the SoS decision on Brighton’s Stadium and the inspectors findings on private v public interest in the Dulwich Hamlet appeal (where he agreed with my submission on the matter) .  The Mayor could plan and CPO for a ‘premier league standard’ stadium but not one for QPRor any specific club, but then would have to open tender the result – and the site would go to richer Chelsea or even possibly Fulham (with different owners maybe), not QPR.   Of course if the site were rezoned it could eventually be CPOd at existing use value, but that is a long way off, and if they already got planning permission in the interim for a housing led scheme there would be no grounds at all for a CPO.  I guess the next move for Tony Mendes is to call up the Mayor and ask him to participate in a masterplan for the site and the  surrounding area, removing all grounds for a CPO.

Sheepskin Jackets all around.

The Oxfordshire Mess Shows How the DTC isnt working

What a mess Strategic Planning in Oxfordshire is.

Rather than an agreed joint approach to reviewing the Green Belt (a strategic review), setting per district targets in local plans and assessing them we have each district working in parallel – with the aim of agreeing – seperately together – which is little more than an agreement to agree.

What it shows is that having a joint SHMA and then cooperating on individual local plans is not enough, what is needed is joint appraisal of options.  Compare for example Oxfordshire with Cambridgeshire (which has district by district targets).

The ‘Post SHMA’ work programme is a mess.  The key issue is the capacity of Oxford and how much of that overspills to other districts.  Oxford have commissioned a independent review of their capacity and have offered joint management.  The other districts are now commissioning their own rival reviews.  This study will look at the Green Belt within the City boundary but not outside it, so how it can make meaningful assessment of Green Belt purposes (an intrinsically boundary blind and strategic concept) I dont know.   Its rats in a sack.

At the board everyone has a local axe to grind and their is no independent strategic overview.  A model of how not to do it.

Essex Boys Alter Planning Policy to Suit Themselves

Clearly Eric Pickoles and Brandon Lewis are altering planning policy to reflect the circumstances in their own South Essex authorities.

“to set out that in exceptional cases, where a local authority is burdened by a large-scale unauthorised site which has significantly increased their need, and their area is subject to strict and special planning constraints, then there is no assumption that the local authority is required to plan to meet their traveller site needs in full.” It adds: “The possible effect is likely to mean that those travellers evicted from the large-scale unauthorised site may not have their needs met in the local area and would need to relocate in order to find a suitable alternative provision.”

Which means of course that the need is shifted to North Essex and Herts.

Confused Nonsence from RICS about Amberfield Development

Making it vup as they go along


Introduce ‘amberfield': a planning class between green and brown

Local growth is impeded as a result of extensive (2-5 year) battles to bring forward land for development. To attract inward investment to the UK we need to provide certainty to investors and signal where we have a future pipeline of land.

Local authorities utilising local plans, should allocate sites deemed favourable for sustainable development as amberfield. Rather than planning classes of green and brown being inhibitors to development, amberfield would enable development. We ask government to concurrently undertake a national brownfield site review.#

How is this any different to allocating a site within phase I of a local plan for development.  Allocation has no necessary connection to its land use classification which is purely a matter of land use (statitical).  If they cant anser this question pleae consign the report to the bin.

Pickles Again Makes it Up as He Goes Along on Prematurity

Planning Portal

The existence of emerging neighbourhood plans has proved a key factor in the fate of four recovered housing appeals determined by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Three involved the same local planning authority, Mid Sussex District Council, and the same neighbourhood plan, drawn up by Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Parish Council. One involved Wiltshire Council and the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan.

The three Mid-Sussex schemes, each refused by the local planning authority, involved plans by Thakenham Homes for an 81-home development at College Lane, Hurstpierpoint; a proposal by Rydon Homes for 157 homes and 50 acres of informal parkland also at Hurstpierpoint and a housing-led, mixed-use scheme at Sayers Common involving 120 homes, a care home, retail units and offices proposed by Woodcock Holdings.

All these three cases were the subject of separate public inquiries chaired by the same planning inspector who recommended the latter case should be allowed, a stance the Secretary of State disagreed with.

However, he agreed with the recommendations of the inspector in respect of the Hurstpierpoint schemes, one of which – proposed by Rydon Homes – was allowed.

These proposals were allowed as the land involved had been identified for housing in the emerging neighbourhood plan (NP).

The Secretary of State’s decision letter said that “as the council has yet to complete an up-to-date objectively assessed housing needs analysis against which to measure the overall neighbourhood plan proposals, he considers it appropriate, as things currently stand, to tip the planning balance in favour of the emerging neighbourhood plan proposals”.

In the case of Thakenham Homes and the Woodcock Holdings schemes the SoS‘s decision letters made it clear that the fact the emerging neighbourhood plan had identified housing allocations elsewhere had tipped the planning balance.

The fourth case involved plans from developer White Lion Land for a 77-home scheme, together public open space and a community building, at Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The inspector who held the recovered appeal had recommended it should be allowed.

Pickles disagreed. His decision letter pointed out that the appeal site was towards the bottom of the list of 25 sites for housing during the neighbourhood plan assessment. The neighbourhood plan is due to be examined later this month.

Pickles said that in these circumstances “the immediate benefits of releasing the appeal site as a contribution to meeting overall housing demand in the wider area are insufficient to justify the release of this site so soon before the examination of the neighbourhood plan proposals”.

If a neighbourhood plan is advanced and the proposal is large this can tip the planning balance  against a proposal, however as para 14 of the NPPF stands if there is not an objective assessment of need this should tip teh planning balance in favour of the scheme, after all there is a presumption in favour of development.  How is an emerging neighbourhood plan different from an merging local plan? What is the incentive to get on and produce an objective assessmeny of need?  Another prematurity legal challenge coming on I fear.

RSLs Poorly Performing Planning Authorities Should be Stripped of Powers


London town halls that refuse to shoulder their share of solving the capital’s housing crisis should be stripped of some of their planning powers by Whitehall, a hard-hitting report says today.

The radical recommendation is made in a manifesto from the g15 group of major housing associations — including Peabody, Notting Hill Housing and Family Mosaic — that provide homes for about one in 10 Londoners.

The document, called Unlocking Land And Planning, says “poorly performing local authorities should cede powers to the Department for Communities and Local Government or a (possibly roving) Urban Development Corporation”.

The report also argues that the “nimby” lobby has too much influence over the planning process and poorly housed residents who stand to gain from approval for new developments should be heard during applications.

Brendan Sarsfield, who chairs the g15 and is chief executive of Family Mosaic, said: “Politicians in particular are afraid of the nimby vote. They worry if they go off the safe ground they will be criticised. Housing should not be looked at on a five-year horizon but on a 20-year horizon like other long-term issues such as pensions.”

The boroughs with the smallest number of new homes completed in the 2013/14 financial year were Kensington & Chelsea with only 20, Harrow (80) and Kingston Upon Thames (110). The g15 report continues: “Securing planning consent for major projects should not be a lottery.”

It also said councils that refused responsible plans should be forced to cover the costs of any delays if the projects were later approved by the GLA or Planning Inspectorate.

Other proposals in the report include a national Government-run competition for ideas to speed up the pace of development; a major review of the green belt leading to “a frank debate about its purpose and quality”; and encouragement for local councils to support new homes by taking an equity stake.

A spokesman for London Councils, which represents the capital’s town halls, said: “Boroughs are committed to addressing the capital’s housing crisis. They already grant permission for around 55,000 homes per year, well above the Mayor’s housing target. However, less than half this number is completed by developers annually.”

Is a revived ‘Brownfield First’ Policy Practical or Possible

Hilary Benn yesterday at the CPRE annual lecture confirmed that a labour government would bring back ‘brownfield first’ one of thefew NPPF policy changes they would make.  Is this practical or possible?

The problem is that the policy was always poorly framed and as such undoubtedly helped slow the rate at which land was allocated for housing.  There is nothin g to stop LPAs now including brownfield first in local plans if they have 5 years supply.  The fact that few have or can shows there was an underlying problem that has not gone away.

The problem was that the original policy was framed as if there was a ‘stock’ of brownfield is not it is a flow where new sites are coming on stream all the time and some brownfield sites wont come on stream for many years.  The 5 year supply however is framed as a flow, and it is the flow of brownfield sites which matter.

There are a few hypothetical changes a government of whatever colour could make.

1) It could be made compulsory rather than optional – little difference few if any authorities have gone ‘greenfield first’ if there are available and viable brownfield alternatives.

2) It could be made to apply at S78 appeals, so if the 5 year supply gap could be closed by alternative viable and available greenfield sites you would go to those sites first.  But this really should already apply as sites dont need to have consent to be part of the five year supply, they simply have to be suitable, viable and available within 5 years.

3) Have a real push on making brownfield sites viable and available through state action.  The only real option which would maintain flow of housing sites.

So beware those that cry brownfield first when they really mean abandoning or weakening policy on 5 years supply.

One thing that has been apparent in the public debate is that the stock of brownfield sites is not as great as often porpoised and often in the wrong places. perhaps the CPRE now regrets its ‘waste of space’ campaign having only identified 105 sites.  They would have been much better hiring someone to do spectral analysis of satellite images cross refereneced to business rates records to identify abandoned sites and buildings.


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