Daily Archives: December 18, 2011

Planning Protests to Target Mps – Telegraph #NPPF

Telegraph

The Coalition’s plans to tear up the UK’s planning laws has sparked a massive protests from conservationists who believe the National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF will make it easier to concrete over the countryside.

The Daily Telegraph has led a campaign against the NPPF alongside the National Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The conservation groups have more members than all the political parties combined and now they are going to use that power to embarrass MPs into action.

The National Trust, which has four million members, already has a quarter of a million signatures on a petition that asks each person to provide their postcode so their local MP can be identified.

This means that supporters in Tunbridge Wells, the constituency of planning minister Greg Clark, who is behind the reforms, can work together to demand a rethink of the NPPF and even threaten to oust the MP at the next general election.

The RSPB, the UK’s second largest environmental charity point out that in last general election, in 56 constituencies the majority of the victorious MP was lower than the number of the charity’s local members. The implication is that these voters are in a position to force a change in policy.

Martin Harper, the charity’s conservation director, said 96 per cent of members claimed to vote in general elections, and that, by paying an average of £55 to it each year, they “have to have a real interest in nature”.

“If the environment becomes a political issue, those that care about the environment, like RSPB members, are likely to vote accordingly.”

CPRE has reported that 7,500 members have written to their MPs and is actively encouraging members to work together to put pressure on their representative in the Commons.

The threat is already making backbench Tory MPs nervous. Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has called for a second government consultation and other backbenchers are privately calling for the NPPF to be revised to save their seats.

The foolishness of planning for a mass return from Spain

The sundays, including the Times and the Mail on Sunday are full of foreign office contingency planning in case of a massive banking collapse following the collapse of the eurozone

Evacuation plans for British expats stranded in Spain and Portugal if their banking systems collapse are being drawn up by the Foreign Office.

The contingency plans are being put in place to help thousands of Britons if they were unable to get to their money in the event of a catastrophic banking collapse in two of the most vulnerable eurozone economies.

Around one million British expats live in Spain, particularly around Marbella and Malaga, and some 50,000 in Portugal.

The Foreign Office is concerned that those who have invested savings in their adopted countries would face losing their homes if banks called in loans and they were unable to access money.

Last week ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded 10 Spanish banks, including Banco Popular.

Among options being considered for a ‘nightmare scenario’ include sending planes, ships and coaches to evacuate expats – some through Gibraltar.

This is a foolish response for many reasons, firstly the capacity for transport means that it would take months to repatriate that many – during which time some means of subsistence would have to be found.  Secondly when they returned they would need to be housed and fed at considerable public expense.

Why move people from a country with a housing surplus to one with a housing shortage?  It makes much more sense to move people the other way, the UK bailing out Spanish banks through acquiring their housing collateral at knock down prices and then using this as a cheaper form of social housing – moving people off expensive housing benefit by offering them the choice of tenancies in the sun.  If Spain left the euro the currency differential would mean that people would be much better off taking benefits in a low cost country.

Grant Schapps to become Minister for High Streets #portasreview

Express

TORY minister Grant Shapps has been tasked with implementing Mary Portas’ recommendations to revive Britain’s high streets.

Shapps, currently housing and local government minister, will now have responsibility for the high street added to his brief.

A Government spokesman said: “Mary Portas’ review has provided a clear vision on how we can create vibrant and diverse town centres and breathe life back into our high streets. Grant Shapps has been allocated responsibility for town centres.”

Last week Portas revealed a 28-point plan to reinvigorate the high street, including liberalising parking restrictions, slashing business rates and removing red tape.

But Shapps is likely to face stiff opposition from local councils as some of the proposals potentially eat into their revenue streams.

Carl Dyer, of law firm Thomas Eggar, said: “The Government has already promised a measured consideration of this report.

“When they respond to it, they will hopefully adopt only the proposals that aim positively to enhance the high streets and reject some of the report’s less well-conceived suggestions.”

Observer – Conservation Groups ready to mobilise millions on #NPPF

Observer

MPs face a public backlash over proposals to tear up the UK’s planning laws and allow much greater development as conservation groups mobilise millions of members to lobby against the strategy.

Amid signs that the campaign against the planning shakeup is rapidly becoming the biggest environmental controversy since the coalition took office, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, one of the main conservation charities, has reported that 7,500 members have written to their MPs.

The National Trust, which has four million members, already has a quarter of a million signatures on a petition that asks each person to provide their postcode so their local MP can be identified.

The RSPB, the UK’s second largest environmental charity, says that in last general election, in 56 constituencies the majority of the victorious MP was lower than the number of the charity’s local members. Thirty of these are Conservative and seven are Liberal Democrats.

The RSPB said research showed that 96% of its members claimed to vote in general elections, and that, by paying an average of £55 to it each year, they “have to have a real interest in nature”. Martin Harper, the charity’s conservation director, said: “Like everyone else they’ll have lots of things which motivate them to vote, but if, for example, the environment becomes a political issue, those that care about the environment, like RSPB members, are likely to vote accordingly.”

Wildlife and environmental groups were outraged by the draft nationalplanning policy framework published by the government in the summer and billed as a once-in-a-generation attempt to streamline the planning system.

Campaigners welcomed the attempt to simplify the notoriously complicated regulations, but were furious at the core statement that there should be “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”, with some projects approved “without delay”.

Critics claim that the goal of sustainable development is poorly defined and biased towards economic development, often at the expense of the protection of people and the environment.

The row was reignited when George Osborne used his autumn statement to announce a review of the European Habitats Directive, which protects important habitats. The chancellor also appeared to downgrade environmental priorities where they conflict with the goal of economic growth.

The National Trust’s director general, Dame Fiona Reynolds, and its chairman, the journalist Simon Jenkins, have had meetings with planning minister Greg Clark and the prime minister, David Cameron. At least one charity is actively recruiting supporters in Clark’s Tunbridge Wells constituency and in Witney, Oxfordshire, where Cameron is the local MP.

One Conservative backbencher said constituency pressure had been used to good effect when the government proposed selling Forestry Commission land, a policy that was aborted. At a meeting with the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, many MPs complained that they had received hundreds of letters from constituents.

Among the backbenchers lobbying for the draft plan to be heavily revised is Conservative MP and ecological campaigner Zac Goldsmith, who wants a second government consultation.

“Planning reforms matter a lot to Conservative backbenchers,” Goldsmith told the Observer. “They will want to know the new rules genuinely empower local people, provide the protections their constituents want for their areas, and do not represent in any way a blank cheque for developers.”

Naomi Luhde-Thompson, planning and policy adviser for Friends of the Earth, said: “Planning is one of those things where everybody has an opinion because it’s always about something happening near them.”

Among the key demands of environmental groups are:

■ That the government provide a single, detailed definition of sustainable development to guide planners.

■ That local authorities are given two years to introduce the new system to allow plans to be reviewed and revised.

■ That more detail be given on issues such as energy efficiency, recycling and low-carbon energy targets.

A report on the issue by the communities and local government select committee is due on 21 December. The government is due to publish the public response to the new planning rules and the review of the habitats directive by the end of March.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “The draft framework retains the protections already in place and puts power back into the hands of local people, ensuring they are in charge of deciding the areas they wish to see developed and those to be protected.”

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