Monthly Archives: December 2012

Unison: New Homes Bonus Robbing North to Pay South

Observer  - Unison carried out similar research in 2011.

There are also complaints that the New Homes Bonus, under which local authorities all fund a bonus pot that rewards local authorities in whose areas new homes are built – is sucking money from the north as developers build more homes in the south because of the bigger demand and the higher prices that they command.

Analysis done by the public services union Unison shows that all the top 10 gainers from the scheme in cash terms were in the south while all top 10 net losers were in the north. The figures from the last year show Liverpool was a net loser from the bonus scheme by more than £2m while Basingstoke and Deane gained by £1m. Most of the councils gaining are Tory-run and those losing out are controlled by Labour.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “It is grossly unfair that the government is using its New Homes Bonus scheme to shift scarce resources from the hard hit north to wealthier parts of the south. Over 60% of money is spread between London, the south-east, east of England and south-west. It cannot be a coincidence that the Tory heartland is where most money is being directed.”

‘Your Only the Third Big Shot in Our Village’ – Adventures on the Equator

‘Your only the third big shot in our village’, said the village ‘chairman’ (head hocho), ‘together with a Government Minister and a CEO’. I hardly thought of myself as a big shot, but his concern was real. I needed to register with him in case, as the only westerner in the village, (though I know of a Dutchman in the next village) a gang of machete wealding thugs ambushed me at night and he had to call my next of kin. He suggested the local police would keep an eye out – but a donation of 50,000 schillings – ‘to oil the wheels of government’ would help. I wasn’t about to argue, it was so similar to the Panchyat system I was familiar within in India, it was only 5 pounds or so, although around 15 times the monthly Ugandan National Minimum Wage.

Joggo (sometimes spelt JJoggo) is a rapidly growing large village/small town just north of the equator/Lake Victoria. It has grown so fast it isn’t yet properly on the maps and so no one is quite sure how many J and Gs it is supposed to have (like many place names in England before the Ordnance survey standardised them). The chairman was head of Gomo/Misindye Village. My family’s farm is in the tiny village of Misindye. Gomo is just the name of the region. But Joggo is the main settlement having grown up in no time at all along a road atop a north south ridge amidst beautiful rolling countryside at altitude, that like Winston Churchill a century ago reminded us both of the Sussex Wealden, only with much more colourful trees and birds. The Chairman reckons it has a registered population of over 3,000, but he says many ‘big heads’ don’t register so the true population I reckon is over 5,000. A village this size in England might struggle to support two or three shops but in Uganda it has over a hundred. It doesn’t yet even have a Church (Misindye’s is only concentrated as a Parish in its new Church on 13th Jan).

The vast lump of Kampala lies within peri-urban eyesight of the ridge but a useful strip of protected wetland keeps this area safe from sprawl though rapidly developing. 5 km to the south down the unmetalled and endlessly road humped ridge road lies Seeta, 10 years ago a small village but now a busy town on the Kampala/Kenya Main road (don’t think for a moment that this is even a dual carriageway). A place with the atmosphere of a wild west gold rush town given the number of businesses setting up there and how crowded it gets on Market Days.

My partner Doreen was bored at the farm, ‘lets set up a little stationary shop.’ Seeta rents were silly even for Africa, but Joggo had a lot a shops but mostly rubbish ones and my brother in law noticed that for miles around people had to take a long boda boda (motorcycle taxi) trip into Seeta to get photos printed, so we decided to set one up in Joggo. I worked out with a large ink tank Epson L200 printer we could undercut competition for miles around on price per photo.

The only free shop was derelict so I secured a long rent free period in return for renovating it, which took less than a week.

shop

The New Venture

Christmas-day

Doreen and the Lainton’s at the Farm



The ‘shopfitting’ was fun. I was told that the price quoted for wood and labour for the shelving was a ‘muzungo price’ (you can work it out). However the family member who bought the wood was palmed off with warped and split junk at a ‘cheap’ price. Needing to be open before Christmas, where there would be a big rush of portrait photos, we had no choice and a couple of local ‘carpenters’ (hammer bangers in) set to work. I bought a spirit level and explained I would not pay them if everything was not at right angles drop dead centre. A day later they were finished the front room – but nothing was level, some shelves 20 degrees off. Its Africa my other half explained, a wonky handmade feel was part of the spirit of the place. Little did I know my other half had fired them from doing further work. That night I caught them skulking around the farm late at night, and that night a chicken vanished, then then the next night another after the hen house window was broken into. The lesson, however unintentionally don’t make enemies.

So after a weeks work and high jacking a local Peugeot minibus taxi to carry stock (even a tiny shop fills a whole one up and we did not yet have my Africa mobile,

Africa_Mobile

The Africa Mobile

a Toyota 4 wheeler which from its milage, condition and coins in the glovebox had one previous lady Dubai owner who only took it once a week to the Mall), a generator for the inevitable power cuts, adding every item to a ‘foolproof’ PC till database, and welding of security doors front and back with a endless series of elaborate padlocks – one of which squeels if tampered with – we were ready to open. Booze, barbecue and funky music ready our two (three today) year old daughter Tyra (nasaur) cut the ribbon and we were open. (ill post a you tube when I get the chance). Now if only I can get that uber high tech pocket sized WIMAX and WiFi connection working.

Christmas is a busy time for photos. An awful awful lot of pretty girls have been in wanting photos taken by Dorren’s brother Joseph. He even seems now less interested in not missing every Arsenal Game and stays at the shop overnight –hmmm. I made sure Tyra had a little MU ball for Christmas so should doesn’t fall under his bad influences.

Being Christmas and an endless series of family birthday parties at this time (including our little ones today and her Christmas Day Christening)

christening

Tyra -nasaur at her Christmas christening

Dorreen hasn’t yet put in a shift. So much for me sitting in the back office writing my long planned treatise of price theory between international urban planning assignments). A plan further disrupted by a yearlong too big to pass up contract back in blighty of all places. After the spending the sunless summers of 2010 and 2011 in England I hoped to base myself as much as possible flying around the Equator, staying at altitude outside the wet seasons (which Climate Change here has made two months longer than usual) . Instead cold sogginess and neoliberal miserableness beckons and I have only two weeks to teach Doreen both to drive and Photoshop/Indesign. Thank goodness I have the patience of an angel.

So after a brief weeklong trip in the Africa mobile to Mount Eldon National Park (where the final; scenes of King Solomon’s mines are set) ill leave this, beer at 40p a bottle, petrol at a pound a litre, rent free, demi-paradise behind. Of course the shop won’t make a lot of money, but at 8% annual growth and low start-up costs half a dozen businesses like it plus property development building three bedroom homes at 10k a throw (including land costs) that rent to western charity workers at European prices this is the land of economic opportunity and security in elder years that austerity Britain with every sq cm of land locked in by rentier interests, where the elderly are abandoned in institutions by family and where an unemployed person with a 50% savings rate would need to save for several hundred years to start a shop up, is not.

me

Me at Hq

Inspired by Irish pubs where you get served pints over a counter of Shoes, after dark (around 7.30 every day we are on the Equator) we intend to soon open up as the ‘Equator Bar: Best Bar in North or South Africa (and both at the same time)’, and show Premier League matches on the satellite TV. Sadly though I wont be serving bottles of Nile Special or Tusker, and bags of Grasshopper (which taste just like pork scratchings) over the photocopier just yet, Doreen and Joseph and aunty Harriet will, however if you happening to be passing between Ngorongoro or the Serengeti and the Mountains of the Moon and the Impenetrable National Park (David Attenborough Guerrillas) on the main highway then just turn off at Seeta down the main market street and after 6km or so you will see our big halogen lit sign (being made today), and you can kip over at Joggos pride or Neon Cottage motels nearby (places where young Kampala couples sneek out to at the weekends) you would be welcome. Just ask anyone on the road for ‘Daddy Tyra’s’ Shop and Bar or see teh Google Map below for a GPS.

Five Reasons Why Pickles Policy Will Increase Housing Planned on Green Belt #NPPF

Eric Pickles has repeatedly claimed that Coalition planning policy will save 20+ areas that were planned for strategic Green Belt release in regional strategies.  This is perhaps the biggest of all Eric’s porkies because NOT ONE of these areas has has newly adopted plans with such areas firmly and long term protected as Green Belt.    The closest is South of Oxford, however a strategic review that is required will inevitably lead to a similar release at some point around Oxford.

It is a Porky  because:

1. Not all required Green Belt releases were defined in RS:  Many areas such as in the E o E has targets that inevitably implied some loss but directions of Growth requiring Green Belt review and release were not marked out.  This need has not gone away.

2. The Growth areas diverting growth away from Green Belts have gone:  So for example Worcester diverted growth away from the West Mid Green Belt,  Milton Keynes was designed from its inception to take growth pressures away from the South Bucks Green Belts.  Now many such areas hope to take local growth only, though none as I am aware has had tested the ‘overspill’ growth para. from the NPPF at EIP.

3. Very Low Housing Completions since 2008 will mean faster releases to make up the Backlog;

4. Because of Lower Viability in the Recession expensive brownfield sites will fall off viable and available SHLAA assessments, putting more pressure on Greenfield Sites

5. LPAs still have to meet Objectively assessed needs etc. and this need has not gone away.

The issue has been delayed but now is returning with a force.  Pickles many hope that inspectors will come to his rescue and simply require three year reviews conveniently after he has left office, what cowardice.   I don’t think the Treasury or the Courts will let him.  Whilst reasonable discretion has allowed Inspectors to require adoption and early reviews where the plan is sound in every respect before the NPPF but not after (as in West Berks and Hertsmere) – (where the issues were more to do with the NPPF creating a sub 15 year timescale of the plan rather than fundamental level of need or spatial strategy) im certain there is no power for an LPA to adopt a plan that is fundamentally unsound (before or after the NPPF)  in the expectation that some future review will fix it (as in Dacorum).

These issues have been kicked into the long grass by all three main parties when in power for 30+ years.  Sooner or later that need must be met either in the form of new Garden Cities, Green Belt releases for sustainable urban extensions or radical measures of urban intensification (and most likely a strategically sensible combination of all three).  Any local or national politician that thwarts this is both an enemy of the Green Belt and housing, as it simply gives space for the extreme Osbornistas who would be much happier without the Green belt and indeed without T & C Planning.

Now Even Policy Exchange Claims Abolition of Regional Planning has hurt Housebuilding

Guardian

Local authorities in England have cut by 270,000 the number of new homes planned following the government’s abolition of regional planning targets in 2010, the Policy Exchange has claimed.

In a report the centre-right thinktank says that getting rid of regional spatial strategies (RSSs) had contributed to a situation whereby “the coalition could end up presiding over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s”. {oh if only Grant Shapps was still housing minister].

The area most affected, it says, is the south-west, where the number of houses planned has fallen by 108,380, amounting to an 18% drop.

Regional spatial strategies were introduced by the last Labour government; English regions were given Whitehall targets for homes to be built.

The Policy Exchange calls the RSS system flawed as house completion targets were routinely missed.

Since 2010 councils have had new powers to set housing targets. The thinktank says that consequently the number of homes planned for England has fallen by 272,720, or 7%.

After the south-west, the regions most affected were the south-east, it says, where the number of homes planned had fallen by 57,049 (9%), and the West Midlands, where the number had dropped by 31,559 (8%).

The Policy Exchange says that even though the RSS targets were seldom reached, an introduction of lower targets would lead to fewer homes being built because the targets would determine the amount of land released for housing.

“As things stand, housing starts and completions are stuck at just over 100,000 a year, well below the total in local authority plans and very far below the sort of figure that might make a dent in the country’s acknowledged housing shortfall.”

The thinktank did not advocate the return of RSS targets to boost house building.

“Over-reliance on targets did not work before and it is unlikely to work in the future. A sustained increase in house building will depend on reforming many other aspects of the planning system, not just the numbers.”

The thinktank’s report calls for greater use to be made of empty buildings and brownfield sites, and incentives for neighbourhoods approving new housing.

But a spokeswoman for the communities department called the Policy Exchange analysis flawed for not allowing for the fact that RSS targets “had not worked”.

The spokeswoman said: “Top-down regional targets didn’t work and built nothing but resentment. It is meaningless to point to targets which were never going to be built. It was under regional strategies that house building fell to its lowest peacetime rates since the 1920s.

“As promised in the coalition agreement, this government is abolishing the ineffective, unpopular and bureaucratic tier of regional planning. Instead, it is simplifying the planning system and has introduced the new homes bonus to work with local communities, not against them.”

She also said that new housing supply was at its highest level since 2008, up 11% on last year.

I should note that before the Election I published a report in Planning Resource predicting very close to this fall from an analysis of LPA data.  This was rubbished by the Dumb Tank Policy Exchange at the time.

Confirmation of the St Albans Green Belt review

Press release dated 21 st Dec following cabinet decision- as previously covered.

St Albans City and District Council is to commission an independent review of Green Belt boundaries and a study of potential housing locations in the District.

This follows a decision of Full Council on 28 November. This led to the withdrawal of the pre-submission Strategic Local Plan (SLP) whilst further work is undertaken.

On 20 December, Cabinet considered the terms of the decision and a plan to take this forward.

It agreed an approach for points 1, 4, 5 and 7 of the decision. This entails commissioning an independent review of Green Belt boundaries and a Green Belt study of all potential housing locations.

The Oaklands site has to be included in the Green Belt review to avoid pre-judging the outcome of this work.

Cabinet also agreed to refer points 2, 3 and 6 of the motion for clarification to Council at its next meeting on 30 January.

In addition, Cabinet requested a report to be presented to its next meeting on 17 January 2013 to include the draft terms of reference for the studies.

Councillor Teresa Heritage, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Conservation for St Albans City and District Council, said: “A plan of action has been put together following the full Council decision last month. There are aspects of the decision that require clarification by Council. It looks like a review of the Green Belt and housing targets will take up to nine months. Further public consultation and work is also likely to need to be undertaken. All in all, we are looking at a period of up to 15 months before we will be able to produce a new SLP ready for the pre-submission stage. This means the Council will be without an adopted plan until at least May 2015. In the meantime, there are significant risks that could affect the Council’s ability to protect the District from inappropriate development.”

A webcast of the meeting on 20 December can be seen on the Council’s website at:http://www.stalbans.ukcouncil.net/site/

The papers for the meeting are available the Council’s website at:http://stalbans.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=117&MId=6932&Ver=4

Councillor contact: Councillor Teresa Heritage, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Conservation for St Albans City and District Council, Tel: 01582 761014

Contact for the media: Amanda Wilkinson, Media and Internal Communications Officer, St Albans City and District Council, Tel: 01727 819317, E-mail:amanda.wilkinson@stalbans.gov.uk

Notes:

On 28 November Full Council considered a petition in relation to development of land at Oaklands and subsequently agreed the following motion:

“That this Council agrees to the following recommendations put forward by No

Oaklands Housing Action Group:

1. An independent review of Green Belt boundaries and a Green Belt Study of all potential housing locations needs to be undertaken now.

2. There needs to be clarity on how sites will be delivered and this is implied by an allocation of strategic sites.

3. Detailed delivery matters such as availability and infrastructure requirements need resolving.

4. Oaklands should retain its Green Belt green field status in any future policy review or boundary change to prevent urban sprawl and coalescence with Hatfield.

5. An alternative site should be considered.

6. Green Belt release should only be considered when the district has run out of sites within its urban land.

7. An independent commission of housing need in St Albans and its District should be set up to inform the evidence base.”

Another 3 year Review Soundness Finding – Hertsmere

Another inspectors report in Herts where the Inspector has called for an early 3 year review, in conjunction with other authorities.  one major difference with other authorities in Herts though was it was not seeking to provide less than the RS housing target and that target was not predicated on Green Belt release.  The issue then is a forward looking one, looking at the issue raised by the potential higher targets necessary by the NPPF, and so the inspector’s findings had some justification.  It should not be taken as a case of justifying submitting plans with low housing targets in the expectation they will be found sound and an early review triggered.  Least of all not requiring a green belt review, which of course in the last few weeks both Hertsmere and Dacorum inspectors have asked for.  Little birds tell me there is now a new willingness in Herts to look at this issue on a cross boundary basis.

What is not to like about the Taylor Review? One thing Only

Well done, why was it not commissioned as soon as if no tbefore the NPPF was finalised, a quite necessary delay.

One minor issue – Manual for Streets took years and years to consolidate and fight for should not be cast aside lightly.  Before its introduction getting good planning layouts approved was a nightmare..  I note there were no street/urban design experts on the panel.  It should be consolidated into a single Housing and Street Design manual (including the stupidly privitised MoS 2) covering all design advice (including from CABE such as BFL).

 

 

Is St Albans About to See Sense?

A report before cabinet tonight, totally sensible and suggesting the work necessary could be done in 6-9 months.  No longer portents of doom.

Why Inspectors Cannot Legally Make Fundamentally Unsound Plans Sound through an Early Review #NPPF

A recap on a key issue that has arisen in the last few weeks and covered here in the last couple of days.

As put by  correspondent Hocus Pocus

 now the precedent [west berks] has been set, the “three-year review” could be about to become the default ‘get out of jail free’ card for plans that don’t meet NPPF requirements. Politically, the Government can’t afford a rash of unsound plans under their ‘new’ system having spent several years slamming regional strategies / espousing localism. Your new entry on Dacorum appears to support that point where the Inspector is apparently inviting a partial review as an easy solution where a straight reading of the evidence might suggest an alternate conclusion.

As I said I dont think West Berks is a precedent rather it was a pragmatic response to a plan bot having a full lifespan through unavoidable delays.  The plan was fundamentally sound and the authority did not dodge or fudge fundamental issues on need or housing land.

That is quite different from Dacorum where the plan is (in most independent commentators views im sure and looking at the note the inspectors) fundamentally sound and all the key difficult issues were dodged including the evidence necessary to resolve them.

As I said yesterday I think (and this is my only issue with an excellent inspectors note) this is beyond the inspectors discretion and unlawful and would likely lead to a successful legal challenge to the inspectors report.  Inspectors in the regulations and under the policy terms of the NPPF can make recommendations which if adopted by the LPA can make an unsound plan sound, but they have no power to judge a fundamental unsound sound and then recommend an early review because it is fundamentally unsound.

Lets take a look at the NPPF para 182

The Local Plan will be examined by an independent inspector whose role is to assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. A local planning authority should submit a plan for examination which it considers is “sound”

AndPINS Examining Development Plans para 7

LPAs should rigorously assess the DPD before it is published under Regulation 27 to ensure that it is a plan which they think is sound. The document published should be the document they intend to submit under Regulation 30 to the Inspectorate. The 2004 Act specifically provides that a LPA must not submit the DPD unless it considers the document is ready for examination. Changes after submission by the LPA should be unnecessary and may be disregarded by the Inspector unless there are exceptional reasons that justify them.

The changes here are to the development plan as submitted not a future review of that plan.

And in paras 2.5 on

In looking at the matters and issues, Inspectors will seek to identify any fundamental or cumulative flaws at the first possible opportunity.
This will avoid wasted time and money if the submitted DPD has major problems (or may even on the face of it appear unsound)…
If the Inspector forms an early view that the submitted DPD may have serious shortcomings that point to potential unsoundness, the Inspector will bring this to the attention of the LPA.

Exceptionally, the Inspector may consider that the examination cannot be completed without additional work being undertaken (such as the need for further sustainability appraisal of alternative options) which may necessitate consideration of a suspension of the examination or, in the worse case scenario, withdrawal of the DPD.

Now where is the provision for such a plan to be found sound and reviewed later as the new ‘normal’.

Im sure lawyers will have  field day with this.

The key other problem with the early review suggestion is it completely removed the incentive beyond the design of the post 2004 system – binding inspectors reports.  This and the intention that plans are as sound as they can reasonably be on submission is supposed to prevent LPAs stalling on the key issues – not planning.  The early review angle will be seen by the many NIMTO council leaders as a joyous let out, till well after the next elections, for a review of course which may and probably will never happen.  Its a pig ion a poke and inspectors should not in my view fall for it.

 

 

Dacorum Inspector Provides Clue to Likely Outcome in Other Herts Authorities

We have paid particular attention to Hertfordshire on this site as I believe it has the highest concentration of lagging local plans in the UK, as well as some of the highest housing needs and greatest Green Belt coverages.  A toxic mix.

The Dacorum plan was submitted in June and in November the Inspector submitted a preliminary note - the findings of which will be very predictable to any reader of this blog – especially those in St Albans.

The Council confirmed that in its view 11,320 dwellings over the plan period would meet objectively assessed needs (as referred to in paragraph 14 of the NPPF). However, in my view that figure does not represent full objectively assessed need, rather it represents a level of development that in the Council’s opinion could be satisfactorily accommodated in the Borough without detriment to other policy constraints as set out in the NPPF.
I consider the starting point should be the identification of full‘objectively assessed needs’ (paragraph 47 of NPPF). The most recent CLG household projections 1indicate a need for 13,500 new households in the  Borough (about 540 dwellings a year) over the plan period and there is also a significant need for affordable housing. The population projections also identify a significant growth
Whilst I understand the Council’s concerns regarding the robustness of the figures, I am mindful of the advice in paragraph 159 of the NPPF regarding meeting household and population projections.
Having identified the full need, the Council should then have undertaken the appropriate analysis to ascertain whether or not that full need for market and affordable housing could be met, remembering that the objective is to ‘boost significantly the supply of housing’. It may be that the Council would have reached similar conclusions as it has done in relation to the submitted Core Strategy but without a more thorough analysis I cannot be certain that this would have been the case.

I have two specific concerns: the lack of a robust and comprehensive green belt review and the limited emphasis that appears to have been given to the role that neighbouring local planning authorities could play in accommodating some of Dacorum’s housing needs….

With regard to neighbouring local planning authorities making a contribution to meeting the housing needs of Dacorum, this is clearly not a new concept, particularly in terms of St Albans City and District (which is immediately to the east of Hemel Hempstead)….

Whilst it is clear that Dacorum and St Albans have ‘co-operated’, particularly with regard to the joint Area Action Plan, it appears to me that the co-operation was directed more towards securing protection for the land in St Albans District between Hemel Hempstead and the M1, rather than investigating ways in which the area could contribute towards meeting the full housing needs of Dacorum.

The Council will wish to consider the options available to it but one of those options may be to commit to an early partial review of the CS (by way of an appropriate Main Modification), in order to investigate ways of assessing and meeting housing need more fully (taking into account updated household and population projections). Any such partial review would need to consider the identification of a housing target that closely reflects identified need; a thorough review of the green belt boundary (including the potential for safeguarded sites); and the role that effective co-operation with neighbouring local planning authorities could play in helping to meet the housing needs of Dacorum.

This is the point we repeatedly make in this blog, first you identify need, then constraints and come to a view as to whether need can be met in light of national policy.  You dont prejudge this in your needs assessment.

Of course if Dacorum is saying that Green Belt constraints mean it cannot accommodate the need it should find out in cooperation with others alternative locations.  However if you dont do a green belt review you have nothing to compare with no policy option which an inspector might assess and consider the impact of which unnacceptable.

The last para I quoted from the Inspectors report to my mind is contrary to the NPPF and would likely lead to successful legal challenge.  Apart from not considering the +20% rule  – If a plan is sound now but will not be in several years (such as having less than a 15 year supply) than an early review is appropriate (many examples of this – see West Berks) however is the annual rate of development so far falls short of need that the plan is unsound now then all an early review will do is allow an unsound plan to be adopted, of course there is dicreation and balance of judgement for marginal cases (again many examples of inspectors being prgamatic where authorities have made positive efforts) but allowing an unsound plan to be adopted is not the intention (indeed is completely the opposite) of the regulations and would in my mind be beyond the reasonablescope of the inspector’s discretion.

Dacorum have published a completely SHMA and trajectory less response.

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