Author Archives: andrew lainton

Kent Reinventing the Structure Plan

Planning Resource

Authorities in Kent are considering whether to cooperate on county-wide strategic planning issues, according to a council leader.

Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, told a conference that planning authorities and the county are “reinventing” Kent’s structure plan.

Structure plans were drawn up by county councils and covered strategic issues above the local level such as housing and transport infrastructure.

They were swept away by the previous Labour government in 2004 and replaced with regional plans, in turn abolished by the coalition.

Carter, speaking at a garden cities conference in Ebbsfleet, said: “We are trying to get coherence around the sense of a place called Kent and Medway and how local plans fit into that larger template. That’s a work in progress, supported by the 12 districts and boroughs in Kent.”

Crossrail 2 Preferred Route Published

Why Adjusting Green Belt Boundaries is not a Big Deal

Many LPAs in the Metropolitan Green Belt are conducting green Belt reviews, Mole Valley has prematurely abandoned theirs and other have slowed their local plan processes to a halt to ensure they dont occur until after the next election.

Moast arguments about the Green Belt occur over the abstract about whether or not it is a good thing or a bad thing – anti says it is part of the problem of planning pushing up house prices – pro that Green Belt should be inviolate and its loss is sprawl.

But the planning argument is not about such generalities.  It is about whether a specific field or fields should be kept and whether this is sustaianble.

Let me illustrate with the case of St Albans which has at last published a draft local plan this month.  It has chosen the lowest of teh range of its housing need – not recommended by its consultants, and despite propisng an extension to Hemel Hempsted proposes taking none of its overspill  OAN.  But this is by the y.  As readers of this log will know their previous ‘no change’ local plan was voted against following a furious exchange conducted on this blog to allow for an OAN assessment and strategic (joint) Green Belt review.

The results are shown below

The yellow shows proposed deletions the yellow shows proposed Green Belt deletions.  The purple areas contributing little to Green Belt purposes (coalescence between settlements etc.).

What strikes you aabout the map is how proportionately small and strategically inconsequential these areas area.  They may generate lots of local heat but there is no way there loss would mount to urban sprawl.  Most are very well located for urban services.    You could drive around all day in St Albans District and not notice these areas had gone. The same is true for almost any ROSE authority, except for those with very tightly packed settlements like Castlepoint.  The loss of such sites is not big deal, no chance of urban sprawl.   If sites contribute little to Green Belt purposes what is the objection?  They really are sites that never should have been included in Green Belt in the first place if boundaries had been evidence based and designed to exist in perpetuity.  The exceptional circumstance is that the designation was a cock up, and there is caselaw saying this is sufficient on review.

There real issue is not whether they should be Green Belt, if they were not there is no evidence they should be designated, rather the real issue is whether or not green field sites should e developed, that is the real argument.  In St Alban’s not much of one as Brownfield sites are quite rare and then largely located in the Green Belt anyway.

If the price of fighting off the treasury and potential abolition of teh Green Belt is a few relatively small but confident chunks taken out of the Green Belt lets take them out.

Note – even if you developed all of the ‘non contributing’ sites in South Herts there still would be some overspill OAN to North and Esst Herts – that ios clear from the studies.  Hence Stratgic Review and Garden Cities (and urban regeneration) are handmaiden not rival solutions in the portfolio approach that will be necessary to meet housing need.

South Staffordshire, Stratford Etc. Dont want to Cooperate

South Staffordshire and several other authorities around Brum has written to say it does not want to take part in a joint study of Greater Brums housing needs (Brum + Black Country).

The weak justification being that because the study is being lead by two LEPS with boundaries that dont match the HMA it  cant be a SHMA and therefore doesnt need to include South Staffs.

The most biazarre circular logic you will ever hear, this is why the two LEPS are now rightly seeking to involve adjoining authorities.

The letter gives no justification under the NPPF or the DTC why they should not cooperate.  It is bizarre, a cooked up excuse. The evidence you need for the Lyoins Review recommendations

In London Next Week

From Monday to Weds Next week I will be in London

Packed schedule of meetings with consultancy partner and clients.

However if anyone wishes to catch me this will be the only opportunity for a while.

My number

+97156 93218775

Camerons Constituency’s Local Plan Delayed

Oxford Mail

A BLUEPRINT for where new homes will be built in West Oxfordshire has been delayed after the district council received more feedback than it expected.

More than 3,000 comments were made from about 500 individuals and organisations to West Oxfordshire District Council during public consultation on its draft Local Plan, which proposes 9,450 homes to be built at allocated sites around the district.

Responses were due to be considered by the cabinet at last Wednesday’s meeting, ahead of producing a final plan, but this has been delayed by at least a couple of months.

The setback comes after the council achieved its requirement to have enough land allocated for housing for the next five years, after approving 700 homes to the east of Carterton. It says reaching this five-year supply will give it greater protection against unwanted housing proposals.

But developers behind schemes like the 270-home Windrush Valley estate in Witney could counter this by saying it has no up-to-date Local Plan strategy.

Cabinet member for strategic housing Warwick Robinson said: “We have had to delay the Local Plan, partly due to the volume of comments and the technical content that required further evaluation and research.

“We hadn’t expected 3,000 comments and have never had that many in the past.

“Clearly this particular plan is a substantial change in the total number of homes, from 5,500 to 9,450.

“Having a five-year land supply should give us a better chance to defend a refusal of a speculative development but developers can argue we don’t have a Local Plan in place.

“It would be beneficial if we had one as the fact we don’t is a further weakness, but we’re not prepared to submit it to the inspectorate until we’re very confident that it will not be refused outright.”

The council had identified 3,228 homes to be built between 2015 and 2020, and it also requires a five per cent buffer in case any development is not completed in time.

Before developer Bloor Homes’ Carterton East plan, off Monahan Way, was passed on October 9, the council only had 3,144 prospective homes.

But it expects at least 300 of these homes to be built in the next five years, pushing its supply over the required total.

Mr Robinson said the council previously needed a higher standard of proof that plans were ‘unacceptable’ as it could face a planning inspector at an appeal.

Securing enough land for new homes should give the local authority more protection once its new planning policy is formed, based on the new Local Plan.

Mr Robinson said he hopes the plan will be ready for cabinet by the end of the year and submitted to an inspector by late spring.

Earlier this month Cotswold District Council, which shares some services with West Oxfordshire, was told by a planning inspector that it could not rely on a five-year land supply to resist unwanted development.

But Mr Robinson said he did not expect any major consequences for his own council, as the numbers were always open to being challenged.

Gladman Homes’ plans for the Windrush Valley development, off Burford Road, have been fiercely opposed by residents concerned about flood risk and an increase in traffic.

Windrush Valley Protection Group chairwoman Jennie Allen said: “Hopefully this means that unneeded, unsustainable and speculative profit-driven development proposals, such as the Windrush Valley, will be denied.”

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Mole Vally Cllrs Make Stupid Error in Scrapping green Belt Review

This Will be JRd deserves to be

Get Surrey

Mole Valley District Council has been forced to abandon a housing plan they have spent two years developing in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Following months of public protests at the prospect of villages across the district being taken out of the green belt, the plan has been pushed aside.

Up to 90 sites were under threat of having their green belt protection removed, with several earmarked for hundreds of new homes.

In a meeting last week, Pippbrook politicians voted in favour of replacing the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan with what is hoped to be an up-to-date and publicly favoured local plan.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors made a joint motion to stop all further progress on the housing and traveller plan and to begin work on a local plan as required by the National Policy Framework.

At the meeting on Tuesday October 14, Councillor James Friend, deputy leader of the council, said: “An awful lot has changed since the Housing and Traveller Site plan process started.

“Not only has the estimate of green belt land required for housing reduced by more than half in nine months, but the latest Government guidance now states clearly that green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional cases and that housing need, including for traveller sites, does not justify the harm done to the green belt by inappropriate development.

“We want to send a very clear message to our communities, if you need affordable housing in your local area, then champion sites and show us why an exceptional case should be made.

“We want to send a message to developers, intensify your search for brownfield sites, invest in our communities and re-use and recycle land.”

The focus on brownfield sites has been welcomed by many including the Surrey director for Campaign to Protect Rural England, Andy Smith. Mr Smith said: “The statement from Councillor Friend is very welcome especially the plea to developers to locate more brownfield sites for housing.

“But we really need the council to give an absolutely categorical assurance that there will be no shrinking at all of the green belt in Mole Valley and a clear insistence that all the district’s housing requirements will be met on brownfield sites or within existing urban areas.

“It has been stated that green belt will only be used in exceptional circumstances but that was the case in the policy last time and the green belt reassigned was extensive. The protection of the green belt asked for by Government is only strengthened if local councils can take it seriously and I hope Mole Valley will.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Stephen Cooksey worked alongside Cllr Friend in proposing the motion and believed this allegiance between Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives was the only option in the best interest of the community.

Cllr Cooksey said: “The situation we were in was that the housing and traveller plan was due to go to be approved next year and we did not want this to happen when there was so much opposition and did not comply with the Government standards, and for another local plan to have to be assessed just months later.

“A lot has changed in the two years we have been discussing the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan and it did become evident it was something unwanted by the local community.

“People are very opposed to the green belt building in the area and that is how we came to this joint decision as the views of the local people must be respected.”

Executive member for planning, Cllr John Norcott said they did not want work carried out on the Housing and Traveller Sites plan to be wasted. “The most appropriate way forward is that work on the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan be halted and should be brought forward and expedited,” he said.

“This will allow the council to prepare a local plan which is fully compliant with the national framework and states how many new homes are needed and how many could be accommodated in Mole Valley without compromising the role and purposes of the green belt.

“Much of what has already been done on this sites plan will be rolled forward, so as not to have been a wasted effort.”

Basic stupid errors by Cllr Friend

Firstly the NPPF has always said that Green Belt boundaries should only chnage in exceptional circumstances.

Guidance has also always said that housing need does not represent very special circumstances to overidie the Green Belt, note the tests are different teh very special circumnstances test only applies to planning applications not Green Belt reviews in local plans.  The Reigate Inspector clearly said it was the wrong test when this was brought up, and even Boles did not challenge that aspect of his report.

The new guidance simply repeats boles letters to Regtae which also clearly said this was no change in policy.

All that is new is that it is an option for LPAs to not meet need in full by exercising the duty to cooperate, but first you have to legally ask someone else to take your need, have they done so no.

Also if housing need assessments have dropped you reduce the land to be removed, you dont scrap the plan.

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.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2014/B102.html

Note:

Summary after each section

‘what I have to decide’

what each party is seeking

‘what my decision is’

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