Category Archives: urban planning

Pro Union Businesses Fear Nat Planning Discrimination

Telegraph

More than a hundred Scottish business leaders wanted to sign a letter backing the Union but stayed silent because they feared “consequences” from the SNP Government, it has been claimed.

Gavin Hewitt, the former Scotch Whisky Association chairman who helped gather signatures, said around half the executives he approached agreed the business case for independence was not yet made but declined to go public amid worries of a Nationalist backlash.

More than half a dozen industry leaders feared planning applications would be stonewalled by SNP-run local authorities if they spoke out, Mr Hewitt alleged in an interview with The Telegraph.

He added that other business leaders worried Scottish Government grants and procurement contracts would dry up if they went public with concerns.

In one specific case, executives with worries about independence declined to speak out because they were involved in a merger between two spirits companies looking for Government support, according to Mr Hewitt.

Asked who was to blame for the fear of speaking out, Mr Hewitt said: “The SNP Government is entirely to blame because it is so tribal. Anyone who actually opposes the Government is in their sights, frankly.”

The worrying claims reignite allegations made earlier this year that the SNP has intimidated businesses and institutions to stay silent over the risks of independence. The Scottish Government has vehemently denied the allegations.

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Secretary, demanded Alex Salmond “call off the dogs” and make clear businessmen can discuss independence without “fear” of consequences. A spokesman for the First Minister said Mr Hewitt’s claims about the SNP both at a national and local level are “simply untrue”, while an SNP spokesman called the allegations “patently wrong”.

The claims follow the publication of a letter on Wednesday signed by more than 120 industry leaders backing the Union and warning that the “business case for independence has not been made”.

Among the signatures was Keith Cochrane, Weir Group chief executive, Audrey Baxter, executive chairman of Baxters Food Group, Boyd Tunnock CBE and Ian Curle, the chief executive of Eddington, which owns the whisky brands The Macallan and The Famous Grouse.

In one of the most significant interventions by the business community in the referendum campaign, industries as diverse as publishing, banking, hairdressing, engineering and art dealing were represented among the signatories.

“Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues, including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world – and uncertainty is bad for business,” the letter read.

“As job creators we have looked carefully at the arguments by both sides of the debate. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”

“We should be proud that Scotland is a great place to build businesses and create jobs – success that has been achieved as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom gives business the strong platform we must have to invest in jobs and industry. By all continuing to work together, we can keep Scotland flourishing.”

Organisers insisted the letter was signed in a personal capacity by the business leaders and was not affiliated to any political party or independence campaign.

However as the pronouncement begun to make headlines across the UK it was claimed scores more business leaders had refused to sign the letter despite agreeing with its content for fear of retribution.

Amanda Harvie, former chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise who helped gather signatures, said a “significant number” of old colleagues and contacts had declined to sign despite backing the letter’s message.

She told this newspaper business people were “fearful of the potential consequences of making their views known”, including employees at organisations that held Government contracts, wanted public grants or were submitting planning applications.

She also named professional services, construction and development, and financial services as industries where leaders had behaved in this way.

Asked what was meant by consequences, Ms Harvie said she was talking about what would happen if someone was “deemed to fall foul of the political view in the Scottish Government”.

“People are concerned that if they voice an opposing view, in other words against the prospects of independence, [then] grants, contracts, potential applications for planning may be threatened,” Ms Harvie said.

“Now the very fact that that perception exists, which is does, is deeply damaging and unhealthy for Scotland.”

Ms Harvie added she would be “very unhappy” if any Scottish Government minister or civil servants were to approach signatories about signing the letter.

Mr Hewitt, a former British diplomat for more than 30 years, estimated more than a hundred Scottish business leaders declined to publicly back the letter despite agreeing with its contents for fear of consequences from the SNP Government.

“I think we have seen right throughout the whole of this debate, and frankly in Government, that dissent is not permitted within the SNP ranks,” said Mr Hewitt, claiming that the party had been “pretty heavy handed” with business leaders who opposed independence.

It is understood the backlash against Barrhead Travel, Scotland’s largest independent travel company which faced boycott calls after its founder warned of the impact of independence, is believed to have put some leaders off speaking out.

Mr Carmichael said: “Alex Salmond now has to call off the dogs and make it clear that business people and anyone else can speak out without fear of unfair treatment in the future. This has got to come from the top.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said the claims were “simply untrue” and noted comments by the pro-independence group Business for Scotland dismissing the business letter. Tony Banks, chair of Business for Scotland, said its 2,500 members all believe “Scottish independence is in the best interests of Scotland and Scottish business”.

An SNP spokesperson: “These claims are patently wrong – for the No campaign to say that business is being stopped from speaking out on the very day they are saying business is speaking out is extremely foolish. The reality is that more business people back a Yes vote, as we will hear from over 150 Yes-supporting business people this week.”

Cherwell Buys MOD Land for UKs Largest Self Build Scheme

LocalGov

Cherwell DC has overseen the purchase of Ministry of Defence (MoD) land that could pave the way for the completion of 1,900 new homes  making it the country’s first large-scale self-build community.

Following yesterday’s exchange of contracts between Cherwell and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the MoD agency responsible for property, plans are now afoot to develop not just new homes at the 187 hectare site at Graven Hill in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

In addition to the 1,900 new homes, the development will also include scope for one million square feet of commercial space and the creation of up to 2,000 new jobs and apprenticeships.

The self-build concept has been designed to flexibly meet the needs and budgets of future residents, with 30% of the new homes to be classed as affordable. Provision has been made for kit-homes ready bought from catalogues through to custom build projects – where the owner designs the property and employs contractors to build it.

Not only would properties vary in size, from detached, semi-detached to terraced homes, apartments and bungalows, but different ownership tenures would be available – including outright ownership, shared ownership and renting.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell DC said:The sale of this site is representative of several years’ work behind the scenes to secure this purchase and completes the first stage of our vision to deliver the UK’s largest self build community.

The next phase of this innovative project is to start undertaking the practical steps to prepare the site for the delivery of these new homes and jobs, Cllr Wood said.

Gobshite Alert Minister Says Unemployment Caused by Moaning About Unemployment

Daily Mail

Unemployed young people are being put off even trying to find work because of the ‘morally reprehensible’ doom and gloom spread about the jobs market by Labour, the employment minister has said.

Esther McVey said there are ‘more than enough’ businesses willing to give young people a chance.

But she said jobless youths are giving up before they even start to look for work because of the ‘relentless negativity’ about their prospects.

Miss McVey, 46, who previously said young people should be prepared to take lowly jobs in coffee shops if they want to get on in life, said jobseekers should be more optimistic about their chances.

She told the Mail: ‘For too long now, young people have been subjected to relentless negativity about the state of the workplace that is waiting for them when they finish their study, training or apprenticeship.

‘I meet with thousands of young people a year and they all say the negative picture painted by opposition politicians about young people and their bleak future has a very negative effect on them.

‘It saps their confidence and energy before they even look for the job and crushes their spirit so much that it forces them to give up trying.

 

Leonora Rozee Slams Complications of Reformed Planning System

A damning indictment from Leonora Rozee on how complicated the reforms of the planning system has become on Linked-In

We are rapidly reaching the stage where no-one will actually have any idea of what our English planning system is any more. (Have we already reached it?). The only sensible solution is a wholesale review from top to bottom of why we need a planning system and what it needs to comprise, with the result set out in a single Act supported by such regulations, policy and guidance as are necessary to enable all to understand it. We now have a complete mess as successive governments have fiddled and changed what is there without thinking through exactly what it is they are trying to achieve – other than the much expressed desire for a simpler system with increased community involvement! If this Government want to get rid of it completely, then be honest and do so – not death by a thousand statutes, regulations, policies and guides.

How the London Plan Examination Might Play Out

The key issue will be the massive housing need shortfall and potential overspill outside London.

The Mayor has written to other authorities requesting they look at the implications of this but has not formally requested overspill or Green Belt reviews. The Mayor does not consider there needs to be a Green Belt review in London till 2025, conveniently just outside the 10 year housing requirements for borough local plans.

The SDS is pre 2004 act and localism act so no soundness or DTC requirements.

However the panel is very likely to conclude there is a housing shortfall and that it would be inequitable to suggest a Green Belt review outside London but not inside. 

The panel cannot however conclude the plan is unsound, not DTC compliant or make binding recommendations.  The Mayor can therefore ignore the recommendation unless the SoS intrvenes.

This will spark chaos as the paanel will likley find an overspill need without any allocation of it making local plans in ROSE grind to a halt whiulsst they are required to conduct additional Green Belt reviews.

The most likely scenario is that ROSE authorities challenge the FALP on EU SEA directive requirements as it was part of a wider ‘plan or programme’ for meeting Londons OAN in full biut did not consider a reasonable alternative, meeting the over spill in ful or part in London in whatever form.  Of course the soundness test and DTX applies to individual Boroughs plans so objections when they submit from ROSE authorities is likely to bring their plan making to a halt.

A rational SOS and Mayor would forsee this and commission a strategic study for meeting London’s overspill need through new Garden Cities – but unlikely this side of the election. 

 

 

Westminster plan to build on Playground – and put Kids underground

Ros Wyn Jones

“A few weeks ago I went to a public meeting at the heart of a sprawling 1950s council estate in central London. The community centre was packed and airless. Tempers were flaring.

“You say you’re regenerating the estate, but how come our kids are losing their playground?” one mother shouted. “Why should we believe a word that comes out of your mouths?”

Families in the meeting at Churchill Gardens showed me an ­architect’s drawing that had an old people’s home on top of a huge section of the local primary school’s playground.

A previous public meeting had been told the ­playground would move underground. Now, local Labour councillors have launched a petition to save it.

“You’ve never heard anything like it,” Emma Taylor, 43, a mother of five whose daughter attends Churchill Gardens Academy, told me. “An underground playground! Because our kids don’t deserve fresh air, do they? Or apparently daylight, since the three-storey height of the building will take the light from the classrooms.”

Churchill Gardens Academy supports many children with special needs.

“God knows how those children would cope with an underground playground,” Emma says.

 

Damien Hirst is Not Very good at Sketchup

Hi urban extension on land he owns south of Ilfracombe has been approved.  But the sketch up drawings are very amateurish.

Persimmon Calls for Green Belt Review

Building Design

Persimmon has called for a review of the UK’s Green Belt policy to free up more land for housing developments.

Persimmon chief executive Jeff Fairburn told the BBC: “There are a number of cities around the country that are very constrained [by the green belt].

“As a company we’ll build on Green Belt sites or Brownfield sites – they’ve just got to be viable. If no other location is viable you need to be able to build on the Green Belt.” He was speaking as the firm posted a 57% increase in pre-tax profit to £208.9 million in the six months to 30 June.

Earlier this week, new planning minister Brandon Lewis said some Greenfield areas might have to be built on at some point. He said: “You have got to look what is right in your area, what would be sacrosanct in one area won’t necessarily be sacrosanct in another, depending on the community and what people feel.”

London’s Refusal to Review Green Belt Causes Uproar Amongst Neighbours

Guardian

When mayor Boris Johnson unveiled his housing plans in 2013, he proposed building a further 42,000 homes a year to meet population growth. But a few months later, analysis by the Greater London Authority (GLA) put the actual need at between 49,000 and 62,000.

So, who will accommodate this shortfall of up to 20,000 homes a year? London has so far refused to consider building on its green belt and this is causing uproar with its neighbours, who may have to accept the 200,000 new homes – and revisions to their own green belts – over the next 10 years because of the capital’s unwillingness to consider changes to its green belt.

Luton council has accused the GLA of applying double standards by refusing to countenance a revision of its green belt, while expecting its neighbours to do so, while umbrella group South East England Councils has called on the GLA to review the London green belt and do more to meet its housing need.

Our research shows, under current London proposals, the majority of councils across the wider south east will each have to accommodate between 1,000-5,000 extra new homes by 2025, with those closest to London facing the greatest pressure. However, if the green belt around London is maintained, locations further out from London – such as East Hertfordshire, Medway and Chelmsford – will have to accommodate more than 11,000 extra dwellings.

This would be on top of meeting their own housing needs and is the equivalent of a new garden city, or a new Ebbsfleet, for each of these councils. New housing for Londoners in those locations will then increase the distance commuters need to travel.

The mayor believes building on industrial land, developing in town centres and releasing more public sector land to developers will help meet London’s housing needs. Johnson also says that his proposed figures are a minimum and that councils should identify additional capacity in their own plans.

But by deferring a decision on whether the green belt in London should be relaxed and not saying how long-term needs will be met, the mayor’s proposals have not helped London’s housing crisis.

Matthew Spry is senior director at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.

Why we still need planning controls on HMOs

The BPO argued in the Guardian yesterday that planning controls on HMOs should be relaxed to make housing more affordable.  Which would surely be the case if you crammed people in.

But a cautionary note from other jurisdictions. Where there is a housing shortage and no controls then people pack in, sometimes 6 or 10 to a room, and this causes sub stations to blow up and sewerage networks to overflow, as they were calculated on much lower load and diversity factors.  We see that here for example in the UAE seeing national controls introduced.  never forget why planning controls exist in the first instance.

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