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 land.it 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.

CPRE, Planning Policy ‘Catastrophic for the Countryside’

Daily Mail

Tens of thousands of new homes have been built on green fields despite ferocious local opposition because of controversial planning reforms.

The contentious measures, which threaten to change the face of rural England forever, have proved ‘catastrophic for the countryside’, says a damning new report.

Planning permission had been given for a staggering 27,000 houses on greenfield sites against the wishes of local authorities in the last two years alone, it found.

Tens of thousands of new homes have been built on green fields despite ferocious local opposition due to controversial planning reforms

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which compiled the dossier, said developer were getting the go-ahead to build properties on profitable countryside ‘through the back door’.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced by the Coalition in March 2012, council chiefs were instructed to ‘significantly boost housing supply’ in a bid to tackle the property crisis gripping the UK.

Local authorities were ordered to identify a five-year supply of land to meet demand for new properties in their area.

Britain is facing a housing shortage because not enough new homes have been built by successive governments to cope with the UK’s rapidly increasing population, much of it fuelled by immigration.

Huge competition for homes that do come on the market has created a housing bubble in London and the south-east, inflating prices and locking hard-working families out of the property market.

The campaign group said that of 309 planning applications for developments of 10 or more properties on greenfield land which were rejected by councillors, 72 per cent were overturned on appeal by planning inspectors.

In one case, an appeal for a 154-house development in Calne, Wiltshire, which had been vigorously opposed by local people, was approved against their wishes because inspectors said the need for new homes outweighed the environmental benefits of the countryside.

A UK farmer’s opinion on building on greenfield sites
Planning permission had been given for a staggering 27,000 houses on greenfield sites against the wishes of local authorities in the last two years alone

The CPRE demanded a shake-up of the reforms claiming there were problems with how the targets for housing were set, including a lack of guidance for councils and a system which overstates demand.

The group called for changes to the planning policy to prevent developers bypassing local democracy to get the go-ahead for building in the countryside, and to ensure brownfield land is favoured over greenfield sites.

John Rowley, planning officer at the CPRE, said: ‘These figures show that current policy is encouraging unnecessary house building in the countryside against the wishes of local people. The consequences are proving catastrophic for the countryside.

‘We need to see a more transparent and less punitive system which does not allow unrealistic housing targets to override local concerns.

‘The Government should remove the automatic presumption for development where there is no five-year land supply.

‘Councils must be provided with detailed guidance on housing targets, and brownfield land must be prioritised so that unnecessary greenfield development is not so blatantly and regularly allowed through the back door.’

27,000 units sounds a lot,even over two years but we are short of over 180,000 units a year.  If the NPPF alone was to deliver the shortfall in housing it would be permitting 7or 8 times this number.  The fact that the housebuilding industry does not have this capacity is the real failure of teh developer led planning system.

Daily Mail/Solihull Cllrs Cemetaries are Acceptable in Green Belt

Daily Mail has a total scare storey about a muslim cemetary proposal in Solihull.

err Cemeteries are an appropriate use in Green Belts ‘as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it;’  How does this in any way harm Green Belt purposes, there is no risk of sprawl or coalescence.  Following recent caselaw traffic congestion hardely enters into the weighing and balancing equation.  Should be a simple and straightforward approval. If not would be a completely racist decision which would be contrary to the Equalities Act.

Lodge Hill Granted Planning Permission

Despite being thrown out of the local plan, offsetting is proposed even though it is an SSSI.

RSPB Blog

the RSPB has been campaigning to stop a development of 5000 houses on Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI.

This ex-MOD training ground is home to a nationally important population of nightingales (possibly the most important site in the UK for this iconic and declining species), as well as ancient woodland and rare grassland.

Last night, Medway Council made the decision to approve the application from Land Securities, MoD’s delivery partner.

The vote to approve the development goes against the advice of Natural England, the government’s own environmental advisors, as well as a raft of conservation organisations.

It’s a shocking decision.

If the development goes ahead it would destroy the SSSI including the home to more than 1% of our national nightingale population.   Worse – it would set the terrible precedent for future development.  Under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (clause 118), there is a presumption against building on SSSIs – our most important wildlife sites.  The public benefits from the development need to significantly outweigh the environmental damage.  Houses which are important locally must not trump nationally important wildlife sites.

Nightingale singing. Image by John Bridges (www.rspb-images.com)

The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, can ‘call in’ the application and make the decision himself with the national perspective it needs. In effect this would take the decision out of Medway’s hands, and allow it to be made through the rigorous process of a public inquiry.

We’ll be reminding him that if the development goes ahead, it will be one of the largest losses of SSSI land in the country – perhaps the biggest loss since the mid-1990s.   This is not what we’d expect from ‘the greenest government ever’.  Not only that, but it would be contrary to the Government’s own guidance on developing protected sites.

It is clear that Medway is in need of housing and employment, but these needs should be assessed through a thorough strategic review. Reliance on a single proposal at Lodge Hill is not the answer to providing a sustainable long-term solution.

Please help us tell Eric Pickles why this decision matters across England, and ask him to call it in.

Kent Online

Plans for a controversial housing development on the former Army camp at Chattenden were unanimously approved by Medway Council at a special planning meeting last night.

The “stand-alone, sustainable” development at Lodge Hill will include 5,000 homes, new schools, healthcare facilities, leisure facilities and employment and business space.

The plans will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Natural England.

 

Robin Cooper, director of regeneration, said: “I am pleased the development at Lodge Hill is being reconsidered with fresh material from Land Securities.

“A new sustainable community in this location will play a substantial role in providing Medway with the new homes and facilities it needs to cater for the growing population.

“This is one of the key regeneration projects in Medway that will shape the future of the area and provide much needed jobs for our young local people.”

 

Views of the former Lodge Hill army camp, Lodge Hill Lane, Chattenden

Lodge Hill was declared at Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) last year, which meant developers Land Securities had to reassess the environmental impact upon the site.

This included finding new homes for the 84 nightingales and other wildlife that inhabit the site – compensation land has been proposed at Shoeburyness, Essex, for the song birds.

The site will also include 65 hectares of open space for parks and wildlife as well as three walking loops.

 

Tom Venner, Development Director for Land Securities, said: “We are delighted that Medway Council has approved our Outline Planning Application for Lodge Hill, which will allow for a truly sustainable development to be delivered.

“We have worked hard over several years to create a masterplan which addresses all potential impacts associated with the regeneration plans and we are grateful for the constructive involvement of Council officers, local residents and other important stakeholder groups.

“Lodge Hill will benefit life and business in Medway by bringing much-needed homes and road improvements and will create approximately 5,000 jobs to secure the Peninsula’s status as a significant economic destination in the region.”

 

Cllr Chris Irvine (far right) and members of the Rochester and Strood Conservatives protested before the planning meeting last night.

At the special planning meeting, six ward councillors from the peninsula were granted permission to speak about the plans.

Cllr Tom Mason said: “The SSSI site is so important and if this was to be agreed it would set a precedent, I believe, that SSSI sites would mean nothing.”

Cllr Chris Irvine said: “If this application is approved this evening it would be a death sentence for our environment, our villages and our communities in rural Medway.”

 

View of the area that would be developed

Cllr Phil Filmer and Cllr Peter Hicks expressed concerns about access to and from the site. The plans include new sliproads from the A289 to the site, avoiding Four Elms Roundabout.

As part of the deal, the landowner must enter into a Section 106 agreement – promising to deliver a number of additional projects in Medway to cope with additional demand as a result of the development.


There are 25 conditions, which include:

  • A contribution of £7.5million towards highway and public transport improvements on the A228 and A289 including Sans Pareil Roundabout, Anthonys Way Roundabout, Wulfere Way, Berwick Way and Vanguard Way
  • Provision of three primary schools with a total of eight classes per year group, one school with expertise in special educational needs.
  • A secondary school with a sixth form and sports facilities
  • Contribution of £90,000 towards improvements to the cycle links between the site and Medway City Estate
  • Contribution of £1,040,750 towards off site formal sport at Deangate Ridge

If given the go-ahead by the Secretary of State, work on the site will take place over a 15 to 20-year period, with a target of laying the first brick by early 2016.

Lib-Dems to Promise Housing Target of 300,000 a Year

Independent

Plans to build 300,000 homes a year and a £2.8bn-a-year expansion of childcare will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrat manifesto at next May’s general election.

The Lib Dem plan would trump Labour’s pledge to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 and make housing a key election issue. Mr Clegg’s party wants to set up a Housing Investment Bank to streamline public funding and attract private investment, and to set up a ministerial task force to ensure the target is set.

The housing policy will be proposed by Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, when the draft manifesto is put to the Lib Dems’ annual conference in Glasgow next month.

Mr Farron said: “We can and must choose to build a new generation of homes for those on ordinary salaries. Central to this is the need for consistent and committed action at all levels – a long term strategy – to tackle the biggest issue of our generation.”

 

Redrow Chairman – We Need a Sensible Look at Green Belt Boundaries

FT

Mr Morgan also..urged reform of the country’s greenbelt – the rings of countryside containing urban areas. “That doesn’t mean riding a coach and horses through greenbelt policy, it just means having a sensible look at boundaries that were drawn up 60 years ago and are hopelessly out of date,” he said.

He added that “tatty” land on the edge of conurbations was deemed as sacrosanct, which was wrong.

 

You are being Managed – By Drone

Inside Housing

Two housing associations have become the first to purchase drones – flying camera-installed devices – to try to reduce the costs of managing their homes.

Housing associations are buying drones

High-definition cameras on drones could help to identify the sources of leaks

Halton Housing Trust and Bromford have invested in the technology and will examine the possibilities of using them over the next few weeks.

Halton believes using drones equipped with cameras to inspect roofs could reduce its bill for scaffolding costs, which last year totalled £310,000. It estimates 15% of this cost relates to routine inspections, which require staff to erect scaffolding to allow them to take photographs of roofs and gutters to check if repairs are needed.

Scaffolding costs £500 to erect and take down and can cost thousands of pounds to hire

The 6,400-home association has bought a £200 drone to test its use.

Nick Atkin, chief executive of Halton, said: ‘This could allow us to make savings and ensure greater convenience for our customers because scaffolding can be very intrusive.’

Mr Atkin said the quality of photographs from the high-definition camera on the drone would be good enough to allow them to investigate roof leaks.

Bromford has purchased a £380 drone and is planning to test it to carry out inspections of roofs and inspections of land before development.
If it decides to press ahead, the 28,000-home developer-landlord may invest in more expensive drones that have GPS technology

Paul Taylor, innovation coach at Bromford, said the association might need different types of drones for different purposes and may need a license for some commercial uses.

He said: ‘If [our] development [department] need one to scan land, they may need it to operate at different distances and heights, there is no way we are going to go the expense of that without testing cheap kit first.’

Gladmans Case Against the London Plan Housing targets

Here  Pretty devastating.

The Boris Island Decision Paper

Airports Commission

The delivery risks of such a massive project including its surface transport links are
very great, and the economic disruption would be huge. No other city has moved the
operations of an airport on anything like the scale of Heathrow anywhere near as far as
would be implied here. There are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or
very time-consuming, to surmount. There are also challenges in relation to the practicality
of operating a very large hub airport in the estuary; for example in relation to airspace
management and the risk of birdstrike. The implications for passengers are unfavourable.
The average rail journey to the airport on opening would be 20-25 per cent longer than is
the case today. Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost almost £70 to
£90 billion with much greater public expenditure than involved in other options – probably
some £30 to £60 billion in total. More ambitious schemes would cost considerably more.
While future governments must make their own decisions on priorities we cannot see that
additional infrastructure investment in the South East, on the scale implied, with uncertain
economic beneits, would be likely to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a
government of any political colour

 

ConHome Manifesto ‘A Planning Free for All is not the Answer’

ConHome Housing Manifesto

Britain’s housing crisis is one of affordability. The cost of new housing must come down and its quality must improve. However, to make this happen we have to look beyond the conventional solutions.

A planning free-for-all is not the answer.

Above all we need to reject the notion that the only solution to the housing crisis is a planning free- for-all, in which environmental protections, economic stability and local democracy are crushed beneath a development juggernaut.

What gets forgotten is that the cost of land is a function of both supply and demand. While the supply of land can be artificially constrained by excessively restrictive planning policies; the demand for it can be artificially expanded by distorted investment incentives.

This helps explains why the building booms of the previous decade didn’t deliver affordable housing – in country after country, [11] the result was runaway house price inflation that destabilised the global economy. The biggest exception was Germany, where prices stayed flat in this period [12] – despite a marked decline in the rate of new construction. [13]

The problem is speculation

The most important reason why demand overwhelms supply is not the planning system, but speculation. No matter how fast we can make land and construction capacity available, the money markets can always move faster – pumping cheap credit into property investments. Any government move to undermine sensible planning protections only serves to set off the feeding frenzy.

This is what happened under the previous government, which used top-down planning targets to force development through the system. The result was a building boom of sorts from 2001 to 200718 – but one in which home ownership and lending to first-time buyers fell, while house prices and buy-to-let mortgages shot up.[13]Furthermore, the whole of the increase in the rate of house building was in the form of flats and not the houses with gardens that most families want. [14]

A pro-ownership planning policy

To provide both affordability and quality, we need to freeze out the speculators. In an advanced society there is no such thing as a completely free market in land for development – central and local government will always be involved in its allocation through the planning system.

We believe that the state should use this power to actively favour home ownership over professional property investment.

Therefore, we propose:

  • To give planning authorities the option of requiring that homes in a new development only be sold to people intending to live in them.
  • This new power would be exercised locally on a case-by-case basis as a condition on planning consent for new developments – and where appropriate it could be used specifically to help first-time buyers or participants in self-build schemes.
  • Related taxation policies should be aligned with the pro-ownership planning policy – for instance by using higher taxes on professional property investment (e.g. land banking by developers) to pay for the progressive phasing out of stamp duty on ordinary home purchases. [15]

New paths to ownership

Helping people to own their homes shouldn’t be left to the private sector – or the mortgage market – alone. Under Margaret Thatcher, the Right to Buy was an immensely successful example of direct government action to extend ownership throughout society. In the 21st century, we need to have the same scale of ambition.

Therefore, we propose:

  • An end to all mortgage subsidies – such as the Help to Buy scheme and the ‘cheap money’ policies that artificially suppress interest rates and push-up house prices (see chapter 3).
  • Instead, central government support should be switched to enable councils, housing associations and other registered social landlords to build new homes for sale.
  • This new support would be conditional on making these new homes available through schemes that help tenants to become owners.
  • Experimentation with different methods – including part rent / part buy schemes and the conversion of rent into an equity stake in a stock of properties – would be encouraged.
  • Once a track-record is established, the most successful of these new paths to ownership would receive additional government help so that they can expand.
  • The long-term aim would be to switch the multi-billion pound flow of housing benefit money from the private rented sector to ownership-enabling social housing.

A community-led planning system

Building more and better housing still requires a planning system that is designed to deliver, not obstruct, these vital public goods. Despite some recent steps in the right direction, the planning process is still back-to-front – it starts off with developers deciding what to build, and then councils and local residents deciding what they want to object to. Conflicts are settled through an often long and expensive adversarial process in which the main beneficiaries are lawyers and consultants.

This needs to be turned around. The planning process should start with what the community wants. Developers should then be able to bid for the development rights – with resources reallocated from conflict to investment in quality design and build.

Therefore, we propose:

  • A pro-active planning system based on detailed Local Plans and Community Plans drawn up with the full participation of local residents – and subject to their final approval through a local referendum.
  • In developing these plans, councils and their planning departments would have enhanced powers to specify design details in keeping with the scale and character of established communities.
  • Providing the resources for the upfront urban design and architectural work required for pro- active planning would come from a reallocation of resources from the current reactive planning process – and, if necessary, a small levy on the sale of local building land.
  • Regulations that prevent new development from following the pattern of successful and sought-after old developments should be abolished – with the particular objective of allowing new housing to take the form of traditional streets. [16]
  • To allow detailed plans to be drawn up at the scale of a street or of a whole neighbourhood, councils should have enhanced powers to assemble the necessary parcels of land – in particular we propose the creation of an auctioning system that would allow landowners to sell purchase options on their land: selling such an option would increase the probability of land being included in future development plans; while buying the option would reduce the cost of actually buying the land should the option be exercised. [17]
  • Potential developers would be allowed to contribute to the proactive planning process and the purchase of land sale options – but councils would decide on the Plans put forward for approval by a referendum of local residents.
  • Developers, however, would have the right to initiate (and pay for) a referendum if councils were abusing the proactive planning process to obstruct rather than enhance new development.
  • The ‘planning gain’ system would be reformed to allow payments to go directly to the residents most immediately disrupted by new development.
  • In order to provide a further spur to action on the part of planning authorities, a ‘right to build’ measure should be considered on suitable, but under-utilised, publicly-owned land; it is important that this shouldn’t become a loophole for commercial developers – so the right should, for instance, be limited to self-builders and/or housing associations.

New garden cities for the 21st century

The current planning system isn’t just marked by bitterness and conflict, but by a stunted vision of what development can achieve. The planning disasters of the post-war period have erased our collective memory of an earlier and much more successful era of large-scale development – in particular the achievements of the garden city movement.

In the 21st century, the founding of new garden cities [18] would not only provide new homes and jobs, they would also relieve development pressures on existing communities. By focusing development in new communities we can avoid many of the pitfalls of the current approach to planning.

This could also be a vital opportunity to regenerate areas that are strategically located, but where there are obstacles to piecemeal development – the Thames Estuary being the prime example. [19]

Therefore, we propose:

  • The creation of Garden City Corporations – each of them covering a specific area and headed by a mayor directly elected by the local residents.
  • Building on the model pioneered by the London Docklands Development Corporation, the Garden City Corporations would coordinate planning, land purchase and public infrastructure investment within their areas – providing a one-stop-shop for clearing the various obstacles that typically stand in the way of large-scale regeneration.
  • As well as having a direct say through an elected mayor, local people would also have a direct financial stake through the allocation of shares in each Corporation – and the closer the impact of new development, the more shares they’d get.
  • The Garden City Corporations would therefore be publicly-owned, but profit-making – generating revenue through land sales and through the negotiation of deals with central government over the retention of tax revenues from new development.
  • Garden City Corporations would not be imposed from above, but would be subject to approval by local referendum – with central government incentives for the first Corporations to be approved.
  • The eventual aim would be to develop a network of Garden Cities as a counterpart to the existing network of National Parks: whereas the purpose of the Parks is to protect the best of Britain through careful conservation, the purpose of the Cities would be to build the best of Britain through visionary development.

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