Essex Boys Alter Planning Policy to Suit Themselves

Clearly Eric Pickoles and Brandon Lewis are altering planning policy to reflect the circumstances in their own South Essex authorities.

“to set out that in exceptional cases, where a local authority is burdened by a large-scale unauthorised site which has significantly increased their need, and their area is subject to strict and special planning constraints, then there is no assumption that the local authority is required to plan to meet their traveller site needs in full.” It adds: “The possible effect is likely to mean that those travellers evicted from the large-scale unauthorised site may not have their needs met in the local area and would need to relocate in order to find a suitable alternative provision.”

Which means of course that the need is shifted to North Essex and Herts.

Confused Nonsence from RICS about Amberfield Development

Making it vup as they go along


Introduce ‘amberfield': a planning class between green and brown

Local growth is impeded as a result of extensive (2-5 year) battles to bring forward land for development. To attract inward investment to the UK we need to provide certainty to investors and signal where we have a future pipeline of land.

Local authorities utilising local plans, should allocate sites deemed favourable for sustainable development as amberfield. Rather than planning classes of green and brown being inhibitors to development, amberfield would enable development. We ask government to concurrently undertake a national brownfield site review.#

How is this any different to allocating a site within phase I of a local plan for development.  Allocation has no necessary connection to its land use classification which is purely a matter of land use (statitical).  If they cant anser this question pleae consign the report to the bin.

Pickles Again Makes it Up as He Goes Along on Prematurity

Planning Portal

The existence of emerging neighbourhood plans has proved a key factor in the fate of four recovered housing appeals determined by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Three involved the same local planning authority, Mid Sussex District Council, and the same neighbourhood plan, drawn up by Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Parish Council. One involved Wiltshire Council and the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan.

The three Mid-Sussex schemes, each refused by the local planning authority, involved plans by Thakenham Homes for an 81-home development at College Lane, Hurstpierpoint; a proposal by Rydon Homes for 157 homes and 50 acres of informal parkland also at Hurstpierpoint and a housing-led, mixed-use scheme at Sayers Common involving 120 homes, a care home, retail units and offices proposed by Woodcock Holdings.

All these three cases were the subject of separate public inquiries chaired by the same planning inspector who recommended the latter case should be allowed, a stance the Secretary of State disagreed with.

However, he agreed with the recommendations of the inspector in respect of the Hurstpierpoint schemes, one of which – proposed by Rydon Homes – was allowed.

These proposals were allowed as the land involved had been identified for housing in the emerging neighbourhood plan (NP).

The Secretary of State’s decision letter said that “as the council has yet to complete an up-to-date objectively assessed housing needs analysis against which to measure the overall neighbourhood plan proposals, he considers it appropriate, as things currently stand, to tip the planning balance in favour of the emerging neighbourhood plan proposals”.

In the case of Thakenham Homes and the Woodcock Holdings schemes the SoS‘s decision letters made it clear that the fact the emerging neighbourhood plan had identified housing allocations elsewhere had tipped the planning balance.

The fourth case involved plans from developer White Lion Land for a 77-home scheme, together public open space and a community building, at Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The inspector who held the recovered appeal had recommended it should be allowed.

Pickles disagreed. His decision letter pointed out that the appeal site was towards the bottom of the list of 25 sites for housing during the neighbourhood plan assessment. The neighbourhood plan is due to be examined later this month.

Pickles said that in these circumstances “the immediate benefits of releasing the appeal site as a contribution to meeting overall housing demand in the wider area are insufficient to justify the release of this site so soon before the examination of the neighbourhood plan proposals”.

If a neighbourhood plan is advanced and the proposal is large this can tip the planning balance  against a proposal, however as para 14 of the NPPF stands if there is not an objective assessment of need this should tip teh planning balance in favour of the scheme, after all there is a presumption in favour of development.  How is an emerging neighbourhood plan different from an merging local plan? What is the incentive to get on and produce an objective assessmeny of need?  Another prematurity legal challenge coming on I fear.

RSLs Poorly Performing Planning Authorities Should be Stripped of Powers


London town halls that refuse to shoulder their share of solving the capital’s housing crisis should be stripped of some of their planning powers by Whitehall, a hard-hitting report says today.

The radical recommendation is made in a manifesto from the g15 group of major housing associations — including Peabody, Notting Hill Housing and Family Mosaic — that provide homes for about one in 10 Londoners.

The document, called Unlocking Land And Planning, says “poorly performing local authorities should cede powers to the Department for Communities and Local Government or a (possibly roving) Urban Development Corporation”.

The report also argues that the “nimby” lobby has too much influence over the planning process and poorly housed residents who stand to gain from approval for new developments should be heard during applications.

Brendan Sarsfield, who chairs the g15 and is chief executive of Family Mosaic, said: “Politicians in particular are afraid of the nimby vote. They worry if they go off the safe ground they will be criticised. Housing should not be looked at on a five-year horizon but on a 20-year horizon like other long-term issues such as pensions.”

The boroughs with the smallest number of new homes completed in the 2013/14 financial year were Kensington & Chelsea with only 20, Harrow (80) and Kingston Upon Thames (110). The g15 report continues: “Securing planning consent for major projects should not be a lottery.”

It also said councils that refused responsible plans should be forced to cover the costs of any delays if the projects were later approved by the GLA or Planning Inspectorate.

Other proposals in the report include a national Government-run competition for ideas to speed up the pace of development; a major review of the green belt leading to “a frank debate about its purpose and quality”; and encouragement for local councils to support new homes by taking an equity stake.

A spokesman for London Councils, which represents the capital’s town halls, said: “Boroughs are committed to addressing the capital’s housing crisis. They already grant permission for around 55,000 homes per year, well above the Mayor’s housing target. However, less than half this number is completed by developers annually.”

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 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.


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 (

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


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


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.



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