Although many complicated interpretations of the NPPF decision rules have been advanced over the years the courts have increased developed the ’tilted balance’ doctrine. over various complicated other approaches.
For example in the Suffolk Coastal/Cheshire East case the doctrine is
In the absence of relevant up to date development plan policies, the balance is tilted in favour of sustainable development and granting planning permission except where the benefits are ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweighed by the adverse impacts or where specific policies in the NPPF indicate otherwise.
This is underlined by two instances where the NPPF uses the term ‘Great Weight’ no less than 6 times, when their is Great Weight on one side of the scale and not yours you cant usually win – simple.
Appeals often focus on two environmentally protective Great Weights, AONB and Heritage Assets. Even where the harm is less than substantial harm to an heritage asset which might itself not be of the highest category then recent appeals, especially recent SoS appeals, suggest they will lose.
A good example is an SoS appeal decision today on Chiswick Roundabout.
Overall, the Secretary of State disagrees with the Inspector at IR12.164, and finds that the moderate weight to be attached to the benefits of the appeal scheme in terms of housing provision, workspace provision and economic benefits, are not collectively sufficient to outweigh the great weight attached to the identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to the significance of the above heritage assets. He considers that the balancing
exercise under paragraph 196 of the Framework is therefore not favourable to the proposal
In other words a single building by itself is unlikely to outeigh Great Weight.
Hang on though that isnt government policy.
support the development of windfall sites through their policies and decisions – giving great weight to the benefits of using suitable sites within existing settlements for homes; (NPPF para. 68C)
Windfall sites are by nature mostly small and scattered. Their public benefits come from their cumulative public benefits rather than their individual ones, in achieving urban intensification. This presumably was what this NPPF section was getting at. Why therefore was it not referred to once i the inspectors no SoS letters, why did they put their finger on the balance?
In terms of making progress towards a zero carbon future there is a clear path head for decarbonising energy emissions and transport emissions (on roads if not by air or sea). The big unknown is heat which currently is now 80% supplied by Gas.
There are basically two choices – as the National Infrastructure Commission stress – Heat Pumps or re purposing the gas network towards hydrogen. The first higher benefits, the latter lesser. I think the latter makes sense for three reasons.
- It utilises the sunk costs in terms of investment in gas networks
- Gas boilers are more efficient
- If you can produce a zero carbon gas source it rescues the potential for CHP/Cogeneration – which makes increasingly little sense with Carbon Gas power
As new style strategic plans are produced around the country a key question each will need to answer is what will be the zero carbon source of heat for all of these strategic growth locations and new communities? Currently there is no clear answer.
Another issue is whether current Co2 energy producers will be forced to ‘keep it in the ground’ an issue which makes many in the middle east fall asleep in a cold sweat. Though I think heat pumps are the long term solution the main advantage of a bridging technology of re purposing Coal, oil (to gas via syngas) and Gas (LNG then regassified) is it gives Russia, China and the Middle East a reason to invest to maintain their markets. I cant see anything more dangerous geopolitically than a zero carbon future where the economies and infrastructure of Russia, China and the Middle East are wiped out.
The key technological piece in the jigsaw puzzle is what you do with the Co2 which is the byproduct of syngas hydrogen from Coal, Oil or Gas? You can store it underground but it makes much more sense to use it commercially. A small amount can be used to make carbon fibres and plastic, you can use it to cure concrete, but natures way is to embed it in plants such as trees, if those trees are then used for building materials which are ultimately recycled it is a carbon sink.
Imagine a LNG/Oil terminal – like the Isle of Grain link to a regassification plant and pipeline to Coryton North of the Thames (a former oil terminal becoming the Thames Enterprise Park) where there is a cogneration CHP plant feeding hear and power to the several garden communities to the North that will emerge in the South Essex Plan (as well as Basildon and Southend) – the wast Co2 is then fed to ‘vertical farms’ glasshouses up to 15 storeys high, growing vegetables using the ‘dutch methods’ or fast growing bamboo. The bamboo then being processed into laminates using the Cross Laminated Timber (though grass here) method. In one stroke we have a zero carbon material to build the Garden Communities and a more than sufficient compensation for the limited loss of farmland to build them. Surplus bamboo can be burnt anaerobically and carbon fixed in the soil as biochar. As a result all hydrocarbon based fertilisers can be phased out in a generation. This is known as Quadgeneration
What is more is providing a secure market for there products investors in the gulf would be queuing up to invest in the infrastructure; and as an extra bonus the syngas process can be used as the elusive means of storing surplus renewable power through acting as the energy input to the syngas process.
The Thames Estuary is the only part of England with the port access, hydrocarbon infrastructure and strong housing demand (as well as good soils) to make this work.
Quad-generation in the Netherlands
Oxford Mail Nathan Briant
The recommendation said ‘alongside satisfactory progress being made on resolving issues in the emerging Local Plan, work on a subsequent Local Plan shall commence, strengthening climate change considerations’
I.e. they keep the current local plan examination, and the inspectors have confirmed by letter that unless they raise soundnes concerns they can’t reduce the housing numbers by main modification, and uin parell work on a future plan which is already of course going ahead anyway across Oxfordshire. In otherwords a fudge (a word mentioned 13 times last night I fiind through twitter) making it look like your reducing housing numbers when the very predictabvle government response to teh growth deal knocks the idea back.
A COUNCIL will ask for time to decide if it wants to change a critical housing plan but keep £218m of key Government infrastructure funding.
In the latest twist as South Oxfordshire District Council seeks to pass its Local Plan, its new Liberal Democrat/Green coalition was accused of ‘fudging’ a decision by opponents.
The coalition swept to power in May promising to scrap its unpopular Local Plan but now it has said it needs more time to decide what to do.
It said it wants to ensure £218m that would be spent on improving infrastructure in and around Didcot is not lost.
South Oxfordshire council’s cabinet member for planning, Leigh Rawlins, told a packed meeting it ‘wouldn’t be sensible to make a knee-jerk decision and crash on’.
The coalition has said it also wants to build an appropriate number of new homes. But it believes the need for about 28,000 that could be built in the district before the mid-2030s is unproven and far too high.
The decision leaves potential planning sites at Grenoble Road, Chalgrove Airfield and Culham up in the air for at least a few more weeks.
The council will now seek to get county council and Government reassurance that the £218m in Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) money will be secure regardless.
The county council, which has led the bid, said it wants to sign it off in September.
District council officers had urged councillors to continue with the current Local Plan, which seeks to build on several contentious Green Belt sites. But 20 councillors to 13 voted to try to keep HIF money and delay the plan.
More to follow later.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you to ask if we can have our cake and eat it.
We understand this is your favorite pastime and so you should be sympathetic.
We want to keep the growth deal and reduce the housing numbers. As a result you will be able to claim you are supporting housing growth but without the brother of Nimbys voting against you.
What is more we understand cake eating fortifies you to hunt unicorns, we intend to look for some nice unicorn zero carbon sites outside the Green Belt and close to Oxford where people wont drive to them.
With speculator timing one day after the Cherwell inspector made points 3 and 4 moot – If you want to tackle a climate change emergency you have to minimise development distances to Oxford and meet Oxford’s settled need in full. South Oxfordshire know they cant win this one and are just looking for a scenario where they can blame Boris and/or try to pull out a mythical unicorn site.
Note this very confusing recommendation talks about a new plan but does not resolve to withdraw the current one, which only full council can do. Of course the panel of inspectors will ask what thjis means, it means nothing it is political posturing designed to make it look like they are withdrawing the local plan while keeping it as a back up plan. It is very likley that the joint Oxfordshire local plan will be carbon neutral by design, just like the Greater Cambridge Plan, no point in working on two future local plans.
The current draft plan was ready for its final stage, going to a government Inspector for approval, just before the local elections in May. But the new administration, now led by a coalition of mainly Greens and Liberal Democratics, wanted to take a fresh look at it in the light of the council having declared a Climate Emergency, and possible changes in Oxford City’s Local Plan regarding its housing numbers, and other concerns.
At it’s meeting last night, July 11, Cabinet agreed the following recommendation to full Council, members of which will consider it at their next meeting on Thursday, July 18, 2019:
“That the Council:
(1) express its determination to maintain its housing land supply and avoid speculative housing development;
(2) express its continued support for the Housing and Infrastructure Fund (HIF) funding and the proposed infrastructure projects that will be delivered by it;
(3) ask officers to explore with Oxfordshire County Council, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England options for protecting the HIF funding whilst enabling the council to address concerns about the current emerging Local Plan 2034 including (but not limited to) climate change issues and Oxford City’s unmet housing need, and to report back to Cabinet and Council;
(4) recognising that the Climate Change Emergency is all too real and is recognised to be of key and statutory importance under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the associated objective of “zero carbon by 2050”, express its wish to do all that it can to respond through the Local Plan process;
(5) agree that as soon as practicable, alongside satisfactory progress being made on resolving issues in the emerging Local Plan, work on a subsequent Local Plan shall commence, strengthening climate change considerations.”
Any new plan will be subject to a public consultation before it is re-submitted for inspection.
South Oxfordshire district councillors will tonight be asked to request whether it would be possible to keep £218m of government funding and change its controversial Local Plan.
The council’s former Conservative administration backed building on Green Belt land, including at Grenoble Road, south of Oxford.
But the Conservatives lost control of the authority in May. Since then, a Liberal Democrat-Green coalition has urged caution on approving thousands of new homes which they have said are unnecessary.
South Oxfordshire council will seek to ‘protect’ £218m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund – which could ‘unlock’ 13,400 new homes – while also agreeing to reverse work done by the previous council on its Local Plan.
An insider candidly claimed the authority is seeking to ‘kick the can down the road’ so Lib Dems and Greens can decide on more palatable housing sites over coming months, while keeping government money.
But it is unclear what any delay to South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan would mean for the Growth Deal. Some officers have said they worry the government could ditch it entirely if conditions are not met.
If they decide on a new site outside the GreenBelt the inspector is likely to favour South of Grenoble Road and they will get the new settlement anyway in the joint plan – just like Strateford on Avon District which got two for its pains of dithering.
Cherwell Examination Letter
The Inspector fopund tghe OGB apportionment of Oxford’s needs sound and not out of date, which means South Oxfordshire have no reasonable chance of resubmitting with lower numbers and it being found sound. If they try and withdraw the local plan they could face legal challenge.
Put simply, the approach taken is to locate the housing and infrastructure required as close as possible to Oxford, along the A44 and A4165 transport corridors. To my mind, while most of the allocations proposed are in the Oxford Green Belt, this is an appropriate strategy because it is that most likely to foster transport choices other than the private car and minimise travel distances, and least likely to interfere with the delivery of housing elsewhere in Cherwell.
The Council has set out why it considers that the exceptional circumstances to justify the removal of land from the Oxford Green Belt are in place. I agree that the pressing need to provide homes,
including affordable homes, to meet the needs of Oxford, that cannot be met within the boundaries of the city, in a way that minimises travel distances, and best provides transport choices other than
the private car, provide the exceptional circumstances necessary to justify alterations to Green Belt boundaries.
I have no doubt that the North Oxford Golf Club is a much-valued facility. However, the site it occupies is an excellent one for the sort of housing the Plan proposes, given its location so close to
Oxford Parkway, with its Park & Ride, and its proximity to the centre of Oxford. In that light, I do not find the allocation proposed in Policy PR6b – Land West of Oxford Road unsound, in princip
Draft Greater Cambridge Energy SPD
Gas fired CHP is considered a low carbon technology and as such can be counted towards the 10% requirement. Once the infrastructure is installed, the type of fuel used can be altered more easily than the infrastructure being put in later, and therefore has the potential to be changed over to a renewable fuel. However, there are some important considerations that must be factored in to determining whether CHP will be feasible for a particular development. Applicants will also need to be mindful of Government’s intention to ban gas boilers in new homes from 2025 in a bid to tackle climate change.
Coupled with the proposed changes to the carbon intensity of electricity in SAP 10, which takes into account the decarbonisation of electricity, a long terms view of the carbon emissions associated with gas CHP should be taken into consideration.
From my discussions with specialists in this field it seems electricity off the grid will be lower carbon that gas powered CHP by as early as 2021-2022, why therefore embed a sub optimal technology. CHP and district cooling might make sense but only where off a low carbon power source.
One possibility is to drive them with ground source heat pumps – see this DECC report from 2015. These are new to the UK but there are good European examples such as Helsinki city centre, which innovatively extracts heat from sewage.
The view of housebuilders is that this is just too experimental for their low risk business model, and why should they dig expensive networks when they can just superinsulate which the forthcoming Future Homes standard would require under part L anyway? There is also the concern that houseowners may resist being locked into high price future power contracts without chance of switching (the CHP market is correctly unregulated).
To my mind the current technology seems to offer little carbon advantage for the typical housebuilder site of 1-300 houses which will inevitable pug into existing networks. Where CHP may have a role is in new settlement scale areas where CHP might form part of a utility and network scale design solution integrating wastewater and power solutions.