When Greenbelt is and is not a measure for protecting the countryside

May I say at once that the designation of the green belt is not a measure for the protection of the countryside.’

JR James, a senior civil servant in a talk to the CPRE, 1959.

(Im grateful for Sam Stafford for this quote.

This quote may come as a surprise. However the Abercrombie Plan and the 1955 Green Belt circular never set this out as an objective.

Rather the aim was to shape urban growth preventing urban sprawl through displacing growth to New Towns and growth areas. The envisaged area of the Metropolitan Green Belt in the Abercrombie plan was around 1/5th of what it is today.

It was not a means of protecting the countryside, it could not be as countryside would still be lost, just on different places.

There was always a tension. The CPRE opposed the 1946 New Towns Act as it said all brownfield sites should be developed first. They therefore rejected one half of the great planning post war bargain. Also a ministry pamphlet from the 1950s celebrating the Green Belt was replete with photos of people picnicking in the North Downs, even through this was protected in postwar plans anyway (though not formally as AONB till 1968) and the 1955 circular (unlike the Abercrombie Plan) did not cite open space and recreation as a Green Belt purpose. Protecting land for agriculture was added and then later taken away.

This then is the great tension. As long as there is a national policy of strategic planning to displace housing from the Green Belt then countryside protection is not a policy aim, but as soon as this falls away then in political terms (whatever national policy says) it becomes a defacto aim as all the public sees is a Green Belt Policy protecting beautiful countryside.

This ten is the clue to reform of the Green Belt. The secret is to avoid ist being seen as a policy shift threating beautiful countryside.

Green Belt policy has adopted this ‘countryside protection’ fake purpose because consecutive post war conservative governments have avoided saying where development should go and delegated it to local authorities to say where it should not go.

Hence 3/4s of the Metropolitan Green Belt is the result of ‘non planning’ the aim of counties to displace growth to the next along county.

Also the post-war Green Belt was defined by a technical constraint that no longer applies. So for example the northern line was not extended past Edgeware because it was full. Modern signaling and express lines, such as crossrail 1 and 2 (proposed) would no longer suffer from this constraint.

Starmer’s Advisors Confusion on Green Belt


The 2010 NPPF did not change Green Belt policy. The advisors assumption is just one of repeated popular prejudice, of local campaigners thinking wrongly that every greenfield is green belt.

Bueuty of landscapes has never been a Green Belt purpose.

Ironically several changes to GB policy since 2010 have made it easier to build on Brownfield in Green Belts, also allowing housing need to be a VSC.

The vast majority of Green Field releases have been through local plans not a free for all. And most of the housing bappeals for release under S78 have been on proposed sites for release in emerging plans. Will this now get harder? Will the exceptional circumstances test stay.

Clearly if you are to reform Green Belt you have to understand it, and clearly the bearly out of shorts advisors to Starmer don’t understand it.

The Cala homes Green Belt Case

Reference: APP/M3645/W/22/3309334

Land west of Limpsfield Road

The site was a resolved proposed allocation in an emerging local plan. 1.5 years HLS.

93 . I have found that the appeal proposal represents inappropriate development in
the Green Belt, which is harmful by definition. It would also cause low to a
moderate level of harm to openness and limited harm to the two purposes of
including the appeal site in the Green Belt. In accordance with paragraph 148
of the Framework, any harm to the Green Belt must be given substantial
weight, weighing against the appeal proposal.

  1. In terms of other harms, my findings in respect of the effect on character and
    appearance, traffic and highway safety, living conditions, community
    infrastructure, footpaths and bridleway, flood risk and drainage are of neutral
    consequence and add no other harms to my assessment. The proposal accords
    with the overall aims of the relevant development plan policies set out in the LP
    and CS. Other potentially adverse effects would be overcome or satisfactorily
    mitigated by planning conditions and the Section 106 Agreement.
  2. On the other hand, the appeal scheme would assist in addressing the acute and
    persistent housing supply shortfall and would deliver affordable housing in an
    area of high need. I attach substantial weight to the critically needed housing
    benefits of the scheme. The appeal scheme would provide other benefits
    including the re-provision of enhanced sports facilities, a net gain in
    biodiversity and the accumulation of economic, social and environmental
    benefits that add moderate weight in favour of the proposal. Emerging policy
    also seeks to release the appeal site from the Green Belt for housing and is a
    matter that adds further moderate weight in favour of the proposal. Overall, in
    my view, I consider that collectively the other considerations in this particular
    case are of a very high order.
    Appeal Decision APP/M3645/W/22/3309334
    https://www.gov.uk/planning-inspectorate 16
  3. In that context, I find the harm to the Green Belt by reason of
    inappropriateness, and any other harm identified as arising from the appeal
    proposal, would be clearly out-weighed by the other considerations identified.
    Accordingly, the very special circumstances necessary to justify the
    development have been demonstrated and therefore a conflict with Policy DP10
    of the LP, and Paragraph 148 of the Framework, would not occur. Further,
    given the existence of very special circumstances, it follows that the application
    of the Framework’s Green Belt policies does not provide a clear reason for
    refusing planning permission.

Liverpool’s Economic Strategy should be Party City UK


Liverpool businesses have described “footfall like Christmas” thanks to an estimated influx of 500,000 visitors during Eurovision events in the city.

Hotels, restaurants and shops enjoyed a huge boost as Liverpool hosted what city region mayor said was the “most successful Eurovision Song Contest”.

.. Liverpool is also a winner with up to £250m in economic benefits over the next two years, Steve Rotheram said.

Up to 500,000 extra visitors flocked to the city during the EuroFestival between 1 and 13 May, according to early footfall data and figures from Merseyside Police, Liverpool City Council said.

So consider an approach where Liverpool spent a large figure, High tens of millions each year, hosting festivals, events and tourist services and management, attempting to become the Vegas or Dubai of the UK.

Historically people from Liverpool or Manchester would get away to New Brighton or Blackpool, now in decline beyond terminal. Before Covid the visitor economy was already rising fast, 38 million alone in 2018. Footfall rates are back to pre-covid and vacancy rates in the city centre are well below the NW average.

But it could do far more. Astonishingly there is nowhere for say Taylor Swift or Beyonce to play in Liverpool, perhaps the new Everton Stadium when built. Though it does now have reasonable conference and exhibition spaces.

Weekend occupancy rates in Liverpool are higher than London and the number of rooms, at over 8,000 is close to Manchester’s level.

Liverpool has a unique ‘brand’ as a music city. However it has been notoriously difficult to create longstanding venues on the back of the Beatles.

The 1960s era shopping centre St johns and Clayton Square needs the bulldozer and redeveloped as a modern leisure based attraction, with potentially the return of some key historic buildings and spaces foolishly lost in the 1960s and 70s. A refurbishment a few years ago failed and footfall has reduced.

Liverpool Waters should be rethought as a resort/them park/tourist areas rather than one seeking Chinese real estate investors.

More ambitiously the aim should be to return Atlantic Way to the front door to England role it played for 200 years getting rid of so much post watr tata and making it exclusive to trams, cycles and pedestrians.

Atlantic Way, once the greatest waterfront in England

When will the Planning Winter End?

There has never been a worst time for plan making. The rationale advice for most local authorities now is to pause until things calm down, without at the moment any real timetable for publication of a revised NPPF. The government is not even in a hurry as non planning’ achieves the same result as pushing forward, less development, less pain from complaining local authorities.

How did we get into this position? Fundamentally the NPPF was designed to put central government at loggerheads with local with its punishment based regime for those who didn’t plan for need. Other mechanisms for redistribution of pain from the most constrained areas, such as strategic planning, were stripped away. This over time, as many of us said at the time of the NPPF first coming in, would build up political pressure from grassroots conservatives as it would distribute contentious applications to villages rather than growth areas. The NPPF time was up.

Secondly the conservative party had gone through two failed and botched rounds of planning reform, zoning under Boris, Investment zones under Truss. With the failure of both the default position became Nimbyism. Also the collapse of regional initiatives such as the OxCam Arc and what regional and joint plans remained saw the puling away of means of reducing pressure in tory heartlands. Also foolish attempts to fix the needs system such as the urban uplift turned even these areas against the government.

It is difficult to see a position where revised policies will come into force and enough time to implement them this side of an election. Especially as a general election is likely to see their reversal. In a planning winter hibernation seems the best tactic.

Why Plans Disappoint

Sorry haven’t posted in a long while. Busy with work.

Also little in the way of planning new apart from bad news. This truly is a planning winter.

Which got me thinking as it just isn’t just England. Planning reforms and plan making seems to end in disappointment everywhere.

Why is this?

I think it is a mistake to consider planning a stable process of plan-review-plan-review…. etc

Rather successful plan making comes after a period of chaos, such as in England after each world war. Once stability is restored the forces of non-planning become far more powerful and it becomes difficult if not impossible to make plans because the pro-planning lobby lacks power and those who gain power from existing property interests outweigh them.

It is impossible to maintain or restore a planning golden age without enough chaos caused by non planning, once the chaos is cleared up memories fade.

That is why town planning was a movement NOT a system and never a bureaucracy.

Great and famous plans don’t get reviewed, think of one I dare you. They are always one offs.

This is a reason to be hopeful, and the planning winter and forces of Nimbyism will cause such chaos planning will return.

The ‘Great Resignation’ Caused by Housing Boom

Further evidence housing shortages are harmful to growth


Following the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. labor force participation declined significantly in 2020, slowly recovering in 2021 and 2022 — this has been referred to as the Great Resignation. The decline has been concentrated among older Americans. By 2022, the labor force participation of workers in their prime returned to its 2019 level, while older workers’ participation has continued to fall, responsible for almost the entire decline in the overall labor force participation rate. At the same time, the U.S. experienced large booms in both the equity and housing markets. We show that the Great Resignation among older workers can be fully explained by increases in housing wealth. MSAs with stronger house price growth tend to have lower participation rates, but only for home owners around retirement age — a 65 year old home owner’s unconditional participation rate of 44.8% falls to 43.9% if he experiences a 10% excess house price growth. A counterfactual shows that if housing returns in 2021 would have been equal to 2019 returns, there would have been no decline in the labor force participation of older Americans.

Calderdale Inspector Approves Loss of Green Belt


Principle of exceptional circumstances for the release of land from the Green Belt for housing and employment development

99. The Council has carried out a thorough assessment of potential capacity to accommodate housing and employment development in the borough. This work is based on evidence in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Study (2014) and Employment Land Study, and further refined by site allocation assessment work undertaken as part of plan preparation. The Council has sought to optimise site densities as part of this process whilst adjusting capacity to take account of site-specific constraints and other factors. Reasonable density multipliers seeking higher rates in town centres and accessible locations were used as a starting point, with bespoke assessments applied where feasible.

100. The assessment work shows that there is insufficient capacity within built-up areas or on suitable, deliverable and available non-Green Belt sites in the countryside in the area around Todmorden to deliver the identified housing requirement and employment land needs. As set out in Issue 1, the supply of suitable sites in the west of the borough is constrained by a number of factors, including topography, flooding and the SPA/SAC. Suitable and deliverable nonGreen Belt sites in the west of the borough were selected before options in the Green Belt.

101. The NPPF 2012 states that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances. The Council is aiming to meet identified housing needs in line with national policy and to deliver employment needs within the borough. The Council has held discussions with other authorities about accommodating needs but many of these authorities also have Green Belt land. The Leeds City Region Statement of Common Ground confirms that authorities in the sub-region have agreed to accommodate their own identified needs. The delivery of identified housing needs within Calderdale would help to provide homes for people and facilitate the delivery of additional affordable housing. The release of Green Belt land for employment would allow the Council to deliver its employment strategy and meet employment needs by offering a range of job opportunities. Without the release of Green Belt land in Calderdale a substantial amount of new dwellings and employment floorspace would not be delivered. Furthermore, the release of Green Belt land would align with the spatial strategy in the Plan which seeks to focus development in the eastern Calderdale Council, Calderdale Local Plan Inspector’s Report 26 January 2023 28 part of the borough where there is access to jobs and services, planned investment in infrastructure and higher market demand for employment space.

102. The Council has identified that 489 hectares would be released from the Green Belt. This includes some 371 hectares of land for housing and employment allocations (including the additional housing allocations). Site-specific modifications elsewhere in this report would reduce this figure slightly. The total figure of 489 hectares equates to about 2% of the total Green Belt land area in the borough. The proposed reduction is therefore relatively small and the overall integrity of the Green Belt would remain. The Council has identified its commitment to a number of environmental, access and open space projects in the Green Belt that will enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt in line with paragraph 81 in the NPPF 2012.

103. In the absence of reasonable alternatives, and given the benefits associated with local housing and economic growth, it is concluded that exceptional circumstances exist in principle to justify the release of land from the Green Belt to deliver housing and employment needs in Calderdale

Are Examinations in Public now a Waste of Time?

Maidstone Inspectors Letter

One of the key tests for the submitted spatial strategy is that it is an appropriate strategy for securing a sustainable pattern of development in the Borough. In contrast to previous tests of soundness, it does not need to be
demonstrably the most appropriate strategy. That said, in order to be an appropriate strategy, it needs to perform well against Sustainability Appraisal (SA) objectives when compared against other reasonable options and so result in ‘sustainable development’ in a Maidstone Borough context.

Hence the inspector didn’t at all cover the many days of hearings on alternative and rejected sites – so what was the point?

If the justified test goes the chosen sites dont even have to be evidenced. To be honest the deliverable test is not that important, if plans are not deliverable they will be quickly out of date. They will l be delivered in practice.

So the only real and necessary tests are effectively a nullity and the evidence of comparative environmental effects in teh SEA can be ignored.

The days of sitting in herings will just be pantomime nd the ability of inspectors to take robust views will be watered down. The purpose of a genuine consultative process with independent examination will be nullified as what the LPA says sticks and cant be challenged by other views. In this circumstance who could defend the need for examinations – they will become a waste of time and money.

Italian Minister wants to Protect San Siro Stadium – But has no Power to


The reason being buildigs have to be 70 years old in Italy to be classed s herutage assets.

Italy’s undersecretary for culture Vittorio Sgarbi has stated that Milan‘s iconic San Siro stadium, which was set to be replaced by a Populous-designed building, will not be demolished.

The minister promised that the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza stadium, widely known as San Siro, “will not be torn down,” reported online newspaper Milano Today.

At the end of December, Sgarbi said that his powers as undersecretary cover the San Siro stadium as a “heritage of contemporary architecture” and that he will submit an “issue of historical restraint” this month.

This would see the building protected against demolition based on it being a historical landmark. The year the demolition is set to begin, 2024, marks 70 years since a major post-war renovation was carried out at the stadium.

“I am convinced that the stadium should not be demolished, not so much for its architectural value as for the importance as a symbol and for the protection of memory,” Sgarbi told Italian newspaper Il Giorno.

“For this reason, as far as I am concerned, I will take all the necessary steps to prevent it from being torn down.”

Decision lies with mayor of Milan, says culture minister

However, Italy’s minister of culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, has stated that there are no restrictions on the stadium and that decisions about San Siro’s future rest with Milan’s mayor, reported Italian financial news website Calcio Finanza.

“The state of the art is this: at the moment, there is no constraint and it will have to be the mayor of Milan who decides what he wants to do, possibly also on the basis of ‘sentimental’ evaluations, given the reference to the iconic value as perceived by the football sentiment with which the superintendency itself invited alternative solutions to demolition,” Sangiuliano said this month.Read:Populous-designed Cathedral stadium set to replace Milan’s San Siro

The stadium, which was designed by architect Ulisse Stacchini and built in 1925, was extended between 1948 and 1955.

In 1990, ahead of the World Cup in Italy, it was extensively remodelled by Milan studio Ragazzi and Partners.

Populous stadium part of wider redevelopment of site

Football teams Inter Milan and AC Milan, which share the stadium, announced in December 2021 that it would be demolished and replaced by a stadium designed by architecture studio Populous.

The new stadium would be part of a redevelopment of the site and would be built next to San Siro, which would then be torn down.

Called the Cathedral, the Populous stadium design was informed by two of Milan’s best-known buildings, the Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade. The area around the stadium would become pedestrian-only, with existing parking moved underground.

The San Siro replacement has previously been criticised by architects, critics and heritage bodies. In 2020, architect Angelo Renna suggested the stadium could be turned into a tree-covered coronavirus memorial.