Ashfield Rips Up Local Plan after Truss’s comments on ‘Stalinist’ Housing Targets

Housing Today

East midlands council cites prime ministers’ campaign promise as justification for reducing housing numbers

An East midlands council has decided to rip up its draft local plan following comments by Liz Truss, during her campaign to become Conservative party leader, that she wants to scrap ‘Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets’.

Ashfield council’s Cabinet, which has been run by a group of independent councillors since 2019, agreed on Tuesday to review its local plan.

The council announced in October last year that it had paused work on its local plan in order to clarify whether comments by Boris Johnson expressing opposition to greenfield land development during the ex-prime minister’s speech to the Conservative party conference signalled a change of government planning policy.

liz truss

The prime minister promised to abolish ‘Stalinist’ top down local planning targets

The council has said it would be unable to meet its housing land requirements, which are calculated through the government’s standard method formula, without encroaching onto the green belt that makes up 41% of the district.

report presented to Ashfield’s cabinet this week cited a string of comments by Johnson’s successor Truss, when she was campaigning for the Tory leadership.

In relation to housing targets, Truss set out her intension to devolve powers over housing targets to local councillors who, she said “know far better than Whitehall what their communities want.”

The new PM added that wanted to end “one size fits all policy approach to housing” and have “different policies in different parts of the country” because the situation in Cornwall and London is “very, very different” to that in the north of England, or Scotland, for example.

The report also cites Truss’ media comment that she wants to “abolish the top-down, Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets,” which are “the wrong way to generate economic growth”.

The report by officers says the way councils’ housing need is assessed is ‘likely to change’, potentially resulting in Ashfield having to accommodate fewer new homes.

It also notes the PM’s rowing back from earlier support for green belt development to favouring “incremental expansion of villages” in the countryside.

Ashfield’s Cabinet backed taking forward a revised local plan that reflects these ‘recent national pronouncements on the Green Belt and housing numbers’.

The report warns though that the DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) has told Ashfield that alternatives to the standard method for calculating housing need should be used only ‘in exceptional circumstances’ and will be scrutinised ‘more closely’ when the local plan goes before public examination.

The report adds that the proposed review will mean some green belt sites identified in the draft local plan, which includes a new settlement near the town of Hucknall, would not be taken forward. However, a council spokesman said that the cabinet had not discussed which specific sites would not be allocated for development in the revised plan.

The delay would mean that the anticipated date for submitting the council’s plan for examination would be pushed back to 2023.

Ashfield, like all other English local authorities, has been set a deadline by the government to have an up-to-date local plan in place by the end of next year.

Ashfield’s decision to review its draft plan follows moves by a host of English councils, including the Essex districts of Basildon and Uttlesford, to delay or withdraw their blueprints in the wake of the government’s decision to abandon the radical planning reforms outlined in its 2020 white paper.

Yesterday the government revealed data showing that planning permissions had dropped to the lowest level for a decade.

Super Bonkers on Investment Zones – After a policy announcment on Saturday now One on Sunday

From the Depratment for Doing what you are Told even on a Weekend(DDWYATEOAW), after papers reports today whole thing was uncosted leading to indpartmenal rows.

Areas urged to ‘go for growth’ as Investment Zone applications open

Local areas can apply to host a new Investment Zone from today to boost growth, deliver homes and spread opportunity

  • Pushing ahead with its mission to level up, the government is encouraging councils to take full advantage of its offer to lower taxes and streamline planning rules
  • The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is inviting expressions of interest for Investment Zones from all local areas in England from today
  • Investment Zones will boost growth, deliver homes, spread opportunity and create jobs across the country.

Local areas wanting to turbocharge economic growth can apply to host a new Investment Zone from today (2 October 2022).

The government is encouraging councils to take full advantage of its offer of lower taxes and streamlined planning rules for specific sites to boost investment and development – both commercial and residential.

These offers will, as part of the government’s wider levelling up measures, drive serious economic growth that will be transformational for towns and cities across the country. They will create jobs, deliver new homes and spread opportunity.

Investment Zones could benefit from a range of tax incentives over the next 10 years, such as reliefs on business rates, stamp duty land tax and employer national insurance contributions.

Through Investment Zones, the government will also empower local places to deliver planning that is right for their area, while maintaining high environmental outcomes and keeping national Green Belt protections in place. To ensure this, local areas must agree in the EOI process to require mitigation of any adverse environmental impacts of the proposed development.

The government has been working with local areas to identify bureaucratic requirements, processes and red tape that needlessly slow down development or make it more complex than it should be – with Investment Zones set to benefit from simplified planning rules. This includes reviewing ineffective EU requirements, lengthy consultations with statutory bodies and onerous national and local policy rules.

The government has had encouraging discussions with 38 councils, from Cornwall to Cumbria, about proposals for specific, defined areas within the local authority that could become an Investment Zone. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is now inviting expressions of interest from those initial places and all other Mayoral Combined Authorities or Upper Tier Local Authorities and Freeports in England by Friday 14 October.

To ensure Zones have the infrastructure and skilled workforce that they need, the government will give greater control over local growth funding to local leaders.

Local authorities are being asked to keep growth at the front and centre of their plans by setting out the potential economic opportunities of an Investment Zone in their area, how they fit into the area’s wider economic strategy and how they will support long-term UK economic growth.

Investment Zones will be open to all but the government will set a high bar for establishing them, honing in on areas where they will have the greatest impact on growth and housing supply.

Bids will also be considered on the pace at which development can be delivered and should set out any live or potential, public, private or foreign direct investment that is likely to come forward.

Freeport governing bodies will be able to convert their existing tax sites to Investment Zones, should they wish to.

The UK Government wants the offer of Investment Zones to be extended across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is working with the devolved administrations on the best way to do this.

The deadline for expressions of interests is noon on Friday 14 October, and successful areas will be announced within weeks.

Question why would anywhere without a major port or gigafactory applicatio or a huge industrial area apply. Its mostly downside especillt for housing – i.e. you lose your S106 and affordable housing and have to apply an uber weak subset of the NPPF as we reported on last week, and would likley get everthig stuck in JR as you attempt to bypass primary legislation on environmental matters – actually slowing growth. Their simply is no financial incentives to councils. to bid aprt from business rates – if councils kept a portion of reduced Stamp Duty maybe – but the housing offer is pathetic and wont be much taken up. It has already failed.

My take on ythis para

Through Investment Zones, the government will also empower local places to deliver planning that is right for their area, while maintaining high environmental outcomes and keeping national Green Belt protections in place. To ensure this, local areas must agree in the EOI process to require mitigation of any adverse environmental impacts of the proposed development.

This is Trusses first u-turn as initially they the press reported did not agree to mitigation – required in the EU Habitat and EIA regs embodied in UK law – how ironic. Its not committment if already required by law – so SANGS, Nurient Nutrality, Recreeational Impact Mitigation. water nuetrality mitigation stay in place. Also ‘keeping national Green Belt protections in place means nothing’ Its a national [policy locally implmented] and Simon Clarke want to force Green belt reviews, as he hinted at in interviews this week.

Truss to Press Ahead with ‘Unlimited’ Investment Zones “Carpet Bombing the Entire Country”

Observer

Liz Truss is preparing to push ahead with an unlimited number of “investment zones” despite a row within the government that it could hand an uncosted blank cheque of tax breaks to businesses.

The Treasury is believed to have raised concerns about “carpet bombing the entire country” with investment zones, with the government about to announce an appeal for areas to apply within days – as the Conservatives prepare for their annual conference in Birmingham.

However, Whitehall officials, including in the Treasury, are extremely concerned about the potential liability of not capping the number of areas allowed to get favourable tax and planning treatment. There is also concern that some of the tax breaks under consideration will last for 10 years.

The extra unfunded spending comes after a week of market turmoil and a Bank of England bailout for pension funds on the back of the government’s mini-budget that promised £45bn of tax cuts paid for by borrowing.

Within the new investment zones, businesses will receive big tax cuts, with options under consideration including the abolition of stamp duty, employment taxes being slashed, planning rules swept aside and companies able to completely write off investments in plant and machinery.

An ongoing row has been raging in Westminster with some officials in the Treasury and Department for Housing, Levelling Up and Communities concerned about the potential implications of handing limitless tax breaks to businesses. At the mini-budget last week, Kwasi Kwarteng, the chancellor, did not put a costing on the policy.

One government source said there had been debate about capping the number but that Truss’s team had pushed back, despite officials raising concerns. The Treasury is among the departments to have objected but a source said Kwarteng would deliver whatever Truss wants.

Another Whitehall source said some in government have pushed for a cohort of several dozen, but No 10 repeatedly demanded more.

After 38 areas were approached and asked to consider becoming investment zones so they could be announced by Kwarteng in his mini-budget, the offer of making a formal expression of interest is set to be made to all local authorities. The announcement is understood to have been pushed back several times due to the row between departments.

There was no costing for investment zones in Kwarteng’s growth plan document, which said: “It should be noted that for some policies, for instance investment zones, full details on implementation are yet to be determined meaning that it is not possible to publish a costing at this stage. Such policies will be included in the public finances at a future OBR forecast, once there is sufficient certainty about their implementation.”

The controversial announcement has already drawn fire from tax campaigners, who described it as triggering a “race to the bottom”. The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, last week said the plans would result in “moving growth around the country, not creating growth”.

Planning changes under consideration include removing restrictions on height limits and potentially ditching requirements for affordable housing alongside developments, as well as other regulations such as environmental rules.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, said: “More unfunded borrowing in investment zones with no plan will only add to the market chaos made by the Tories.

“These investment zones will do nothing for levelling up. Slashing standards, destroying the environment and scrapping affordable housing is reckless and offers no prospect of sustainable growth.”

Not all Conservative MPs are impressed either, though the policy is less unpopular than scrapping the 45p tax rate and the abolition of the bankers’ bonus cap. One Tory MP said: “You either have investment zones or an investment country – if you want the latter, what’s the point in the former?”

A government spokesperson said they would “set a high bar” for establishing investment zones and anticipated “a specific number” across the country where they will have “the greatest impact on growth and housing supply”. The spokesperson added the zones would offer lower taxes and streamlined planning rules to help “spread opportunity to level up the entire country”.

Local Plans in a time of Government Storms

Is it possible now to predict what will happen to government policy and legislation one week to the next?

I don’t think it is.

Last week you might have assuned that yeah sometime early next year the LURB BIll will get Royal Assesnt, the new NPPF will be out, local plan making will be a bit less uncertain.

This weekend with back benchers plotting as poll numbers dive it seems it will be difficult to get legacy Gove legislation through let alone any more radical bill needed such as ‘dissaplying’ the Habitat directive in investment zones.

With legislative options becoming difficult, or likely to take years, and the government hungry for supply side reforms they might just go for changes that can be made through policy changes and secondary legislation. Think Green Belt which has not appeared on the face of any post war planning legislation.

So one scenario is Simon Clarke simply abandons the ‘Wakeford Doctrine’ that planning policy changes are announced in draft form and consulted one. We have partially abandoned it already, the Investment Zone document is billed as ‘Guidance’ with the policy being announced in the Budget Red Book.

Clarke has announced in speeches and interviews four big things:

  1. End to ‘Stalinist’ Targets
  2. Reduction in Power of PINS
  3. Green Belt Reviews – esp around stations
  4. Investment Zones – employment cores, housing fringes, with new ‘incentives’

Now we know don’t we the Quod NPPF ‘build what you like where you like when you like’ incentive – don’t meet the 5YHLS, don’t have a local plan in place – presumption.

How would it work – esp on Green Belt Release – without some measure of whether need is being met?

Civil servants must be scratching their head on that one.

I note however that most of the proposed investment zones, apart from West Midlands, South Part of Essex and East Part of Kent have little Green Belt. I also note that incentives wont be financial – we are in a new age of austerity and Clarke has announced the new style of leveling up is not about government funding.

So in investment zone areas – in a system without a standard method – promoters of large sites might go straight to appeal as whether a LPA has a 5YHLS or not no longer matters. There might also be a system – like the one in many jurisdictions, where developers submit their own masterplan/zoning proposals directly to government. So the incentive is either you plan or you get it anyway, we cant wait four years until your new plans are adopted. I note such direct approvals common in countries with Special Economic Zones – the forerunner of freeports and investment zones. Ive frequently done masterplans and zoning plans in such areas. So this is incentive – plan, approve or developers will get powers to approve it themselves.

This still leaves the same problem as the current NPPF, little incentive to do anything in Green Belt Areas. Perhaps they might however apply the favoured technique as the 55 Tufton Street Gang recommend – i.e automatic sunset clauses on regulations (which includes local plans and Green Belt – unless they are revised). Indeed I have toyed myself with whether or not this would be a good idea as it forces Green Belt to be part of an up to date strategy, its original purpose, rather than as it has become freezing a strategy introduced 40-50 years ago in place forever; irrespective of the circumstances.

So do LPAs have any good options?

One might be do nothing – the ride out the storm option. Your LDS is out of date so what, if government won’t take special measures, and the enhanced special measures in the LURB bill, with the bill having an uncertain fate, just ride out the storm. We may even have a new PM by Xmas.

Another option is to pause , freeze or stop. Though much attention is given to the ‘Naughty step’ list in Plnning the circumstances of the authorities on it are al different. Some ran out of money, some took measures to scrap (Castlepoint and Basildon) and start again – gaming the system, other decided to make a non-decision and not even put to full council (Basingstoke). Others have had resolutions of varying degrees of legal dubiousness changing timetables without changing the LDS (not unlawful but dodgy, and may simply encourage appeals or go direct to government as above if developers feel the plan is being put in a chiller with a padlock on door and key thrown away) , withdrawing LDSs (no provision for that in the Act or Regulations) it goes on. At lease the LURB Bill in schedule 7 would have cleaned up this mess with statutory timetables.

So perhaps the best advice is to not set a firm course in a raging storm and stay in harbour until the storm is over.

Bonkers times.

Observer – Tory Mps in Talks to Block Planning Reform

Observer

some Tory MPs are already in talks with Labour over how to block elements of the prime minister’s plans, with parliamentary rebellions looming over likely real-terms cuts to welfare, planning reforms and a new wave of austerity.

This really is snatching defeat from the jaws of Victorym as the LURB bill was at an advanced committee stage. The only real controversy was over the uncertainty over much of the bill regaridng details to be fleshed out in secondary legislation. Now nobody trust minister not to do stupid things.

@SimonClarkeMP to Stop ‘hammering’ Local Authorities with Housing Targets – But he has a far bigger Hammer to Bash them With: Libetarian Deregulation of Green Belt and Planning Law to Defeat ‘Curse’ of the Nimbys

Planning

Government should stop ‘hammering’ communities with ‘top-down housing targets’, says new secretary of state.

The newly-appointed levelling up secretary has said the government should move away from the “top-down housing targets” that “poison” the relationship between government and local communities and promised to create some “rational incentives” to aid the delivery of new homes.

Im sure was in commons but need to track down exact source in Hansard.

Ive heard the ‘Hammered’ phrase before from a council leader ‘Dorset’ maybe can’t remember. just the kind of Saloon Bar talk you get on the Tory leadership campaign.

Where too start? Well lets look back at the days before inspectors reports were binding – the current political theme is to knock them down a peg or too even though all they do is implment government policy. PINs have always been a patsy to prevent the SoS getting blood on their hands from assassinating NIMBY council leaders with decisions on plans and applications which conform the SoS’s own policy.

I remember before the 2004 act, in 2002. There was a recent case of the Hammersmith and Fulham Local Plan inspectors report where the local council had just ignored almost all the inspectors key findings on the King Street big roundabout scheme. The legally commentary in the planning encyclopedia I think was it brought ‘the development plan system into disrepute’.

At the time how to reform the local plan system was very much in the government’s mind. The Treasury wanted to abolish local plans (serious i was in the room) and im not worried about Chatham House rules any more as a) its 20 years later and b) pretty much everyone else involved is now dead or retired and history needs to be told. I recommended that local plan inspectors reports were made binding and what later became known as a ‘soundness’ finding was made they became directly adopted (avoing the silly Castepoint problem). Before they were binding the SoS had to directly intervene in many many local plans and structure plans it was a nightmare. A good example was the West Sussex SP where they tried to push down dramtically their housing numbers with evidence they later admitted was not supportive of their case.

So non binding has been shown by hitsory to have failed. Lets move on to next issue ‘targets’.

Firstly as many minister have said they never were targets and I always tell people

a) the word target is nowhere in the planning acts or bills

b) the word target is nowhere in the NPPF or NPPG

So talk of amending the Levelling Up bill to abolish targets is just bullshit, its a matter of planning policy not law and it isnt even national policy.

National Policy arose because of the useful amendment introduced a few years ago of the standard method.

The idea didnt come from me though I lobbied for it but the underlying term ‘Objectve Assessment of Need’ did come from me.

Before we had some standardisation of what housing need was it was chaos, local authority after local authority hired tinpot one man band consultancies to manipulate and mangle demographic statistics to push numbers down because they didnt want housing. If you had three options for housing numbers consultation always showed support for the lowest number (as Nimbys write green ink letters of objection, hard working young people in need of housing don’t and often are forced to live in overcrowded acomodation elsewhere where they dont get to hear about the latest consultation in Nimbyland ‘Developers go away district council ‘95% greenbelt err greenfield and proud of it’ (im only half joking one east of England authotity really does have a motto like that)). So they chose the lowest number. It was a joke. It was too many degrees of freedom to handl what large sites and what

Pickles of Course abolished ‘Soviet’ Housing targets and strategic plans

Estate Agent Today

Clarke has backed Truss in opposing top-down housebuilding targets.

A Twitter post during the Conservative Party leadership contest said: “Building more good homes is a top priority. Creating rational incentives and reassurances for communities to embrace them is vital. 

“The cult of top-down targets, however, has become a toxic distraction and Liz Truss is right to say she would scrap them.”

He still appears committed to building new homes though and has previously tweeted: “If we do not build the homes we need, where we need them, it will be a disaster for  the Conservatives.

Commenting on his new role last night, Clarke said: “It’s a huge honour to be appointed Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

“Delivering on levelling up for communities in all parts of our country, unlocking the homes we need and supporting the economic growth that is so central to Liz Truss’ government is our mission – will give it my all.

“This is a department that I know really well, and which I am so looking forward to returning to – the commitment and expertise of officials there on themes as diverse as homelessness, building safety and devolution is second to none.”

Housing Addressed: Freeing up land, while protecting the environment September 2018 Thinkhouse

Levelling Up Minister – We need ‘sensible Adjustments’ to Green Belt which is now too large

Times

The fact the green belt is larger today than it was when Margaret Thatcher came to power is an extraordinary state of affairs,’ he said.

‘We need to look at a planning system where we make sensible adjustments which don’t threaten communities and most fundamentally are about going with popular consent, and actually creating incentives that allow local areas to back growth.’

Under Thatcher the size of the Green Belt doubled, after she backed down following controversy in 1983 when Clarkes predecessor Patrick Jenkin proposed rather mild reform to ensure Green Belt changes were sensibly planned and kept up to date with strategic policy, with reviews where necessary.

Channel 4 News – Garry Gibbon – Government’s ‘Operation Thunder’ Planning and Supply Side reform to ‘calm markets’ unlikley to Pass Commons as MPs No Longer Trust Truss Competancy

Libe on tonights news – confirming our exclusive yesterday that the sweep all planning and red tape controls – 6 announcments in 6 weeks – was called ‘ Operation Thunder’ after the carpet bombing of peasents in Vietnam. Did the original Operation Thunder win the war? No it lost it. Doesnt Kwateng have a PhD in History?