Tent City over Israel’s Housing Costs: Natanyahu proposes Controversial ‘Racist’, ‘Unbiblical’ Planning Reform

40 tents set up on Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Friday have galvanised the Israeli Body Politic.

Students from the left and right joined the protest and the main students union joining the protest yesterday threatened to set up similar tent cities across the country. The reason Israel’s high rent costs, exacerbated by high population increases, especially from Orthodox Jews, and high levels of absentee property ownerships by Jews from America in particular who only visit for a few weeks a year.

Knesset Member Miri Regev (Likud) was greeted with hostile chants and ended up fleeing the site Friday. She accused the organisers of being ‘anarchists’. The housing minister has talked of ‘those people’ prompting a furious response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost no time in taking political advantage.

“come to the Knesset and help me pass the historical Israel Land Administration reform tomorrow, only with its help will we be able to market apartments”, Netanyahu noted.

He explained that the problem stems from “two crazy bureaucracies – it takes five years to plan an apartment and additional time to market them. We are attacking both problems as we speak.

He was referring to extremely controversial plans to reform Israel’s land registration, allowing private freehold ownership in land and privatizing 5% of State owned land.

Since the origin of Isreal it has not sold land outright to homeowners. Instead, buyers have been given permission to lease the land for a period of 49 years, with an option to extend the lease. The rationale for state ownership of 93% of the total land area has always been that this is a key instrument for achieving ‘territorial and demographic stability’ or rather tilting control of land to groups it favours.

The problem is biblical, religious groups like the Dror Israel Movement claim that the proposed land reform violates a divine edict given in a passage from Leviticus: “And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (23:25)

The reform plan has come under attack from across the political spectrum by individual members of parliament, special interest groups, academic research bodies and nonprofit organizations. For that reason it has not passed the Knesset despite being in draft form since 2009. Opponents of the reform include environmental groups like the Land Protection Agency and Adam Teva V’Din, which are worried about the ecological implications that may arise from private ownership. As well as social activists who worry that the land will end up in the hands of large-scale developers. Protesters have rallied outside the Knesset holding up a large cake, representing the state being cut up and handed out to real estate tycoons. Protesters held up signs reading “And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity” and “Bibi, Barak and Yishai are selling Israel.”

The biggest concern have come from the Arab block, about clauses allowing kibbutzim to acquire freeholds subject to members passing an internal acceptance committee. Arab groups have long claimed these these act as gatekeepers blocking non-jews, and that this is unconstitutional. The land allocation process has long been used to tilt ethnic mix in areas such as East Jerusalem. So for example development plans could claim they were non-sectarian, which they have to be legal. But the land allocation process has favoured Jewish groups over Arabs. It has also allowed Bibi to claim, falsely, to international critics that the settlement process is just about meeting pressing housing need. In reality it is a process of restricting access to the land and tilting ethnic balance, in a process that harms both Jews and Arabs ultimately.

Sarkosy in Juno Beach Windfarm Row

Sunday Telegraph

Critics, including British veterans’ families, have slammed the decision to proceed with erecting more than 100 turbines more than 525ft high just seven miles off the Normandy landing beaches as a “sacrilegious” act.

The towering turbines risk desecrating the view from the Calvados coast, which has remained relatively untouched since thousands of Allied troops launched their assault from the sea on June 6, 1944.

The windmills’ flashing lights would ruin poignant night remembrance on Juno and Omaha beaches by giving off a “disco” effect, it was claimed.
Last week, Mr Sarkozy opened the bidding process for a massive €20 billion (£17.5 billion) project to erect 1,200 wind farms off the French Atlantic seaboard by 2020.

With nuclear power the dominant energy source, France currently has no sea-based turbines and is seeking to catch up with countries such as Britain.

Among the five projects in the first batch of tenders is one off Courseulles-sur-Mer, nearest to Juno Beach, one of the landing sectors on which 2,500 Allied soldiers died on D-Day.

Gérard Lecornu, president of the Port Winston Churchill Association of Arromanches.
“They will be visible from all the Normandy landing beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold Juno and Sword,” he said.
“Three million tourists come from the world over to the landing beaches. The first thing they do is look at the line of horizon from where the landings came,” he said. “D-Day is in our collective memory. To touch this is a very grave attack on that memory.”
More than 4,000 people from 50 countries have signed his online petition against the plan.

Jean-Louis Butré, head of the Federation Environnement Durable, an ecology group, said the wind farms would also scupper a five-year old drive to have the D-Day landing beaches recognized as a Unesco world heritage site.

The government claims the project, along with the other sites – two off the north Norman coast and two off the Breton coast – will generate as much electricity as two nuclear power stations, create at least 10,000 jobs and boost the local economy. The turbines will be so far away that they will be no bigger than “matchsticks” to the naked eye from the beaches, it insists.

Most local politicians have welcomed the plan.

“The transition to the 21st century by making the most of huge unexploited wind power off our coasts is not an insult to yesterday’s warriors,” said Mickaël Marie, president of the Europe Ecologie group at the lower Normandy regional council.

“Better to have a big project in the sea whose visual impact from the coast will be almost nil for places of remembrance than lots of little wind farm projects on land,” said Thierry Masson, general director in charge of environmental at the regional council.

Mr Butré said that his group would “intensify” its opposition.

“I even had one RAF pilot say that he was prepared to bomb the windmills if they went ahead with the plan. I think he was joking,” he said.

Chapeltown of Elsick New Town Plans to be Submitted Shortly

Here is a link to the latest DPZ proposals for a Small New Town near Aberdeen. A planning application is due to be made shortly and the development plan setting out the principle is due to be examined by the end of the year.

According to the Mearn Leader this week

A FORMAL planning application for a new town at Chapeltown of Elsick is expected to be submitted within the next few weeks.

Developers Elsick Development Co have confirmed that an outline application for the £1 billion project is due to be submitted to Aberdeenshire Council soon.

Proposals for the first stage of the development will be lodged at the same time, and would concentrate on the first 800 homes out of an eventual 4,000….

The masterplan is being developed by renowned planner and architect Andres Duany.

A secondary school, three primary schools, a health centre and business facilities are all included in the plans. The developers have said that they hope to create a walkable, mixed-use town with 40% green space, a town centre and strong transport links

As well as Duany Plater-Zyberg (DPZ), Walters and Cohen, London-based Brooks Murray Architects, Edinburgh’s Benjamin Tindall Architects and Covell Matthews are working on parts of the scheme.

Neighbourhood Plans in Midsomer – Proof of ‘rush’ to build more housing

So localism was supposed to lead to more enthusiasm for housing delivered through neighbourhood plans was it.  Lets look at some evidence.  Aylesbury Vale District Council, where most episodes of Misomer Murders are filmed –  recently had a report to cabinet.

They had written to all 112 Parish/Town Councils to see what there attitude was to additional housing.

Category What this means


A ‘Our community will want to see more development’


B ‘We want to explore with AVDC the issues around development before coming to a conclusion’


C ‘We think only very small scale development is likely to be right for our community, e.g. under 10 dwellings, or very small scale employment’


D ‘We think no development whatsoever is right for our community’


E No Parish Council/Meeting


Total returned


Awaiting returns from


So only 2 out of 112 neighbourhoods want to see more than 10 dwellings.  Middle England will decry the lack of housing in rural areas, just as long as it isn’t in their village.  Planning Officers or Councillors thinking otherwise are likely to be found bumped off in the woods at Badgers Drift.

Lets leave the final words to John Nettles himself :

I wouldn’t live here if you paid me in gold bars. Bucks is the noisiest county in England with four motorways – the howl can prevent filming – and then there’s the planes stacking for Heathrow overhead…

The locals will be grateful, after all they did flood John’s home in Jersey to build a reservoir.  Watch your back John, you can join Midsomer Murders, but like Hotel California, you can never leave.

Gridlock in Milton Keynes: Three Plans under threat

In June the Conservatives gained four seats from the Lib Dems and became the largest party at MK, although the Council remained under No Overall Control.

MK had already submitted a core strategy with 15% less housing than indicated in the SE Plan.  What is more much of the growth of Milton Keynes, the largest growth area in the UK, is outside its borders., into into Aylesbury Vale and Mid-Bedfordshire.  This is complicated by the fact that the Mid Bed expansion was in the EE Plan RSS area and so the SE Plan could only say – ‘subject to a review of the EE Plan’.

Subsequently the removal of the South West SDA from the Aylesbury Vale Core Strategy and the non-progression of the development area into Central Bedfordshire have gutted many of the growth proposals for Milton Keynes, leaving only a reduced area of growth in MK itself.

The Central Bedfordshire Core Strategy, adopted in November 2009, refers to the potential for the growth of Milton Keynes to cross the borough boundary into their authority’s area. South East Plan policy MKAV2 makes it clear however, that any growth in this area will be tested through a review of the East of England (EoE) Plan, a revision that now seems unlikely ever to proceed.  If the SE Plan were to be revoked however then the expansion could proceed – but at what scale?  The outcome of the South East Plan Examination in Public recommended that Central Bedfordshire accommodate 5,600 of the 10,400 dwellings.

At the time of the May 2010 Election the East of England Plan was under review and a figure in the region of 2,100 dwellings and a Green Belt extension were to be consulted on for Central Bedfordshire.

Aylesbury Vale withdrew its Core Strategy in October 2010.  No longer able to demonstrate a 5 year supply with the SE Plan reinstated in the light of the CALA II decision Aylesbury Vale is now faced with a ‘number of large opportunistic planning applications’.

MK is the first of these Core Strategies to come up for examination and naturally the Inspector has raised many concerns.

In the light of the Forest Heath Decision (Save Historic Newmarket Ltd v. Forest Heath District Council [2011] EWHC 606) she asked the council to review the adequacy of the SEA on reasonable alternatives to strategic development areas.  They have now re-consulted, although they indicated to the inspector that the hung council had great difficulty on agreeing precisely what to do.

However this will not meet the requirements of the EU directive on SEA.  The ‘plan or proposal’ being assessed is the strategic expansion of Milton Keynes, split between the three core-strategies.  The MK consultation confines itself to within the MK boundary.  In proposing less housing than  required they assume it will go somewhere else, as do Central Beds and Aylesbury Vale, but where?  What is the ‘reasonable alternative’ to assuming less housing – housing somewhere else – so assess that alternative.

The EU directive(1997/11/EC) is blind to LPA boundaries, it is an obligation on the UK government to implement.  The UK government can either set up regional structure to implement this or require local structures of joint working – what is known in legal jargon as ‘transposition’.  Even before the ‘duty to cooperate’ from the localism bill comes into force LPAs will need to ensure the directive is met by having structures that ensure cross boundary ‘plans or programmes’ are consulted on and assessed jointly.  Indeed it cannot be otherwise as a matter of natural justice.  If several LPAs either jointly agree on a plan and the first comes forward to examination, or fail to agree on any plan (as here) then the supporters or objectors to that plan or lack of plan need to be able to challenge it – to say that there is a reasonable alternative the LPAs have considered and rejected.  Otherwise the plan – or lack of a plan – becomes taken for granted and unable to be influenced by third parties.  How can this comply with the EU directive principle of ‘early consultation’ on reasonable alternatives, and able to influence outcomes.  The key case here is not Forest Heath but the NI Seaport Investments case.

The inspector has also queried, in the light of the CALA II case, whether or not the MK Core Strategy is in general conformity with the SE Plan.

She has stated

In the light of the  recent judgment in the Court of Appeal on the Cala Homes (South) case  (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/639.html), the Council is requested to give further consideration to the matter.

In particular:

i) is the Council satisfied that there is no conflict between the judgment  and the submitted core strategy?

ii) in the light of the judgment, does the Council wish to expand on MKC/1, setting out more detail of its case that there is general conformity with the South East Plan?

iii) following on from the above and reflecting the issue I have already raised (Inspector’s Note ID/2), does the Council wish to put forward any changes to the core strategy, or a conformity statement to be read alongside it, in order to clarify the relationship with the South East Plan and its relevant policies? This would be advisable and it will be helpful to give an early indication about how this will be addressed.

MK had argued, in effect, that a 15% reduction was still ‘in general conformity’

the reduction in the housing target is only approximately 15% across the borough … This level of reduction is not felt by the Council to be significant. The Core Strategy is therefore in general conformity with the South East Plan, having taken account of the fundamental changes that have occurred in the housing market, amongst others.

It is astonishing that they think this could wash, especially in light of the hard line taken by recent inspectors in Rossendale and Central Lancashire to downgrading of housing targets.  The Inspector hadn’t even got on to the impact of ‘Planning for Growth’ as yet.

They stated that they have no choice but to:

assume development outside of the boundary of Milton Keynes will not be allocated and is currently undeliverable. A similar situation occurred recently where the Stevenage Core Strategy which was found unsound on the basis that it was reliant on cross boundary growth to meet its housing target, which was shown to be undeliverable

Even though the Stevenage Decision was in the week before the CALA II decision and is likely to be challenged by Stevenage imminently.

Mk had relied on earlier caselaw on the interpretation of the meaning of ‘general conformity’, Persimmon Homes Ltd v. Stevenage Borough Council (2006)1 WLR, stating this implied a looser rather than a tighter interpretation.

This will not wash, that case was about the flexibility of implementing a strategic plan when that strategic plan was under review. There is no such review here.

It was also an issue more about timing than principle in that that case still allowed the delivery of the strategic development in the plan period. The MK core strategy would also frustrate the delivery of the SE plan by not carrying through the strategic extensions cross border. In effect the single most important strategic growth area in the SE plan would be removed and replaced with much less development in part of one authority only.

Mk are rightly concerned about whether the pace of completions in a single development area can reasonably achieve 700 units a year. The answer surely is to extend the period of the plan in that strategic development area and have back up areas in case the 5 years supply city-wide falls short.

Overall no other case better illustrates the utter chaos post 2010 in planning for strategic growth areas. The plans for Milton Keynes have been set back 10 years and threaten to sterilise the cores strategies or local plans of three districts unless a mechanism is found to resolve them.

European Banking Authority – Stress Tests Hid Full Extent of Sovereign Debt

Concern is rising at the adequacy of the latest round of bank stress tests released on Friday.  For example they only assumed a 15% hit on Greek sovereign debt when the secondary markets assume a 50% hit.

Analysts at Credit Suisse said on Friday said 14 should have failed with a total capital shortfall of €45bn.  18 times the amount that the EBA said the banks that failed needed to raise.


Andrea Enria, chairman of the EBA and other officials of the London-based organisation, fielded questions from analysts angered at what were quickly described as an “inadequate” set of tests.

Mr Enria is understood to have outlined the difficulties the EBA faced in conducting the stress tests on the 91 European banks that took part. He was asked why just nine banks failed, requiring total new capital of €2.5bn (£2.2bn).

The EBA was clear in methodology papers it released on Friday that it had faced great difficulties getting different national regulators and banks to provide accurate data.

Describing the process as “constrained”, the EBA admitted that figures given by the banks in some cases “materially” changed after being challenged.