Baby Boomers to Blame for the Debt Crisis?

Surprising good piece at CNN about whether the ageing of the baby boom generation is responsible for the debt crisis

Good quote
‘any good demographer would have told you 20 years ago that we would be hitting the wall around now’ (William Frey, Senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute.)

Im sure in 20 years time the economic history books will be stressing structural issues from demography, peak energy, uneven development and inequality, and capture of elites by the financial sector, over and above ‘stupid’ bankers, and ‘dumb’ politicians. Stupid and dumb forever and always in history.

You cannot get away from that the Baby Booming generation is the main recipients of rentier income from land, from stocks, and from transfer payments from taxpayers.  Whilst their children’s generation is the main payers of rent and taxes with limited potential to save,

Duty to Cooperate in Action (or not) – South of Oxford

The RRS for the SE, the SE Plan was subject to a successful JR on part of the plan relating to the ‘South Oxford Strategic Development Area for 4,000 homes- just over the border in South Oxfordshire, on the basis that a deletion of green belt should be subject to a ‘strategic’ review of all locations around Oxford and that should be subject to SA/SEA.

The Treasury Solicitor (TS) indicated in an E-mail of 18 February 2010 that, following precedent in the East of England, he was minded to delete both the SOSDA proposal for 4000 houses and the Central Oxfordshire subregional total, but not to make any reduction in the overall region-wide total for South East England. Not all the parties to the proceedings were content with that wording and a formal Consent Order has not been concluded. On 12 May 2011 the TS wrote to Sharpe Pritchard, Parliamentary Agents, to indicate his view that, in the light of the passage of the Localism Bill, a Consent Order is unlikely to become necessary and asking the parties not to bear any unnecessary costs while the proceedings are effectively in abeyance.

However this was all prior to CALA II.

The Inspector asked going into the South Oxfordshire EiP

Despite this, some believe that the City will eventually outgrow its capacity for growth within its boundaries and will therefore require some form and amount of related development to take place somewhere beyond them. If a statutory duty to co-operate is enacted, joint working between the City and its neighbouring authorities would be required to resolve this matter. However, it is not currently clear when this issue would need to be addressed, nor by what mechanism any such work would be set motion. Similarly, it is unclear what – if anything – a sound South Oxfordshire CS would currently need to say about this matter. Comments will be sought on this issue.

S Oxon replied

If [Oxford] outgrows its capacity for new development within its boundaries it would be appropriate to discuss with neighbouring authorities the opportunities available for growth outside the city boundaries. If a duty to co-operate is enacted, as we are led to believe it will be, then all the authorities on the city’s boundaries will need to be involved in the process. The process would need to follow any guidance available at the time and to include an exploration of all the options available, with sustainability appraisal and appropriate assessment of those options. Without an overarching regional tier we anticipate that Oxford City Council, the authority who can identify the need, or possibly the Oxfordshire City Region Local Enterprise Partnership could initiate this process, this may be made clearer through forthcoming legislation.

It is clear from the earlier information supplied by the Council to the Inspector relating to the High Court challenge that the SEP policy for an urban extension to the south of Oxford effectively has no status. If an urban extension to Oxford is required all options around Oxford need to be explored. Without a regional agency to initiate the process and in the absence of any new guidance it would be inappropriate to refer to the urban extension in the South Oxfordshire Core Strategy unless reference has been made to the need in the Oxford Core Strategy and in core strategies for all the other authority areas affected.

And Oxford City Commented [The core strategy] needs to acknowledge that there is a sub-regional housing need, a substantial part of which may have to be accommodated in its area. The need for the 4,000 dwellings has not simply gone away.

The inspector concluded in a preliminary note (the examination concludes in Nov)

I consider that SOSDA raises no fundamental soundness issues for the CS. The only outstanding issue could be a limited one:

whether or not a sound CS needs to commit SO to working with its sub-regional neighbours to find ways of catering with the situation that could occur if (as suggested by the evidence considered at the SEP examination) the City eventually outgrows its capacity for growth within its own boundaries. However, the recently-adopted City of Oxford CS does not refer to SOSDA and it is currently unclear when the potential future growth needs of the Oxford sub-region would need to be further addressed, or by what mechanism. Consequently, this does not appear to be a current soundness concern, but a potential one for the future which would need to be addressed by any then-current ‘duty to cooperate’.

[I note that there is no evidence or suggestion that South Oxfordshire’s own ‘local needs’ require 4000 houses to be located in the Green Belt on the edge of the City Council’s area.]

The inspectors reasoning is, with respect, deeply flawed. The adopted core strategy for Oxford implies a building rate for the city well below the housing need from the latest HH growth figures. Well before 15 years there will be a need for some growth in the Central Oxfordshire area which will require a strategic review of the Green Belt. The inspector’s concept of a ‘current soundness concern’ is a flawed concept. Plans have to be sound over their lifetime, otherwise they could just have a 1 year housing supply.

If the government’s protestations that the ‘duty to cooperate’ will bite then such mechanisms will need to be considered at the point of examination and enacted at the point of adoption. This will become a soundness test when the NPPF is finalised but will also be a legal test when the localism bill gains legal ascent, and this clause is enacted, likely this autumn prior to the examination closing.

If a core strategy is found sound when there is no proposed joint-working arrangements and no path to solution for meeting Oxford’s needs that it will make a travesty of this clause of the localism bill.

There is a neat solution. The inspector should suggest that the Core Strategy be adopted with the following changes

-A commitment to a joint committee arrangement between the districts, city and county (note LEPS cannot be members of such committees by law, they are irrelevant)

-A joint strategic review of sites in Central Oxfordshire and the Oxford Green Belt, including a Joint SA/SEA

-Early review of the South Oxfordshire Core Strategy, to adopt within 3 years, to enact any necessary changes

-As Green Belts according to PPG2 need to be permanent it cannot be guaranteed that the South Oxford Strategic Development Area will or will not be needed over the long term. As such it should be de-designated and re-designated as strategic reserve land (white land), without prejudice to any findings of the joint working arrangements, and in the meantime the presumption against development should apply as per PPG2.

-Phasing policies for other housing sites in the District should be adjusted accordingly, sites in the medium-longer term elsewhere in the district might not be needed if a joint review finds in favour of the south of Oxford site.

Indeed even if the RSS were to be revoked this should take place as it is necessary both to comply with Planning for Growth, PPG2 and the Suty to Cooperate.

Road turned Waterfall is laughing stock of Iranian City

France 24

It was meant to speed up inner-city traffic, but on rainy days, the brand-new expressway in the central Iranian city of Rafsanjan turns into a giant urban waterfall. Our Observers say  the road is an example of botched engineering and construction work at its worst.

The highway, which passes under Rafsanjan’s Shohada (Martyrs) Square, in the city centre, was inaugurated with much pomp in May 2010, during an official visit by the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini. At the time, Rafsanjan Mayor Ali Akmbar Pourmohamdi declared that the project, which cost an estimated 1.7 million euros to complete, had required a year of preparation and over eight months of construction work. According to Pourmohamdi, the underpass would reduce traffic jams in the city centre by 60 per cent and boost the city’s economic development.In reality, practically the opposite has occurred. At the first sign of heavy rains, Shohada Square is flooded with a torrent of water that cascades onto the underpass from the bridges above. Traffic slows to a crawl as smaller vehicles are forced to change streets.Astonishingly, city authorities appear to have chosen to ignore the problem, going as far as to forbid local media outlets and officials from reporting on the flooding. 

Pickles Localism U-Turn on Landmark Binhamny Farm Bude Appeal

This is a much awaited appeal, as it is a redetermination of one of three Cornwall appeals from last year.  Originally refused last year on the grounds that housing targets were a local matter, the SoS disregarding the . This was challenged in the light of CALA and the recovered appeal has had to be redetermined.  However in this case there was no finalised revised Regional Strategy.  This appeal then turns on the issue of how to assess 5 year housing supply when the development plan is very out of date.

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, although RPG10 and saved SP and LP policies are formally part of the development plan and therefore material considerations, they are all significantly out of date…

The Secretary of State has had regard to the Inspector’s comments on the ‘Proposed Changes’ version of the Regional Strategy (RS) for the South West 2006 – 2026… He notes that the Inspector concluded that the Proposed Changes were at an advanced stage and therefore a material consideration which should be afforded significant weight … However, given that the Proposed [RSS] Changes document has now been abandoned in light of the intention to revoke regional strategies, the Secretary of State does not consider that it should be given weight as a material consideration in its own right. He has, however, had regard to the technical evidence that informed that document in so far as that evidence has not been overtaken by more up to date information.

The Secretary of State considers that the main difficulty in determining this appeal is that there is no up to date development plan housing target against which to measure land supply. He has grappled with this issue very carefully…. he agrees with the appellant’s recent representations that the demographic base for that target is out of date.

Turning to recent evidence of need, the Secretary of State notes that the Council’s Core Strategy options consultation put forward three possible levels of housing growth for Cornwall as a whole – high, medium and low. …for Cornwall as a whole there is currently 5.5 years supply against the low growth option, a 4.3 years supply in the medium growth option, and only 3.7 years supply in the high growth option. He also notes that, for the area covered by the North Peninsula Housing Market Assessment (HMA), there is only 3.4 years supply in terms of the HMA build rate. Moreover, for the former North Cornwall District and for Cornwall as a whole there are only 3.4 or 3.5 years supply respectively in terms of the 2008-based household projections, albeit this is in terms of households rather than dwellings and the projections are not policy-based. Taking into account all the most up to date evidence, the Secretary of State considers that it would be appropriate todetermine the appeal on the basis that currently there is not a 5 year housing land supply.

the Secretary of State agrees that the appeal site would be an ideal site for employment and retail uses as well as for housing

The March 2011 Statement Planning for Growth indicates that: “Government’s clear expectation is that the answer to development and growth should wherever possible be “yes”, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in national planning policy”. For reasons already given the Secretary of State does not consider that the proposal would compromise any such principles.

The Statement goes on to say that, when deciding planning applications, account should be taken of “the need to maintain a flexible and responsive supply of land for key sectors, including housing” and Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) should “ensure that they do not impose unnecessary burdens on development”. As already noted the Cornwall Core Strategy has progressed slowly and will not be adopted before 2013, and the Bude Framework plan still later. In the circumstances of this appeal, the Secretary of State considers that waiting until land allocations at Bude have been finalised would be an unnecessary burden on development.

The Statement also advises that, wherever possible, planning applications should be approved “where plans are absent, out of date, silent or indeterminate”. The Secretary of State considers that this advice is relevant in this case as the adopted development plan is out of date

The appeal proposal is not in accordance with saved policies in the development plan. However the development plan is significantly out of date and in some
respects its policies have been overtaken by more up to date national policy. … Currently there is not a 5 year housing land supply. Accordingly, the process in paragraph 71 of PPS3 has been triggered so that planning applications such as this should be considered favourably having regard to policies in PPS3, with which there is no conflict in this case. The proposal is not premature and it sits well with the recent Ministerial Statement on Planning for Growth.

Overall, the Secretary of State concludes that the material considerations in favour of the appeal outweigh the limited conflict with the outdated development
plan. [The appeal was allowed]

So where the demographic base for calculation of the 5 year supply is out of date then other material considerations indicate that it should be calculated on the basis of more up to date evidence, informed by the 2008 HH projections.   This is likely to be the case for many LPAS if RSS is abolished as old local and structure plans could be anything up to 15 years out of date.  It also shows, as we have stated on here, the untenability of relying on ‘option A’ figures sumbitted to RSS as these were based on pre-2008 projections. 

The SoS did not state the weight to be given to the three growth options.  Presumably a low growth option was to be given limited weight in the light of ‘Planning for Growth’?  It is clear however given the shift in national policy the scheme would probably been given consent even if had been found that the area had just over 5 years supply, given its suitability and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.  The SoS may be challenged on this issue at JR but consider there is no chance of success.

Clearly, as was always the case, LPAs should be basing their future plans on realistic growth options derived from the 2008 based household projections – and if the migration assumptions impact on other LPAs they will need to demonstrate the ‘duty to cooperate’.

So despite the proposed revocation of RSS it is just like RSS never went away – because the underlying housing requirements are still there and the government is in favour of housebuilding.

And despite the rhetoric against imposed housing targets they will still be imposed, either by inspectors saying plans are unsound or by the SoS or an inspector on an appeal.

Finally despite the call by ministers for national policy to be framed in a way that the non-professional can understand when national policy on 5 year supply is inoperable and plans are out of date, as it may be in the majority of cases, will will require a raft of planning appeals, attached to the back of the NPPF lever arch file, to fill in the gaps and inconsistencies.  A system even more impenetrable to the public.

This was a good housing site recommended by officers and refused it seems solely on the basis of public opposition, in order to lick the can down the road on making tough decisions about housing.  It is a good decision.