Bob Neil on CPRE/NT Campaign against NPPF – ‘a carefully choreographed smear campaign by Left-wingers’

In a ridiculous and hysterical attack on groups campaigning against the NPPF Bob Neill the Junior Planning Minister has today described their opposition in the Telegraph as:

“a carefully choreographed smear campaign by Left-wingers based within the national headquarters of pressure groups,” he said.
“This is more about a small number of interest groups trying to justify their own existence, going out of their way by picking a fight with Government.”


Barbara Keeley, the shadow local government minister, voiced her concern at the proposals. “The Government is allowing financial considerations to become key determinants in how councils decide on planning applications,” she said.

“Labour shares the concern that this might lead to inappropriate development and loss of greenfield land.”

Potentially more worrying for ministers were growing concerns expressed by backbenchers from both Coalition parties. Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, said she had “real concerns” over the policy. “I am a big fan of localism and letting areas decide for themselves what is appropriate for the community and yet a presumption in favour of development takes that power away,” she said.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark, where greenfield land has been earmarked for 7,100 new houses, said it was important that “local voices are properly heard”.

Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives and vice-chairman of the all-party Commons parliamentary housing and planning group, said the Government had “got it very wrong”.


Greg Clark, said it was a priority of the Coalition to sort out planning policy.

“The Localism Bill got rid of regional bodies and took back planning decisions for local people, who are the best judges,” he said. “It is absolutely clear that the Green Belt continues to be protected. It is clear and explicit in the document.

“There is no change in the status of the countryside. Everything that was previously protected — Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks — continue to be protected.

“It is simply scaremongering to trump up any particular site and say the status changes as a result of this.”

Not scaremongering at all and complete disinformation.  Just like the statement earlier in the week from Bon Neill who had claimed that the NPPF prevented ‘sprawl’ – a word nowhere in the draft.

The draft NPPF completely removes the protection of the countryside for its own sake of everything other than AONB, SSSIs etc. for the first time in the 50 odd year history of post war planning.

By trying to pretend otherwise they are destrroying their credibility, and by spreading false muck against such inherenently conservative groups as the CPRE and the NT they are picking a battle they cant win, enraging middle England.  Indeed they have already lost the battle by there clumsy PR strategy (or lack of it).  Like previous attempts to dismantle the UK planning system all it will do is have a counterproductive effect making it harder to develop the right kind of development in the right places.



Israel Centralises Town Planning – Causes outrage amongst Housing Protestors

1000s of people are gathering tonight for a mass demonstration in Tel Aviv, hoping to top the 150,000 demonstration last week.

For weeks there have been growing Tent City demonstrations in Israel, what began as a protests against high housing costs has gathered into a social movement against the Isreali government and a protest for widespread reforms to improve social justice.

As we have reported on previously Prime Minister Baenjamin Netanyahu has used the protest movement as a cover for pushing through highly controversial changes to land law and planning law.

This Wednesday the Knesset has passed the national housing committees law, following a mammouth three day session. The aim of this law is to take control of planning decisions for new housing allocations away from municipalities to nationally appointed committees.

Details of how the law will work are provided by Haaretz

According to the law, which was passed as temporary legislation for a period of 18 months, every district will have a special committee authorized to discuss residential construction plans involving at least 200 units. A similar committee will operate at the national level.

Each such committee will have nine members, seven of whom will be representatives of government ministries and only two of which will be representatives of public bodies.

Only government bodies, such as ministries or local government, will be authorized to submit plans to the committee for approval. These plans will have to involve an area at least 80 percent of which is state-owned property. That is supposed to make it easier to approve the plans without having to negotiate with private land owners or give compensation. However, if it is decided to advance plans for construction on agricultural land, the state will have to compensate the farmers.

The winner of a tender approved by such a committee will have to build at least 20 percent of the infrastructure for it within two and a half years from the day it was approved.

According to the new system, construction plans will move through channels very quickly. For example, the district planner will have to examine them within two weeks and experts consulted about them, such as specialists in transportation, waste and noise, will have to submit their opinion within three weeks. Six weeks after a plan is submitted, the national housing committee will have to decide whether to open it for public scrutiny (a final stage before approval ).

If the committee does not meet the timetable, a representative of the Prime Minister’s Office can intervene in the process and lead the discussion on approval of the plan, which will mean, for the first time, that the Prime Minister’s Office is taking over planning powers that until now had been in the purview of the Interior Ministry.

The powers of the new committees are broad because they will trump local or district master plans. Broad planning powers might, in principle, mean that areas so far not slated for construction, including some that are important for recreation and leisure-time activities such as parks or forests, could be built on.

From interior ministry statistics it is clear that there is more than enough land allocated for development, the problems have been two fold, the slow release of state owned land, as most development land is state owned, the lack of legal provision for affordable housing.

Housing Minister Ariel Atis compared the current system to a traffic jam –

“People wait in line for five years, because plans are backed up,”

he explained, adding that the new bill will drastically shorten the planning process.

The housing minister also addressed the complaints that the bill does not provide enough “accessible housing.” [affordable housing]

“The real problem is that there is no legal definition for ‘accessible housing’ – who deserves it, how much money would that person make,” Atias explained. “We would have to pass a separate bill for that.”

In last minute concessions there was added clauses seeking a minimum proportion of smaller units suitable for first time buyers and a seat on each committee for a member of the environmental protection agency.

The act has been described as an insult by protesters and confirmed their resolve. They have described it as a charter for real estate developers not meeting their demands for more affordable housing and a return to public housing construction.

Meanwhile the Isreali Government has used to crisis to push through highly controversial plans for expansion of an illeagal settlement in East Jersusalam, an act condemned in the strongest terms today by the Foreign Office and the EU.

Martin Goodall’s Obituary to Localism

Martin Goodall has an almost identical analysis to my own

Eric Pickles and his ministerial mates at De-CLoG ..were appointed to pursue the Tories’ pre-election ‘localism’ agenda, which is now looking increasingly irrelevant in face of the clear change of direction which is being signalled from Downing Street…the government has now embarked on a pro-development agenda very similar to that pursued by Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine in the early 1980s. The means by which they expect to achieve this is exactly the same as that which was used before, and relies on central government effectively telling local planning authorities that they must grant planning permission for housing and other development whether they like it or not. Ministerial appeal decisions will back this up and will ensure that local councils fall into line.

…The presumption in favour of ‘sustainable’ development (whatever ‘sustainable’ means in this context – not a lot, I suspect), the drafting of the National Planning Policy Framework and various other administrative actions and initiatives are all evidence of this. ‘Localism’ is effectively dead in the water,…

Meanwhile, just to add to the misery of the NIMBYs and the BANANAs [= “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone”], it is becoming increasingly clear that the prospective abolition of Regional Strategies, and their abandonment where they had not yet been formally adopted, is likely to make very little difference to the outcome of development proposals, particularly for major housing developments. In common with a number of other commentators, I pointed out that the housing need which underpinned the Regional Strategies was not going to go away just because Regional Strategies are set to disappear. The evidence base from which RSS housing figures were calculated is still there and is still an important material consideration in the ultimate determination (on appeal if necessary) of development proposals. Several recent ministerial appeal decisions have demonstrated this.

Some local politicians have seized on the prospective abolition of regional strategies as an excuse to slash housing allocations in the core strategies of their local development frameworks, but they should not be surprised if Inspectors find as a result that those core strategies are unsound and must be re-written. Meanwhile, any applications which go to appeal in the absence of an up-to-date development plan are likely to be dealt with under the government’s increasingly pro-development policy regime. Local councillors who were congratulating themselves on having escaped from the hated top-down imposition of unwanted housing allocations may find that their attempts to resist or restrict housebuilding on their green fields are no more effective than King Canute’s attempt to command the incoming tide to go out.

There are still some loose ends to be tied up. In order to ensure that the government’s pro-development agenda is effectively enforced, there needs to be a robust appeals system. Ministers will therefore have to abandon the intention which they had when they first entered office of emasculating the appeals system. That message may not yet have reached all corners of De-CLoG, but I expect we shall hear no more of the desk-based ‘checking’ exercise which it was suggested should replace the current appeals system. Ministers will soon realise that they need to beef up the resources of the Planning Inspectorate so as to ensure that an increasing workload does not lead to a backlog of appeals…

I confess to being vastly amused by this volte-face on the part of the government. I never dreamed that they would actually attempt to put their half-baked pre-election policy ideas into practice, because I was confident that ‘Sir Humphrey’ would ensure that ministers were given a reality check before their ideas could get anywhere near implementation. When the government proceeded immediately after the election to forge ahead with their ‘localism’ agenda, I came to the conclusion that ‘Sir Humphrey’ had decided to let them have their head and see for themselves the chaos that would result. In practice, it is economic reality which has asserted itself, and which has imposed an altogether different imperative.

Capitalism’s Last Frontier#24 The Dispersion and Division of Landed Property

In societies that were stratified by age and gender it is possible to conceive of how an elder could accumulate more than one farmstead, such as through death or growth of an extended family, and could trade that farmstead, at times of need or to obtain traded goods.

What is lacking is a model of how farmsteads grow in population, diffuse new farmsteads, how these trade in surpluses and then how this could lead to one family group taking over anothers in some circumstances.

Consider a growing family group at the edges of the margin of cultivation.  With population growth an extended family will grow additional farmsteads, sometimes diffusing into new villages.  In a village with more than one extended family where concepts of family property ownership have developed into concepts of family ownership of land then there will be occasions where one family may consider it appropriate to trade some agricultural surplus for rights to use land.

Take for example a period of famine where one family has accumulated less surplus than another and there are insufficient family members to tend land.  In these cases there is a rational case to trade land for food.  Effectively there is a ratio of land to food, with differential surpluses that ratio will change between families giving a benefit to truck to restore an optimal balance.

With increasing population growth and dispersion extended families will in effect become overextended and some may separate into separate families with their won assumption of a right to property.  In those cases where an original head of family has a strong source of power however they might exercise this over an extended clan and potentially a proto-state.  We shall consider this under our treatment of the origins of the state.

The ratio between mouths to feed and land will be changing all of the time, through birth, death and marriage.  Assuming no technological change and no migration then unless birth rates are below the ‘replacement rate’ there will be hunger – the classic Malthusian scenario. Laying aside the realism of this situation there will undoubtedly be periods when there are hunger pressures.  In these cases where a family takes on an extra mouth to feed – through marriage – then assuming that the woman will spend a number of early years pregnant or in childrearing they will be less able to cultivate whilst decreasing the land-food/people ratio.

Here we can see the origins of the bride price as a form of rebalancing between extended families, to reduce the risk of starvation during those years, through rebalancing the land-food/people ratio.  A form of insurance.  Building up a brideprice will also require saving of surpluses.

Where there are savings credit will not be far behind, as a rebalencinmg between those with an excess of savings, and those with a shortage.  Such as from a elderly man long married and a young person seeking to save the bride price.

But at times of poor harvest the borrower may not be able to replay the loan, or even feed themselves, in these cases the borrower may take the land and introduce sharecropping. There is considerable evidence from early Rome that debt burdens became so great that many people voluntarily entered into slavery

We can see then that there are several mechanisms through which private and familial real property can develop on cultivated land, alongside more communal forms of ownership.  The arguments are often confused though through arguments about foraging land – the so-called ‘Tragedy of the Commons’  we will look at that in the next section.

Localism Stalls Planned Growth in Horsham District – Leader condemns protesters for backing ‘unplanned development’

An extremely interesting case-study from Horsham District from June.

Horsham has a core-strategy, was it not the first adopted in the UK from memory, but it is out of date with regards to the higher housing numbers in the RSS the South East Plan.

Just as PPS3 advises it consulted on an SPD to bring into play a delivery strategy to restore a 5 year supply.  This had three options.

  • Option One – No Planned Growth. Responding to applications as they are submitted
  • Option Two – Limited Planned Growth. Around 250 homes at both Billingshurst and Southwater
  • Option Three – Notably Planned Growth. Around 500 homes at both Billingshurst and Southwater

At the meeting it was recognised that there was some support for planned growth and the benefits it could bring and that there is still a need for new housing in order to:

  • meet previous agreed commitments in the district plan; the Core Strategy
  • meet the requirements of the South East Plan while it is still in place
  • address local housing needs including young people; people living longer and smaller households
  • enable a positive economic future for the District.

Every effort was made to consult the wider communities of these settlements including sending leaflets to over 7,000 households in the potentially affected Parishes.

The overriding view from those people who responded from both Billingshurst and Southwater was that Horsham District Council should not plan for growth in these villages. They supported Option One: No Planned Growth.

This does not mean ‘no development’ but planning applications for development would be dealt with on an ad hoc basis. This would include applications for around 500 homes at both Billingshurst and Southwater, which developers have been discussing with these communities, as well as other applications which may be received across the District.

There were concerns raised at Horsham District Council’s Council meeting in June that single interest groups may have had a disproportionate effect on the outcome of the consultation. The level of response to planned growth was similar in both settlements.

Cllr Robert Nye, Leader of Horsham District Council, said:

In principle, I and the Council as a whole do not support the idea of unplanned development because of the risks of more development than that proposed in the Council’s Draft Interim Statement (the document that supports the level of local housing need); the distinct possibility of mediocre housing design and more limited community facilities.

However, in accordance with the Government’s wish to see greater local involvement in decision making I have personally undertaken to support the views of the residents.

“I share concerns that a vocal minority may have had a disproportionate effect on the result of the consultation.

“This said, it is a fact that this whole subject has been extensively covered in public over many months and the Council has done all it can to alert residents to the dangers of unplanned development.

“It is clear that a majority of those who responded wished for unplanned growth.

“I can only assume that the residents who did not respond to our consultation have no strong preference one way or the other.

“I am therefore recommending that the Council abandons the Interim Statement approach and instead moves forward with planning alternatives for the medium to long term.”

The Leader of the Council will make recommendations on the way forward at a Cabinet meeting at Horsham District Council on 21 July and a final decision will be made by all members of the Council when it meets in September.

What a ridiculous situation.  There are likley to be just as much if not more housing but this time made on appeal rather than by local residents.  Clearly localism here is interpreted as being easier to not make a decision locally, but having it made by the planning inspectorate, so the planning inspectorate or the SoS can takle the flack rather than local councillors.

The mistake here was to consult on a no growth option.  You would not be able to consult on this for a statutory plan because it is not a reasonable alternative (which will not change under the NPPF).  Why consult on an option that is really saying, here’s an option that you cant really have because a plan with this options would never be found sound, but we are allowing you to register a meaningless protest by ticking this box anyway.

High Speed Rail at Last for India and Austrailia

Two of the more obvious candidates for introducing high speed rail are moving forward.

In Australia  its logistics council has backed a study to introduce  a high speed rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne

“With the study estimating the east coast population will rise from 18 million today to 28 million in 2056, it’s clear a ‘status quo’ approach to infrastructure on the eastern seaboard is simply not an option,”

Whilst in India six high speed rail corridors running at 300kph are planned.

The six corridors that have been selected for the project are— Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar (450 km), Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad (650 km), Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai (664 km), Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam (649 km), Howrah-Haldia (135 km), Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna (991 km).

UK-based Mott Macdonald is conducting two of the feasibility studies.

China Pilots New Land Auction Model: Cheapest Houses Win

China Daily

Developers will be forced to set the price of housing before bidding for a piece of land in a pilot scheme being tested in the capital to curb soaring property prices, Beijing News reported.

Under the new policy, the cost of the land will be set and the developer who offers to sell the homes at the lowest price will get the plot.

In the past, developers who bid the highest price for a piece of land would win the auction leading to an increase in property prices as they try to recoup their investment.

The first plot of land to be sold under the new policy was put on the market on Thursday.

A source with Beijing Municipal Bureau of Land and Resources told the reporter that the land price per floor area of the pilot plot was set at 5,850 yuan ($907.7) per sq m. The total price for the plot was more than 2.2 billion yuan. He said no matter who wins the bidding the land transfer fee will be the same. The highest housing price for this plot was set at 13,600 yuan per sq m. Each bid should be 50 yuan lower, he added.

The pilot plot is about 19 hectare with a total developable size of 380,000 square meters. Among which, housing will account for about 280,000 sq m. The plot, located in Mentougou, a district in the western part of the capital, could provide more than 3,000 homes. .