Minister’s Aid Furious that CPRE couldn’t be bought off for £620,000 over #NPPF


the CPRE [have been] accused of “gross hypocrisy” after receiving a £620,000 grant to support neighbourhood planning.
Jake Berry, the Tory MP who is a ministerial aide to Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, said: “The CPRE can’t have their cake and eat it.
“It’s gross hypocrisy for them to take thousands of pounds of taxpayers cash to assist with the government’s planning reforms yet at the same time be shamelessly opportunistic and attack them.
“Their credibility is completely undermined and perhaps they should think about paying their government funding back.”

These grants were to assist local communities with neighbourhood planning Mr Berry, not to buy support, or were you implying they were an intended payoff?

As we say every weekend, the biggest enemies of real planning reforms are, because of the idiotic things they say to the papers which has entirely the opposite effect than intended, the mps sitting in Bressendon House.

Capitalism’s Last Frontier #25 The Confusion of the Commons

The concept of the ‘Trajedy of the Commons’ is often cited as being a causal factor in the origin of real property.

The original article published by Garrit Hardin in Science in 1968 was posed as a counter to the idea that issues concerning overexploitation had a technical solution.  This aspect of the thesis is often overlooked by those focussing on the implications for property rights but in this sense, concerning ‘maximisation ‘ of a resource Hardin was quite right

It is not mathematically possible to maximize for two (or more) variables at the same time. This was clearly stated by von Neumann and Morgenstern, but the principle is implicit in the theory of partial differential equations, dating back at least to D’Alembert…The optimum population is, then, less than the maximum. The difficulty of defining the optimum is enormous; so far as I know, no one has seriously tackled this problem.

He went on to challenge the view that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market would mean that laissez-faire in reproduction would produce the best decision for society as a whole. 

He revives a theory from William Foster Lloyd from 1833 of overuse of the public commons. Unchecked, the size of the herds on the commons will soon exceed its carrying capacity. The commons will become overgrazed.  The argument is presented in terms of utility theory.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all….the logic of commons has been understood for a long time, perhaps since the discovery of agriculture….The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property, or something formally like it

He went on in terms that are quite disturbing

In a welfare state, how shall we deal with the family, the religion, the race, or the class (or indeed any distinguishable and cohesive group) that adopts overbreeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandizement? To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.

He had gone beyond the arguments of Victorian social and agricultural reformers to argue for state enforced control of reproductive rights.

The specific example of grazing rights, and which Willaim Foster Lloyd and Garritt Hardin built their arguments, is not a good one, as has been pointed out many times. 

They both certainly confused ‘common property resources’ or ‘commons’ under conditions where no institutional arrangements exist. Common property is not ‘everybody’s property’ – Ciriacy-Wantrup & Bishop  1975 “Common Property” as a Concept in Natural Resources Policy. Nat. Res. J. 15, 713-727.

As George Monbiot has argues in The Tragedy of Enclosure’

Hardin’s thesis works only where there is no ownership. The oceans, for example, possessed by no one and poorly regulated, are over-fished and polluted, as every user tries to get as much out of them as possible, and the costs of their exploitation are bourne by the world as a whole. But these are not commons but free-for-alls. In a true commons, everyone watches everyone else, for they know that anyone over-exploiting a resource is exploiting them.

Principally for our arguments over the origins of common property its thesis is not bourne out either by ecological or historical evidence.  The concept of the ‘trajedy of the commons’ has profound implications in certain contexts of natural resources and population pressure, but it does not apply at all to conditions at the origins of agriculture. 

Range management is an approach based on the ecology of grasslands.  Fifty years ago, French researcher Andre Voisin found (Grass Productivity Island Press 1988) that overgrazing, from the point of view of a grass plant, is a function of time and timing, rather than of numbers of animals. Grasses co-evolved with grazers. Whether wild or domestic, these animals often graze a grass plant severely at first bite. What grass plants need is sufficient recovery time between bites. Therefore timing and grazing management, not numbers, is the critical factor.  It is irrational for a pastoralist to overgraze on an extensive range as it is more productive to move elsewhere.  Indeed as Gilles and Jamtgarred have argued, and subsequent researchers with much ethographical evidence, it is rational in the case of extensive ranges to have communal property to provide additional opportunities for rotation of herds. 

Many of the arguments around commons come from arguments around overgrazing of commons near english town in the early modern period.  Arguments which fuelled the case for land enclosure.  As Susan Jane Bock Cox argues in her paper ‘No Tragedy of the Commons’ such lands were not a pastoral residuum but the poorest quality lands of forest and marsh  at the edges of the lords estate, the ‘wastes’ on which limited numbers of animals were grazed, (the right to graze a certain number of animals was called stinting) often animals whose primary purpose was hauling ploughs. She writes

Perhaps what existed in fact was not a “tragedy of the commons” but rather a triumph: that for hundreds of years—and perhaps thousands,although written records do not exist to prove the longer era—land was managed successfully by communities. That the system failed to survive the industrial revolution, agrarian reform, and transfigured farming practices is hardly to be wondered at.

It is no surprise that overgrazing seems to most frequently occurr throughout history on the edges of expanding settlements, such as the example used by William Foster LLoyd of Boston Common.  Here stinting controls will have broken down, the fixed land areas was suffering from population pressures and there was no opportunity for or inclination to extensive range grazing.

As many authors have pointed out the accumulation by dispossession of communal and traditionally managed land is the real tragedy.

The issue of overgrazing only becomes causal to the formation of real property rights where:

  • population pressures result from sedation and limited grazing land around settlements
  • where these pressures are contained through lack of potential to migrate and form new settlement and/or new grazing areas

Neither of these were primary pressures during the origins either agriculture or real property.



Johnathon Porrit’s slams redefinition of sustainable development in #NPPF

On his blog

This Coalition Government is intent on more comprehensively abusing the idea of sustainable development than Labour Ministers ever dreamed of. This has been apparent from the start, was amply confirmed in the Localism Bill and has now reached new, even more abusive heights in the recently published Draft National Planning Policy Framework.

You wouldn’t know if from the honeyed words in Greg Clark’s Foreword. Indeed, you might imagine that our Minister for Planning is positively enraptured by sustainable development. But it is he who has now redefined sustainable development by declaring that there will be a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, and that “decision-takers at every level should assume that the default answer to development proposals is “yes”, except when this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in this Framework”.

The aforementioned Framework then totally fails to spell out what these principles are! For instance, I may have missed it, but I could not find one single reference to the notion of environmental limits. Not one. Lots of warm words about the importance of the environment, but nothing of real use in defining what appropriate or inappropriate development might mean in practice. As Tom Burke put in in his blog for the Green Alliance:

“What the Government actually means by ‘Sustainable Development’ is the tired old Treasury mantra of ‘Sustained Growth’: that is, growth that goes on forever. It definitely does not mean growth that recognises environmental risks and constraints.”…

This Government is growth obsessed. It’s in pursuit of growth at any cost, and has no hesitation in setting aside decades of broadly successful planning practice (there is no evidence that Planning Committees are a major barrier to economic development in the UK) in order to create a new developers’ charter.

Gryff Rhys Jones Condemns ‘Bully’ tactics of the #NPPF

Writing in the Times today (sorry paywall) Gryff Rys Jones, chair of Civic Voice writes (or perhaps Tony Burton does ghosting)

Each area, each town, each community (they mean the council) must draw up a plan detailing where development will happen.

It is the authentic voice of the bully. We are going to hit you, it says. We will have lots more development. You decide where. Do you want us to desecrate your parks, your terraces, your high street, your suburbs or your green belt? If you can’t make up your mind, we will go ahead anyway without consulting you at all.

With a presumption in favour of development the Government is opening the way for anybody to trash the country. Any lawyer could drive a bulldozer through the flimsy codicils put up to defend “quality” in the draft

Yes the NPPF does adopt bully boy tactics, but the attitude of the selfish NIMBY that thinks all development is ‘desecration’ is a weak argument that seeks to replace planning for good development with the BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) outrage of those who believe the primary purpose of the countryside is to preserve the property values of their second homes.

#NPPF Select Committee Response Part 1 – The Positive Role of Planning

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be producing a draft submission to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiry into the NPPF – who require responses by the 9th of September – as a resource for those drafting their own responses. Of course disagree with me as much as you want. The final version of course will be subject to substantial reediting.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your inquiry into whether the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) forms an adequate, clear and comprehensive framework of national planning policy.

In this response, as requested by the committee, I do not go into a point by point examination of the document. However it is not possible to understand the fitness for purpose of NPPF, and the impact it will have, without looking at a small number of key policy changes which will have widespread impact. I would recommend that the committee look into these in sessions running up to the end of 2011. This is important as it is the aim of the Secretary of State that the work of your committee the form in which parliamentary scrutiny of the document is undertaken[1]. I would hope that the Committee approach adopted by the Committee is that adopted by Planning Inspectorates to Draft development plans, is it the best possible plan in the circumstances, is it justified by the evidence, will it be effective in meeting its goals.


Is planning the enemy? Many ministers from the Prime Minister down rarely miss an opportunity to knock planners. We are castigated, without evidence or justification as the ‘enemies of enterprise’[2], when in fact most spend half their working lives promoting local enterprise. Or even castigated by the Prime Minister as blocking measures to prevent looting, when in fact they have been implementing Home Office Advice to ensure our town centres are not grey, dark and graffiti ridden[3]. As RTPI president Richard Summers has said: “Planners in the public sector have broad shoulders and accept that they are often a convenient sitting target for ministers.[4]"

Yet Britain is out on a limb internationally. Given global problems, such as for the first time more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities from 2008[5], the need to house, provide infrastructure and transport for those people, internationally town planning has never been considered so important. Emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil see good town planning as a mainspring of growth, not a hurdle. Gulf States which had a disastrous ‘let it rip’ approach to development before the 2008 crash, are, like Abu-Dhabi[6] transforming their approach to town planning to avoid seeing wasted billions on investment in empty properties, the financing and building of which helped cause the great financial crisis. For example the carbon-neutral new city of Masdar, designed by the UKs Fosters, outdoes the ambition of anything being done in the UK, as does many of the Eco-city Chinese New Towns and Urban extensions being developed by UK firms such as Arups, Atkins and Mott Mc Donald. Without good sustainable design, including good town planning, urbanisation and economic growth will consume our non-renewable resources and trigger off effects such as global warming. The world turns to the UK for town planning to help avoid this, but why is it so castigated and difficult here?

Greg Clark in speech[7]‘s and articles has stated that planning should be ‘seen as a crucial service operating in the public interest. In the bluntest terms, as a force for good.’ and that ‘the purpose of planning is to help make the way we live our lives better tomorrow than it is today.

And not just tomorrow – but a million tomorrows, so that nothing our generation does compromises the ability – indeed the right – of future generations to improve their own lives.’ But this uplifting wording, very different in the ministers presentation of the draft NPPF from what it actually says, is nowhere to be found in the shallow, negative, dull and repetitive content of the NPPF itself which above all needs a positive statement of what role planning can and should play in modern society.

(I will cover the ‘vision’ aspects of the NPPF draft in the next post)

Sir Peter Hall on the #NPPF

Peter Hall gives his opinion on the NPPF in the latest print edition of Planning Resource

Criticising Simon Jenkins he states

The “presumption in favour of development” was enshrined in the 1947 act and the regulations that followed it. This has been the position for more than 60 years – the new framework simply reiterates it more emphatically.

Indeed, the NPPF’s most striking feature is its consistency with old policies, including the repeated attempts of previous Labour governments to implement the key recommendation of economist Kate Barker who, in her 2004 housing supply report, said that planning should be more responsive to market realities.

The presumption actually dates back to housing acts of the 1920s, and indeed before that the old common law principle that a license from government should be grated unless there are strong reasons not to.  What is important are government changes to policy which increase the increase, or mostly in this case reduce the reduce, the scope of reasons to restrict development and the weight to be given to development plans which codify when planning consent will and will not be given.  Sir Peter goes on:

So why the furore? One obvious reason is the coalition Government’s abandonment of any regional level of control over local planning policies. The new framework instead places the onus squarely on local planning authorities.

This means that they must speedily produce local plans, “prepared on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, unless the adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this framework taken as a whole”. Pretty moderate, pretty balanced, pretty traditional, no?

But there’s a sting: “In the absence of an up-to-date and consistent plan, planning applications should be determined in accord with this framework, including its presumption in favour of sustainable development”. So a lack of a plan means a thumbs up for development.

That’s new, but it simply says that lazy or incompetent – or, if you prefer, overworked and understaffed – local planning authorities, or those using inaction to stall development, are stymied. Revolutionary? Only in reaction to a planning system that has become steadily more dysfunctional.

Before the election then shadow ministers actively encouraged local planning authorities to stall and stymie, striking a strident anti development tone, also telling them they could set their own targets.  After the election it now tells the same authorities that they cannot reduce targets below assessed levels of need, and without up to date development plans they will lose on appeal.  Indeed the real threat is not taking planning back to the 1930s but the appeal-led planning of the 1980s.  Those that stalled as bidded now find themselves stymied and impotent.  They have until April 2012 to finalise and adopt development plans, but following the Rochford precedent they cant just assume shifting the development to another authority, they have to demonstrate the ‘duty to cooperate’.  This means they have to agree with other authorities joint strategies, and consult on and appraise them as required by the EU SEA directive.  In effect they have to recreate and process in 8 months the entire 8 years of regional and sub-regional planning that the government is now abolishing.

What is more in the interregnum, which may last several years, where local planning authorities cannot demonstrate 5 year supplies, which most wont even with recently adopted plans, the NPPF sayes bluntly that schemes should be approved.  No if and no buts.  Unless it is on one of the few nationally protected areas in the NPPF (e.g. Green Belts) inspectors will have little opportunity to say no, even for poorly located schemes harming the landscape.  For the first time in 60 years there will be no national policy protecting the countryside for its own sake, how moderate, traditional and balanced is that?  Unlike current policy in PPS3 there is no opportunity to consider whether it is the best site.

Recent evidence is that even with this threat local planning authorities will find it hard to submit development plans that meet need, consider Cornwall last week for example, even though they risk submitting an unsound plan.  Consider also Herts where collectively the LPAs seem down by well over 20,000 dwellings. The calculation seems to be that it is less electorally damaging to submit low and blame the inspector if they go higher, or even have an unsound plan and lose several years, than submit a sound plan meeting need.

In the meantime we have a system whereby, as the ministers PPS and author of open source planning John Howells MP  said in Feb, , that then developers could build ‘what they liked, when they liked, where they liked’  which the wording of the draft NPPF nears out.

Sorry Sir Peter I have the greatest respect but any system where developers  ‘what they liked, when they liked, where they liked’ is the antithesis of planning, and even the prince of the Nimbys Simon Jenkins is right to be angry.    Sir Peter is rightly frustrated with the deliberate stalling to prevent good planning, but taking off the brakes wont produce more good planning it will produce more non-planning.  Local communities feel angry as the recent BDOR report finds, , they have been conned into thinking localism was meaningful, by the unravelling of the consequences of a ridiculous and undeliverable promise to devolve strategic decisions down to parish level.

China’s Golf Wars – Developers Dodge Planning Ban

Beijing 'Country Club' on Edge of Semi Desert

In any country with a severe shortage of water Golf Courses, with their hunger for water and lush greens, are an unsustainable luxury. A standard 18-hole course normally takes up more than 607 hectares and consumes around 36,400 cubic metres of water a day,

As China Daily has said in a recent furious editorial

Given the fact that 400 of the more than 600 cities in China are suffering from water shortages, the rapid depleting of underground water to keep the hundreds of golf courses green will likely prove to have severe consequences for many cities in the near future.

Beijing is a case in point. To ensure they stay green all year round, the 60 golf courses use nearly 40 million tons of underground water a year. This is equal to the amount of water consumed by more than 1 million residents a year.

Over-exploitation of groundwater has long been a problem in China, yesterday we reported on how many of Chinas largest cities are sinking, creating severe problems of subsidence and damage to property and infrastructure. In one of the most extreme cases,  villagers in part of the city of Dalian do not have drinking water on tap because is used to water a nearby golf course.

In 2004 the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) imposed a ban on golf course construction. It requires that any course consuming more than 1,000 mu (66.67) of farmland must be approved by the State Council (China’s cabinet)

At the time of the ban there were only 170 golf courses, since the ban only 10 new courses have been approved, in water rich monsoonal Hainan island where tourism has been encouraged such as . But according to the golf education and research center at Beijing Forestry University, the number of golf courses in China increased to over 570 in 2009, implying most were illegally built (source China Daily

Despite the increasing number of golf courses, only 10 were approved by the government and given business licenses, which implies that most of China’s golf courses were illegally built.

Of course the Golf Lobby consider the ban unwarranted

Su Derong, head of the golf course committee under the China Golf Association, said there are about 600 18-hole courses on the mainland, but less than a dozen had been approved and given business licenses before the central government introduced a ban on golf course construction in 2004. He said the concern for farmland protection and water conservation has been overdone, and the downright prohibition should be replaced with standard procedures and clear criteria to evaluate applications and issue certificates. He has said authorities should consider easing the ban, and in the meantime adopt strict screening measures to make sure approvals are issued with full consideration of environmental protection and economic sustainability.

Part of the problem is that golf courses are favoured by local officers, often with close links to developers, who see Golf courses as a sign of prosperity and development. As in a number of Asian tiger economies Golf is seen as a sign of having made it with a shortage of clubs meaning that membership has gone through the roof, with membership fees of above $160,000 dollars not being unusual.

One stop work notice was sent to developers of one site next to the Stone Forest World Heritage SIte in Yanan province last year, but was ignored. After the case was highlighted on state television three local officials were fired.

Feng Ke, director of the real estate finance research center at Peking University, has said  most golf course developments are built using the names of country clubs, greenbelts and parks. They do not include the word “golf” in their names in their planning documents. Some developers illegally rent rural land for the construction of golf courses as a way to get round procedures.

As China Daily’s Editorial, reflecting the increasing stridency and freedom of expression of China’s Media in recent months has said:

 Constructing so many golf courses and keeping them green, by depleting our most precious resource water, is eviscerating the country’s future development potential and robbing succeeding generations of any possibility of making a living from the land…It is high time that the central government took resolute action to reduce the number of golf courses and punish those who give the green light to their construction and their use of groundwater.

Perhaps the solution is simple though.  At Copper Peedy Golf Course in Australia there is not a blade of grass.  Golfers carry a piece of Astroturf with them to place under the ball.  The solution is not to ban golf but to ban the watering of golf courses, or the drilling of bore holes, or to introduce effective water metering for public water supplies.

Copper Peedy Golf Course Australia