Can you imagine a Telegraph Front Page saying ‘Conservatives given millions by property developers’!!! #NPPF

Telegraph

Dozens of property firms have given a total of £3.3 million to the party over the past three years, including large gifts from companies seeking to develop rural land.
Developers are also paying thousands of pounds for access to senior Tories through the Conservative Property Forum, a club of elite donors which sets up “breakfast meetings” to discuss planning and property issues.

The disclosures are likely to provoke a new “cash-for-access” row and will give rise to fears that planning policies could have been influenced by powerful figures from the property industry.
The Coalition will also face a backlash next week from more than 80 rural MPs and peers, who will meet to discuss concerns that relaxing planning policy will see hundreds of wind turbines built in the countryside. The Daily Telegraph has launched the Hands Off Our Land campaign to urge ministers to rethink the measures, joining opposition from the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The guidance states that there should be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which campaigners have warned would give developers “carte blanche”.
Bill Cash, who is organising the meeting of back-bench MPs and peers, said last night: “This is a demonstration of the deep concern and the first shot across the bows.
“The developers will have the whip hand. When you are talking about economic benefit, the benefits of England’s green and pleasant land to tourism and the scenery is as important as anything else.”
The Conservative Planning Forum raises around £150,000 a year for the Tory party and charges members £2,500 to meet senior MPs to discuss policy and planning issues.
Mike Slade, its chairman, has given more than £300,000 over the past decade, individually and through his property firm, Helical Bar.
Mr Slade advocated reforms to encourage local authorities to “see the benefits of development” three years ago, when he warned the Tories to “get over” their image as “nimbys”.
The forum met Grant Shapps, who is now housing minister, while the Conservatives were in opposition early last year, after Mr Slade had written an article strongly critical of plans to devolve more planning powers to local authorities.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, will meet some of the nation’s biggest housebuilders at a conference next week where he will give the keynote speech.
His presence is likely to lead to further claims that ministers are “stacking the deck” in favour of developers.

Conservation groups have complained bitterly of a lack of access to ministers over the proposals and the National Trust has demanded a meeting with David Cameron. Some of the Tories’ biggest donors are from the property world. David and Simon Reuben, billionaires who own Millbank Tower in Westminster, have given almost £500,000 over the past decade, while Terence Cole, a London-based developer, donated almost £300,000. IM Properties, which is expanding Birch Coppice Business Park, near Tamworth, Staffs, has given around £1 million since 2009.
A senior Tory MP, who did not wish to be named, accused the Chancellor, George Osborne, of “shoe-horning in” the presumption in favour of development in a bid to stimulate the economy.
He said: “This is a clear example of localism being hijacked. Developers will have state licence to print money and we will see a proliferation of identikit suburbs springing up in the countryside.” The Conservative party last night strongly denied that planning policies had been influenced by donations from developers. A spokesman said: “These are Coalition policies based on principles laid out before the election by both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. There is absolutely no link between donations to the Conservative party and Conservative planning policy – to suggest otherwise is untrue, misleading and unfair.”
He said that reforms would “maintain the protection of green space”. [more loose terminology]
A spokesman for the Reuben brothers said neither had talked with ministers about planning at any time, while Terence Cole said he had not met ministers or Tory MPs to discuss planning reform.
Mr Slade and IM Properties were unavailable for comment.

OOOh as getting as spicy as News International.

Greg Clark warned of ‘political suicide’ over #NPPF in own constituency -Guardian

Stephen Bates

Drive through the affluent Kent countryside at this time of year and the whole area seems to be turning red. The listed tile-hung cottages are mellow, virginia creeper is turning scarlet against white weatherboard farmhouse walls, the apples are ripening in the orchards. And this year the rubicund faces of those in the know about planning matters are growing just a little bit more choleric.

The one thing guaranteed to rouse the semi-mythical Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells to fury are planning decisions. It is an irony therefore that the MP for this town in the bluest part of Britain is Greg Clark, the minister charged with selling the government’s planning shake up, which shifts the presumption in favour of development even as the coalition insists that the green belt will be protected and localism in decision-making will rule. Clark is understandably struggling to square that circle.

Housing statistics show that planning permission is not the main obstacle to house building – capital funding for builders and mortgages for buyers are: 80% of residential building applications were granted last year, more on appeal.

The suspicion is that this is a political fight. Chancellor George Osborne wants to show the government is kick-starting recovery and communities secretary Eric Pickles is happy to take on local authorities and their officialdoms. That puts them in direct conflict with Tories in Clark’s constituency.

“Greg’s heart’s in the right place, but I believe the government has lost its way on this. As a political problem it has the potential to blow up in their faces,” says Sean Holden, a Tory councillor in the small nearby town of Cranbrook, who is a former national party spokesman. “In the heartlands, I don’t believe the majority of Conservative voters want housing estates going up.

“It stands directly in the path of the government’s localism bill about decisions being made at a local level. People are not comfortable with the presumption in favour of development. I would like an entitlement for people to say they do not want their community developed in this way. That should be a reason for refusal: that we don’t want it.”

It is a sentiment shared by many of his colleagues on the overwhelmingly Tory Tunbridge Wells borough council, though officially they are fully behind the government’s plans.

Linda Hall, a local councillor who was quoted in last weekend’s Sunday Times saying supporters were appalled, found herself berated by the MP himself at a drinks party later that day.

“He was very upset with me. Cameron had rung him up apparently and given him a hard time. He said if journalists contact me, I should let him know. But I think it is my job to speak my mind. That’s why I was elected. I was only passing on what people are saying.

“Greg attended a meeting of local party members last week and although most were respectful he did get an earful with one or two saying there would not be a housing problem if we didn’t have any immigrants.” [loads in Tunbridge Wells eh – from Paddock Wood and Hawkhurst I bet]

With only the slightest hint of glee, Alan Bullion, a leading local Lib Dem, says: “I think Greg has shot himself in the foot here. There are arguments, but you do not want to trample all over the planning laws at the expense of conservation – that is doing your best to piss off your own constituents.”

Clark is not one of the government’s Bullingdon Boys. The son of working class parents, he was educated at a Middlesbrough comprehensive, before going on to Cambridge, a doctorate at the LSE, then starting politically in the SDP.

But he only has to take a short stroll from his townhouse by Tunbridge Wells common – no danger of developers spoiling the view there as it’s protected by an act of parliament – past Thackeray’s old home and the Conservative Club to the old Kent and Sussex hospital, to experience the ire of local residents.

It is closing next week – replaced by a £230m hospital, initiated by the last government, on the edge of town – and the plan is to build 380 homes on the old site. The scheme is already provoking protests and complaints from locals who say, rightly, the town’s infrastructure won’t stand it: the roads are already clogged and there aren’t enough school places.

The council is also struggling with the fallout of a controversial regeneration scheme it entered into with the developers John Laing, that roused widespread local anger last year when it emerged that the Tory leadership wanted to sell off the grand art-deco 1930s civic centre – incorporating council offices, theatre, police station and library – to build a shopping centre instead. The row cost the last council leader Roy Bullock, who doubled as Clark’s election agent, his position. That is precisely the sort of presumption in favour of development that locals fear.

Interviewed by Channel 4 News last weekend on the common, with a backdrop of some of the town’s more agreeable Georgian and Victorian villas – properties which sell for upwards of £1m – Clark said: “You can see behind me buildings which are attractive to residents and attract visitors. That is my ambition, to get better standards of building that are sustainable, with the consent of local communities, rather than having development forced on them. We want places that people would love to live in, rather than being mean and dispiriting in design.” There is no doubt more affordable housing is needed: expecting young couples to find 25% deposits when even local flats cost £100,000 and terraces £200,000 is just impossible.

“What does affordable mean?” says Holden. “We’ve got 286 new houses planned in Cranbrook, which means 600 more people at least in a town of 6,000, with no change in the infrastructure and you can bet residents’ children won’t be able to afford them. Affordable is a politician’s buzz word and it irks me.”

Had Clark walked five minutes in the opposite direction from his home to the Victorian Italianate villas of Hungershall Park (“remarkably unaffected by later intrusions, villas of … no particular merit. The delightful thing is that [they] face each other across a gently-sloping pasture field,” says the Pevsner guide) he could have consulted Mike Sander, a local resident and former chief executive of nearby Crawley council.

“The government’s plans are totally unacceptable, they are unnecessary and they won’t work – and that’s based on 40 years’ experience,” Sander says. “Nimbyism is embedded and tinkering with planning policy is not going to make any difference. Most of them don’t have any experience of local government and they spend their time rubbishing it, but there was nothing wrong with planning properly.”

Hall adds: “Greg is such a plausible, lovely person but I think the party could be committing political suicide.

“If you take on the four million members of the National Trust, 90% of whom probably vote Conservative, you are asking for trouble, aren’t you?”

Guardian #NPPF – Ministers Accused of Planning Hypocracy

Damian Carrington

All the government ministers pushing through a controversial relaxation of planning regulations have opposed developments in their own constituencies, including new housing and businesses, a care home for elderly people and a memorial to Princess Diana.

The Guardian revelations leave the chancellor, George Osborne, and Eric Pickles and his ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government accused of “breathtaking hypocrisy” for saying major changes to planning laws are vital to boost economic growth and ease the shortage of homes, while fighting such developments in their own backyards.

In August 2010, Osborne was the first of 25,000 people to sign a petition against an energy-from-waste plant in his Cheshire constituency, despite having described the company Brunner Mond as an “important local employer”. He is also honorary president of a campaign against a second local incinerator. Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, also campaigned against a waste facility, a composting site at Stondon Massey in his Essex constituency, saying approval would “open the doors for our county to become the waste dump for the south-east”.

In addition, he successfully opposed a residential care home for 114 elderly people in Pilgrims Hatch in 2003, saying it would be a “heavy burden” on local services.

“This is hypocrisy of the highest order,” said Craig Bennett, policy director of Friends of the Earth. “These ministers have used the planning system to stop developments like composting sites which are part of a sustainable economy. Now they are taking away the ability for people to oppose developments that are unsustainable. It is an outdated ideological mantra that a development free-for-all is needed for economic growth.”

The government’s proposals to introduce a presumption in favour of development in planning applications have provoked a huge outcry from countryside and green groups including the National Trust, Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which described the plan as a “free for all” for developers. Politicians, including Conservatives, have decried the proposals as undermining local democracy.

Ministers have responded aggressively, with planning minister Greg Clark accusing critics of “nihilistic selfishness” for preventing young people from getting on the housing ladder and Osborne lending his political weight by stating: “When planning acts as a brake on growth, and on the much needed new jobs and new businesses, reform is imperative.”

In 2004, Pickles spoke out against previous efforts to liberalise the planning system, saying Gordon Brown’s Treasury “seems … determined to loosen control to make development easier” and he feared “sprawling housing estates dumped by Whitehall on green land”.

He argued that “adding to suburban sprawl will detract from rather than help urban regeneration” and that “there has to be a greater emphasis on … using previously developed brownfield land”. Pickles’s new national planning policy framework (NPPF) would end the “brownfield first” policy.

Clark, who has been at the forefront of the government’s defence of the NPPF, fiercely opposed the previous government’s attempts to increase the number of homes built in and around his Tunbridge Wells constituency. He called the plan for 6,000 new homes a “nationally imposed hike in housing numbers [that] will place yet more pressure on our precious green spaces” and said brownfield sites must be the priority for building. Clark also waged a long campaign against the redevelopment of gardens in towns and cities, which increases the number of homes available. The practice, dubbed “garden grabbing” by critics, left whole streets “changed out of all recognition”, Clark said in 2006.

The other four ministers in the department have also supported anti-development campaigns. Grant Shapps opposed plans for thousands of new houses in his Welwyn Hatfield constituency. Shapps, who holds a pilot’s licence, also defended a threatened small airfield as “good for biodiversity” and useful to “train pilots who eventually fly for airlines”. He also opposes an energy-from-waste incinerator plant in New Barnfield.

Andrew Stunell, the only Liberal Democrat minister in the department, has mounted a long campaign against the building of mobile phone masts, putting a motion before parliament in 2007 saying that “the current planning system is not sufficiently robust”. He has also opposed new homes being built on gardens and the possibility of a new supermarket in his Hazel Grove constituency in Greater Manchester.

Another minister, Bob Neill, promised in opposition to “make it harder for developers to appeal against properly made local decisions” and opposed the conversion of a historic pub in his Chislehurst constituency into flats.

The department’s minister in the House of Lords, Lady Hanham, led Kensington and Chelsea borough council from 1989 until 2000. In 1998, eight months after the death of Princess Diana, she objected to proposals for a memorial garden at Kensington Palace, saying its visitors would cause disruption. Under her leadership, the council also blocked proposals from Persimmon Homes for a residential tower in west London.

Neil Sinden, CPRE policy director, said: “Wanting to protect a place or landscape you love is no bad thing, and it’s good to see these ministers standing up for the concerns of their constituents. However, it seems hypocritical for the same ministers to label those opposed to their planning reforms as nimbys and nihilists. Good planning can enable communities to grow without trashing the environment. But to give one aspect – economic growth – excessive weight will not result in sustainable development but a much diminished countryside.”

Caroline Flint, the shadow communities and local government secretary, said: “Tory ministers are showing breathtaking hypocrisy. Time and again, they have decried the lack of housing, while cynically campaigning against new homes for families in their own constituencies. Labour supports the streamlining of the planning system but by ripping up 60 years of planning policy, the government has created chaos and confusion in the planning system, threatening the very areas they promised to protect.”

A spokesperson for Pickles said: “All MPs are well within their rights to campaign against bad planning,” adding that the minister utterly rejected the accusation of hypocrisy.

Osborne and the communities and local government department declined to comment.

#NPPF Telegraph ‘Ministers are coming up with ever more ludicrous justifications’.

Geoffrey Lean

As reactions go, it was pretty impressive. Just four days after The Daily Telegraph launched its campaign to persuade ministers to rethink their planning “reforms”, George Osborne and Eric Pickles – not a pair you’d like to meet on a dark night – brought out their rhetorical knuckledusters. “No one,” they threatened in a newspaper article, “should underestimate our determination to win this battle.”

What revealing bluster! The reforms are, at present, only proposals. They are out for consultation – inviting “suggestions and comments”, in Mr Pickles’s Department for Communities’ own words, because “it is essential that everyone with an interest in planning has an opportunity to be involved in shaping the new framework”. Ministers are supposed to be listening, not preparing to bash anyone who ventures to raise their voice.

But what does it reveal? That the consultation exercise appears to be a sham, certainly. What else? Overweening arrogance? A dictatorial disposition? Let’s be charitable and assume it betrays growing panic at the failure of the economy to pick up and a determination to grab any lever that might conceivably help.

The heavyweight pair insist that their reforms are “key to our economic recovery” because “planning is acting as a brake on growth, and on the much needed new jobs and businesses”. Unfortunately, there is little evidence for this and their proposals may actually make things worse.

True, development is essential for growth, and new housing can powerfully stimulate it. No one is quarrelling with that, or suggesting that new construction should not take place. What opponents are challenging are policies that, as one government aide put it, could allow developers to build “what they like, where they like”.

A major inquiry set up by Gordon Brown (whose views Osborne and Pickles have inherited) failed to produce any convincing evidence that planning was damaging growth or that a weaker system would enhance it. And, as has been pointed out, countries with strong planning policies such as Germany are doing much better than ones, such as Ireland and Spain, that lack them.

While poor developments may appear to aid growth in the short term, they usually have damaging consequences. The proliferation of out-of-town superstores – which owes much to the last relaxation of planning laws under former environment secretary Nicholas Ridley – has been killing high streets where, partly as a result, one in seven shops nationwide is now boarded up.

As the giant stores generally provide proportionately less work, employment falls; and as they are often more likely to rely on imports, growth is outsourced. Similarly, building housing estates on greenfield land requires the inclusion of certain new services, such as roads, which brownfield sites generally already have, thus increasing public expenditure.

Meanwhile, the ill-judged reforms are threatening government plans for speedier delivery of the major infrastructure projects – from power stations to transport links – which really could boost growth. Again following Labour, ministers are sharply to restrict the scope of planning inquiries into these. This is potentially highly controversial, but so far there has been little fuss. However, now that the country is up in arms over housing, this scheme is likely also to be caught up in the storm.

What the Government is doing is discrediting a system that worked pretty well in enabling growth, by turning it from a regulator into a promoter of development. The clear result is that people will be even more determined to resist new construction, something that really will inhibit recovery.

Ever-more desperate as public opinion masses against them, ministers are coming up with ever more ludicrous justifications. Their latest is to say that the reforms will make the planning system less litigious – as if our learned friends were not already salivating at the enormous opportunities the vague new rules will open up.

Sooner or later, ministers will have to stop digging and start trying to climb out of their hole. One way out could be to build on their repeated insistence that they intend to “protect the countryside” by retaining planning’s values and regulatory function, and returning the burden of proof to the developer. They could still speed the system up, reduce its cost – even call it “smart planning”, if they like. That would certainly be much smarter politics.

Smart planning hmm where did they get that idea.

Threats to Urban Economy of the #NPPF – Renasi

Kibrby Swales of regeneration consultants Renasi

The new simplified regime and presumption in favour of sustainable development could have equally large impacts on urban areas as on the countryside. Left to their own devices, developers and housebuilders could do great damage to the urban fabric in their pursuit of profit. In theory, the protections would remain through the adoption of local plans but in practice these could start to be whittled away without the back-up from other Planning Policy Statements. For example, a clear danger would be significant further employment land lost to residential schemes which in turn could hamper prospects for future economic growth (thereby defeating the proposed intentions of the changes). Equally, some Town Centre provision could be lost in an unmanaged way.

Porrit on #NPPF ‘a nightmare from a sustainability point of view’

In Inside Housing he brands it

‘a nightmare from a sustainability point of view’. ‘The arrogance with which the government has redefined sustainable development as growth by any other name is absolutely mind-boggling,’ he says. ‘I think this government is a disaster when understanding what sustainability really means.

Latest YouGov #NPPF Poll

Slightly less dumb questions this time – even they confuse Green Belt and Green Field aaaaarggggh!!!!

The key question is the NT battle of public opinion which the government is clearly losing.

Over half of the British public would support Government plans to hand more planning permission powers over to local councils in England, but significant numbers agree that National Trust fears over the damage the plans could cause to the country’s green belt may be well-founded, our poll has found.
54% support giving local councils more power to decide what is built in their areas
21% would oppose such a change in powers, while 25% aren’t sure
44% of people say that the National Trust is not exaggerating its stance on the new planning policy, and that the changes ‘will probably pose a serious risk to the countryside’
Compared to 25% who say that the National Trust is ‘exaggerating the impact of the planning changes’, and one in five (20%) saying that they don’t know
33% of British people say that current planning rules are ‘about right’
23% think it is currently too difficult to build
20% think it is currently too easy, although 24% say they don’t know
The results come in light of the controversy surrounding the publication of a Government paper on ‘the national planning policy framework’, which, the Government argues, will allow councils to decide what is built in their areas; simplifying planning law, promoting growth, and increasing the amount of available affordable housing. However, the National Trust has strongly criticised the plans, claiming that the new plans will see natural areas of beauty destroyed.

Architects raise concerns over #NPPF

The RIBA president Angela Brady is to raise concerns over the NPPF in her inaugural address today

Brady said: “The onus is now on local authorities to develop strong and coherent local plans and to do so quickly. But with many so desperately under-resourced, we are concerned that this may not happen. In the absence of these plans, the planning framework will take on a very different meaning.”

Meanwhile in Building Design Ellis Woodman weighs in:

The difficult truth for Osborne is that both the conservation and development lobbies would be best served not by stripping back planning legislation, but by serious investment in the skills and resources of those tasked with assessing the sustainable credentials of developments at a local level.

After all, if Britain’s planning culture is proving such an impediment to our national growth, shouldn’t the government be looking to what might be learnt from the way things are done in such economic powerhouses as Germany or Switzerland? If it did, it would discover systems that are amply resourced and structured around a belief in propositional planning. In its present form the NPPF risks unleashing the kind of environmental calamity that Ireland suffered during the last building boom — a development bonanza that even Osborne would have to admit, has proved very far from sustainable.

Tinker, Planner, Soldier, Spy #NPPF

George Smiley adjusted himself neatly into his chair in control’s office, adjusting his overtight tie and waiting for his old friend and former boss to speak.

‘There a mole at the heart of the establishment circus’ said Control firmly ‘I want you to come out of retirement and find out who’

‘Again’ Smiley replied ‘what is the national crisis this time’

‘Its not like it was in our day George’, ‘The great and the good in our NGOs could be relied on not to rock the boat…now their is a dangerous marxist agitator in our midst, the order from the highest level is to hunt them down. Planners are the Enemies of Enterprise and Enemies of the State’

Smiley looked at control and paused ‘who are the suspects?’

Control pulled out a sepia envelope from his desk and pulled a black and white photo from it

‘suspect number one Dame Fiona Reynolds, of the National Trust, perfect cover, we believe she was recruited and then left the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England in 1998’

‘What is the connection with that group?’ asked Smiley quizzically

‘Its Chief Executive is Shaun Spiers, he was a Labour MEP, but we have a witness statement that he was Political Officer of the South East Co-op (Co-operative Wholesale Society) from 1987-1994’

‘So when was the connection with Dame Fiona?’ asked Smiley

‘Spiers joined the CPRE – or Sipra as we call it – in 2004 – ministers are convinced there is a conspiracy’

Smiley consciously avoided taking a sigh, instead sitting back stiffly in his chair, he knew that was not going to be an easy assignment.

National Trust – ‘Demented Marxist Agitprop Outfit’ – Conservative Home #NPPF

“Planning is for people not profit,” declares the National Trust like some demented Marxist agitprop outfit. Of course planning must allow property developers to make a profit. That doesn’t mean that the planning schemes have to be ugly or that heritage sites have to be destroyed.”

Cllr Harry Phibbs – Conservative Home

Its not a ‘Marxist’ attitude in this interest, rather the well known disinterest of the landed English in ‘commerce’, after all when you can your money from rent.  This is a deep rooted attitude in the English seeping into its middle classes.  It has always amused me that the letters most vicious in objecting to planning applications and referring to ‘greedy developers’ were written by those seeking to shore up the unearned capital appreciation of their own homes

By itself there is nothing wrong with a profit motive, and one of the key functions in planning from its outset has been to provide land for people to pursue it.  But it has never been an overriding consideration.  Indeed many of its key measures, conservation areas, and green belts, are based on principles that taking each atomistic land use decisions solely on the basis of profit destroys certain higher public goals.  As one of the founders of modern economics Paul Samuelson put it ‘everything worth doing has always involved some inefficiency’  that is there is always some spotty economist in some think tank or political office ready to pamphleteer against it. Planning of course is a famous target.

Planning must avoid slipping into this greatest of English prejudices against making money, but it is equally odd hearing conservative ministers making speeches about the primacy of growth targets that sound just like those made by PRC commissars in Chinese Cities.  Given the pollution, and unrest, caused by such a monofocus those same clique are being retired in favour of a new generation of leaders in China that has woken up to the benefits of a more ecological approach towards town planning.

In our interesting but poor times old labels hardly seem appropriate.  Especially when you can hardly open a newspaper without reading an article by an Economist asking ‘Was Marx Right about the causes of our Economic Crisis’, and when ‘Marxist’ regimes seem to have discovered how to make money better than us.

What recent weeks events have brought to the fore though are arguments about ‘unearned income’ from land.  To my mind a much better target than distrust of profit.