The Practicality of an #NPPF transition – the Evidence

One of the things we suggested in the alternative NPPF draft was an 18 month transition period.  Ministers have been talking a lot about transitional period to avoid a burst of appeal-led planning in recent days and recovered appeal decisions have indicated that LPAs are to be given perhaps one last chance to get plans in place.

Andy Boddington has updated the now defunct national database of plan progression to give the CPRE some idea of the number of authorities where the ‘silent, indeterminate, out of date’ issues hit.

Sadly, tearing my hair out, it has a lot of errors in terms of authorities which have adopted (Horsham) and now reviewing down as not adopted and future dates for examinations (Ipswich) where the examinations have concluded, but without checking every single authority it does give a ball park of the issues.  I have to say too that the estimates of those likely to be over the line by April 2012 is based on self reporting – some of these I would eat my hat if they made it and others have stalled possibly fatally at EiP – such as Rochford – others are likely to if they carry on with the options they are consulting on now (mentioning no names) i.e. low housing numbers and lack of cooperation with neighbours.

Putting these issues to one side for one moment how many authorities would be, on current plans, likely to adopt after the end of a transition period of 18 months.

Well those planning to have a core strategy in place for the first time after 10/2012 is – wait for it – 7 authorities in the whole of the UK.  So 18 months should be sufficient.  Indeed of those 7 most are the notorious slow authorities – like Flyde and Burnley- which have the most leisurely programmes you could imagine, whilst others such as Warwick, Coventry and Brighton have got close to the finish like only to kick the can down the road a couple of years.

The problem areas, the areas likely to slip into late 2012 and 2013 fit into a number of geographical; clusters, in North Warwickshire, MK & Aylesbury Vale, North and East Herts and around Harlow,  Thames Gateway North, and reflect long-standing issues of cooperation and in some cases arguments about Green Belt release in those authorities.

So if a transition period of 18 months was set down I have no doubt that all authorities, if the effort was made could make it.  Resources is an issue, many authorities planning examinations may find they have no staff, but the reason for the slowest authorities isn’t primarily resources,it is political will, as proven by the advanced stage that plans in some of these authorities reached in the past.

Also there is the issue of how 150 or so core strategies could be examined in 18 months.  With some joint examinations and polling towards joint plans and some bringing back onto the books of inspectors laid off in the 2010 lull it could be done as the pace is not considerably greater than that achieved in 2009.

Overall then could we have 100% local plan coverage within 2 years – its possible.

Of course this isn’t the whole story.  A lot of authorities have core strategies but no allocations and are being caught out by now having to deal locally to growth that the Regional Plan would have displaced elsewhere, as well as in some cases big changes from the latest household projections.  But overall there really isnt the case to simply abandon plan making and granting lots of appeals instead as the goal of up to date plan coverage is in sight within a reasonable period during which time the housing market is likely to remain depressed.

Damian Carrington – Pickles Silent Climbdown on #NPPF


Sometimes it is what you don’t say that counts. And by that measure, Eric Pickles mounted a silent climbdown over his controversial proposals to rip up the bloated planning rulebook. He made no mention whatsoever of the economic benefits of the changes.

That is quite an omission, given that the justification for the changes, stated with menacing clarity by Pickles and Chancellor George Osborne, is to boost the economy.

The problem, of course, is the uproar in the shires the plans have prompted. Instead, Pickles, stretching his folksy charisma to the limit, referred to the opposition to the plans only obliquely: “Me and Mrs Pickles are partial to the odd scone and a warm beverage in a National Trust tea room”.

He attacked the planning regime left by Labour as the “preserve of inspectors, pressure groups and lawyers”, then simply asserted that the objectors were wrong. “It’s not a choice between countryside or concrete. Our countryside is one of the best things that makes Britain great, and we will protect it,” he thundered. His parting shot on planning was a long attack on the special treatment the planning system gave to travellers, with their camps “being dumped on the green belt and open countryside.”

Pickles dodged skilfully dodged the planning bullet and about a third of the hall rose to their feet to applaud at the end, though they were probably more stirred by the real theme of his speech: Labour’s government waste and intrusion via bin inspectors, garden spies and even sex snoops.

But the rhetorical step back from the planning fight was unmistakeable and follows emollient moves from planning minister Greg Clark. Very quietly, the government is softening on planning.

China – ‘the terminal stage’ of the Property Bubble – Inventory clearance begins

For a few months on here we used to cover the impending global breakdown of capitalism, how insolvent French banks were, how paper gold would collapse and how the Chinese property market and municipal debt crisis could flatten what many considered the last invulnerable economy.  We were called mad.

For a few months planning policy in the UK has taken over as politicians stupidly tried to mimic the same false growth scenario that got us into this global mess in the first place.  At the same time the global double dip has happened and reporting on the obscure details of european financial intermediation isnt news any more, its everywhere and accepted.

But one story caught my eye in terms of demonstrating just how bad things are about to get in China.  Events that will shake the world.

Patrick Chovanec Economonitor

Over the past several weeks, a number of news reports and market figures have caught my attention, which appear to indicate that China’s economy may be approaching a crisis.  I use the word “crisis” in the traditional (or medical) sense, meaning a critical turning point when tensions or contradictions are resolved, for better or worse — sometimes in unexpected ways.  One potential interpretation of this crisis is that China is entering the terminal stage of a bubble, and that what we are seeing are the early signs of a much broader collapse. …

In several cities across China, prices in primary housing markets (developers selling to homeowners) have begun falling away from those in secondary markets (homeowners selling to other homeowners)…What could explain the growing price gap?  Back in April 2010, when the central government first announced its intention to “cool” the real estate market, property developers were skeptical.  They’d seen this movie before:  the market, they figured, might stall for a while, but as soon as policymakers saw the negative impact on investment-led GDP growth, they’d rush back in to support the sector.  Six months, tops, they would be right back to business as usual.  In the meantime, savvy developers better get ready for the next round by continuing to borrow and build…All of this continued building was predicated on the assumption that China’s cooling policies could not last. …s developers piled up more and more inventory — the primary market inventory in Shanghai, for instance, now starts at an all-time high, 12.5% higher than in December 2008 — they had to borrow to stay in business.  With credit conditions tightening, they systematically ran through the credit lines available:  first the banks, then high-yield bonds in Hong Kong, then the private wealth management vehicles that have been popping up all over China, then the loan sharks.  Finally, they ran out of options, and had no choice but to start selling some of their inventory at whatever price they could get.That’s why primary prices are dropping:  hard-pressed developers offering steep discounts on property they’ve been holding out on, in order to get cash.  Investors who already purchased homes, often as a place to stash large amounts of cash, don’t face the same pressure and so you don’t see the same price drop in secondary markets…  Consider what might happen if a lot of developers hit the wall at the same time, and start dumping their inventories.  Sizeable discounts would have to be offered, and prices in the primary market would crater..The result could be a panicked rush to the exits.  Even if just the primary market crashes, the rationale for the supposed solvency of a whole host of Local Government Financing Vehicle (LGFV) bank loans and bonds — that local authorities can always sell land to pay them back — falls apart..  China’s banks have recently seen a rush of withdrawals by savers seeking higher yields elsewhere. According to China Securities Journal, outstanding deposits at China’s “big four” banks fell by RMB 420 billion (US$ 65.7 billion) in the first 15 days of September.  Most of that money, it reports, is being channeled straight into speculative assets, either directly or via “shadow” lending arrangements…speculators were now rushing to turn their RMB into dollars in order to take their money out of China. …

the closer you are to running an econometric model, the better you feel about the Chinese economy; sure, there may be bumps along the road, the models tell us, but fundamentally the momentum is so strong that growth will stay on track.  The more you go out and look around, and listen to your gut, the more worried you become.  Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear … but it feels bad, very bad.  The problem with models, and the reason I’m inclined to stick with my eyes and my gut, is that models work very well when prior patterns of perception and behavior remain constant, but are very poor at noticing inflection points where the way people think and act undergo a shift.  In other words, they are very poor at identifying moments of crisis.

How Sandbach Gave the SoS a Cala Homes get out and has defined a new policy on prematurity #NPPF

The recent SoS decision at Barton Farm Winchester gave the impression that the SoS was making up policy on prematurity on the fly.  Despite the restrictive policy on prematurity in the Planning System General Principles  that
‘Where a DPD is at the consultation stage, with no early prospect of submission for examination, then refusal on prematurity grounds would seldom be justified’
In PPS3 that it should not be the ‘sole’ grounds for refusal and in the draft NPPF that it never should here it was and indeed it looks like the sole grounds.

Simon Ricketts at L is for Localism had the same inbitial view as me, on challenge it could not stand.

However another recovered appeal gives a clue as to the new approach. One of several recovered appeals around Sandbach. I gave one as an example of how the NPPF encourages sprawl a few weeks ago as it was the least preferred and accessible of the many around Sandbach but the NPPF would force an automatic approval.

But the inpector at the latest site decided on the 30th Sept LAND OFF ABBEY ROAD AND MIDDLEWICH ROAD Sandbach had a conclusion which was accepted by the SOS and picked up on in the CALA case, she concluded:
She weighs up the negatives in the ‘planning balance’ the relevent ones to this issue being:

The development would “jump the gun” before the Core Strategy had been adopted, thereby • prejudicing the fairness and effectiveness of the LDF process. Those who are promoting sites through the LDF process would be unfairly disadvantaged
• The Core Strategy is at a very early stage and the proposed development could prejudice the Council’s emerging spatial vision for the area.
• Better and more sustainable sites could be overlooked.
• The principles of Localism would be undermined, and local people would lose faith with the planning system. In the words of Fiona Bruce, Member of Parliament for the Congleton Constituency (which
includes Sandbach) “If we are being truly genuine about our belief in localism then their views (ie those of local people) should, above all, be respected” [32, 50, 53 – 65].
106. On balance, I have reached the view that the harms outweigh the benefits and the appeal should be dismissed. This is largely because the development would be contrary to the Government’s Localism agenda and, furthermore, it has the potential to prejudice the fairness and effectiveness of the LDF process.

All good points but not what national policy existing or proposed, what national policy might say if it gave top priority to localism and local plan making. But the SOS accepted the argument and of course used it at Barton Farm.

So it would appear that de facto if not dejure we have a new policy on prematurity, as long as you are cracking on with a local plan the SoS will not allow appeal led planning. You might as well throw away the NPPF because the appeal led age it was designed to usher in has been abandoned in the face of political reality and localist fury.

It does beg a question though – how do you encourage LPAs to deliver local plans quickly and not drag their heels as some have done for a decade. That challenge of the right ‘sticks’ and ‘carrots’ is the challenge facing ministers in the weeks ahead.

Perhaps Peter Village QC should not put down a deposit on a second masarati – national policy has changed its just the SOS cannot say so during the middle of the NPPF consultation. Expect maybe a parliamentary statement shortly thereafter to cover his back on pending JRs.

Shapps – Concedes Period of Transition for Local Plans to be in place for #NPPF


Shapps hints at planning reform delay

Housing minister says he will give councils time to update local plans before rolling out changes to planning

Housing minister Grant Shapps has hinted that the government could introduce a transition period before implementing its controversial planning reforms.

Under the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply where councils do not have a coherent local development plan.

Around 70% of councils do not currently have a filed (sic)  local development plan, which has led anti-reform lobbyists to claim that the changes would lead to a development free for all.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Shapps appeared to open the door to a period of delay before reforms came in, in a move which will provoke concern from housebuilders and developers in favour of reform. He said: “We will ensure that there is a period of time, a transition, for local authorities to have plans filed and agreed.”

Shapps’ comments came as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the conference that the country needed a planning system which “is quicker, and provides greater certainty.” He said: “We can help the economy by building more homes…[But] this is not a choice between countryside and concrete.”

Referring to heavy campaigning against the reforms by the National Trust, Pickles added: “It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, that Mrs Pickles and I are partial to the odd scone in a National Trust tea room. But planning needs to be improved.”

‘The #NPPF reduces the environment to a series of discrete protected areas rather than a dynamic set of ecosystems’ -CIWEM

Wildlife losing out from framework, say environmental managers

By Bryan Johnston Monday, 03 October 2011 Planning Resource

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will undermine government efforts to promote a more joined-up approach to nature conservation, the water industry’s professional body has warned.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) said that the NPPF compromises ambitions to protect and reintegrate habitats set out in the natural environment white paper, published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this spring.

CIWEM warned that the loss of regional planning, the removal of any protection for local wildlife sites and the absence of any reference to the nature improvement areas proposed in the white paper mean that opportunities to improve habitats will not be translated into practical delivery through the planning system.

“The NPPF reduces the environment to a series of discrete protected areas rather than a dynamic set of ecosystems interacting with our built environment,” said CIWEM executive director Nick Reeves.

“Fragmented approaches across government departments raise serious doubts over this government’s green credentials. A lack of compatibility between the NPPF and the white paper leaves huge questions over how planning delivered at a local level will incorporate wider strategic aims,” he said.

Here is there full reply

Talks Start to Thrash Out Common Ground on the #NPPF – Planning Resource

Planning Resource

Bodies meet for NPPF talks

By Domenic Donatantonio Monday, 03 October 2011

More than a dozen of the leading organisations lobbying ministers for changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) have held talks to thrash out common ground.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) arranged the meeting, held at the offices of law firm Bircham Dyson Bell in central London, and turned to the Institute for Government (IOG) to host the talks.

The IOG, an independent charity seeking to increase government effectiveness, was seen by the RTPI as an ideal neutral body for the initial meeting.

The meeting included representatives from the RTPI, British Property Federation (BPF), Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Town and Country Planning Association, the Home Builders Federation (HBF), and the National Trust.

A civil servant from the Department For Communities and Local Government oversaw the meeting.

RTPI head of marketing and communications Tino Hernandez said: “It shouldn’t be seen as the RTPI muscling in.

“So we looked for an independent chair in the form of the IOG.

“We felt it was helpful with all the hostility out there – with a different story in the national press every day – to try and bring people together in a non-threatening environment.”

“There will be more meetings planned.”

Jill Rutter from the Institute for Government said: “We found a venue, but are not representative of any group.

“We were asked by the RTPI to help out and we are certainly interested as to what will come out of it.”

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: “There may well be some unlikely alliances as a result of these talks. Certainly the BPF has some good points to make on brownfield land.”

Following on from the talks, the unlikely bedfellows of the National Trust and the BPF have found some points of agreement.

The BPF welcomed calls from the National Trust that the draft NPPF should adopt a more explicit requirement to develop brownfield land before greenfield sites and that the planning system should not be used as a blunt tool to “proactively drive development”.

These were more talks about talks rather than line by line.


Spelman – #NPPF ‘more sympathetic’ to rural economic growth

The Inside Housing reporter was one of the few listening to this speech

Caroline Spelman, speaking to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today (Sunday), said the British economy has become unbalanced between rural and urban areas and pledged a rural renaissance. She said a more sympathetic planning system will help the rural economy to grow.

She added: ‘As the prime minister said, we should cherish and protect our beautiful landscape for everyone’s benefit.

‘That is why we will maintain protections for the green belt, for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.’

Ms Spelman also said plans to introduce a new green area designation would allow people to protect green space from unwanted development.

The national planning policy framework, which simplifies existing rules, has proved controversial. Campaign groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England claim it threatens the countryside

Tcpa’s Kate Henderson criticises ‘polarised’ #NPPF debate

Inside Housing

Kate Henderson [TCPA CE] speaking at a fringe session of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday, said much of the debate around the national planning policy framework is ‘polarised.

Ms Henderson said: ‘What we have seen over the last weeks and months is a very polarised debate about the future of planning and what that should be.

‘Most notably the Daily Telegraph campaign Hands off our land, and that’s reflecting an emotion but its not going to help people who desperately need houses.’

She said there is a need for a much more sophisticated debate around planning.

Bob Neill, local government minister, echoed Ms Henderson’s concerns, saying there is a need for a sensible debate and described the controversy around the NPPF as ‘unfortunate’.

Mr Neill criticised reports that the NPPF will threaten the green belt, saying it will protect it.

He said: ‘The people who were going to build on the green belt were the previous government. John Prescott’s green belt strategies removed green belt protection.’

The NPPF has proved controversial with campaign groups, including the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Campaigners fear the framework, which simplifies planning rules and contains a presumption in favour of sustainable development, will threaten the countryside.