Rural MPs #NPPF number 1 postbag issue – Damien Carrington Guardian


So here’s a green keyword count for the prime minister’s speech today at the Conservative party conference: Green: 2. Climate: 0. Environment: 0. Carbon: 0.

Both mentions of “green” were in passing. One was part of a wide-ranging blast by David Cameron at Labour’s failings. The other – “green engineering” – also came as part of a list of technologies a new economy would be built on.

It was quite simply an atrocious speech for the environment and for the hope that the government would use the economic crisis to invest in the green economy and put the UK on a sustainable long-term path. It’s true, awful portent is only seen by taking into account the low carbon clanger dropped by Chancellor George Osborne on Monday. He didn’t just ignore the opportunities of green growth, he actively spoke against them.

Despite the good work at the energy and climate change department – run by LibDem Chris Huhne – you do not become the “greenest government ever” by the two men running the nation indicating clearly that the UK’s ambition is no longer to be a low carbon leader, merely mediocre at best. So the Guardian’s green-o-meter has plunged, and we’ll be reflecting more on this in coming days.

He had far more to say on planning. The furore over the proposed ripping up of 1000 pages of rules and replacing them with 52 is fomenting revolution in the shires. Rural Conservative MPs tell me it is the number one postbag issue.

But Cameron took a tougher line than the emollient tones we’ve heard from his ministers over the last few days and weeks.

“To those who just oppose everything we’re doing, my message is this: take your arguments down to the job centre. We’ve got to get Britain back to work,” he said. It’s a return to the original justification for the planning revolution: the £3bn a year the government claims is lost because of sclerotic planning. Critics vehemently disagree: lack of money is the problem they say.

But, in keeping with promises of changes to the badly drafted proposals from his ministers, he said: “Of course we’re open to constructive ideas about how to get this right.” Whether he means “constructive” or “construction”, we will have to wait and see.

London Land Use Swapsies

So BBC moving out of White City – long mooted, and Chesea could move in.  The development framework allows for a football club – but it was envisaged that this be QPR who are on a tiny site.

So what might rationally happen

QPR move to Fulham Road Stadium

Listed 195os block goes to Twitter or Facebook, Google were in running but moved to Silicon Roundabout

BBC residuals and News/One Show move to Old ITV Hq Grays Inn road which they might well sell if the ITV move to Stratford is confirmed.

QPR stadium goes to housing, rationally to allow for the phased redevelopment of the Empire council estate next door, realising a massive windfall for H&F to improve social housing.

Will that happen – unlikely everyone will try to get the maximum out of their vacated plots.



Even more embarrassing than Cats or Credit Cards – Cameron Gets proportion of England Built up Wrong #NPPF

>From the transcript of the speech – still going on and there was a bad joke added at the beginning which isnt on the transcript

There’s one more thing. Our businesses need the space to grow – literally. That’s one of the reasons we’re reforming our planning system. It’s hard to blame local people for opposing developments when they get none of the benefits. We’re changing that. If a new manufacturing plant is built in your area – your community keeps the business rates. If new homes get built – you keep the council tax. This is a localist plan from a localist party.
Now I know people are worried about what this means for conservation. Let me tell you: I love our countryside and there’s nothing I would do to put it at risk. But let’s get the balance right. The proportion of land in England that is currently built up is 9 per cent. Yes, 9 per cent. There are businesses out there desperate to expand, to hire thousands of people – but they’re stuck in the mud of our planning system. Of course we’re open to constructive ideas about how to get this right.

Great -listen to constructive ideas.

But 9% we have endlessly fact checked this on here and we know SPADS read this blog so there really is no excuse.  The figure is not 9% it is 19.15% from official BIS and DEFRA land use data – see here answer to question 4.

You only get 9% if you erroneously include Scotland and Wales and exclude suburban areas (Land use is split into urban and suburban and other/rural for international comparative purposes).  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  I have long complained that this statistic is a way of deliberately lying with statistics.  Sack the speechwriter – if only for the bad jokes.

Update:  I was using the international benchmark of ‘urban’ land uses which might includes parks etc.  Colin Wiles has questioned that the PM used the phrase ‘Built on’ .  But even then the UK land use futures figure is 10% for the whole of the UK and around 14% for England alone.  It would appear another mistake was made in the NPPF of confusing England and the UK, a mistake it appears to have been carried over in the NPPF impact statement through a casual reading of the UK land use futures executive report.

PRP Architects #NPPF response

Well crafted response here

-Unintended consequence of simplification will be more appeals, especially where plans are out of date

-Overlooks problems of officer recommendations being overturned by members causing delay

-Needs clarity on the viability issue

-fails to direct where the housing numbers are best placed to be delivered.

-Large schemes need to include specialist housing for the elderly.

-Building for Life criteria (modified) could form the basis for design assessments

-Sustainable development should be allowed in Greenbelt around settlements.

-Concern at impact on housing of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA

-Concern at loss of some detail on heritage issues.

US Supreme Court uphold right to levy a charge against Sprawl #NPPF

Silicon Valley Mercury News

In a key precedent against sprawl the US supreme court has upheld a case  which affirms the right of a California pollution control agency to charge developers fees for building in places that will significantly increase driving and smog-causing emissions.

For decades now, local land-use authorities have been charging development impact fees to partially offset the municipal costs associated with providing services to new suburban subdivisions.  (The fees are almost always inadequate because they cover only the costs of infrastructure construction, not required maintenance and repair down the road.)

But, because building in ever-more spread-out locations significantly increases both the frequency and (especially) the length of motor vehicle trips, there are additional burdens placed on society by these development location decisions.  Not the least of these are increased emissions, including smog-causing nitrogen oxides; smog has been shown to contribute significantly to asthma and emphysema, imposing public medical costs.

In 2005, the San Joaquin Unified Air Pollution Control District, covering eight California counties and based in Fresno, adopted a new rule requiring developers to go beyond the usual infrastructure impact fees and also pay to offset the air pollution caused by their construction equipment and by the new traffic generated by their projects.

The National Association of Home Builders sued and lost, first in the US District Court and next at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. On Monday, the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari that would have put the case before the court for review this term.  (The court typically accepts only 80 to 150 cases each term for full review, out of a typical pool of 8000 or so petitions.  For a writ to be granted, at least four of the Court’s nine justices must believe the circumstances of the case are such as to warrant a full review.)

Other California air districts have been following the case closely and can be expected to follow suit.

Building Research Establishment #NPPF Response – Sustainability and Building Design



-Wants support for BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes
-Once sustainability standards established it should be for the developer to show that a scheme would not be sustainable

My Take
I have taken a contrarian line on the Code for Sustainable Homes for a number of Years but I think it was badly conceived and has failed, but I think events have borne me out.

I remember a government seminar a couple of years ago where a senior civil servant was rendered slack jawed speechless by my criticisms of it. I thought I was a loan voice then loads of others piped up.

The problem with the code is it is tickbox, mixes fish and fowl (cycle racks and energy standards), the energy standard is hard to calculate and scale and the zero carbon definition actively works against the single biggest step that can be taken to reduce carbon – district heating.

With only 16 code sixes in teh whole of the uk, most code 4 and 5s leaking heat like a seive when built we think events have born us out. And with 10s of thousands of passivhaus houses built we dont have far to look for a standard that works.

We have suggested that passivhaus be adopted as an interim standard until building regs are fixed and other other good practice measures become part of the NPPF, i.e. mixed communities, sustainable transport etc.

RIBA Presidents Rage Against ‘Noddy Box’ Housing #NPPF

Excellent profile in the Guardian – what a pity then the RIBS has taken such a weak line on the downgrading of design policy, the abolition of guidance such as ‘BY Design’ and ‘Manuel for Streets’ which try to prevent such ‘Noddy Box’ housing, and its failure to include minimum space standards.


New homes must be fit for purpose, says leading architect

The new president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Angela Brady, wants to start a conversation on building better new homes

For Angela Brady, good design is a watchword. That means communicating its benefits on television, radio, at workshops for children, on public platforms and, in her new role, to the country at large.

The new president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has a Channel 4 series featuring architecture in six European cities behind her. Right now, her passion is the lamentable design of much of the newhousing in England. She does not mince words, labelling buildings passing for detached homes as “Noddy boxes”. It is a criticism she heard time and again during this year’s party conference fringe meetings which outlined Riba’s Case for Space campaign, a drive to persuade house-builders to raise their game as new homes become significantly smaller.

Those Riba events, titled Leaving Legoland, attracted several hundred at the three party conferences. “The strong criticism that came from the audience was: ‘We’re sick of these volume housebuilders, the Noddy box houses in cul-de-sacs all around the country. We have to drive to improve them. They’re not built sustainably. They’re tiny, cramped.’ And they’ve got a fair point,” says Brady.

“People will say housebuilders have got a monopoly because they’ve got the land. We’re saying there hasn’t really been an analysis of how we live, what spaces we need, since 1961. So we’re starting the conversation. Let’s ask what people want.”

That is what Riba is proposing with a Future Homes Commission, comprising experts from a variety of fields. With the average new home in England 8% below the recommended minimum size (which can equate to a bedroom) the institute wants to find out what consumers want and need, then make recommendations to house builders and developers.

When I mention that architecture seems to be an afterthought in many new houses, Brady interjects: “If at all.” It’s a serious point because, she says, many homes are simply constructed off-the-shelf from manuals; even the once ubiquitous term “architect designed” has been ditched. She thinks it is symptomatic of a “let’s get something cheap, cheerful and quick”.

But Brady’s criticisms go further than house design; she thinks the layout and planning of new estates leaves much to be desired. She spent a year on a working group organised by the former Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment – an organisation, she laments, needlessly scrapped by the government – looking at the country’s post-war new towns. “There was some fantastic planning then,” she enthuses. “Just compare that with suburban sprawl, ribbon development, these sort of executive cul-de-sacs you’ve got to drive to and you can’t even buy a bottle of milk on the corner.”

Better models

Brady adds: “We need to really re-examine the way we live and play, and we need to seek better models for the next 20 years. We’ve got huge constraints, if you look at the pressure on the environment, and I believe we are the custodians of [that]. People are relying on architects, planners, to come up with the right answers – how to make the green deal, make homes more zero carbon. As architects, we’ve got so much to offer. Governments ignore that at their peril.”

Brady studied architecture in her native Dublin and sought early inspiration in her career with work spells in Denmark, and Toronto, before landing in London. In 1987, she set up an architecture practice with her husband Robin Mallalleu.

Brady is the second female president of Riba and has a record of activism in the organisation. She was a leading light in Architects for Change, promoting the progression of women alongside black and minority ethnic groups. “You can inspire children who would never think of going into architecture that it’s a worthwhile career,” she says.

In the contest for president, Brady believes that her activism proved the trump card. “One of the reasons I got voted in was because I was the only person pushing diversity in our profession. We’re only 18% women and I’d love it if we could push it to 40%.” Therein lies a dilemma because women, she says, constitute 37% of students in the country’s 44 schools of architecture . Brady says it’s not hard to discover why so many women subsequently leave. “They are the main child carers; take a year out, and it’s quite hard to get in again.”

Another passion is de-mystifying architecture – “taking it to the people” and involving them in the process. She believes the profession needs to broaden its appeal, and evangelise. “This is what’s missing, how are we architects going to help deliver the ‘localist’ agenda of the government?” she enthuses. “That means helping people make local plans, when there isn’t the revenue there in the support structure. Communicating with neighbourhood groups, helping them draw up local plans, it’s a long-term strategy that we want.”

Proper consideration

Why, she asks, plonk houses miles from anywhere without the services to support families? “We want to make sure there is some infrastructure in place before people come and put housing down, to know that housing has been given proper consideration, is going to fit in, and it’s not going to be yet more ribbon development.”

And why, she wonders, build exclusive estates and properties for one privileged sector of society while housing others in separate enclaves? “If we look to Denmark and Holland, for example, they live as a community coming together without an ‘us and them’, the rich and the poor. It’s much more social,” she explains.

Brady is enthralled by the “rich mix” of the capital’s culture even after over two decades in London. She is appalled that plans for a cap of £26,000 on the amount of benefits one family can claim a year from 2013 will undermine that mix, driving the lower paid out of the capital. “People have a right to live in the communities where they were born,” she says.

That aside, she insists that the compelling case for many more houses should not mean poor design. “We’ve got a huge housing crisis, a shortage of 250,000 units a year. And there should be more opportunity for better housing. We need to build more sustainably, to cut carbon, it’s a matter of convincing the contractors to build for the long-term.”

No easy task. She has two years as president to make her mark.

Planning Resource on the #NPPF Transition Arrangements

Ministers pledge NPPF transition arrangements

By Sarah Townsend Wednesday, 05 October 2011

Ministers have said that they will ‘put in place’ transitional arrangements to give councils without an up-to-date local plan time to adapt to the coalition’s controversial planning reforms.

There has been widespread concern that councils that have yet to adopt a local plan could face unwanted development when the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is introduced. This is due to happen next year.

Under the terms of the coalition’s draft NPPF, on which a consultation ends this month, councils would be expected to grant permission for “sustainable” development where a local plan is “absent, silent or indeterminate”.

Research published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that 48 per cent of councils are unlikely to have an up-to-date core strategy in April, when the planning reforms are due to be implemented. The group warned that the reforms would mean that areas without local plans would be “more or less up for grabs”.

Speaking on separate occasions at the Tory Party conference, both junior planning minister Bob Neill and decentralisation minister Greg Clark said that the government “will put in place” transitional arrangements to support councils without an up-to-date local plan.

Neither minister would be drawn on how these arrangements might work, but Clark told Planning that ministers are considering a range of proposals beyond simply giving councils more time to finalise plans.

Also speaking to Planning at the conference in Manchester, communities secretary Eric Pickles said that there had been a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what the coalition is trying to achieve through its planning reforms.

The communities secretary insisted that the coalition is “very close to the green groups”, despite concerns raised by environmental lobby groups over the NPPF.

He said: “I think we are actually very close to the green groups. But there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of what we are intending to do [through the NPPF]. We do want to protect the green belt – while at the same time helping to support the economic growth of the countryside, and of towns and cities.

Even in cities you can find ways of creating green spaces – just look at Manchester: it’s a big city that still has lots of green space.”

Pickles also insisted that there is a huge appetite for communities and local people to get involved in planning. He said: “What I think we want is for communities to be the ones to decide what their places should look like and how many new houses should be built. Yes, they want to get involved in planning, and no, planning should not be something left to the professionals.”

Friday’s print issue of Planning will contain more coverage of the transitional arrangements pledged by Clark and Neill.

Latest Localism Bill Amendments – Subtle Regional Strategy Revocation & Business Led Neighbourhoods u-turns #NPPF

It is always difficult to keep up with the amendments to the localism bill but some amendments published today signify shiofts in two key areas

Firstly Regional Startegy Revocation.

Clause 97 at the moment allows an all or nothing revocation

With the amendment it would read

 Page 75, line 15, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—

“(3) The Secretary of State may by order revoke the whole or any part of a regional strategy under Part 5 of that Act.

(3A) An order under subsection (3) may, in particular, revoke all of the regional strategies (or all of the remaining regional strategies) under Part 5 of that Act.

What this does is give the SoS power to partially revoke a regional strategy.  This makes great sense.  The SEA might find significant problems in parts of England and not others.  There are also bound to be legal challenges which because of predetermination by ministers are likely to be successful (on the Seaports principle).  Also in our alternative NPPF we suggested a pragmatic let out for ministers, where subregional startegies which had been SEAd, as part of duty to cooperate joint working, to give the SoS power to partially revoke in that area, i.e. allow regional strategies to be pragmatically replaced over the next two years as replacements covering the strategic issues naturally fall into place and leaving no policy vacuume. Is this what ministers are planning?  Who can tell but it is wise to give ministers a plan b that doesnt involve Eric Pickles having to pull out his famous anti-regional strategies gun.

No crowing, no u-turn yet, Regional Plans are not saved permanenty, but this clause does recognise for the first time that the previous chain saw approach hasnt worked and a back up plan was needed.

Secondly the business led neighbourhoods issue, one of the 10 asks of the NT

The amendment has an error it should say page 316 not 319.

Rather than either prom oting social etc. well being or promoting business it now states that a neighbourhood plan body can do both.

“(a) it is established for the express purpose of promoting or improving the social, economic and environmental well-being of an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area concerned (whether or not it is also established for the express purpose of promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area),”

This reflects the realpolitik on the ground that these are partnership areas.

Section 61H remains of giving a power to designate an area for a ‘double referendum’ – i.e. both business and local community, and for the LPA to resolve if their is a dispute.

Will this concession resolve the concern of the NT over one of their 10 asks – we will see.

It still seems oddly bureaucratic to me and many others to require a referendum even where the LPA affected is fully in favour of the local plan.  Given the cost and the likelihood that these could split local communitie;s are they really necessary?