Ray Mears joins #NPPF campaign – Telegraph


Responding to the Government’s proposed radical planning reforms, Mears said that a rising population was not an excuse to create a concrete jungle.

The 47 year-old, whose television series have demonstrated ancient survival skills, urged politicians to recognise the importance of Britain’s remaining areas of wilderness.

“You can still get away from everything. Despite the populous nature of our country, there are still great opportunities for feeling a sense of wildness,” he said.

He warned that open spaces were constantly under threat from developers.

His comments come after The Telegraph launched the Hands Off Our Land campaign. Explaining his fears, Mears, who returns to ITV1 next Friday with the second series of Wild Britain, said: “Roads are much busier than they were. There are a lot more people around. We need to develop a new reverence for wild places. They are more important and more under threat than ever before.”

The Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework aims to make it easier for planners and builders by removing red tape. Opponents including the National Trust have expressed concern at the inclusion of the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” which they have labelled a developers’ charter.

Mears, who grew up in Surrey, stressed that it was not only the countryside that needed protecting, and that a lack of green space in the inner cities might explain the sort of frustration that boiled over during the riots.

“All through my life I’ve seen wonderful areas being built on,” he said. “I grew up in Surrey, an area with big houses with big gardens and a lot of wildlife. Those houses have been bought up by developers, knocked down and replaced with small blocks of flats.

“People cry out, ‘We need places to live.’ That’s true. However, we must also make sure we have green spaces. If we don’t, we’ll end up with one giant urban conglomeration.

“And I think we saw earlier this year what attitudes that can spawn in the people who are oppressed in those areas. You didn’t see people rioting in the bits of London that border big parks.”

Clark – Government to Set out #NPPF Transitional Arrangements Shortly

7 October, 2011 | By Allister Hayman LGC

Greg Clark has confirmed the government will put in place transitional arrangements
to ensure that no council is “disadvantaged” by the planning reforms.

Speaking to LGC, the planning minister said the government would put in place transitional arrangements to ensure that once the controversial National Planning Policy Framework comes into effect, councils will have time to ensure they have a compliant local plan in place.

Mr Clark would not comment on the length of the transitional period – which has been reported as being up to 18 months – but said the government would set out the transitional arrangements shortly.

Given that the whole purpose of the [NPPF] is to put local councils in control – to make sure that you do have planning decisions made according to the local plan – then you can be sure that the last thing that we want to do is to is make any council at all disadvantaged.

“So we’ve always intended to have transitional arrangements and they will be to advantage plan making.”

Because the NPPF contains a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” councils must have new local plans in place or obtain a certificate of conformity to ensure their plans are in line with the NPPF, if they are to avoid having to wave through development on green spaces.

But with just a third of councils having adopted a local plan over the past seven years, critics of the reforms have feared that councils may not have enough time to put their local plans in place, causing a planning vacuum that could be exploited by developers.

Recent research published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that only 48% of councils were likely to have an NPPF compliant local plan in place when they NPPF is expected to come into force next April.

Mr Clark’s assurance that the government will put in place transitional arrangements came as he also signalled that the NPPF would be altered to make more a more explicit commit to prioritise development on brownfield land.

He said it was “always the intention” of the NPPF that “sites of the lowest environmental value should be brought forward first” but said that because the wording did not explicitly reference brownfield land, this had not been communicated clearly.

He said the wording in the NPPF – focusing on land of the “lowest environmental value” – had been chosen because some brownfield land had, over time, become “important ecological sites” and should therefore also be protected. “The wording we’ve used was actually designed to be more powerful, environmentally,” he said.

“But because people have been familiar with the words brownfield and haven’t seen them there [in the NPPF] they think that in some way the intention to bring derelict sites back into use is not there, or has been reversed.

“It’s always been my view – right from the beginning of the calls for evidence – that this is something we want to have a great deal of participation in. Planning effects everyone and we’ve wanted everyone to give their views to make sure the document we have is absolutely clear in every respect”.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week, housing minister Grant Shapps said the controversy over the planning reforms was the result of a failure on the part of critics to understand the government’s localism agenda.

He said the whole thrust of the reforms was to put more trust in local authorities to develop local plans that are suitable for their area, rather than have planning detmerined through central government diktat.

He said that the current planning regime, with “thousands of pages” of regulations, was “crazy”, but accepted that simplifying it down to the 54-page NPPF had sparked fears.

“As soon as you take away a lot of the stuff and boil it down to 54 pages … you will by necessity remove references to lots of different things – never mind that it was goobledegook and it was contradictory – people could point to the bit of text that protected their particular special interest because it said something about X or Y.

“But the truth is we don’t need a national document that says something – in fact often contradictory things – about X or Y as we can trust local authorities to come along and say well actually, we want to provide special protection in our case to this or that or the other.

“This is all part of localism and in the future government is going to hand out far fewer of these diktats – in fact it is happening now – but that doesn’t mean that just because X or Y isn’t mentioned that we expect it to be built all over.” [err with the presumption Grant you do – unless you reword it]

The final part of our #NPPF response – the Impact Assessment

This is the final part of our NPPF Response – on the impact Assessment

QA1 Is the impact assessment a fair and reasonable representation of the costs, benefits and impacts of introducing the Framework?

No.  The recent Institute of Government report on Policy Formulation ‘Making Better Policy summed it up

The quality of impact assessments is frequently poor, while policy makers argue that the specific impact tests simply rationalise decisions already taken, creating a major bureaucratic burden in the process[1]

See also National Audit Office, Assessing the Impact of Proposed New Policies, 2010, p.5; and Regulatory Policy Committee, Challenging Regulation, 2011.

The impact assessment does not assess the impact of major key changes, uses spurious and misleading evidence and does not stand up to the smallest scrutiny.  It appears to be solely a post hoc rationalisation rather than an objective assessment contributing to policy debate.

Lets start with the issue of transition costs – page 7.  It is unrealistic to state that these will only occur at year 1.  More likely they will be ‘confusion costs’ and will be ongoing and growing year on year. That is because many of the problems with the NPPF arise because there is no consensus or agreement on many of the key ideas and terms in the NPPF because of the loose way they are phrased.  No two planning lawyers will agree.  Therefore there is likely to be increased litigation and appeals – not accounted for.  Many planning lawyers have predicted this.  Secondly many more cases are likely to go to appeal as the NPPF undermines many reasonable grounds for objections (such as weakening deign control) and as such developers may feel emboldened to submit poor schemes with a higher risk of appeal.

Poorer schemes going to appeal may also have negative impacts to society  as a whole if permitted, which the NPPF makes very difficult to refuse.  Such as from added traffic congestion, additional infrastructure maintenance and servicing costs, added carbon emissions etc.  These are not accounted for in the impact assessment even though this is the main economic argument for smart growth as opposed to sprawl from decreased urban concentration, the main policy thrust of the NPPF.  Because these are not accounted for the impact assessment cannot be considered to even pass first base as an accurate or reliable assessment of the costs and benefits of the NPPF.  It is waste of carbon even printing the impact assessment.

The government has much quoted (including on page 10 of the impact statement) the work of Ball 2010 – The Impact of Planning Control Processing Times on Housing Supply in England[2] that

‘Development control costs local authorities, statutory agencies and applicants together around £3billion a year.  A substantial proportion of this will be on major housing developments’

But to quote this figure as a ‘cost’ that would be ‘saved’ by the NPPF is to assume that development control would be abolished by the NPPF.  It would not, indeed (as we shall see) it is likely that the costs increased, especially to the taxpayer, would far outweigh the modest savings from having to assess schemes against less national policy.

Looking at the Ball report it is clear that much of the costs depend on delays in reporting schemes.  But this is evidence of a shortage of frontline planners able to process schemes swiftly, as the regression analysis finds, something made far worse by cuts and the failure of government to raise planning fees to fully cover costs.  It is evidence of underesourcing.  The study was not an efficiency or time and motion study.  It did not differentiate between costs from poor businesses processes and costs from being stuck in the queue because of staff shortages.   The study is worthless as evidence for planning reform, certainly about planning policy reform because the NPPF is a policy reform and not a process reform.

It is better to consider the optimum time for determining large schemes and basing costs from above that point.  The optimum time (which could be the statutory 13 weeks) would not have a ‘cost’ as the opportunity cost would be the cost of not having a planning system at all, a cost which would run into the 100s of billions from environmental degradation and wasted duplicated infrastructure.

The costs could then be split between the delay costs, which would in large part be not as Osbourne and Pickles contend the cost of planning but the cost of not planning through underesourcing development management, and separate the cost of unnecessary planning policy, likely to be very small.   Indeed the impact assessment should examine the willingness to pay of developers to determine the costs of not planning, and the Westminster voluntary fees of £21,000 per major application give a reasonable estimate of the benefit of planning as perceived by developers.

Therefore the mentioning of the Ball report on page 10 is entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand and should be deleted.

B1 – The reference to Baker, M., Hincks, S. and Sherriff, G. (2009) is also irrelevant as all plan strategies presented as options will need to be realistic, and it would be wrong to present a ‘no development’ option even though this is a source of local concern.  This will not change at all with the NPPF which makes it clear that objectively assessed development requirements must be met.  In this regard national planning policy has not changed.

Page 11 o0f the impact assessment makes the naive and unsupported assumption that development will be any less controversial if proposed in a local plan than a  regional plan.  60 years of experience of the uk planning system shows that it is just as controversial however and wherever it is proposed.  The Ipsos MORI (2010) is not giood evidence as the question was leading (it asked a motherhood and apple pie question) and related to a hypothetical rather than an actual scheme.

Page 12 considers two options – The National Planning Policy Framework –as is, or nothing.  This is an entirely false choice.  The other choices, of précising national policy without watering down key environmental protections, as in Scotland and Wales, were not considered, despite clear examples being before the government.  The other option that could have been considered was to take the opportunity of the framework to embed the principles of sustainable planning and smart growth using international examples of bext practice in planning including zero carbon planning.

Again the costs do not include ongoing ‘confusion costs’ resulting from the poor drafting, omissions, litigation, case law, differing interpretations and the inevitable letters and appeals clarifying the policy vacuums created.

Page 13 refers to the NPPF reducing appeals.  However the near universal view of the planning and legal professions is that the NPPF will lead to far more appeal led planning as very similar reforms did in the 1980s.  The impact statement appears to have no sense of history.  The NPPF appears to encourage appeals in many ways, in particular by making plans out of date and then removing almost all reasons to reject schemes when they are.  This may lead to planning authorities refusing poor schemes in frustration at the narrowness of national policy and to developers chancing their arms at appeal on schemes that previously would have been refused out of hand.  Indeed it is not unreasonable to assume that the appeal rate would rise from 4% currently to over 6%, 34,000 extra appeals a year, similar to the 30,000 extra appeals a year brought about by the downgrading of developments plans in 1987.  On this point the impact statement calculations are false because they do not include these extra costs. Indeed because appeals are free these are costs to the taxpayer and the whole of society.  As well as the costs of a rising PINS budget (or creation of a massive appeals backlog to the cost of business) there is also the costs to local planning authorities of diverting staff from development management or having to hire short term staff at high marginal cost (through agencies) to fight appeals, and the costs to businesses themselves of fighting appeals and the indirect costs of having to wait longer for decisions because of local planning authority staff diverted towards appeals from development management.

Adding all of these costs together, and the Ball data and the ongoing CIPFA benchmarking work on development management costs it would be easy to estimate the costs of the appeal rate rising from 3-5%.  It would be a surprise if the cost to society of the NPPF from this assessment did not run into tens of millions of pounds per annum.  Indeed if the assessment of an additional 1,000 major cases a year were correct and 20% of these ended at enquiry the cost would be from PINS data £6.1 Million/annum.

The familiarisation costs on page 13 are underestimates by factor of 4 or 5 as they neglect the costs of having to read and compare the practitioners draft, the leaked draft, the final consultation draft and prepare and analyse these against current policy and prepare consultation responses and briefings to members.  The true first year costs of this is as a result likely to be over £20 million. The methodology from assessment savings is broadly accepted however this omits the costs of taking legal advice on the many areas where the NPPF policy is unclear and the additional costs of appeals.  Considered overall then with net disbenefits of over £20 million /annum and benefits of less than £20 million, even without considering the confusion costs and additional costs of appeal there is no business case for the NPPF as drafted.

These calculations are transformed if you assess the Welsh/Scottish option of an NPPF which doesn’t water down protections and induce anh entirely developer biased appeal led system.  This would not have confusion and appeal costs, would be easier and familiar to users lessening familiarisation costs and would lessen legal costs.  Only such an NPPF can demonstrate a positive business case.

The assessment of the behavioural assessment of  policy changes on page 17 and wider benefits on page 18 adds nothing to the assessment as it includes no calculations of reduced costs.  The second paragraph is meaningless as the Ball study looked solely at process costs not returns to landowners or the likelihood of gaining consent.

The assessment of the impact on getting plans up to date on pages 23-24 will have little leverage on those authorities where it will be impossible to get there plans up to date by April 2012 leading to a dangerous policy vacuum and more importantly the likelihood of more appeals before then, knowing that the SOS has applied a new policy on ‘prematurity’  at recovered appeals at Sandbach and Winchester which means that local planning authorities may feel they have little to lose by refusing cases. Indeed this section seems to bear no relation to current practice of ministers on appeal or the statements they have made on policy and the need for transition arrangements in recent weeks.  Therefore we conclude this section of the impact statement is assessment a policy which has been dropped by ministers as impractical and therefore there is little point in commenting on it.

The description of option 2 on page 25 is misleading as current policy requires development requirements to be met, the NPPF represents no policy change in this regard.

The reference to regional strategies on page 35-26 is disturbing:

local council targets with reference to infrastructure and environmental Opportunities and constraints, as well as their individual level of need. As a result, the provision for some councils fell well below their needs, whereas some councils may have accommodated more growth than their indigenous needs required.

The implication is that even where planning constraints are high and opportunities limited all need should be met locally.  Should areas such as the New Forest or the Peak District meet all needs locally despite environmental constraints?  The implication is that these should be overridden.  The purpose of ‘larger than local’ planning was to redistribute these requirements to areas which were less constrained.  In reality such areas wont accommodate all requirements, but with no mechanism to redistribute the shortfall this is likely to lead to a substantial shortfall, in housing and employment allocations harmful to economic growth.

This is why we consider that supporters of the NPPF need to visit their local job centres to explain why they are in favour of such counterproductive policies at a time of national crisis.

The section on improved speed of decision making on page 28 contains no evidence or calculations as to savings or justification as to why or how the NPPF would increase the 8/13 rates.  It is worthless and non-evidentiary.

B2 – on the town centre-first issue with relation to offices it states that

Government considers that this requirement places undue burdens on office … This burden has contributed to high rent costs for office space compared to other countries: a square foot of prime office space costs £80 per yea in London’s West End, whilst it was £62.61 In Paris Ile-de-France, £43.41 in Milan and £38.07 in Frankfurt am Main.

This however is not comparing like with like it only compares part of London, where policy on office space has been restricted for conservation and mixed community reasons with the whole of Paris and the whole of Frankfurt.

Looking at the Q2 EU office rents report[3] from CR Richard Eillis it shows that the City prime office rental is £655 /sqm /annum whilst for Paris it is £830 /sqm/annum and Frankfurt £456 /sqm /annum and Milan £520 /sqm/annum.  London is cheaper than Paris and slightly more so than Frankfurt and Milan, the difference explained by London being an international financial centre.   The deliberate inclusion of west end rents as opposed to City rents appears to be a deliberately selective use of evidence that discredits the veracity and independence of the impact statement.

It is the case that  Birmingham is more expensive than Hamburg, Brussels and  but this is due to local geographical factors, Birmingham City Centre is small and hemmed in by ring roads, the masterplan is to double the size of the city centre by breaking this collar.  This should solve this problem.

The impact statement states that there would still be ‘the policy requirement that development generating significant people movement should to be located in accessible locations where sustainable transport modes can be maximised’

However this is not the policy the NPPF says

Planning policies and decisions should ensure developments that generate significant movement are located where the need to travel will be minimised and the use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised. However this needs to take account of policies set out elsewhere in this Framework, particularly in rural areas.

The implication being that the priority to be given to growth and the policies promoting growth in rural areas could see scattered car-dependent office development in rural areas.

It would not be an issue if the NPPF allowed local plans to decide where the best places for offices are, either in town centres or in other highly accessible locations chosen locally.  Many local and other plans do this.  For example Canary Wharf in London or Cambridge Science park on the guided bus way.  The loose wording of the NPPF doesn’t do this.  It is a central dictat allowing offices to disperse with the considerable social and economic costs through increased carbon emissions and increased energy use that this entails, which is not accounted for in the impact statement.

On parking standards the impact statement is illogical and inaccurate

A centrally set national maximum parking standard for major non-residential developments may be too high or too low for reasons specific to an individual local council. In some cases, they may wish to lower the maximum (i.e. restrict parking numbers);

 However current national policy in PPS4 and PPG12 specially allows local authorities to have stricter standards if they wish.

The impact statement correctly states that that an oversupply of parking can result in more car use, lower site density, higher land use consumption, lower land values and less use of alternative travel modes’ so why encourage more parking through removing the requirement for maximum parking standards and setting national benchmarks which discourage local authorities from competing with each by offering more parking?  Indeed why not cost these additional factors into the impact statement, is this not what an impact statement is for?

The impact statement also states that development in rural areas may require more parking.  However current standards have a carefully designed threshold which exempts development of a scale suitable for rural areas.  If the intent ion is to allow large car dependent development in rural areas it confirm the worst fears that the policy change is designed to encourage more dispersed and car dependent development.

The impact statement needs to account for the extra carbon emissions and energy use from the dispersed and car dependent development patterns it encourages and the agglomeration and productivity gains from Smart growth and urban containment.  There is a vast literature on this which the author of the impact statement should familiarise themselves with.

In particular they should examine

Understanding Smart Growth Savings – What We Know About Public Infrastructure and Service Cost Savings,  And How They are Misrepresented By Critics 17 June 2011 Todd Littman[4]

The costs of sprawl revisited FTA 1998[5]

Paying the Costs of Sprawl – Snyder and Bird 1998[6]

Characteristics, Causes, and Effects of Sprawl: A Literature Review Reid H. Ewing Urban Ecology 2008[7]

Analysis of environmental costs of mobility due to urban sprawl a modelling study on italian cities Travisi et al. 2006[8]

Traffic, Urban Growth and Suburban Sprawl Batty et al. 2003[9]

Galster, G., Hanson, R., Ratcliffe, M. R., Wolman, H., Coleman, S., and Freihage, J. (2001) Wrestling Sprawl to the Ground: Defining and Measuring an Elusive Concept, Housing Policy Debate, 12, 681-717

Transportation Costs and the American Dream[10]

Jonathan Ford (2009), Smart Growth & Conventional Suburban Development:  Which Costs  More? U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence, Island Press, Washington DC, 1999. Newman P and Kenworthy J, ISBN 1-55963-660-2.

Transport Energy Use and Greenhouse Gases in Urban Passenger Transport Systems: A Study of 84 Global Cities[11].

The department should also be aware of the research on the costs and congestion caused by providing excessive free parking in town centres.  In the report ‘The High Costs of Free Parking’ by Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles[12],

 Big parking lots hike building costs and get passed through to the consumer, sometimes through higher rents in their apartment buildings or bigger costs at their grocery stores. Every place we drive and park free, we really pay for that parking as something other than as a driver

The impact assessment does not account for these additional land rent costs and the opportunity costs they cause through reduced employment and housing density .

Shoups research[13] has also found that

Minimum  parking requirements have severed the  link between the cost  of providing parking and the price that motorists pay for it.  The cost of  providing parking has ceased to  influence most decisions about whether to  own or use a car.  Because motorists pay nothing for parking, they own and use cars as if  parking costs nothing, and traffic congestion results.

His research has shown that 25% of congestion in town centres is induced by drivers searching for free car parking spaces.

The impact assessment also underestimates the problems of the policy gap that would be created for those local planning authorities relying on national maximums.  In the interim developers could provide what they liked contradictory to the sustainable policy goals of the NPPF.

B3 – The opening paragraphs are a complete distortion of the evidence.  Housebuilding was rising before the 2008 recession, as was the number of adopted plans, the majority would have been up to date by now were it not for the foolish letter of the then shadow Secretary of State to local authorities asking them to reduce housing and slow down plan making.  Also the impact assessment does not consider the mass of evidence collected by the DCLG Select Committee[14] and subsequently on the dramatic failure of the governments localist policies which has led to a precipitous fall in the amount of land planned for housing (estimated at an average fall of 20.6% per authority by BNP Paribas[15]) which is now feeding through to falls in completions and starts data from Q2 20011 onwards as you would expect.

New Homes Bonus has been in place a year now.  It has not worked, housebuilding has fallen not risen.

The section on the brownfield priority and target is a distortion.   Local Planning Authorities have rarely felt constrained by the national target rather they have adopted local targets according to local circumstances.  What is much more important is the brownfield first approach.

The impact assessment is quite simply wrong when it says

A rigid focus on brownfield development over other sites has contributed to a rise in land prices by focussing development on previously developed sites even where more sustainable options may be available.

As PPS quite expressly contains a proviso – that the Brownfield first rule does not apply when it is not the most sustainable option!  The impact assessment is assessing the impact of a policy that does not and has not ever existed.

The reference to a statistic that 90% of England is not built on leads to a dead link.  When found the document contains no such statistic.  The statistic seems to have come from the executive summary of the 2010 Land use futures report instead however no source is given either their or in the main report.  It is also wrong.  It is based on land cover analysis, you cannot accurately use land cover analysis for land use built % assessment.  It is really designed for agricultural and natural area coverage assessment.  That is because it is based on grid square analysis, in this case probably the NERC national land cover map.  This shows the predominant land cover in each 250m square grid and will miss all of the houses, especially in rural areas, that form a minority of the grid square.  When DTLR last measures urbanisation in 1990 the figure was 10.6% forecast to rise by around 12% by 2016[16].  This is a slightly more accurate measure as it was based on actual ordnance survey property boundaries not grid squares.  The proportion of urbanisation could not have fallen since 1990.  However Defra admitted that Neither means of estimation are an accurate indication of the extent of land under urban use in the UK’  The NLUD was designed to do this however it has never been properly funded to examine the distribution and rate of urbanisation in the UK.  This is an urgent data gap that needs to be filled.

The qutote that

The average remediation cost of brownfield land is estimated to be around £250,000 per hectare

No this is the average decontamination cost of contaminated land.  Most brownfield sites are not contaminated, many Greenfield sites are contaminated (through for example use of sewage as fertiliser).  This quote is mixing fish and foul.

The paragraph at the bottom of page 51 suggests that policies of urban containment may prevent the economic advantages of urban agglomeration.  This is somewhat farfetched.  Surely agglomeration is aided by policies which encourage the growth in density of cities rather than there dispersion, which may dissipate agglomeration economies.

The impact assessment of more Greenfield land development on page 54 asume current low building rates.  However the NPPF proposes to increase them.  With an increase in housebuilding there is likely to be an increase in Greenfield housebuilding, even if the % on brownfield land actually rose.  The figures also not not take into consideration the associated infrastructure land takes, roads schools etc.  This can easily double landtake.  As a result the figures suggested are preposterously low.  They can easily be contrasted with the figures from the land use futures project.  For example Bibby 2009[17]

The conversion of greenfield land to developed uses accounts for about 5,000 ha per year, which is about a third of the post-war rates up to 1975. Just over half of this greenfield land is developed for residential uses.

The post war rates prior to 1975 is a more realistic benchmark because then house building rates were higher and because then policies of urban containments were much weaker.  Precisely the policy mix the NPPF seeks to reintroduce.  This therefore suggests that the additional Greenfield loss per year could rise by 1,000 ha per annum if the policies on Brownfield first and protection of the countryside were abandoned.

The impact statement says that

there is a risk that derelict urban sites could be left undeveloped in favour of Greenfield land, where there are lower remedial costs. However, these sites can be used for other uses such as economic uses including industry and retail, as well as leisure and community uses.

However experience suggests that without high value end uses such as residential the more difficult derelict sites will not be reclaimed at all.

On the 20% additional rule it seems poorly justified.  If deceased prices is the abmbition why not 1,200% ?  The real reason given for a small increase in the past was to create a buffer for sites coming forward, which can vary radically by authority.  If the 5 year supply is tested at examination and all sites found to be deliverable why put that in with those authorities that have untested 5 years supplies including potentially undeliverable ones.

On the issue of the affordable housing threshold it omits to consider those local authorities that currently have no threshold because they rely on national policy.  There needs to be a transition arrangements otherwise developers could put in applications with no affordable housing in the interim.  It also distort existing policy as this was often varied to fit local circumstances.

On rural exceptions site policy it is acknowledged that allowing some local flexibility could be beneficial, however the policy as drafted could create significant transitional problems.  Hope values on sites could rise and exceptions sites could dry up as owners expect full market rates.  We suggest a wording which could remove this problem.  However as drafted the impact statement should acknowledgment a potential loss of affordable housing.

The Green Belt section does not assess the impact of allowing large scale infill in inaccessible green belt villages, which would now become appropriate development.

The description of policy on decentralised energy on page 87 of the impact statement does not tie in with the policy in para 150 which can clearly be read to state that no local standards should be set rather they should be replaced with forthcoming national standards.  If this is not the intent a clearer wording should be used.

St Albans #NPPF response – already leading local agents ‘trying their luck’ at appeals



  • SADC would support a presumption in favour of genuinely sustainable development, but the draft NPPF has failed to strike an appropriate balance between the economic, environmental and social spheres.
  • The requirement to accommodate “unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is practical to do so consistently with the presumption in favour of sustainable development” is poorly drafted and open to very wide interpretation
  • Greater clarity over what constitutes “successfully cooperated” is essential. Does this mean a perfectly sensible duty to undertake meaningful meetings and make efforts to agree, or does it mean effectively an unrealistic and undeliverable “duty to agree”? [Note legally it is a duty to cooperate not to agree, but coming to an agreement would be a new soundness test, quite rightly]
  • the draft policy goes far too far in fuelling pressures for viable, sustainably located employment land and buildings to be lost to higher value uses, primarily residential. The paragraph as drafted will simply provide a substantial incentive for landowners to speculate over the potential residential value of
    their land, reduce investment in existing facilities, reduce future investment in redevelopment for improved employment facilities and decrease the availability of appropriate space to the very businesses which actually drive the economy over the medium and long term. In short, it would be hugely damaging and completely contrary to the stated aim of encouraging economic activity and giving business the certainty and
    confidence to invest.
  • the phrase “unless the residual [transport] impacts of development are severe” this is very poorly phrased and will
    inevitably lead to considerable uncertainty, variety of interpretation and many costly, lengthy Appeal decisions and possibly High Court challenges in order to find established parameters for most common types and scales of
    development. This phrase has rightly been described by experts in this field as classic “lawyers charter” wording that must be appropriately addressed.
  • the absence of any stated preference for prioritising previously developed land, alongside the
    presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’, needs to be reviewed urgently…The changes sought in the draft NPPF are likely to deincentivise developers in promoting, prioritising or implementing development on previously developed land. If such sites do not come forward for development, this will inevitably reduce the likelihood of LPAs maintaining a five (or six) year land supply focused on previously developed sites/existing built up areas. In doing so, there will be greater pressure to release Green Belt sites for housing.
  • The proposed abandonment of the established ‘exceptions’ policy for affordable housing in rural areas, by allowing for ‘some’ market housing to be delivered on such sites, is not supported. This would potentially undermine Green Belt policies as drafted, where sites come forward outside of village boundaries, envelopes or insets
  • There are, …very considerable concerns that the draft NPPF does not properly address the tensions between the requirement for LPAs to meet the ‘full requirements for market and affordable housing’ (paragraph 109) and the strong protection of the Green Belt.
  • There is very clear evidence that the number of applications for inappropriate residential development in the Green Belt in this District has increased significantly since the draft NPPF was
    published. Local planning agents and developers consider the publication of the draft NPPF, with its clear ambiguities, inconsistencies and flaws, to be an opportunity to “try their luck at Appeal”. This has already had significant negative impacts upon caseload for applications and in the near future will cause very significant problems with workload and unrecoverable costs for Appeals. This is a serious problem that is not appropriately acknowledged in the Impact Assessment and a fundamental error in its construction. The reference on p4 to “potentially a reduced number of appeals” is manifestly untrue at this point in time in this District.

Looking at the Government’s ‘Brownfield’ Sites Disposal – Very Little There #NPPF

Looking at some of the departmental press releases:

-A lot of the sites are in Wales and Scotland so tangental to discussions about English Planning policy

– A lot of the sites are actually Green Field Sites or mainly greenfield, such as large parts of the military bases – no distinction is made in the statistics

-Many of the sites were already factored into draft or adopted  local plans, so wont have any impact on future greenfield housebuilding, for example the Borden Garrsion (4,000 units), Lodge Hill & Chattenden Barracks Chatham (4,500 units) and Aldershot (4,500 units) Hazebrouk Barracks Berkshire (3500 units). Only a few new large military sites, Waterbeach Cambridgeshire (12,500 units), and Graven Hill Bicester (1,900 units), are genuinely new. Cherwell council is already saying that the proposal at Graven Hill conflicts with that for the Bicester Eco Town on the other side of town. They wish the Graven Hill site to become a business park instead. Waterbeach of course is only hald government owned and only 1/5th overall brownfield.

If a pariliamentary question came back asking how many of the units were brownfield, English and and new to planning Im sure it would be a low 5 figure number.

‘Smart Growth Easing’ How to Truly Build Your Way out of a Recession #NPPF

Brian Green of the highly respected Brickenomics blog has suggested an idea of financial engineering which he considers would be a more direct way of securing stimulus than quantitative or credit easing

here’s the idea. (And I would welcome feedback, positive or pooh-poohing.)

The Bank of England buys bonds through its asset purchase scheme (quantitative easing to you and me) in a time-limited Public Interest Company that has a remit to build homes and, at some date in the future, flogs them into the private and not-for-profit sectors….

I did some rough calculations a year or so ago using the tax and benefit tables and, among the various assumptions, the generally supposed notion that a house takes one and a half worker years to build.

These calculations suggest that for every house built that drags one and a half construction workers back into employment the Treasury gains between £25,000 and £30,000 in increased employment taxes and decreased benefit payments.

It’s fair to assume that a boost to house building would reduce unemployment, but not on a one-for-one basis with those employed. It would also be fair to say that there would be other multiplier effects netting gains for the Treasury.

So let’s take a wild stab, but a stab that I think is on the conservative side, and suggest for each house built in a recession when there is a pool of unemployed construction folk looking for work the Treasury gains about £20,000 for each home built.

Half a million homes equates to £10 billion in savings. So it is in the Treasury’s interest to see homes built in a recession big time.

That’s background, here’s the leftfield thinking…

The Bank of England, meanwhile, is gearing up, we are told, for a further round of quantitative easing and there is a mood that it wants to buy assets that are a bit more, for want of a better word, “real” than Gilts.

What asset could be more real than housing? What’s more, it is tradable between the household, the private business, the not-for-profit and the social sectors (note the right to buy or the former Government’s National Clearing House which took unsold private homes into the social sector).

In theory it would make great sense for the Government to fund loads of homes now and flog off its investment later. Sadly that doesn’t chime with the debt reduction programme.

Ah, but if the money (let’s say about £50 billion) came from the Bank of England’s asset purchase scheme and went into a Public Interest Company, that sits off the nation’s balance sheet, it would not (as far as I can make out) need to be accounted for in the public sector debt.

In a few years’ time when house building is back up to more normal levels (whatever and whenever that might be) the homes can be sold off to housing associations or private buyers. The money raised would then go back to the Bank of England to be zapped out of existence.

The monetary stimulus would be, broadly, timed counter-cyclically with the housing cycle…Any losses would naturally be indemnified by HM Treasury, as it does with the existing asset purchases. But it’s quids in on the deal anyway, as it would be paying less in benefits and raking in more in tax.

The Public Interest Company could actually buy the public land putting money into the public sector (no need to build now pay later) and then develop the land.

There is the germ of a good idea here but it needs some work. Injecting money directly into the construction sector makes a lot of sense because of the ‘hot money’ problem of QE of capital flowing to high return emerging markets and causing inflation. The construction sector of course has a high multiplier. Although in a major programme of housebuilding it might make more sense to go for productivity savings through modular construction and spread it around more dwellings, otherwise it could simply suck in skilled constriction labour from abroad rather than reducing unemployment.

The problem is that the BoE is now backing so many assets its risk burden could push up interest rates. As the Credit easing programme has shown the Treasury needs to ease that burden. But it could go this by purchasing BOE assets through electronic money creation giving the BOE headroom to invest in housing programmes.

The key problems I have are two fold, but they are fixable. Firstly many of the gains could simply be lost through creating unearned income to be taken by the landowner. Secondly the current NPPF is a programme to boost that income and not economic growth, economic gains being largely lost through increased transport and energy costs to the sprawl that would be induced.

But lets say UK government created a series of development corporations under the 1980 act. Each of which would have CPO and vesting powers. Of course the boards of these could be locally and not centrally appointed. These could then secure the land at existing use value plus modest compensation funded by the ‘Smart growth easing’ scheme. The sites would be those already promoted through local plans. This land could be managed as community land trusts where property renters over time could secure an increasing proportion of the equity in the property but the land would remain with the community. This is effectively the Garden City model as recently backed by housing minister Grant Schapps.

Why should the government back a project where the land asset doesn’t appreciate? Because of the reduced public expenditure costs on infrastructure. Because owners/renters would not be paying for the land value uplift proportion of the ‘economic rent’ they can afford highly monthly rents. This higher rental stream can be capitalised and used to fund the infrastructure needed to get the housing project going. For example the just announced new town north of Cambridge will require tracking doubling of the rail line to Ely to be feasible at all, so where is the 10s of millions for that to come from? Similarly if all houses were built to passivhaus standards then the 90% energy savings can be capitalised through higher rental streams. Housing becomes affordable throughout its lifetime not just on first use. Once the infrastructure and initial construction funding is paid off you have a guaranteed future rental stream which is highly invest-able for pension funds and the like. Unlike Tim Leunig’s impractical land auction model it secure the most sustainable rather than the least sustainable sites. Also with residents paying a lower proportion of their income on housing it lowers cost push pressures on wages and inflation and leads to more discretionary expenditure in the local economy, what spatial economists would call a local ‘growth pole’.

Joined up thinking is needed on the housing economics and planning front. Osbornes plan would make framers rich and the countryside poor and the nation worse off. There are alternatives.

London Playing Fields Foundation, If Londoners not vigilant #NPPF could threaten 2012 legacy


Those of us concerned about how the National Planning Policy Framework (which is out for consultation until October 17) will impact upon green open spaces have good reason to be thankful for The Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land Campaign. The document’s presumption in favour of “sustainable development” and ensuring there is “enough land for growth” will set alarm bells ringing for supporters of community sports. London is already at a disadvantage with 16 per cent of the country’s population being served by only 8 per cent of its playing fields and the Government’s target of delivering two million new homes by 2016 will inevitably put enormous pressure on existing open space.

Playing fields and sports like football and cricket go together like bread and butter yet since 1990 the number of grass cricket wickets in London has been reduced from 1,126 to 681 and, despite having more professional football clubs than any other city in the world (14), the number of grassroots football pitches in London has fallen by 20 per cent in the last 20 years. Given that there is a clear link between facilities and the numbers playing our national sports, it will come as no surprise to learn that in some London boroughs football participation rates are 50 per cent lower than the national average.
It is ironic that the NPPF should emerge at a time when legacy is on the lips of everyone connected with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There can only be an open, accessible legacy if we have decent local facilities on which to play. If Londoners are not vigilant the NPPF could make this situation worse. It calls for communities to have a greater say in how their neighbourhoods should look so we must make a stand for our local playing fields and ensure that they continue to improve the lives of current and future generations.

The London Playing Fields Foundation, one of the country’s oldest sporting charities has spent the over 120 years actively fighting the cause for playing fields. Those whose lives have been enriched by sport would recognise the importance of having accessible, affordable and attractive facilities and the contribution they make in tackling two of the biggest threats to London life, namely poor public health and disorder on the streets.

We urge local communities to use the provisions within the NPPF to ensure that decisions about housing are reached democratically with input from local people. Supporting communities concerned about playing-field loss is something the London Playing Fields Foundation has been doing over the last two years with its Fields at Risk Register (FARR).

Up until the advent of the FARR, playing fields were being lost without any coordinated resistance. The FARR is effectively an early warning system with the LPFF providing local community groups with the support and guidance they need to protect the site and help restore it to full use. In the last year the charity has helped safeguard the future of 15 threatened sites. So if you are concerned about the loss of a local field get in touch with us and we will help you to safeguard its long-term future and restoration to full use. Remember, once lost, a playing field is gone forever.

Alex Welsh is the chief executive of The London Playing Fields Foundation, which aims to protect and promote the playing fields of London. As well as owning and operating playing fields, its mission is to save threatened sites and to help playing fields enrich the lives of the people who visit, work and live in London. You can find out more about their work here.

Former DfT Chief Scientist #NPPF will mean more rural roads to serve more rural developments – Telegrapg


More roads will have to be built in rural areas because of controversial new planning rules, according to a former government scientist

Prof David Metz, a former chief scientist at the Department for Transport, said that plans to let developers build more homes in rural areas meant extra roads would have to be constructed to serve them.

But John Howell, a Tory MP who helped to draft the plans, said the changes were necessary to avert the “human tragedy” of first-time buyers being unable to get on the housing ladder without family help until they were middle aged.

Ministers are pushing through plans to replace 1,300 pages of planning regulations in England with just 52 pages in the new framework.

The framework writes into the rules a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, without defining clearly what it means, leading campaigners to fear that large areas of rural England will be concreted over.

The change is opposed by a number of groups, including the National Trust, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. This newspaper’s Hands off Our Land campaign is also urging ministers to reconsider.

He added: “Housing on greenfield sites is associated with car use. Such housing will result in more car use and more detriments arising from car use, including carbon emissions. Road capacity would need to be expanded.”

A current planning rule that most new homes should be built on developed, or brownfield, sites with pre-existing links to the road network has been dropped from the draft framework, though ministers now say it could be written back in.

Prof Metz said: “Brownfield developments in existing urban areas, where the opportunity to increase road capacity is limited or non-existent, are associated with public transport use.

“The way in which brownfield development may influence travel behaviour may be illustrated by the experience of London, an economically dynamic world city which is accommodating a growing population by building new housing on virtually entirely brownfield sites.”

Prof Metz, a visiting professor at the Centre for Transport Studies at University College London, said an official “impact assessment” of the new framework carried out by civil servants was “defective” because it had ignored this concern.

He said: “The existing policy of preferring brownfield sites for housing has been successful in promoting urban regeneration, protecting the countryside, fostering more sustainable travel behaviour, and helping absorb a growing population while minimising the environmental impact. It should be retained.”

Campaigners said the comments showed that “building in the wrong place will unleash more traffic on country roads”.

Ralph Smyth, a spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England. said: “Good planning should be about tackling traffic problems, not creating them.”