Greg Clark’s Written Commons Statement on #NPPF Next Steps – a re-consultation u-turn, or is it?

Planning Reform
The Minister of State for Decentralisation and Planning (Mr. Greg Clark): I wish to update hon. Members on progress towards the reform of national planning policy.
The Localism Bill, which has completed its Report Stage in the House of Lords, makes a significant transfer of power over planning matters from central and regional government to local communities. To enable these powers to be used, national planning policy must be made more accessible; in the course of the last decade, national policy has grown to over one thousand pages in volume – a significant barrier to the engagement of local residents and their community representatives.

Our reforms are intended to simplify the system, strengthen local participation and to help achieve sustainable development. The planning system has always enshrined the principle that the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way – and it will continue to do so.

In December 2010, my department published a call for evidence and in July 2011 issued a draft new National Planning Policy Framework. The twelve week consultation period on the draft Framework closed on 17 October. We will now carefully consider all of the submissions that have been made.

I have asked the Communities and Local Government Select Committee to consider and make suggestions on the draft. We will also take fully into account the comments of hon. Members in a debate to be held in the House of Commons in Government time on 20 October, and in the House of Lords on 27 October, as well as the comments made in the debates during the proceedings on the Localism Bill.

Having fully considered the suggestions made, the Government will then publish the revised text taking into account representations that have been made and a summary of responses to the consultation. The Government is committed to the publication of this final version of the Framework by 31 March 2012, but intends to do so well ahead of that time.

The Framework aims to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans. We will therefore work closely with local authorities to ensure that appropriate transitional arrangements are in place before the new Framework comes into force.

But this is could be a u-turn from what Greg Clark stated to the Enviuronmental Audit Committee on the 12th October

when we consider all of the responses to the consultation we will put together a proposed final version and publish that before it is adopted.

The government is clearly using the terms publish and adopt differently.  Is it saying that if it gets through the reponses in time there will be a period for consideration of the republished version before it is adopted?  The statement is cleverly worded to allow them that option.

Telegraph – DCLG confirms 18 month-2 year #NPPF transition period

Telegraph

Councils given extra time to put in place protections from developers

Planning reforms are to be delayed for up to two years to allow communities to develop local plans to protect them from the developers’ bulldozer.

The news came as figures showed that only half of councils had formally adopted the plans, protecting them from being “sitting ducks” for developers.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework, which distils 1,300 pages of planning guidance into as few as 52, writes into planning rules a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, without defining clearly what it means.

Groups including the National Trust are concerned that the plans could give developers the right to build across large parts of rural England. The Daily Telegraph has launched a campaign against the plans.

The new NPPF requires councils to publish their own local plans or “core strategies” which set out where development can take place in their area.

Government advisers have warned that councils without local plans would be “sitting ducks” for developers under the new rules.

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph show that so far 223 councils have failed to publish their plans, and 113 have done so.

Councils which have failed to publish local plans include Birmingham, Cheltenham, Newcastle Upon Tyne and Liverpool. A full list is published today on the Telegraph’s website at http://www.telegraph.co.uk.

In a statement to MPs last night, Greg Clark, the planning minister, said ministers would give councils time to publish local plans in “transitional arrangements”.

Whitehall sources suggested this could mean that councils have between 18 months and two years to prepare their local plans.

He said: “We will work closely with local authorities to ensure that appropriate transitional arrangements are in place before the new framework comes into force.”

Mr Clark also disclosed that ministers were committed to publishing the final version of the NPPF by March next year.

Mr Clark also formally confirmed that the new planning rules would enshrine in the planning system “the principle that the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way”.

Last night a spokesman for the National Trust called for “clarity about what happens between the time the NPPF comes into force and when local authorities have newly adopted local plans in place”.

The Government statement came on the eve of MPs getting their first chance to vent their constituents’ frustration with the Government’s controversial plans today.

MPs will hold a “General debate on the National Planning Policy Framework”. However, the move has been criticised by Labour because MPs will not be allowed to vote on whether planned changes.

Labour had been trying to force an “Opposition day” debate which would have allowed for a vote on a motion at the end.

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, shadow Local Government and Communities secretary Hilary Benn says: “Parliament should be able to vote on these proposals. This is not minor tinkering with the system.

It is a major change to the way things have been done for the past 60 years. “MPs should be able to express the views of the thousands of their constituents who have contacted them, and to have the final say on whether to accept or reject the proposals.”

Hilary Benn First Comments on the ‘chaotic changes’ of the #NPPF ‘The Government must heed criticism’

Telegraph

If planning reform is rushed, it will ruin the face of Britain


The Government must heed criticism of the chaotic changes embodied in the National Planning Policy Framework.
Over the past 60 years, we have built many homes, opened businesses and shops, and undertaken a significant amount of development. At the same time, we have looked after the places that are special to us – the moors and tors, the mountains and lakes, the rivers and coasts that make these islands a collection of unique and beautiful landscapes, as well as a special place to live.

How did we do this? As we rebuilt from the ashes of war, a system was pieced together that allowed for new towns and new homes to be built and for national parks and green belt land to be protected. Year by year, the system developed into one that people know, and one that works. It is not perfect, and it should be improved: decisions should be made more quickly, so that people and communities are not left with uncertain futures. But profound change is only worth it if it will make a profound difference and produce a better country. So why is the Government putting all of this in jeopardy by hurriedly drafting a new planning policy in such a chaotic way?

George Osborne and Eric Pickles seem to think that it is the planning system which is holding back economic recovery, by not producing the homes that we desperately need. In fact, they should be looking at some vested interests. Under the current system, councils have granted planning permission for 300,000 new homes that haven’t yet been built. Why not? And why isn’t George Osborne on the phone to these developers every day to get them building?

The Government hoped that its new National Planning Policy Framework would help get growth going again, but it is instead leading to confusion. The rushed nature of the reforms has created uncertainty for communities, for the courts and for the building industry. This could slow down the recovery while everyone works out what the new system actually means: indeed, since the general election, plans for 200,000 homes have been abandoned.

The planning system is, fundamentally, about the places that we live in – so it has to have the support of the public. To describe critics of the new proposals – including such well-known revolutionaries and radicals as the National Trust – as “semi-hysterical”, “Left-wing” and “guilty of nihilistic selfishness” is not to listen and respond, but to dismiss while bulldozing onwards. It is the very opposite of the balance and discussion that the public demands.

To put it simply, the Government has gone about this the wrong way. It is out of touch. It is going to need to make big changes. It should begin by reinstating the “brownfield first” policy that Labour used so successfully. It is wrong to let undeveloped land – including greenfield sites – be used while old buildings and industrial sites in towns and cities are left derelict. Second, it should reinstate the “town centre first” policy. These should be at the heart of economic recovery and of our communities, not economic deserts.

Third, the Government should look again at the definition of sustainable development. Nobody wants development at any price, so both aspects are important: we need a planning system that encourages development, but that development has to be sustainable for the future. Fourth, the Government must support affordable housing. As drafted, the framework implies that existing requirements can be traded off if it makes a scheme more viable. This is wrong. The likelihood of affordable housing is also at risk from the way in which the Government wishes to implement the community infrastructure levy, which will reward communities for supporting other kinds of development. Affordable housing should not be a sideshow: it is fundamental to tackling the growing housing crisis, and ensuring the prosperity of our young people.

Fifth, because of the speed with which the Government wants to introduce its new policy, there is a danger that local councils’ development frameworks will be considered out of date, so providing communities with little protection, because of the Government’s proposed presumption in favour of sustainable development. This could lead to a planning system that is increasingly combative rather than consensual, with applications being decided by the courts as appeals mount up. The Government should therefore accept Labour’s proposed transitional arrangements in order to ensure certainty for communities and developers alike.

Finally, Parliament should be able to vote on these proposals, which were published in the summer recess, with virtually no opportunity until this week to question ministers in Parliament. This is not minor tinkering with the system. It is a major change to the way things have been done for 60 years – so MPs should be able to express the views of the thousands of their constituents who have contacted them, and to have the final say on whether to accept or reject the proposals.

Ultimately, planning should be about helping us to find the right balance for the places we live in and the landscapes we walk upon. One with decent, well-designed homes in the right places, backed by local people, supported by prosperous shops and businesses, but with a countryside that remains a green and pleasant land. We all support a streamlined and effective planning system, but it needs to make all of us feel that we can shape the communities and landscape we live in, so that we can find that balance of homes, jobs, growth and green space that we desire. If the Government does not listen to the debate that is raging over these proposals, it will fail that test.

Hilary Benn is shadow secretary of state for communities and local government

Some Questions for the #NPPF Commons Debate Thursday – Part 3 Remaining Issues

Evidential Burden

Does the Minister understand the concerns that the evidential burden has changed in the NPPF?  Currently an applicant has to provide evidence that they comply with planning policy, so for example if there are trees which are effected on site they have to provide a tree survey, if there is evidence of a species protected by law a habitat survey and so on.  The NPPF has been read as implying that this burden now falls on hard pressed local planning authorities, how will they be able to afford this?  Indeed the key author of the NPPF John Rhodes has said to the select committee:

“what it does not do is force every development to prove its sustainability….. It has to work the other way round, which is to say that the country needs development and it should be allowed unless it infringes principles of sustainability”

However this seems to contradict the government’s own position. When the practicality and cost implications of the evidential burden shifting was pointed out to the department by campaigners it issued its ‘mythbusters‘ document, which states

“All proposals will need to demonstrate their sustainability”

So who is right, or to put it in very practical terms who pays for tree surveys?  If a local planning authority cant afford a tree survey do they have to presume in favour of planning applications that cut down trees?

When asked about this as the Environmental Audit select committee by the member for Richmond Park the Minister gave an even more confusing response

“It is not so much the burden of proof….What I want to get to is a situation in which it is clear from the plan”

As the member for Richmond Park stated at the time

will [this] effectively require local authorities to develop such prescriptive plans to deal with any possible eventuality, that actually we might end up with a more, not less, bureaucratic system at the end of it?

And it did not answer the question, where is the evidential burden over whether a development complies with a local plan or not?  Who pays for the tree survey if it has a policy on trees or not?  To be fair it would appear that the minister may have got confused between local lists which are lists of evidence to be provided outside the local plan and the local plan itself.

Can the minister clarify this – who is right on the issue of evidence – the DCLG website or John Rhodes? Will the final version of the NPPF clear this important matter up?  Surely it is a sensible approach that at the time of an application the applicant provides a statement of evidence of why they think the presumption applies, and other parties can bring other evidence if they think not, then it is a level playing field.

Advice from Government Advisory Bodies

A number of bodies have been expressly set up by parliament to advise both it and government on policy matters, examples include what are now Natural England and English Heritage.  Yet the cabinet office has now clamped down on these bodies from making policy statements, even though in most cases they have fair and constructive criticisms on how to improve the NPPF.   Quangos and advisory bodies now furtively publish their responses on obscure parts of their website or dont publish them at all simply emailing then to the DCLG.  We pay taxes towards these bodies to fulfil their purpose and that purpose is to provide advice not just to the government but parliament and the public.  Will the government remove this ridiculous gagging and will it publish as soon as possible the responses from all official advisory bodies and in due course from everyone else?

The Countryside

Will the final NPPF restore the successful policy of 60 years protecting the countryside for its own sake unless its loss is sanctioned in a plan as being necessary.  Im here referring to the ordinary non nationally protected countryside that covers 2/3rds of rural england, outside green belts AONB etc?

Will the revised NPPF include a section on planning for the coast, surely moving away from integrated planning of coastal areas, and of looking at littoral and marine issues in a joined up way is a retrograde step.

Brownfield First

The government has claimed that it is not abolishing brownfield first, but the impact assessment is clear the policy is being removed.  The new test of ‘lowest environmental value’ does not mean brownfield first as what is environmental value is listed in the text and does not refer to greenfield or brownfield, and of course many agricultural fields may have had their environmental valued ruined even though it could see habitat restored.  Will the government acknowledge that it and the HBF have caricatured the brownfield first policy, it always excluded their development where this was unsustainable such as where a site was best used for habitat, open space or a site was inaccessible?  Will the  government commit to properly considering all these matters before revising and reinstating the brownfield first policy in the NPPF.

The impact assessment falsely assumes that all brownfield sites are much more expensive than green field ones, but it falsely assumes that all brownfield sites are contaminated, most are not, and all contaminated sites are brownfield sites, many are greenfield sites.  Will the minister agree not to change fundamentally national planning policy on the basis of such a shoddy impact assessment?

Transport

The NPPF allows schemes to cause congestion and traffic chaos as long as it isn’t ‘severe’ isnt this setting the bar very low and encouraging car orientated developments even in locations where they could be designed to use other forms of transport?

The removal of maximum parking standards from national planning policy will mean that developers can provide as much parking as they like until local plans are in place.  Will the government introduce transitional arrangements?

Planning policy used to refer to land use and transport planning, now its just land use, integration of land use and transport planning isnt mentioned once, will the government rectify this retrograde step.

Design

Why is the minister reintroducing a discredited policy from the 1980s that only ‘obviously poor designs’ can be refused, a policy designed to allow the arguably poor, the dull, mediocre and just plain twee or bland? There was consensus that this policy had failed, for 20 years we have had a policy brokered by the late Francis Tibbalds and accepted by all of the institutes and design bodies, why go back to the weak planning of the 1980s?  Does the minister have a fondness for Spandau Ballet, quiffs and quattros?

Environmental Protection

Much of the concern over the NPPF is over how it confines consideration of landscape and natural beauty to a few nationally protected areas, will the final NPPF make this a consideration in all areas of value.?

Many environmental bodies, supported in some cases by legal opinions are concerned that in detail but not ministerial intent the NPPF as drafted will weaken current protections because of its overterse editing of current policy which has got a lot of phrases mangled up.   In some areas such as noise and flooding policy has been so edited down it is impossible to understand. Will the minister seriously consider the many positive suggestions of how to improve the test including where necessary discarding parts of the consultation draft text if it makes no sense or contains major errors.

Overall

What country is the national planning policy for?  This isn’t a flippant question as ministers and the prime minister have suggested it applies to Britain, which will surprise colleagues in Wales and Scotland.  Why is there no sense of England here. what makes its countryside, villages and towns special and what challenges as a nation it must face.  Will the final NPPF have some spirit, some understanding of place and how we have a duty of care for our country for future generations.

Will the minister acknowledge that much of the opposition and concern about the NPPF has not been NIMBY or opposed to planning reform but simply because it is such a dull badly worded repetitive uninspiring document that misses the once in 60 years opportunity to remake the principles of English planning putting sustainability at its heart in a meaningful way and setting clear principles on what we want to protect and what we want to see.

 

The TCPA Final #NPPF response

 

The TCPA recognises the Government’s initiative to reduce the amount of planning guidance and to make planning work efficiently and with an out come driven focus.  However we remain concerned that:

  • the evidence base for the suggested framework is partial
  • the definition of Sustainable Development is inadequate
  • the use of presumption in favour of sustainable development requires greater clarity and definition
  • the brevity of the framework has weakened important policy on housing, climate change, town centres, minerals development and flood risk
  • The nature of the draft policy approach and the language applied may lead to increased uncertainty and potentially greater legal challenge

The TCPA’s submission is in two parts:

–       TCPA FINAL NPPF submission Part1 –       an analysis of the current NPPF and a set of broad policy recommendations.


–      TCPA FINAL NPPF submission Part2 contains the track changed amendments which we believe would form the basis of a positive planning framework for England.

Kate Henderson

TCPA Chief Executive

English Heritage Final #NPPF Response

Here

English Heritage believes that if a small number of changes and additions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are introduced, the protection of the historic environment can be maintained at the existing level, which is the stated aim of Government.

Our main concerns are:
  • The wording of the historic environment policies section and the wording of the presumption in favour of sustainable development sections need to be reconciled so that there is no confusion in interpretation, leading to an unintended reduction in the level of protection for the historic environment.
  • The lack of a policy to deal with proposals causing moderate or minor harm to heritage assets.
  • Inadequate protection of undesignated but nationally import archaeology in areas where there is a Neighbourhood Development Order.
  • Inadequate recognition of the positive contribution the historic environment can make to sustainable development. We would like to see a policy that encourages the viable use of heritage assets, where possible, and to see recognition that the historic environment has a positive role in making characterful and sustainable places.
  • That the protection of our nationally important historic buildings and sites should be given ‘great weight’, to be consistent with the wording for the protection of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty.
 English Heritage believes that all the above concerns can be addressed through a small number of changes or additions to the text and we have made these suggestions in our consultation response.

 

The Third DCLG #NPPF Select Committee Hearing

CPRE get a second appearance?
Monday 24 October 2011

4.20 pm

  • Robert Sullivan, Head of Corporate Affairs, The Football Association
  • Mhora Samuel, Director, The Theatres Trust
  • Tony Burton, Director, Civic Voice
  • Stephen Wright, Principal Lawyer (Planning), The John Lewis Partnership

5.10 pm

  • Emmalene Gottwald, Chief Planning Policy Officer, WWF-UK
  • Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England
  • Stephen Joseph, Executive Director, Campaign for Better Transport
  • Roger Harding, Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs, Shelter

A background note about the Committee’s inquiry is available on the main inquiry page of the Committee’s website.

The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

The Committee announced an inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework on 27 July 2011.

The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. For meetings in Portcullis House, the entrance is located on Victoria Embankment. For meetings in the Palace of Westminster please enter via the visitor entrance, located next to the main St Stephen’s entrance.  There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in Committee Rooms.  It is advisable to allow about 30 minutes to pass through security checks.  Committee rooms and the timing of meetings are subject to change. Those interested in attending the session should check the venue by contacting the House of Commons Public Information Office on 020 7219 4272 on the day

Homebuilders Federation Keeping their #NPPF response secret – what have they got to hide?

The HBF normally publishes all their consultation responses on their website.

The HBF and the TCPA are the only major bodies not yet to publish their responses.  I understand the TCPA has simply been busy.

I emailed the NBF to ask when it was published simply so we could see if it had any interesting and positive ideas for policy changes.

There reply back was to ask ‘where I was from’

In replying ‘England’ they said

Ho ho.

We havent made it public.

Why go through the pain of making an FOI request to the DCLG?  Note whilst internal notes relating to formulation of government policy are FOI exempt (subject to the public interest test) third party representations and responses to public consultations are not exempt.

Suggestions that campaigners email the HBF head of PR asking why they are being secretive and will not communicate their response to other groups who are seeking consensus and compromise with them.  I also suggest that FOI requests are made to the DCLG asking for the response and any others that are kept secret.

The email is steve.turner@hbf.co.uk