Prince Charles – urban sprawl is the ‘greatest challenge’ facing planners #NPPF


The Prince of Wales has criticised urban sprawl and described it as the “greatest challenge” facing planners.

The Prince suggested that without proper controls Britain’s towns and cities could encroach on the countryside “on a vast scale”.

He added that more thought for the future was needed to avoid “mass urbanisation”.

Speaking to former students from the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, he said: “The greatest challenge is mass urbanisation on a vast scale, without any proper thought to what the future will hold.”

The comments of the heir to the throne, who has repeatedly spoken out on architectural and developmental issues, echoed those of one of his highest profile architectural critics, Lord Rogers of Riverside.

This month, the architect warned that the reform of planning legislation, which is designed to boost economic growth, could lead to Los Angeles style urban sprawl that would destroy the Green Belt.

Alumni from the Prince’s foundation are helping to design the latest phase of his model village, Poundbury in Dorset.

The Prince is a champion of traditional architectural styles over modernist designs and has tried to implement his ideas in Poundbury, which forms an extension to Dorchester.

In his speech at the foundation’s offices in Shoreditch, east London, he defended the project describing the economic benefits it had brought to the area.

He said that despite the “brick bats” he had faced, businesses were starting up and a survey commissioned last year had stated Poundbury had contributed more than £800 million to the local economy.

Contaminated Land Professionals Raise concerns over #NPPF

Bruro Happold

10,000 contaminated land sector professionals call for greater safeguards in the NPPF

The Environment Industries Commission (EIC) Contaminated Land Working Group has expressed serious concerns to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to current proposals within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that fail to reflect some fundamental principles of Sustainable Development.

Launched in 1995, the EIC serves as an interface between the UK’s environmental technology services (ETS) industry and government. The EIC is the largest trade association for the ETS sector in Europe with over 200 member companies supported of cross-party MPs, industrialists, green NGOs, environmentalists and academics. The EIC and its members work to provide solutions that meet or surpass the environmental standard set by Government legislation and work in partnership with government to strengthen the UK’s environmental policy framework.

All Policy EIC Working Groups were invited to present comments on the NPPF including Contaminated Land, Resource Efficiency and Waste Management, Environmental Laboratories, Waste Management, Sustainable Buildings and Energy Efficiency, Carbon and Environmental Management.  In his letter to the DCLG Michael Lunn, EIC Director of Policy and Public Affairs writes:”The Working Group with the most concern has been our Contaminated Land Working Group which represents a £1 billion industry and employs nearly 10,000 people.”

Hugh Mallett Technical Director, Ground Engineering, Buro Happold was invited to frame the collective response of the Group which reinforces the theme raised at a Buro Happold event calling for the ongoing recognition of the brownfield first policy and 60% brownfield housing target. Mallett summarises: “In order to support the presumption in favour of sustainable development, planning policies should ensure that Brownfield land should be developed first, reducing the need for the development of Greenfield sites. The NPPF as currently drafted does not refer to Brownfield land and does not clearly state that such land should be developed first.”

The collective (EIC) Contaminated Land Working Group strongly recommends that DCLG ensure that the new planning policy guidance on land affected by contamination:

  • retains a clear and unequivocal statement that contamination is a material planning consideration;
  • draws attention to the opportunities presented by redevelopment to mitigate the risks posed by land affected by contamination;
  • includes critically important statements on the relationship between Part 2A and the planning regime (e.g. ‘As a minimum, following development, land should not be capable of being Determined under Part2A)’;
  • strongly advises the local planning authority to always consult their contaminated land officers on Brownfield redevelopment sites;
  • stresses that it is the developer’s responsibility to carry out the necessary investigation, assessment and remediation;
  • clearly states that the minimum information required from the applicant is a report of a desk study and walkover survey;
  • maintains the position that the required standard of remediation is the removal of unacceptable risk and making the site ‘suitable for use’
  • promotes the use of competent professionals to undertake the assessment of land, for example the SiLC scheme promotes an appropriate level of competence across the many skill areas involved in Brownfield sites.

UK Statistics Authority to look into timing of 99% fall in Affordable Housing Stats

Mark Easton

“One or two people are not overly happy…”

I have just taken a call from an official at the Department of Communities (DCLG) followingmy post on the housing stats yesterday and my appearance this morning on the Today programme.

I am told that ministers reject any suggestion that they timed their big announcement on building affordable homes to come 24-hours before the worst-ever statistics on building affordable homes.

However, my observations on the fanfare for a set-piece political release one day before the quiet publication of pertinent and troubling official statistics have led the watchdog UK Statistics Authority to say they are “looking into the issues raised.”

The senior DCLG official who called me said that the timing of the housing strategy had been decided, not by a wish to pre-empt some horrible data, but by the demands of the prime minister’s diary and his desire to mention housing in his speech to the CBI on Monday.

“I can honestly say that at no time did the publication of house-building statistics the next day have any bearing on when to put out the housing strategy,” the official told me.

My question to him was: “Well, shouldn’t it have?”

The point is that the DCLG were told on 19 October that new house-building figures would be published this week. Because of changes to the way contracts for affordable housing projects are conducted, they had very good reason for suspecting the statistics would look really bad.

And yet, they insist that at no time in discussion with Downing Street officials on the release of the housing strategy did they even mention the imminent arrival of official and grim building stats.

“We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t”, the official complained. “If we had managed it so that they were not at such close quarters then we could be accused of undermining confidence in statistics and trust in politicians.”

That may be true, but in considering the timing of political announcements like the housing strategy, should ministers not think long and hard about the possible perception that they are also news-managing the publication of official statistics?

One could argue that the release date of major government reports should have less to do with No 10’s desire to get a quote from the PM in the papers and more to do with ensuring we have the most informed public and parliamentary debate.

Will Chelsea go to Battersea? – Costar

NAMA and Lloyds Banking Group have rejected a bid from SP Setia, Malaysia’s biggest publicly listed property developer by sales, to buy the senior debt behind south London’s iconic Battersea Power Station for £262m.

Separately it has emerged today that Almacantar chief Mike Hussey is working with Chelsea FC on a potential bid for the site.

According to a Bloomberg report, NAMA and Lloyds Banking Group, which control the senior debt on the project and so have the power to veto proposed sales, told the group they had rejected the offer yesterday.

Kuala Lumpur-based SP Setia said in a statement today that it would continue to look for other investment opportunities in the UK.

“We still firmly believe that property development prospects in London are positive. The group will continue to look out for and assess other possibilities to invest.”

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that AIM-listed REO, the site’s owner, had agreed a deal with SP Setia last week for the listed Malaysian property developer to acquire the circa £300m defaulted debt for around 85p in the pound, or £255m.

However, it said Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency and Lloyds, had serious concerns about the price.

REO, which is majority owned by Irish group Treasury Holdings, has been under pressure to find a new buyer for the site after successive debt repayment deadlines have been waived – with the last one back on 31 August.

The landmark is valued at £500m, according to REO’s last interim management statement.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station was given in August this year. Ernst & Young is advising on options for the development and reviewing the sales process undertaken by REO to appoint an equity partner.

Options under review have included refinancing the debt, selling either a 50% or the entirety of the stake in the site, or else securing the equity to build out the development.

REO has £251m of debt secured against the scheme in a syndicate with Ireland’s NAMA; and another £146m loan which was provided by Victor Hwang’s Oriental Property when it sold the site to REO in 2006 for £400m.

Separately today The Guardian reported that Almacantar chief Mike Hussey had been appointed to draw up a feasibility study for building a new stadium at Battersea Power Station.

The club, which still needs to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge before any move could take place, wants to work out whether a bid is feasible should its preferred option fall though.

Almacantar has been appointed development partner and has hired the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox to draw up plans for the construction of a 55,000-60,000-seat stadium to the south-east of the Grade II-listed site.

A Chelsea spokesman told the paper: “In the past, we’ve talked to various people with interests in Battersea power station, but we haven’t had any substantive discussions with anyone regarding that site for several months.”

‘Presumption’ Nothing to do with being Green – Christine Murray AJ #NPPF


The NPPF’s ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ has nothing to do with being green, says Christine Murray

Architects have been awaiting a more conclusive definition of the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ since the draft NPPF was published back in July. There was hope that an emphasis on green, low-carbon development would boost architects’ workload as developers sought out sustainability expertise to get projects through planning.

But in recent weeks, alarm-bells have started ringing. Further examination of the policy suggests the presumption’s S-word is a smokescreen for a policy that sanctions unfettered growth.

The NPPF states that in the absence of a local plan, the default position is ‘yes’ to any development ‘except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles’. These include, ‘protection and enhancement of our natural, built and historic environment, prudent use of natural resources and actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy.’

But the long-awaited presumption itself does not include any mention of low-carbon or ecological development, and instead simply calls for local planning authorities to approve ‘all individual proposals wherever possible’, as well as:

• Prepare local plans on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, and with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand or other economic changes

• Approve development proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay

• Grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where policies are out of date.

The presumption goes on to say that ‘all of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.’

So if low-carbon isn’t part of the presumption, what exactly do they mean by sustainable? As London mayor Boris Johnson said last week in response to the NPPF consultation, ‘It appears the concept relates to economic development only’.

During the NPPF debate, communities and local government minister Greg Clark said his definition of sustainable development referred to the Brundtland Commission of 1987, not, as hoped, to the definition explored in the government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, 2005. According to Brundtland, sustainability refers to a ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Clark said he abandoned the 2005 definition because: ‘Six years on, there are some respects where thinking on sustainability has progressed. For example, there is the idea that the separate pillars of the economy, the environment and the social aspects of sustainability can be traded off against the other… Our intention was to make sure that we are not stranded in our thinking when we might have a more progressive approach to sustainability.’

But the Brundtland definition is anything but progressive; at its heart is the belief that ‘sustainable development clearly requires economic growth’, whereas in the 2005 strategy document, the call for a sophisticated OnePlanet Economy suggests that the environment should come first.

In last week’s Telegraph, National Trust director-general Fiona Reynolds, who led a petition against the NPPF signed by a quarter of a million people, stressed that the current NPPF will mark a ‘return to the bad old days of planning by appeal and soulless out-of-town developments.’

The influential Environmental Audit Committee voiced similar concerns in a letter to the prime minister dated 9 November, demanding that ‘the final version [of the NPPF] will have to make it clearer that the drive for economic growth does not trump other sustainability requirements,’ signed by committee chair Joan Walley MP.

The Brundtland Commission may contain some nice sentiment about preserving natural resources for our children’s children, but none of the current low-carbon thinking on what makes a development truly sustainable, and certainly nothing a planning authority could use as teeth against low-quality greenbelt development.

Clark may call this presumption sustainable; it is anything but. Worse still, it fails to deliver what architects were hoping for – a presumption that gave preferential treatment to quality, low-carbon design and masterplanning, making them essential to the development stream.

Planning Resource – Questions show DCLG has no project plan to estimate time to complete #NPPF work

Jamie Carpenter Planning Resource

Last month, the consultation on the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) finally drew to a close, with the coalition government receiving a staggering 13,700 responses. We know that the government is considering the consultation responses – indeed, planning minister Greg Clark has promised to publish a revised text of the document “having fully considered” the submissions. But what does this mean in practice?

In a statement published in October, Clark promised to publish a revised version of the NPPF “well ahead” of 31 March 2012. But the huge number of consultation responses sent to the DCLG has raised questions over how feasible it would be for the department to properly scrutinise each response – and draft a revised version of the document – ahead of this deadline.

So at the end of October, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request asking the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) a series of questions designed to find out how seriously the consultation responses are being considered.

Yesterday, the DCLG emailed me its response. Its answers to my questions are copied below:

Q. What is the number of permanent DCLG staff who are considering responses to the consultation on the draft NPPF?A. “We do not hold information relating to the number of staff considering the responses to the consultation. Many staff across the Planning Directorate are involved in the process of considering the responses to the consultation to a greater or lesser extent. Other directorates within the department will also be involved in considering the responses to the consultation as appropriate.”

Q. What is the number of workers that the DCLG has employed on temporary contracts to help consider responses to the consultation on the draft NPPF?A. “Some temporary staff were used to help input some of the consultation response data into a database, but only permanent staff have undertaken work on substantive consideration and analysis of the responses. Similarly, no civil servants have been seconded from other Whitehall departments to assist with this work.”

Q. What is the number of man hours that the department estimates it will take to examine all 13,700 responses to the consultation?A. “We do not hold information on the number of man hours that the department estimates it will take to examine all 13,700 responses to the consultation. The work involved in analysing and considering consultation responses is of course about more than just reading the responses. Therefore the time taken to read and consider will vary depending on a range of factors such as the complexity of the issue raised.”

Q. What is the estimated financial cost of considering responses to the consultation on the draft NPPF?A. “We do not hold information in relation to this and therefore cannot provide a response to this aspect of your response.”

My verdict: It is disappointing that the DCLG has failed to provide more substantive answers to the questions that we posed. Questions remain unanswered about precisely how many staff are examining the consultation responses, and precisely how many temporary staff were used to input consultation data into a database. The department’s claim that it “does not hold information” relating to the number of staff that are considering the consultation responses is particularly strange. Does it really not know how many of its own staff are examining the submissions?

Given the huge public interest in the planning reforms set out in the draft NPPF, and the controversy that the proposals have provoked, the department had an opportunity to provide us with answers that shed some light on the process it is undertaking to consider the responses. More transparency is required in order to give interested parties the confidence that their submissions will be properly scrutinised before the revised NPPF is published.

The time required to complete a project is effort required (in person hours) divided by resource available.  First golden rule of project planning.  Similarly you can calculate cost by the cost of those hours.  If it is clear you have enough resources a project is on track, if not it overruns,  It is clear from this response the DCLG has no project plan whatsoever otherwise it would instantly know.  It would seem either to be adopting a ‘it will be finished when it is finished’ approach, the same lack of project planning the dept rightly criticises lpas for adopting in preparing development plans, or a cut and run approach, stop the analysis when the deadline is hit.  I hoe the DCLG select committee ask some questions about this as it is extraordinary that such an important project can be run in such a slapdash way.

Steve Quartermain has confirmed today in a speech that the final number of responses was 16,000.


RICS Research -Localism leading to Shift Away from Strategic Housing Allocations and Lower Housing Targets #NPPF

In the very week the new English Housing Strategy says we need a new wave of large scale housing proposals research commissioned by the RICS says the shift to localism has resulted in

clear signs that allocations are being deleted and authorities are looking to move away from strategic allocations

The research is from thyree London Acadameics in the report

Selecting and allocating land for housing development:  Politics, Expedient sites, regional planning and localism 

Not surprisingly they found the ‘technical’ process of SHLAAs had become highly political

Party political geography has a role to play in determining where allocations will be supported or opposed.In e[case study area] the council’s controlling group cam out strongly in favour of  an allocation that placed major development in a Liberal Democrat stronghold:

The ability of RSS and inspectors report to provide cover and blame is stressed

Members for their part presented the regional strategy as an affront to local interests. When unpopular decisions had to be made the explanation was that hands had been forced…it was felt that members often need such a fall back position if they are to meet their obligations as a planning authority… was thought certain that inspectors reports…will play this role in the future.

As one authority put it

how do you justify a strategic allocation when there no strategic case for it

Overall the pressure was to reduce numbers

With the ‘strategic case’ gone (or going), the authority had started looking at options for allocating only enough sites to meet local needs based on internal projections. This work had not be made public, but progress suggested that for political reasons and without the back-up of strategic planning, authorities (particularly those working with neighbours on joint ventures) will retreat into ‘local need’ -only development strategies.[In another case study] members [were] pushing officers to consider ‘no growth’ scenarios’

It finds that major sites often have an arduous process through planning, subject to several rounds of scrutiny and the ebb and flow of support.  with the abolition of regional plans there was a risk of local authorities moving away from strategic allocations and towards lower housing delivery.

Unesco – Radical Changes to Liverpool Waters or could lose World Heritage Status

Liverpool Daily Post

LIVERPOOL will lose its World  Heritage Site status if the £5.5bn Liverpool Waters skyscraper plan goes ahead  without “radical” changes,  Unesco inspectors have  warned.

Last week’s three-day Unesco  inspection “could not have  gone any worse”, a top-level  source has told the Daily Post.

They added that the  inspectors, led by Ron van  Oers, had left the city with  “100%” clear guidance that,  unless Peel’s Liverpool Waters  project is radically changed,  they will recommend the city  be stripped of the World  Heritage accolade.

At one point during the visit,  the usually mild- mannered  Dutchman Mr van Oers was so  angered by the plans, he  stormed: “This goes too far”.

It is understood initial  steps would see  the inspectors issuing a recommendation  to the World Heritage Committee that Liverpool be put on the list of World Heritage  in Danger.

Once work then starts on Peel’s huge  scheme to regenerate the city’s northern  docklands, the city would be stripped of its  status, which was only granted in 2004.

The inspectors’ report will be written by  December 23 and will be sent to Liverpool  council and Peel within two to four weeks.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee will  vote on its findings in June.

Ian Pollitt, a Peel director, said: “We were  given a fair crack of the whip and thought  it went well.”

He said any judgments about how the  visit had gone would be “guess work” and  that the company was now waiting for the  inspectors’ report.

The company has previously said it will  not compromise any further on the scheme,  having already dramatically reduced the  number of skyscraper

Mr van Oers was a member of the 2006  mission that decided the WHS was not compromised by new developments at the city’s  Pier Head which included the three granite  blocks which are now nearing completion.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily  Post while on the inspection visit, he  warned that Unesco’s decision will have  significant implications for cities around  the world.

“The way that the World Heritage Committee will eventually rule about this case  is going to be part of case law that is going  to be used by the World Heritage Committee later on.”

The way the inspection went puts Liverpool council in a difficult position.

The city’s planning committee is expected to consider the planning application for  the scheme early in the New Year.

If the committee approves the  scheme – as it stands at the  moment, in the face of opposition from Unesco – it almost  guarantees that a public  inquiry will have to be held into  the scheme.

Dresden lost its World Heritage Site status in 2009 after  building a bridge over the Elbe river.It is a fate leaders in Liverpool are desperate to avoid.

Liverpool council leader Joe Anderson  said: “I think we can reach a compromise,  but Peel have already compromised.

“I think the scheme is a game changer.  It’s a catalyst for regeneration for years to  come, that is how important it is.

“People don’t come here to look at a certificate on the wall, they come here for our  people and our buildings, and none of that  would change.”

A Liverpool council spokesman said it  worked hard to show that the city was committed to securing the best balance  between the benefits of holding World Heritage status, and supporting and facilitating the regeneration of the city, including  the multi-billion pound Liverpool Waters  scheme.

He said: “We will continue to have  dialogue, conversations and discussions  before their report is issued.

“The mission provided us with some  feedback to consider regarding Liverpool  Waters, and we will be working with our  partners Peel, English Heritage, Department for Culture Media and  Sport and other stakeholders to  consider all of this information  very closely and respond accordingly.”

Heritage campaigner Wayne  Colquhoun, who was instrumental in persuading Unesco  to send its inspectors, said Peel  Holdings now face going back to the drawing board.

He met Mr Van Oers during the inspection.

“I told him that he let us down in 2006,  and he said to me ‘this time it is different’.

“I think it is back to the drawing board  for Peel. Thank God we have got a chance  to stop and make better plans before it is  too late.”

Unesco could not be reached for comment last night.

Liverpool’s World Heritage Site takes in  the waterfront and historic areas like William Brown Street and Castle Street.

What happens to Cities when the private sector stops building houses?

In jurisdictions without modern or effective planning systems then if speculative housebuilding ceases then the poor will house themselves if there is still demand for more houses.  Shanty towns.

The introduction of land use planning requires the production of public affordable housing – otherwise there will be a shortfall in housing.  As the shortfall will be greater in downturns then production of affordable housing needs to be countercyclical.

But because of current debt problems this countercyclical production is at a very low level – nowhere near the level necessary to fill the household growth gap.

The outcome is close to that which prevailed in Europe in the years after the second world war – increasing density of occupation.

Eventually the pressure would be so great – if repeated over many years, we get pressure for a return of shanty towns.  If anyone doubts this look at Dale Farm.  The unauthorised gypsy and traveller sites are a microcosm model of what might happen to the wider housing market if we have a ‘lost decade’ with no economic growth.

The response of governments everywhere to this situation is either to try to build some public housing only be able to afford some and fail, or to undertake site and services programmes and allow the poor to house themselves.

If you have a welfare subsidy of rent (as in Housing Benefit) and no expansion of housing stock you over time get more and more state expenditure to subsidise housing and this becoming unearned income of landowners.  Eventually a state will tire of this escalating unaffordable and seize land for its own use, to use as site and services or sell and take the unearned increment for itself.

If there are other cities with greater prospects people will leave.

No city can sustain a long term dysfunctional housing market.