Daily Archives: December 2, 2011
We need planning for smart growth
This week’s autumn statement from the Chancellor highlighted the desperate state of the economy and the need for growth and new development. We need jobs to get the economy moving again and affordable homes that meet the demand of our expanding population on this small, somewhat crowded island.
Housing – and much more
We support the aims of the Government’s housing strategyand its efforts to address market failures and rekindle housebuilding. But we are critical of its sustained assault on the planning system, which sees planning as a barrier to purely economic growth rather than the tool that will direct good growth.
In fact, we support a lot of the Government’s own rhetoric around planning. There’s not much in Greg Clark’s foreword to the draft National Planning Policy Framework that we’d disagree with. We welcomed the Prime Minister’s letter to us in the Telegraph.
NPPF needs reform
But the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) simply won’t deliver the ambition. Instead, the NPPF attempts to use planning to drive short-term economic growth in ways that will undermine the longer-term development we need.
Time and time again the draft NPPF emphasises economic factors over social and environmental considerations, missing in the process the opportunity to confirm the importance of a brownfield first approach.
Planning for people
As individuals and communities, our quality of life depends on the quality of the places we live in. This is a debate about the kinds of places we want to create for ourselves and our children. So what would good growth look like and what would we want to see from a reformed planning system?
The places we build now should be vibrant communities that people can be proud of. Well designed houses, including affordable homes, would be near shops and amenities so the things people need are within easy reach. They would be well served by public transport. There’d be plenty of open space for people to enjoy and for nature to thrive in.
And serious thought would be given to sustainability in its widest sense – ensuring that that our food, water and energy are all sourced and distributed locally as far as they can be. In short, we should take this opportunity to reinvigorate our towns and cities through planning that provides for people and not just profit.
Smart inspiration from Canada
On my recent visit to Canada, I asked a professor of law – an expert on smart growth – what the secret of making that happen was. She told me it depended on two factors. First, there aresome issues – biodiversity, water management, energy, food, housing density, affordability – that neither the market nor communities alone can solve. National direction or pan-local co-ordination are needed. Second, a strong local plans that genuinely reflect the will of the community and involve them in a debate about the kind of places they want to live in.
The draft NPPF must adopt principles like these if it is to achieve the sustainable development that Ministers claim to be supportive of. But it must go further and create a positive vision for planning that creates places we can be proud of and want to feel part of. The market alone will not do this – the job of government and of the NPPF is to channel and drive the right kind of growth.
Fiona Reynolds – National Trust Director General
An unprecedented 55% of housing schemes rejected at local level were passed by the inspectorate, an effect of the government’s growth agenda
Figures released this week confirm a return to ‘planning by appeal’ and show a significant increase in success for housing schemes in England rejected at local level.
The Planning Inspectorate decided appeals for more than 6,900 homes between July to September this year and allowed 55 per cent of them, representing a 16 per cent rise in approvals for residential schemes from just 39 per cent from April to June.
The success rate of appeals across all sectors decided by hearing also shot up from 38 per cent in the first quarter of 2011-2012 to 47 per cent during the last three months.
The hike is being seen as evidence that the government’s pro-growth stance and the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is already having an effect.
Jonathan Brown of Urbed said the results highlighted tensions with Localism: ‘This statistical snapshot raises questions as to whether the draft NPPF, and the chief planner’s note to inspectors, have encouraged frustrated applicants to appeal with an enhanced chance of success.
‘This is precisely the intent of the NPPF, and, if confirmed, can be seen as an interim policy victory for the Treasury’s “growth view”, well before the final framework is published in spring.’
Others believe the rise could be due to housebuilders trying to push residential developments through before the Localism Act kicks in.
Geoff Armstrong, partner of planning solicitors DPP said: ‘The rise is planning by appeal is an inevitable consequence of the uncertainty linked to the NPPF and Localism Bill, which give no guarantee of planning through committee.’
However, ACA spokesman and planning consultant Andrews Rogers had a more pragmatic view: ‘The rise in appeals relating to dwellings simply follows the trend for more appeals due to the collapsing system.’
The Chancellor is quietly waging a war on the British environment, activists claim
George Osborne is not a climate sceptic, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, was obliged to pronounce yesterday, in the face of growing criticism of the Chancellor’s commitment to Britain’s environmental agenda and in particular to UK plans to combat global warming.
Mr Huhne defended the Chancellor against allegations that he showed scant enthusiasm and for the environment in his Autumn Statement this week, and indeed, used language verging on the contemptuous.
“The Chancellor has pointed out, he’s told me very, very clearly, he is absolutely committed to dealing with the problem of climate change, precisely because he is convinced by the science,” Mr Huhne said. “He is not in the position of somebody like Nigel Lawson [former Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby] who is clearly sceptical about the science.”
Leaders of Britain’s major environmental groups have discussed between themselves in recent days the “problem” of Mr Osborne, who is being regarded more and more as a powerful obstructive influence – not to say a destructive one – on Britain’s green agenda.
The Chancellor is increasingly seen as pulling the strings of other Cabinet ministers such as Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, over planning reform, and Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, over green regulation and the sell-off of wildlife sites.
Mr Osborne’s description this week of the Habitats Regulations, Britain’s leading wildlife protection laws, as placing “ridiculous” costs on business, and his declared intent to shake them up, were strongly resented, and the Chancellor risks becoming the first major political hate figure for environmentalists since Nicholas Ridley, Margaret Thatcher’s free-marketeering Environment Minister, more than 20 years ago.
“A love of the natural world is deeply rooted in our country – and so for George Osborne to pledge to ditch the most important laws that protect the crown jewels of our countryside is politically toxic, and suggests he learned nothing from the woodland sell-off fiasco,” John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said yesterday.
He added: “The Prime Minister has long articulated how a strong economy and protection of the environment can go hand in hand through investment in the clean industries of the future.
“In contrast, Osborne now seems to be suggesting that wildlife and a healthy environment are bad for business. David Cameron will now need to intervene to ensure that environmental destruction is not the price that Britain pays because of Osborne’s outdated economic thinking.”
Martin Harper, conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said: “Tuesday’s Autumn Statement was a tipping point. It is clear the Chancellor has no regard for sustainable development or investing in the green economy.”
By contrast, Mr Huhne’s publication of the revised UK Carbon Plan is sending a clear signal to nearly 200 countries gathered at the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, that a major industrialised nation such as Britain still thinks it is right, necessary and possible to embark on a major long-term project to slash greenhouse gas emissions – in Britain’s case, by an ultimate 80 per cent on the 1990 baseline by 2050. “Britain is walking the walk,” Mr Huhne said.
Not many British Cabinet ministers have the distinction of being burned in effigy by their own supporters, but Margaret Thatcher’s sometime Environment Minister and political ally Nicholas Ridley did – by Hampshire Tories in 1988, in a row over house-building in the countryside.
Chain-smoking, acerbic, wholly unsympathetic to the green agenda and widely loathed, he was eventually replaced by Mrs Thatcher (with Chris Patten) after the Green Party captured 15 per cent of the vote in the 1989 European Parliamentary Election.