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‘Expansionary Fiscal Austerity’ in Ireland

Matthew Yglesias gets it bang on

 Ireland is the best case scenario for an economy successfully adjusting to a recession via “internal devaluation” — i.e. cuts in nominal wages and prices. It’s unemployment rate has been hovering just below 15 percent for a while and some quarters its GDP goes up and ECB types, austerians, and “technocrats” celebrate. Then you get the other kind of quarters:

Ireland’s economy contracted by 1.9 percent in the third quarter, far worse than expected, as global economic turmoil dented export growth, raising the stakes for its fiscal and debt targets under an EU-IMF bailout. Ireland was the worst performing economy in the euro zone in the third quarter apart from Greece, which no longer publishes seasonally adjusted figures, marking a stunning reversal of fortune from the second quarter, when it was the second-best in class after Estonia, official data on Friday showed.

One point that Keynesians make about this kind of situation is simply that it’s difficult, logistically, to adjust with nominal wage cuts. As a matter of empirical fact about the world, prices of most things are at least a little downwardly rigid and the price of labor (and houses, too, I might add) has a lot of downward rigidity. Rightwing times sometimes look at that and say “well haha Keynesians, how come you’re not running around trying super-hard to cut nominal wages?” This is where the second issue comes in. If real wages decline via currency devaluation or monetary expansion then the real value of debts declines as well, and soon enough incomes are rising because fewer people are unemployed and employed people are working longer hours. If a debt burdened economy tries to adjust through a prolonged span of high unemployment and nominal wage cuts, incomes are falling, debt burdens are rising, and expectations of low demand and possible deflation get embedded into everyone’s decision-making. If you’re lucky, nominal wage cuts + foreign demand will equal a recovery anyway thanks to exports, but if you’re unlucky with the foreign demand then you’re just screwed.

Why Smart Growth has to be part of the #NPPF – It wont work without it

Feedback from several attendees at the planning sounding board yesterday that the DCLG’s position is that the locational and density principles used in local plans will be entirely a matter for local planning authorities – i.e. it will not presume any kind of model of urbanism or suburbanism or even urban sprawl.

A moments thought shows how this would be impractical.

1) What when there is not up to date local plan and no early prospect of adoption i.e. ‘prematurity’ does not apply.  In those cases do you simply approve everything?  In many cases developments will be mutually exclusive such as where there are infrastructure capacity constraints.  How then does the SoS choose?  Also the lack of a local plan might not be the LPAs fault, an adjoining authority may be refusing to cooperate, infrastructure bodies or the government may have withdrawn funding from a vital piece of infrastructure.  In these cases the SoS will be forced to apply principles of good planning as to where development should and should not go and to what density.  Furthermore if one form and pattern of development has a greater carbon impact then another if the SoS failed to recognise this the decision could immediately be challenged as contrary to the National Carbon Plan and Carbon Change Reduction Act 2009.  Indeed internationally it has been similar carbon legislation which have mandated smart growth.

2) It allows LPAs to game the system by reducing densities to very low levels and thereby reducing housing If an LPA wants less housing all it has to do is reduce maximum densities to very low levels.  There is nothing in the NPPF about using land efficiently.  You don’t have to meet your objectively assessed needs if it conflicts with the NPPF and one of the principles of the NPPF is that density is a local choice, in those cases your neighbours would have to meet the overspill.  We are already seeing examples of this – such as at Ipswich.  The overspill housing will need to go elsewhere, the more spread out development will be less efficient for public transport and cost more to the public through additional infrastructure costs – often paid for by council tax payers in adjoining authorities.



The Grotton #NPPF mythbuster

Chris Shelpley et. al.

A recent meeting of the Association of Grotton Authorities (AGA) considered a briefing note that, at a stroke, resolved any lingering misconceptions about the government’s attitude to planning. Headed “Draft Mythbuster / For Leaking Purposes Only”…

In the interests of openness, we reproduce this important note in full – although without some of the accompanying handwritten comments (such as “if your constituents are finding all this planning stuff a bit alarming, just remind them what’s happening to the NHS”).

Draft Planning Mythbuster (version 7B)

Myth: Change isn’t needed. Planning isn’t the problem.

Fact: It’s generally recognised by everyone who matters that planning is responsible for everything that’s wrong with society today.

Myth: Won’t the changes lead to us drowning in a sea of concrete?

Fact: No! That’s a scurrilous rumour being put about by the Campaign to Keep Grotton Just As It Was Before the War, who’ve got nothing better to do than read the Daily Telegraph, which, fair enough, is quite good for the sports section, and moan about their pensions. And don’t get me on to the National Trust, which is clearly a communist-led fifth column plotting to overthrow the government.

Myth: Isn’t it going to be a developers’ charter?

Fact: Close!! It’s going to be a lawyers’ charter.

Myth: Let’s face it, the government hasn’t got a clue what it means by “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”, has it?

Fact: This really isn’t rocket science.

To be quite clear, “sustainable” development is development that isn’t unsustainable. That’s why there’s a presumption in favour of it. Obviously.

Hang on – this sounds interesting! Doesn’t that therefore mean that there’s a presumption against development that isn’t sustainable?

Fact: Yes! But only where the secretary of state considers it expedient.

Myth: This isn’t localism: you’re taking control away from local communities. For example, it will be easier to get permission for open-cast coal mining in Grimethwaite.

Fact: Possibly. But it’s obviously more crucial to protect things that matter, like the green belt round Dunromin, rather than worry about those that don’t, like Grimethwaite. Anyway, even if this did happen, our environmental policies will ensure that Grimethwaite will look exactly as it does today – it will just be the other way up.

Myth: The document says that planners have to understand the realistic market for housing up to 2035 (plus 60 per cent), set out a clear economic strategy that proactively encourages sustainable economic growth, have meetings every hour with anyone who wants them, approve all planning applications just before they’re submitted, etc etc. They won’t be able to cope.

Fact: Look, no-one said it would be easy. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. You could always go into teaching.

Myth: The government isn’t really interested in proper planning at all.

Fact: Dear, oh dear – wrong again! We don’t want to get too technical here, but our approach is firmly “evidence-based”. This means that we really do want planners to be aware of the social, environmental and economic impact of development before ignoring the first two bits. Did you know, for example, that O2 has told us that refusing permission for mobile phone masts quite possibly leads to increased obesity in teenagers? That’s why we’ve appointed consultants to find out more.

Myth: The abolition of regional strategies has led to the removal of hundreds of thousands of homes from local plans. I thought we needed more houses?

Fact: Really? Oh, I see. I think it’ll be alright though, because there’s something in there about a “duty to cooperate”, or perhaps that’s in the Localism Act, not that anyone here’s quite sure what it means. I’ll have to come back to you on this one, if that’s OK.

Myth: There’s nothing of any use in here about climate change.

Fact: Get real! Haven’t you people noticed we’re in a crisis? The only way out of it is to let business do what they’re best at – doing business. In the end, it’s only the free market that will get us out of this mess. After all, who got us into it?

Community stress and anxiety assessments !

The draft NPS on Hazardous Waste Disposal contains a section on ‘Community stress and anxiety assessments’ the just published parliamentary inquiry reports on the concerns in the industry on  how this might lead to ‘significant dispute’  with the ESA saying

that it was “very unclear exactly what the company is expected to do-what sort of assessment, what sort of ways it could seek to allay anxiety and stress that was seen to be there”….

it is clear that developers face an unacceptable degree of uncertainty in interpreting how stress and anxiety assessments should be undertaken. We recommend that the draft NPS be amended to include
guidance on how community stress and anxiety assessments should be carried out.

Fear and anxiety is a material planning consideration but only where founded on evidence not unsupported assumption.  Smith v (1) First Secretary Of State (2) Mid-Bedfordshire District Council   – this however concerned crime.  In  Newport County Borough Council v the Secretary of State for Wales and Browning Ferris Environmental Services Ltd (1997) it was held that fears not supported by evidence could, on rare occasions, be reason for refusal of planning applications.

So what if someone is opposing a planning application for new housing on grounds of loss of property value – not in itself a material planning consideration – but they claim this is causing them stress and  loss of sleep injurious to their heealth.  Should then an applicant have to undertake an assessment of stress and anxiety!

If applicants had to submiot such assessments I would be tempted to do a one liner –  ‘It is clear that considerable anxiety and stress is being caused to a number of objectors – the applicants have sent these persons packets of green tea and rescue remedy it is there own silly neurotic fault.’


The Age of a Plan is not a material Planning Consideration #NPPF

My view on this confirmed by a section of the Inspector’s handbook (july 2010 edition)

Inspectors Handbook – GP5 para 13

The age of a plan is not material, thus, if the development plan policy is elderly, it is not appropriate to say ‘I accord the policy little weight’ or if it is recently adopted, ‘I accord the policy great weight’. What should be considered is whether other material considerations such as Government Policy in PPGs or PPSs and Circulars, or emerging development plan policies may justify deciding the appeal other than in accordance with the adopted development plan policies.  An example might be where recent events or policy developments…have rendered the development plan policy out-of-date.

I would say it is clearer to say ‘no longer relevant’ rather than ‘out of date’.

Planning Lawyers Doubt need for Habitats Directive Review

Planning resource

planning lawyers doubt..that the review will lead to a wholesale downgrading of protection for European sites. “I don’t think the government has that much flexibility to amend the regulations and still remain compliant with the directive,” said Brian Greenwood, head of planning at law firm Osborne Clarke.

David Cox, partner at law firm SNR Denton, agreed that Osborne’s room for manoeuvre in amending the regulations may be constrained. “It’s an ambitious statement but I don’t expect anything significant to happen as a result,” he said.

Sarah Bischoff, associate at law firm SJ Berwin, said: “It is difficult to see where the government believes that the regulations go further than the EU requirements.” She pointed out that altering the regulations might lead to the European Commission bringing proceedings against the UK.

David Brock, a consultant lawyer at Keystone Law, said one problem with the regulations is that they leave decision-making authorities with no option but to refuse an application if it would significantly harm the integrity of an SAC or SPA and no alternatives are available. “We should be asking Brussels to amend the directives so they don’t predetermine outcomes in this way,” he said.

But it isnt the case that refusal is automatic if there are reasons of overriding public importance.  The EU even publishes guidance on how to apply this exemption with model letters ready to fill in.