National Planning Policy Framework
The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): We are committed to publishing the national planning policy framework by the end of March, having taken into account of the consultation responses, and the framework will include transitional arrangements.
Angela Smith: I am glad to hear the Minister say that, as there have been reports that the Government are minded to introduce a transitional period of 18 months. Will he confirm what the transitional period will be—how much time will be allowed? Will he also explain why Members and local authorities have had to learn some of the details from the media?
Greg Clark: I would be keen to understand that myself. We made a commitment that we would consult and listen to the responses, and the transitional arrangements were included. I gave a commitment to work closely with the Local Government Association on the transitional arrangements, and we are having those conversations.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): Will the Minister confirm that the transitional arrangements will cover the application of PPS25 to properties at risk of flooding, and that all the reassurances given under PPS25 will continue into the permanent arrangements afterwards?
Greg Clark: Clearly, the protection of properties against flooding is important to the whole country, and not least in my hon. Friend’s constituency. We are working on the transitional arrangements to ensure that there is no gap between the current regime and the new regime.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): In connection with the transitional arrangements to the national planning policy framework, will the Minister update us on village greens? Last year, in his speech to the Conservative party conference, the Secretary of State spoke glowingly about his determination to protect village greens, so why does he now have plans to charge local communities £1,000 just to start the process of protecting them? Is the policy of a grand for a green going to continue?
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Greg Clark: I had not spotted the hon. Lady at our party conference, but she would be a welcome visitor at any time. The consultation on village greens is being taken forward by DEFRA. What we have consulted on in the national planning policy framework is a new designation of local green space, which will make it open to every authority for the first time to protect locally valued green space in the same way as the green belt. We shall respond to that consultation shortly.
Regarding the previous post why do viability testing when the government has already done a detailed cost-benefit analysis in 2009, the figures there suggest that with a nearly £300 saving on (then) energy bills for a 3 bed semi a part 4 standard would achieve payback in around 8 years, a nearly 300% IRR over a 25 year mortgage. No problem with viability then. So why waste everyone’s time. The government research shows it pays for itself.
Indeed if the government really wanted to make housing more affordable they should lever the funding for mortgage deposits 3:1 by tax breaks equivalent to the additional energy savings costs.
reading the Building Regulations, I stumbled across a single paragraph that could throw fresh fuel on the NPPF fire.
Paragraph 196 on page 58 reads: ‘Where local planning authorities wish to set environmental targets for new homes at a level higher than Building Regulations, the National Planning Policy Framework requires that these should be subject to viability testing. Notwithstanding legitimate local aspirations to seek higher sustainability standards, this is to ensure that necessary development is not hindered through unrealistic policy expectations.’
Er, what? Viability testing?
Let me get this straight. If local people and their elected councils want to impose local environmental standards on housing developments in their areas, then they have to undergo tests to make sure said democratically established standards don’t cost the developer too much? What is ‘necessary development’? What is ‘unrealistic policy expectations’? And who decides what is necessary, unrealistic and, ultimately, viable?
It strikes me that not only does this undermine the principle of localism, but it also caps sustainability in the environmental sense. Under the proposals in the Building Regulations consultation, the target for the 2013 carbon cut on 2002 levels is just eight per cent. This is compared to a previous Labour target of 25 per cent. Most housing associations are already building code level three homes that meet this target anyway – and all those using HCA cash in London are exceeding it at around 17 per cent by building to code level four.
That means under the NPPF, those associations building in London would have plans for the minimum standard made subject to viability tests on associations. Were they exceeding Code 5 or six then you could perhaps understand the point about being realistic – but the building regs carbon targets are not ambitious. Come zero carbon in 2016 the lameness of these targets will be apparent as the building industry is forced to make a huge, expensive step up. Why should environmental aspiration be checked by the NPPF?
In effect it means there is a presumption towards ‘sustainable development’ – on the condition that it is not too sustainable. Economic and social (hence the word ‘necessary’) sustainability is checking environmental sustainability. In fact, to go further, the NPPF could end up forcing development to become less environmentally sustainability. Or so, my unqualified working of the logic of the presumption seems to conclude.
People in the housing world are increasing used to the way the government takes a word and assigns it a new meaning; just look at the way the government has appropriated the word ‘affordable’ to create a product that is, more often than not, unaffordable to those who were previously on a social rent.
Given though the energy savings targets will give tenants/owners more income from lower energy bills to pay higher rents or mortgages this should be a formality – so why create this uncessessary bureaucratic hurdle?
The former chairman of the fashion retailer New Look has said the high street is in an “death spiral” and has recommended re-classing empty shops for residential use.
Phil Wrigley, the chairman of the retailer Majestic Wine, also criticised the recent report on the high street by Mary Portas, the self-styled Queen of Shops, as the “right diagnosis, wrong prescription”.
His views, based on nearly 30 years in the retail sector, come at a time when more than 14 per cent of town centre shops onaverage are vacant.
Mr Wrigley called for the “reinvention” of high streets. He said: “Retailing will never be the same again, but there is much to be gained from facing up to this fundamental, and irreversible, truth. In doing so, we might just create the space in which we can re-cast and revitalise our town centre communities.”
Mr Wrigley added: “There comes a point at which vacancy rates are so high that no new retailers will come in to a location because they don’t want to be sited among empty shops. It is, in effect, a death spiral. There is some debate about precisely where this threshold lies but it’s probably between 20 per cent and 30 per cent.”
He believes the high street has failed to keep up with a “forty-year revolution in retail”, citing factors including how the big supermarkets, online and shopping centres, complete with leisure facilities, have changed the landscape.
Mr Wrigley, who began his carreer at Debenhams in 1984, expects more retail casualties in the “coming weeks and months”, following the demise of Peacocks, Past Times and La Senza recently.
On a more positive note, he forecasts the UK will get more malls, which will become like leisure villages whereconsumers take “brief holidays”.
Speaking at Oxford University yesterday, Mr Wrigley said the planning system needs to focus on “making it easier to re-class former retail premises for residential development”.
He argues that most small shops could be converted into residential units and shoppers’ car parks could be changed to residential ones.
“If people returned to town centres, as residents not visitors, the effects could be far-reaching,” said Mr Wrigley.
He left New Look in January 2010 and has also held roles at Arcadia, Habitat and Bhs.
Call to action – write to your local newspaper
“Help stop our planning policies being vandalised. If you care about the future of your local neighbourhood then write now to your local newspaper.”
Griff Rhys Jones, Civic Voice President
We need your help in one final push to promote our campaign for fair planning. We are asking every individual member of a civic society to write to their local newspaper to let them know your feelings about the changes. By working together as a movement we were able to create an All Party Parliamentary Group and put huge pressure on local MPs when the planning changes were first announced – lets now work together as a movement to tell the country what we think of these changes and at the same time promote the name of all civic societies.
If you share our concerns (as we know the majoirty of you do) then please let your local newspaper know. It will only take a few minutes. We have drafted a letter for you to use or amend and it will be sent automatically to your local newspaper. Your views count so lets be heard across the country – (remember to include the name of your civic society on the letter). The Government is rattled by the responses from communities across the country and every voice will make a difference. Lets drive home the the importance of the civic society network and make it clear in every local newspaper across the country that the civic movement do not support these changes.
PLANS for a high-speed rail link to the edge of Liverpool have been quietly dumped, apparently to save money – adding to the journey time to London.
The 250mph trains were expected to run at top-speed from the capital to just south of Manchester, before slowing to conventional speed for the final 30-odd miles into Lime Street.
But The Liverpool Post can reveal that the trains will now switch to standard speed around 50 miles further south, at a point just north of Birmingham.
The move would make journeys from Liverpool to London a full 38 minutes slower than Manchester to London.
Last night, the department for transport (Dft) – which kept the change under wraps – was accused of a “sneaky move” that would leave Liverpool passengers in the slow lane.
Furthermore, the economic consequences could be devastating, ministers were warned – because the new plans will hand a huge advantage to Manchester in the battle for investment and jobs.
High-speed trains (HS2) from the capital were expected to take just 16 minutes longer to reach Liverpool than Manchester, once the second stage of the £32bn project – from Birmingham to Manchester – is completed, in 2032.
That difference in journey times has now more than doubled to 38 minutes, a potentially clinching factor for any business deciding where to set up in the North West.
One academic, who has studied the impact of high-speed rail lines on different cities in France, warned last night that Liverpool would be “collateral damage” – as Manchester prospered.
Labour vowed to press ministers to think again, when an initial consultation on routes and stations north of Birmingham is held later this year.
A Dft spokesman said: “It’s correct that one option was for the connection to Liverpool from the high-speed line to be further north, closer to Manchester…
“However, it is now intended for that connection to be at Lichfield, north of Birmingham, which means the trains will run at conventional speed for longer to Liverpool than was the case before.”
The spokesman agreed the change was likely to save money, but added: “This is good news for passengers from Runcorn, Crewe and Stafford, which will now have trains switching to the high-speed line.”
A spokesman for HS2 Ltd – the company recommending the route – said: “No decision has been made on how HS2 could best serve Liverpool. We are looking at a range of options.”
Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels might be known as the biggest proponent of the mountain-shaped buildings, but it appears that some cunning craftsmen from Puerto Fuy Neltume, a small mountain village in northern Chile’s Patagonia, have gone one step further.
The Magic Mountain Lodge rises out of the rainforest in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve, its dormer windows poking out of tumbling vines that sprout from between boulders, with a waterfall gushing from its summit.
The 13-room hotel boasts a restaurant, reading room and sauna, while each room has its own hot-tub, carved from ancient tree trunks and filled with naturally heated water from a nearby thermal spring.
Like something straight from Lord of the Rings, the building was inspired by an ancient local legend that tells of a magic mountain in the area that grants wishes from its waterfall.
Germany’s Bundesbank has entirely exhausted its stock of private assets and run up a quarter of a trillion euros in liabilities propping up the eurozone system, testing the political limits of EMU solidarity in Germany.
The operations are part of the European Central Bank’s ‘TARGET2’ network of automatic payments between the national central banks of the Euroland club. The Bundesbank has already provided €496bn (£413bn) to countries in trouble, chiefly Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain.
“This is reaching the danger point. It is already one and a half times the total budget of the German government,” said Professor Frank Westermann of Osnabrück University. “If any of the crisis countries exits the euro or if there is an EMU break-up, the Bundesbank bears extreme risks.”
Last night, Richard Rogers, star designer, member of the House of Lords and the most influential British architect of his generation, laid out his vision for London at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Portland Place…
Yesterday’s lecture was the first he has given in London with his younger partners, Graham Stirk, 54, and Ivan Harbour, 49, and represents a passing of the baton. It is also an opportunity to look at Rogers’s legacy to London.
The most visible is a wealth of buildings, foremost among them Lloyd’s of London on Lime Street in the City. This was another building built inside out, with its expensive, stainless-steel cutlery hanging out, and is still a favourite target of taxi drivers’ bile.
Others followed: Channel 4’s Horseferry Road headquarters (completed 1994), the former Millennium Dome (2000), Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (1999), 88 Wood Street (1999), the Montevetro apartment building (2000) and Heathrow Terminal 5 (2008), among many others.
But none of these spectacular buildings compares with his achievements in the political realm: Rogers has been the most politically engaged architect of this, or perhaps any, generation. In 2000 he announced a new vision for British cities – his “Urban Renaissance” – that is still in the mainstream of urban design thinking today. It influenced Ken Livingstone when he was mayor and is still the backbone of the thinking behind the London Plan, the GLA’s strategic vision for London.
If Rogers is taking less of a leading role within his practice, he is as evangelical as ever about cities, and London in particular. He is imbued with the optimistic spirit of utopian modernists: Archigram, Buckminster Fuller and the constructivists. His vision of a high- density, compact and bustling city linked by efficient public transport and with great public spaces is compelling. Perhaps the only problem with it is that it’s the same vision he had 15 years ago. To hear him talking about it in this new political and economic climate makes one feel nostalgic for the optimistic first term of Tony Blair. Austerity Britain might see Rogers slip behind the agenda for the first time in his career.
But he still has plenty of fight in him, laying out a list of reasons why the Coalition’s forthcoming reform of the planning system, the National Planning Policy Framework, is wrong. His objections are basically that it does not conform to the orthodoxy of the Urban Task Force report that Rogers authored in 2000.
He says that the problem with planning is not necessarily that it is wasteful and obstructive, but that standards have fallen so low in the planning professions. “Only 40 per cent of London boroughs have a plan, and most of those are rubbish,” he says. He also believes the so-called housing crisis is an illusion created by major housebuilders in concert with a government that will not challenge them. “There are 750,000 homes lying empty, and 330,000 potential homes on banked land” – land with planning permission for homes that would not deliver the desired profit margin.
Worst of all, for Rogers, the NPPF does not take seriously the role of high-quality public space, which he believes should be a “human right”. He is right to criticise these things.
And his solutions? They are the same as they have always been. Bring more people into the city, with more dense development around nodes of good public transport. Use only brownfield, ex-industrial land to preserve the Green Belt. He says the NPPF will lead to an unprecedented rise in the amount of out-of-town shopping developments, further damaging high streets that are already suffering.
Rogers has always been a good observer of the obvious mistakes that London planners have made. He wonders why the Embankment, which he describes as “London’s most beautiful street”, is principally used as a place to park buses.
He sees his long-held prediction of a new city in the east of London coming true with the advent of the Olympics, and, like his former partner Norman Foster, believes that an airport should be built in the Thames estuary to solve London’s air transport crush.
But this idealistic vision has been questioned by those who believe Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners says one thing and does another, and that there are recent projects that question the practice’s principles. Most significant of these is One Hyde Park, the RSHP-designed palace for billionaires opposite Knightsbridge Tube station. For a practice that donates 20 per cent of its annual profits to charity and whose partners are paid a fixed multiple of the salary of the lowest-paid architect in the office, it might seem a strange project to get involved in. The prices of the apartments at One Hyde Park (£140 million for one of the penthouses) show the extent of the problem of land values in London. And to see Rogers, the man who claims to be rooted in the spirit of the 1968 generation, working for the most high-profile property developers in London, the Candy brothers, jars.
When I ask the partners if they can understand why people get annoyed by this block, they initially try to explain that land values make this kind of building inevitable in locations like this, and that the building does all it can to make a decent public gesture at ground level. They admit that it “is a lightning rod for injustices that exist across London”, but their explanations highlight the impotence of idealism in the face of the London property market. Finally, as if telling a youngster a lesson, Rogers says: “You ain’t going to get poor housing on that site.”
He’s right, but that pragmatism doesn’t sound like the spirit of ’68 to me. Rogers likes to talk about the “creative friction” of living in the city, cheek by jowl with people different from yourself. One Hyde Park has ensured that the social housing part of the project is safely filed away in Pimlico and is not designed by RSHP. It seems his wealthy clients aren’t quite so enthusiastic about friction as he is.
Rogers stands for so much that’s good about what architecture can offer the city and his objection to the lack of design emphasis in the Government’s planning reforms is quite right. But his ideals have reached the end of their useful life. Things are more complicated in contemporary London. The new “public spaces”, such as Paternoster Square, Paddington Basin and More London, many inspired by Rogers’s thinking, are in fact privately owned.
You can drink a cappuccino there, but not much else, and if a security guard tells you to leave, you have to do so. Rogers’s focus on public space has been very welcome but the public realm of the city is more than abstract “space” these days.
His business partners do not seem to share the same politics as the old man either, and are far less compelling speakers. Stirk describes buildings in abstract, architectural language: about “served” and “servant” spaces, of “implied extensions to the public realm” behind glass façades, “public sky plazas” and the “Alice in Wonderland” qualities of the glass office block of the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping in the City.
Harbour is pragmatic, all sun-path diagrams and environmental strategies. Perhaps the other partners need Rogers to retire so they can express themselves more clearly, but it is obvious that they are not rooted in the political convictions that still burn in Rogers.
RSHP is a decent place to work and the partners are nice people, but my instinct is that Rogers has won the arguments he set out to win and doesn’t have much else to offer. It will be for a younger generation to figure out what “Rogersian” public space is for. He remains a profound influence on London, but this week at Riba was the beginning of him stepping back from the front line. We should thank him, and hope for a new generation of politically engaged architects to take his arguments forward.
Although he might be passing the baton with his recent prenouncemnts he definitely isnt stepping back from the front line.