Boris stops Borough Plans setting Affordable Rent Levels

Consultation on amendments to the London Plan here

The key text says para 3.68

Boroughs should not attempt to set rent targets for affordable rented housing in their local development frameworks as this is likely to impede maximisation of affordable housing provision Londonwide. Instead the Mayor will
provide indicative rent guidelines for affordable rented housing developed to ensure maximisation of provision and delivery of the range of policy outcomes in this Plan and in the London Housing Strategy …

Given that in Westminster  family will have to have an income of over £100,000 to afford 80% of market rent it is difficult to see how this is ‘affordable’ and can meet the same needs as social rented housing.  With market rents being set by non-uk renters how ridiculous.

Indeed with affordable housing now set at ridiculous levels it will be easy to meet now meaningless targets for buildings affordable housing.


Green Belt is a Strategy not a Designation

National designations such sites of special scientific interest are there because of the intrinsic quality of the land.

Green Belt is not and never has been such a designation – its qualities, run down or otherwise are irreplevent to its designation of any application on it.  The primary purpose of Green Belt is to prevent urban sprawl, and only one purpose, protecting the setting of historic towns, has anything to do with lands intrinsic qualities.

Green Belt was conceived as part of a strategy from its outset, to releive congestion and avoid arawl by planning new towns beyond the Green Belt or by controlling urban expansion to defined ‘reserve areas’ on the inner Green Belt edge.

With Green Belts having a horizon of 20+ years many towns surrounded by Green Belt are now exhausting the last of such areas, or they had been developed long ago.

However strategy, whether the South East Study of the 60s or the South East Plan always diverted the overspill growth to certain defined Growth areas, although some of these did require strategic reviews and deletions of some Green Belt Land.

What had changed in 1977 was the thrust of strategy being one of urban dispersal towards urban regeneration.However with the dispersal of employment the emphasis has shifted again from meeting the needs of London to assessing and meeting needs of local employment and labour markets.

The great risk now is that green belt, with the abolition of regional and sub-regional planning, has completely lost its strategic purpose.  It is purely a policy of restraint.  Without the areas for diverted growth political support for it will wane and some future government will propose a severe weakening of it in the future.


Rules on Building on Contaminated Land to be relaxed – Higher Pollution levels acceptable in Poorer Areas

The Guardian is reporting that Defra is expected to publish fresh guidelines for building on contaminated land to make it easier for developers to get permission for putting up homes or schools on the sites.

However the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the professional body for the industry, has said the new regulations would lead to fewer sites having to be treated before they are built on. That will result in “reducing costs, in particular for developers, but at the same time reducing the level of health protection offered … to users of the land,” says a briefing document from the institute.

The new rules would “water down” the current science-based risk assessments and rely on a new “qualitative” approach, despite Defra’s own consultation admitting “it is inherently difficult to prove causality and there are good science-based reasons to be concerned that some sites pose significant risks from long-term exposures,” it adds.

They stated in their consultation reponse

we do not think the proposed text is better; in its informal style it lacks the precision we would expect from a document having its legal status…We would make these criticisms even were the proposed Guidance significantly shorter but it is not.

There appears to be three major areas of contention, firstly a proposal to dismiss low risk sites early sd ‘not contaminated’ which the institute believes will result in underinvestigation and an incentive to withhold evidence.  The second issue concerns the definition of ‘significant possibility of significant harm’ – the institute is still lobbying that

some national consensus on appropriate toxicological benchmarks for exposure to soil contaminants is still needed.

The third area of contention is whether to consider wider factors such as social, economic and environmental impacts of the remediation, and whether the benefits of remediation would outweigh the impacts on medium risk sites.

This is an approach not taken in other areas of societal risk – say for example you lived in a flood risk area, is that risk more acceptable if it is a low value area where house prices are more marginal?  Similarly if you lived close to gas tanks is that risk more acceptable in a poor town?

The Guardian quotes Defra

Defra, however, denied the new rules would weaken protection of public health. It said: “We have made clear all along that our intention is to reduce the burden of regulation rather than the environmental outcomes they are designed to achieve. The current system for identifying and decontaminating brownfield sites is currently unclear and difficult to put into practice. We are therefore looking to simplify the guidance available – so we are protecting the environment, ensuring land is safe to be built on and removing unnecessary bureaucracy.”

North East rural areas at risk by planning systems reforms #NPPF

Newcastle Journal

MORE than half of England’s countryside – including swathes of the North East – could be at increased risk from development as a consequence of the Government’s reforms of the planning system, a report warns today.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says the threat falls on areas of land unprotected by nature and landscape designations. Among the areas at risk are 91% of the land in the Sedgefield constituency, 70% of Easington in County Durham and 72% in the Hartlepool constituency.

In Northumberland, the CPRE report claims, 75% of land in the Wansbeck is at risk of development and urban sprawl. as is 78% in Carlisle.

It says that for decades English planning policy has recognised the intrinsic value of the wider countryside, including undesignated areas, but that the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which is due to be finalised shortly, omits such a policy.

Fiona Howie, head of planning at CPRE, said: “We are pleased that the Government’s planning reforms will retain protections for specially designated countryside.

“But Ministers have provided no reassurance that the final NPPF will recognise the value of the wider, undesignated countryside that makes up more than half of England’s rural landscape. The imminent changes to the planning system should ensure that it is not only the specially designated areas that are valued.”

Richard Cowen, CPRE North East chairman, said: “It has always been my concern that land which is not designated is very much at risk.

“The Government proposals are a significant threat to the undesignated landscape. It is very much a concern.”