DCLG clamps down on SPADs lobbying on appeals

New guidance on propriety in dealing with called in appeals published today,  it includes the following expanded section:

Special Adviser

Planning decisions must be made solely on the basis of valid planning matters, and not by reference to political or presentational considerations. This applies regardless of the source of the advice and that of special advisers is treated in the same way as advice from an official giving internal advice to Ministers. This applies to political advisers and to any specialist advice (for example on design matters) provided to Planning Ministers.

Occasionally, special advisers whether in DCLG or other Departments are approached (for example by letter or telephone call) by parties to a planning case. Any such approach should be referred to the appropriate official in the Planning Casework Division for action. A special adviser so approached must not give the impression that any particular advice will be decisive when decisions are taken. Where a special adviser has a private interest in a planning matter he or she must play no part in its consideration by the Department, though they are free to make representations in the usual way. They must also advise the Permanent Secretary of any such interest.

Has this been prompted by a particular case or cases?  Sheriden Wetlake and Giles Kenningham have frequently annoyed senior mandarins.  The Vauxhall Society for example sent emails to both of them regarding the refused Octave Tower case last year. 

We suggested the argument that would carry most weight: that a ‘yes’ to the Octave would mean bad headlines, and bad headlines mean lost votes

The 21 Core Strategies in Limbo #NPPF

On the BANE case I referred to a couple of weeks ago I should have posted the Inspectors’ disagreement with the legal position of the challengers – that the ‘duty to operate’ applies at adoption even if the preparation of the plan was prior to commencement of the Localism Act, and that this remains the position of the DCLG.  To my mind though it is bizarre that the opinion does not refer to the very clear wording of section 110 that this is an ‘ongoing process’ which implies that arguments about being not ‘backward looking’ is irrelevant.  It is a new legal test and as with any new legal test it sets out what a LPA has to do now and in addition to be lawful.  Arguments about retrospectivity are irrelevant.

There are around 21 plans in this position of purgatory, some proposing big cuts in housing numbers.  However the interesting position that when the NPPF is published this will apply in different wording as a matter of policy, and this does not refer (at least in the draft) to the process of preparation, that is it is not backward looking, but to whether the outcome meets objectively identified needs from elsewhere in the locality.  So even if the Inspector below is correct he may be forced, unless the final NPPF includes a transitional exemption (which would be a huge blow to meeting housing needs and larger than local planning).  Such an exemption would itself be challengable as those plans in the purgatory period would not have to meet larger than local needs whilst those submitting later might find any ‘overspill’ being transferred to these areas, even though this is might be a breach of the SEA directive if the later submitting authority is the less environmentally harmful alternative.  By example Mendip have yet to submit and when it does would have to consider whether or not it should take the overspill from Bath and North East Somerset from it only providing local growth, even though Mendip is equally sensitive with larger areas of AONB and an SPA.  By failing to consider the matter now the inspector is not only threatening the BANE core strategy to legal challenge but the surrounding not yet adopted plans also.

Inspector’s response to the submissions on behalf of Robert Hitchens Ltd
on the duty to co-operate (written submissions by Mr Crean QC, 9 January
2012, oral submissions of Mr Dove QC at the hearing on 17 January and
summarised in subsequent note) and the Council’s response (written
submissions of Mr Forsdick, 12 January 2012, oral submissions by
Mr Forsdick at the hearing on 17 January and summarised in subsequent
note 18 January 2012).
I remain of the view that new section 20(5)c of the 2004 Act should not
be applied as a legal test to the submitted Core Strategy in this
Examination. My reasons adopt the reasons given by the Council.
Section 110 of the Localism Act sets out a general duty to co-operate.
This is on-going duty for the local authority to comply with and is not
confined to any single Development Plan Document (DPD) or, indeed, its
own DPDs. However, the task for an Inspector at Examination is focussed
and limited, as set out in new section 20(5)c of the 2004 Act:
(c) whether the local planning authority complied with any duty
imposed on the authority by section 33A in relation to its
This wording implies a backward look at what has happened in the past.
It is not intended as a general review of how the Council is taking forward
the duty to co-operate.
The 2004 Act has separate sections (19, 20 and 23) on the Preparation of
development plan documents, their Independent Examination and their
adoption. It is reasonable to conclude from the structure and
requirements of this legislation that a DPD should not be submitted for
examination until its preparation is complete.
Drawing on the above distinctions, the preparation of the Bath and North
East Somerset Core Strategy was undertaken prior to the commencement
of this new requirement. Applying this requirement to the submitted plan
would the duty to have been met prior to the legislation coming into
effect. There is no indication that the legislation is intended to apply
retrospectively in this way.
Section 112 of the Localism Act came into effect on 15 January 2012 and
sets out new procedures by which Inspectors may make recommendations
for changes to the submitted plan. I do not regard section 112(6) and the
reference in S112 (7B)(b) to any duty imposed on the authority by section
33A as relevant to the interpretation of that section.
I note the submissions regarding the use of the word preparation in
relation to European legislation and particularly the Environmental ID/23
Assessment of Plans and Programme Regulations 2004/1633. I accept
that in the context of SEA, preparation applies up to adoption. However, I
am not persuaded that this meaning of preparation, which is concerned
with a particular statutory regime, has to be applied in the same way to
other domestic legislation, particularly where the context clearly suggests
Since section 33A came into effect, a number of Examinations will have
been concluded. I have not been informed of any where the Inspector
has applied Section 33A to the plan under Examination. My conclusion on
this matter is, as far as I am aware, consistent with the approach of other
I am not persuaded that Section 20(5)c should be applied to the
submitted Core Strategy. I will not therefore be formally concluding on
whether this statutory test is met.

Peter Hall – Music for New Towns

A great complement to the previous video Peter Hall’s efforts as a composer from 1975, sadly not the Planner Peter Hall but a guitarist from Dorset.

Thanks to Wayne Burrows

This LP was found at the Colwick bootsale a few years ago and despite having no idea whatsoever what it might sound like, it looked interesting enough to take a chance on, partly as a result of the tantalising cover photograph, but also because the title track (according to the brief sleevenotes) was created for the launch of South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell, Berkshire, in 1975.

The two cuts featured here, a sixteen minute instrumental New Town Suite and the twenty-five minute The Estateswere both recorded at Pathway Studios, London, during 1974 – 5, and the LP itself dates from 1977; it’s presumably a private press or very small label – this is the first release on the otherwise unheard-of Prototype imprint, whose second release, also by Hall, appeared almost a decade later, in 1985.

Both the tracks present a strange mix of jazz and modern classical influences, with some occasional dynamics clearly drawn from rock, and this gives them a very distinctive flavour: experimental but accessible, certainly very British sounding, and for all the difficulty of categorising their sound, definitely an interesting listen: their broader context, as works commissioned and performed at the opening of a New Town arts centre, only adds to the fascination.

The key figure is composer and guitarist Peter Hall, who has a website here and is credited as the creator of a genre of Industrial Sound Sculptures, which after listening to this LP certainly makes sense. The chamber-styleNew Town Suite is a trio built around double bass and flute while the line-up expands on The Estates to a seven-piece featuring cimbalom, clarinet, twelve string guitar, electric bass and the full range of percussion.

The general ambience throughout is of something that might sit happily in the catalogue of Trunk Records, and these recordings certainly deserve a wider hearing.

Click on the links below to listen to the tracks:

Peter Hall: The Estates (25m)

Peter Hall: The New Town Suite (16m)


Steve Hilton to Host ‘Future Cities’ Event at Downing Street


David Cameron will hear radical ideas for making Britain’s cities safer for cyclists at a Downing Street conference tomorrow.

Architects, planners and designers from around the world will suggest ways to improve overall city design, but cycling is expected to be a key feature.

Ideas from Denmark include a ten-storey housing development where cyclists can ride from street level to the top floor, and smart technologies that allow cyclists to save energy and dodge congestion.

The “future cities” meeting has been convened by Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron’s strategy adviser. Civil servants are to attend in the hope that the Government and Whitehall can learn the latest ideas from other countries.

MPs will debate cycling safety this week, including issues raised byThe Times “Cities fit for cycling” campaign.

The urban design conference will serve to underline the appreciation inside Downing Street for Scandinavian policymaking in general and Danish popular culture in particular.

Speakers include Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect whose innovative designs include the “8 House” development in the Danish capital, built in a figure eight, with a cycle path and pedestrian walkway that winds up to the 10th floor.

Carlo Ratti, an Italian architect and engineer and senior Fulbright scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will talk about the “Copenhagen wheel”. The device, fitted to the back wheel of a bicycle, stores electricity when the cyclist brakes and releases it to help to climb hills. Connected to a smartphone, it can also tell the rider about traffic and pollution.

The conference will be told about bike lanes in Copenhagen, on which nearly 40 per cent of the city’s population travel a total of 1.3 million km every day, giving it the unofficial title of most cycle-friendly city in the world.

Rosmarie McQueen – Localism Could discourage development of office space

Property Week

Westminster City Council’s planning chief has warned that the Localism Act could discourage the development of new office space.

 Rosemarie MacQueen, strategic director for the built environment at the council, said the community was “flexing its muscles” in anticipation of the legislation coming into force in April.

“In Westminster you are likely to get a receptive audience from local residents when something is being refurbished rather than redeveloped,” she said. “That can be a challenge. I don’t want to see poor-quality buildings being refurbished because it seems easier.”

MacQueen was speaking at Property Week’s Big Debate, which brought together leading figures from the capital’s office development industry to ask whether new or refurbished buildings should spearhead the London office market’s recovery….

Luxury Houses Take Over From Flats in West End – Telegraph


Planning consent has been given for more than 2m sq ft of offices to be converted into residential buildings in the West End, on top of 202,000 sq ft that was lost in 2010 and 3.2m sq ft in the past decade, according to H2SO, the property agent.

Furthermore, a number of West End office buildings are being marketed for sale to residential developers, such as the £65 million property at 3 St James’s Square.

Demand from overseas buyers means residential conversions in the West End core of Mayfair and St James’s are worth more than £3,000 per sq ft when the value for offices is less than £2,000 per sq ft.

Westminster council has shown little opposition to residential conversion, while new planning laws could mean developers do not need permission to change office buildings into housing.

Paul Smith at H2SO said: “Much of London’s West End – particularly Mayfair and St James’s – was originally built as exclusive homes and it is now seeing many properties return to that use.

Mr Smith warned of the impact on traditional West End office occupiers, such as hedge funds. “With office development in these areas at a historically low level, this further constraint on supply can only put greater pressure on office rents and leave occupiers with a narrowing range of choice,” he said.

“We have already recently seen rents for the best refurbished space in Mayfair once again pass the £100 per sq ft mark.”

However, he added: “The conversion trend is to be welcomed in that it repositions a whole raft of mostly period buildings back to their appropriate – and often original – use and brings new life to them.”