Two thirds of rural England at ‘mercy’ of developers, warns Sir Andrew Motion #NPPF

Well its good that after two weeks the Telegraph gets an angle to publish this story.

Sir Andrew was speaking as he was formally unveiled as the next president of the Campaign of Protect Rural England.

In his first public comments since accepting the role, the former poet laureate made clear his concerns about Government reforms to planning rules.

Ministers want to replace over 1,200 pages of planning guidance with a new 52 page document called the National Planning Policy Framework, which campaigners say will make it easier to build on parts of rural England.

The CPRE is worried that the draft NPPF includes a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, and puts communities at risk of large scale development. The Daily Telegraph is also urging ministers to rethink the reforms.

Earlier this month, the CPRE warned that an area in England which equates to an area almost three-and-a-half times the size of Wales was at risk from the reforms.

In his first comments as president-elect, Sir Andrew said: “When Government planning reform could place two thirds of rural England at the mercy of a presumption in favour of development, this is a critical moment for the countryside and for anyone who wants a say over what happens to their community and their surroundings.”

Shaun Spiers, the CPRE’s chief executive, added: “The countryside he is talking about is the local countryside on people’s doorstep which is most threatened by the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Sir Andrew will formally be proposed as the CPRE’s new president in June 2012, succeeding the author Bill Bryson who finishes his five-year term this summer.

Sir Andrew was Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009 and is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

He spoke at a CPRE event on Wednesday night of his passion for the English countryside, the inspiration he draws from its beauty and tranquillity, and how the countryside is a national asset that should be accessible to everyone.

He said: “To be proposed for this role is a mixture of joy, honour and a little trepidation. But if CPRE members will have me, then I am fully prepared to stand up for the countryside alongside them.”

The Government is widely expected to announce its response to the changes to planning rules next month, ahead of their introduction in April.

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The government is maintaining strong protections to safeguard the countryside.

“Planning reforms will put local communities in the driving seat by giving new powers to neighbourhoods to write their own plans. Top-down regional targets will not trump local concerns and aspirations of local residents when local plans are made.

“The draft framework makes clear that inappropriate development that is harmful to the Green Belt should not be approved. In addition, our reforms to abolish the unpopular Regional Strategies stop the top-down pressure to remove the Green Belt in thirty areas across England.”

Chancellor George Osborne has insisted that the changes to planning rules are necessary to boost growth and jobs. However a study published this month suggested that they were unlikely to affect employment or growth the economy in the short term.

The report, commissioned by the CPRE, the National Trust and the RSPB, suggested that economic claims about the benefits of the changes have been overstated.

It concluded that “there is no evidence that planning has large, economy-wide effects on productivity or employment”. It added that the draft NPPF “is unlikely therefore to have much effect on growth”.

Mr Osborne has justified pushing through the changes by saying that planning delays cost Britain £3 billion every year.

But MPs were told in November that the forecast was based on figures nearly two decades old, although the Government stands by the estimate.

Ramblers Association attack Country Land and Business Association report on Rights of Way Deregulation

The CLA today (23 February) published The Right Way Forward: The CLA’s common sense approach to access in the countryside – calling for a shake-up of the access and public rights of way system.

The CLA report says it is “highly desirable” to improve access in a way that enhances the system, boosts efficiency and gets better value for money.

CLA President Harry Cotterell said: “The public rights of way system in England and Wales is governed by a failing bureaucratic and legislative system which is long-winded, expensive and completely incomprehensible to most people.

“Even to call rights of way a ‘system’ suggests an order and logic not apparent in reality. Many thousands of pounds of public money can be spent pursuing claims for paths which have not been used for centuries while present-day users struggle along overgrown paths because there is not enough money for maintenance. This cannot be right.”

Mr Cotterell said: “Public access is a minefield of legal complexity, a tortuous and archaic system beloved only by those who can turn its convoluted procedures and subtleties to their own advantage.

“It is absurd that authorities are required to go through the same drawn-out bureaucratic process to correct small errors on the definitive map as they would have to follow to make significant alterations such as a path closure.”

He said: “It can take many years to process a rights of way claim, resulting in enormous cost and ongoing uncertainty for all. Even once fought and won, cases can be reopened and examined all over again – hardly a sensible use of resources.

So what does the report actually propose?

  • Bring forward the 2026 deadline for registering unrecorded rights of ways;
  • The ability for landowners to make ‘de minimis’ recommended changes where the route walked differs from the route on the definitive map;
  • Implement the Crow Act ‘right to apply’ to make changes to routes where they pass through private gardens and working farmyard;
  • Allow for gates on byways;
  • A simplified process for claims – as in the Stepping Stones report – ‘this is an issue of efficiency not ideology’
  • Replace the ‘reasonably alleged to subsist’ test with a ‘balance of probabilities’ one.
  • Withdraw the coastal access provision of the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act

The Rambler response

The report, released today, suggests the ‘Right Way Forward’ for access to the countryside is to reduce the protection surrounding rights of way. The CLA instead favour a system where people can use the countryside by permission from those who own the land – making it easier to alter and take away the routes which people use. If this package of recommendations was taken on by government it could fundamentally undermine people’s ability to enjoy walking in the countryside, an activity which is a popular pursuit for millions and a fundamental right we cherish – Britain’s walking charity warns.

The report supports moves to make it easier to divert footpaths and to ensure that no further footpaths could be claimed after 2026; interestingly mirroring the recommendations of the review of farming regulations which the Government commented on earlier this week.

The Ramblers are deeply disappointed that this report seems to overtake an earlier commitment and agreement made between the Ramblers, the CLA and many other interested parties who are committed to improving the rights of way system. This previously agreed to package of recommendations, if implemented, would put an end to bureaucratic red tape but would maintain the careful balance that is currently to be found between those who own land and those would want to enjoy the rich heritage which is walking in our country.

Benedict Southworth, Ramblers Chief Executive, said:

“We reached agreement with the CLA on many of these issues two years ago as part of a working group set up to look at the future of rights of way and we are disappointed that this report reneges on many of those jointly agreed commitments. It’s a shame that the CLA have chosen to make what looks like an opportunistic bid to keep close to the government, at the expense of everyone who loves the countryside.

“With announcements expected any day now from government on reducing environmental ‘red tape’, and plans already unveiled this week about reducing farming regulation, we feel that this represents a further attack on our rights to walk in and enjoy the countryside.

“At the moment there is a system which manages the fine balance between respecting the needs of the landowner against the enjoyment of those wishing to walk in the countryside. If these changes were implemented by the government that balance would be destroyed.

“Walking is one of the most popular recreation activities in this country and the outcry over the forestry sales shows the level of feeling people have towards using and protecting their local green spaces. We shall resist any reduction in our ability to enjoy the great outdoors and so will all those who cherish this important part of our heritage.”


Nuneaton Appeal – Inspector rejects prematurity argument – MPs accuse Borough of ‘losing control over local planning’ #NPPF

In the much anticipated Weddington Fields Development – appeal, where the LPA refused to support its own refusal because it could not demonstrate a 5 year housing supply the inspector has approved the application  – decision letter.

I have noted the suggestion that to permit the current scheme would be premature in advance of the adoption of the new Borough Plan. Bearing in mind that the earliest time estimated for adoption is 2013/14 and the advice given in the Government’s PPS3, I do not accept such an argument is sustainable in the light of the need for a deliverable 5 year supply of housing land now…

I must determine this appeal upon the facts and evidence presented to me. The figures, assessments and suggestions as to the provision for housing supply land provided by SWORDand Friends of the Earth did not convince me that there is a genuine, clear, and importantly, a deliverable 5 year supply of land at this time, within the Borough. Indeed, many of the assertions made by contributors to the Inquiry were anecdotal rather than based upon fact; other contributions were matters of opinion or personal judgement.

Nuneaton News

NUNEATON MP Marcus Jones and his Bedworth and North Warwickshire counterpart Dan Byles have accused the borough council of `losing control over local planning.’

Their scathing attack on the Town Hall follows a decision by a government planning inspector to allow hundreds of homes to be built in Weddington Fields.

Both Conservative members insist that the controlling Labour group’s inability to set a Local Plan to satisfy housing targets will `open the floodgates’ for developers to build on countryside and green belt land.

Thousands of people campaigned against plans by Hallam Developments to create a new housing estate with 326 homes on farmland at Weddington.

But the planning inspector gave the developers the go-ahead after a Public Inquiry because the borough council had not shown it could meet its housing targets for the next five years.

Marcus Jones said: “The Labour council have treated the Weddington people shambolicly and if they don’t move quickly to close off this route for developers I fear that the people of St Nicolas Park, Galley Common and Whitestone will be under threat from development on countryside land.”

The Weddington Fields bombshell followed a decision by a government planning inspector to allow a development at Keresley for the same reasons.

“I have been concerned about the lack of action by the council’s controlling councillors,” said Marcus Jones. “By consistently shifting the goalposts and refusing to come forward with a Local Plan they are putting communities at risk of unplanned, unwanted development.”

He insisted that both decisions by government inspectors over the developments at Weddington and Keresley were taken because the council could not demonstrate a sufficient housing supply to satisfy the housing target that the council’s cabinet agreed.

“They have been unable to set a Local Plan to satisfy the 7,900 house target laid down by the controlling Labour group, despite being advised to do so by the Secretary of State 20 months ago and have left people across the borough high and dry and at risk of a raft of large scale planning proposals led by the developers that could get the green light regardless of local views.”

Dan Byles said: “This is completely unacceptable. Under the last government, Labour wanted to impose 13,800 houses on the borough and I am glad that the Conservatives did not agree to that when they were in control at the Town Hall.

“Labour regained control in May 2010 and were told they could set their own housing targets and Local Plan. They have now had over 20 months to achieve that and all we have to show is a rushed target, set without consultation and no Local Plan to demonstrate land supply and laying us completely open to developer-led planning and I now fear for the future of the Woodlands.”

Councillor Danny Aldington, cabinet member for planning and development at the Town Hall, said: “The council accepts the decision of the government inspector and we will now work hard to get a development which is best for the Borough of Nuneaton and Bedworth.”

The loss of affordable housing in London

We worry about the high rental cost and price of housing benefit in London, caused by the shortage of affordable housing.

Yet in the just published Heygate Estate Masterplan we are losing 2,500 social homes and getting back just 315 or so.

Similarly in the North Peckham Estate redevelopment we lost over 1,000 social units.

Is it no wonder rents are so high.

The justification for affordable housing in London has changed – from THE priority, to a planning hurdle to a minimised in the quest to socially reengineer the tenure mix in the capital.

Even teh definition of affordable housing has been redefined to exclude the majority to poorer tenants.

Costs risk force North Norfolk to back down on appeal on wind farm cable recommended for approval

EDP – idiotic decision in the first place, one prominent cllr said he refused the scheme because he ‘supports nuclear instead’ – some training needed for Clrrs at North Norfolk.

Campaigners fear for the future of local democracy after a Norfolk council admitted it could be priced out of fighting an appeal that holds the key to a huge offshore windfarm plan.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) could face a £100,000 bill to oppose the appeal that has been lodged by Warwick Energy, after the council rejected its plan for miles of underground cables for its Dudgeon windfarm.

But its members have been told that they do not have the money to fund the battle – nor the potential costs it could be liable for if the appeal was lost.

The cash dilemma could force NNDC to bring the plan back before members after they made their decision to turn down the plans last month.

The situation has sparked concerns among campaigners who are fighting Warwick Energy’s bid to build a sub-station for the windfarm on land at Little Dunham, near Dereham.

Paul Gardner, a member of Little Dunham Action Group, thought it would be “totally, totally” wrong if the cost implications forced NNDC to change its mind.

He said planning was a “democratic process, it can’t be governed by a local authority’s finance or lack of finance”.

“If it’s a democratic process and members reject it then the council is duty bound in my view to support that decision, whatever the cost,” he added.

The council’s planning committee went against officers’ recommendations in January when they threw out Warwick’s proposal to lay 28km of cable to power the 168-turbine windfarm off the coast at Cromer.

The green energy firm lodged an appeal, which is set to be heard during a six-day public enquiry in the spring.

But to fight its corner NNDC will have to stump up the estimated six-figure sum to bring in a team of experts as its officers cannot support the reasons for refusal, as they recommended the plans.

The authority could also be hit with the extra bill for costs, which Warwick could seek to claim if NNDC cannot produce evidence to “substantiate” its reasons for refusal.

The financial implications are set to be discussed at the authority’s full council meeting on Wednesday where 2012/13s budget is due to be passed.

Helen Eales, NNDC leader, said if members decide to set aside the money needed for the appeal the financial effects will be felt for years to come.

“It will affect the next year’s (budget) and the following year,” she added. “And £100,000 is equivalent to about 2.5pc on council tax so we’re very concerned of the effects this could have if the council decides we have to put the money aside.”

Cabinet member Trevor Ivory said the council was now in a “rare” position but it had faced a similar situation during the Sheringham Tesco planning saga.

In July 2008 NNDC went up against the supermarket giant at an inquiry after members went against officers’ recommendations and turned down an application. Independent experts represented the council and won, but the chain went on to submit new plans which were passed in 2010.

Warwick’s plans to lay cables from Weybourne to Great Ryburgh have been on the cards since July 2010, but been deferred several times to allow further discussions about the project including the power lines’ precise route and the impact they could have on tourism and agriculture.

When they were finally discussed last month an initial vote to pass them was turned down by a majority of 9:3. A proposal to turn them down – on landscape and agricultural economy grounds – was passed by 7:5.

Mr Ivory said planning members would not have considered any cost issues when making their decision, as their votes must be based on planning grounds.

He added: “The issue for full council (on Wednesday) is not in any way to question whether they made the right or wrong decision. The issue for council is…that the applicant has now lodged an appeal and that appeal is going to be a very expensive thing for us to defend.

“The estimate being given is £100,000 – that isn’t in our budget for next year.”

If full council decides not to set aside the cash the planning committee will have to decide how it wants to defend its position, which Mr Ivory said was the “fundamental” question.

The cable appeal is the second planning battle Warwick is facing as it is currently pushing through proposals in the high court to build a sub-station at Little Dunham, which would provide the turbines’ link to the National Grid, after plans to build the structure were turned down in 2010.

The firm has been given permission to lay 17km of cables in the Breckland district that would link the north Norfolk lines to the sub-station.

English Heritage Formally Objects to Liverpool Waters


English Heritage has lodged a number of objections to a skyscraper plan for Liverpool‘s waterfront a month after Unesco inspectors warned thedevelopment threatened the city’s world heritage status.

Peel Holdings, the owners of the Trafford Centre in Manchester and the Manchester Ship Canal, wants to develop a swath of disused dockland containing a multitude of historic buildings as part of its multibillion-pound Liverpool Waters scheme. It features thousands of flats and hundreds of offices, hotels and bars, as well as the 55-storey Shanghai Tower and other skyscrapers.

The scheme envisages two clusters of tall buildings, one near the city centre and a second further north.

But English Heritage has written to Liverpool city council expressing its concerns that a secondary cluster of tall buildings at Clarence Dock will introduce a large and strong vertical form that will “overwhelm the historic, horizontal character of the docklands generally”.

The density of development, the mass and scale of the waterfront blocks and the height and scale of the tall buildings “will divorce, rather than connect, the two main parts of the Stanley Dock character area of the world heritage site”, English Heritage argues. It believes the development will prevent an appreciation of the relationship between the docks and river that is essential to an understanding of the site.

Furthermore, it says the development will detract from the historical primacy of the Pier Head buildings and will harm the setting of the Stanley Dock warehouses by largely obscuring them.

It adds: “The scale of the development will compromise and unbalance the historic urban landscape of Liverpool as a whole.” The heritage organisation also points out that there is a lack of clarity in what the Shanghai Tower development will involve, as there are contradictions within Peel Holdings’ plans.

Henry Owen-John, planning director, north-west, for English Heritage said: “One of the things that we’re anxious to make clear is that while we have serious problems with the effect on the world heritage status these proposals will have, we’re also aware of the significant benefits delivered, particularly a programme that would drive jobs and growth …

“We’re not actually specifically asking for the application to be called in [to the secretary of state]; we’re asking he look at it and consider the issues on all the planning issues.”

English Heritage believes it is possible to find a compromise that does not mean the city will lose its world heritage status.

The world heritage status inscription describes Liverpool as the “supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence”. English Heritage says the dockland landscape bears testimony to this international significance.

Owen-John said it was disappointing that after four years of detailed discussion, “we still have a scheme that harms heritage”.

When the Unesco inspectors visited the city in November, their report concluded that the waterfront would be “irreversibly damaged” unless urgent modifications were made to the Liverpool Waters scheme.

The delegation warned the skyscraper proposal would result in a “serious loss of historic authenticity”. The inspectors praised the more or less symmetrical profile of the city’s waterfront with the Three Graces – the Port of Liverpool and the Liver and Cunard buildings – at centre stage and historical docklands to the north complementing those to the south.

The Graces were “at the heart of the shipping and harbour operations during the height of [Liverpool’s] glory, surrounded by dockyards and port structure”, it said.

The £5.5bn Peel Holdings scheme has been a source of controversy and English Heritage has been in talks with the developer for four years attempting to find a compromise.

But Unesco did not spell out what would happen to the city’s world heritage status if no changes were made to the project. It had been feared the report would recommend removing the status if the scheme was given planning permission, but it did not go that far.

Peel Holdings has previously agreed to scale down the height of the Shanghai Tower to address heritage concerns.

Liverpool city council’s planning committee will consider the proposal on 6 March.

Joe Anderson, the leader of Liverpool city council, has previously indicated that he welcomed the Unesco report’s findings and was pressing for a compromise that would enable Liverpool Waters to go ahead.

He regards the plans as vital for the future of what is one of the poorest areas of the country.

Meanwhile new images have been released showing just how naff the scheme is.

Liverpool Echoe

Artist impression showing an aerial view of the Liverpool Waters scheme which is due to be considered by Liverpool council's planning commitee on March 6. Two clusters of skyscrapers, one near Princes Dock, and one around Central Docks.

Artist impression showing an aerial view of the Liverpool Waters scheme which is due to be considered by Liverpool council’s planning commitee on March 6. Two clusters of skyscrapers, one near Princes Dock, and one around Central Docks.

THESE images show the dramatic way Liverpool’s skyline could change over the next 30 years.

Peel Holdings, which wants to transform the city’s northern docklands in a £5.5bn development, released the pictures ahead of a public exhibition to showcase the plans.

Liverpool council’s planning committee will vote on the huge scheme a week on Tuesday, March 6.

The two-day public exhibition opens tomorrow and will show new hi-tech graphics and video imagery of the project.

Peel hopes the exhibition will galvanise public opinion in favour of the scheme which promises to create 20,000 jobs over 30 years.

The project features 9,000 apartments, hundreds of offices, hotels, bars and a cruise terminal, as well as the 55-storey Shanghai Tower.

But opponents believe the scheme is too big and does not pay enough respect to the heritage of the docklands, which partly sit in the city’s World Heritage Site (WHS).

Unesco, which oversees World Heritage Sites, said the Three Graces would be forced to play “second violin” to this scheme if it went ahead without changes.

And English Heritage, the government’s conservation advisors, have now formally objected to the project.

But the body said it was for others to decide whether the “significant” loss of heritage was outweighed by the economic benefits.

Henry Owen-John, regional head of English Heritage, said: “We are not in a position to judge what the balance is between heritage, which we know about, and economic development, which we know less about.”

Artist impression of Liverpool Waters scheme. This is the view at Nelson Dock.

Liverpool Echoe

Peel development director Lindsey Ashworth today said: “There are overwhelming reasons why it should be given a favourable wind.

“We are not disturbing any archeology, there are about 200 buildings in the scheme and every building has moved since the original application.

“I have made massive compromises to the scheme and English Heritage have not made one.

“I don’t think it will lose the World Heritage Site status, I am convinced that it will not.

“When the (Unesco inspectors) came their minds had been made up, they had been substantially influenced by the English Heritage side of things.”

He insisted it was not in Peel’s interests to build poorly designed buildings, because they would struggle to attract tenants.

“If it goes to a public inquiry we will walk away, because that is the government saying it is not capable of making a decision. The government should either pass or fail it, but sending it to a public inquiry is the wrong thing to do.”

He said if a public inquiry is called the company would be happy to carry on with the sister project Wirral Waters on the other side of the Mersey, which already has planning permission.

Does this idiot have any idea about procedure, the SoS cannot make a decision without an inquiry, just old fashioned bullying.

James Howard Kunstler on Landscape Urbanism


Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is now pushing a dubious new practice they call “Landscape Urbanism.” Don’t be fooled. So-called Landscape Urbanism incorporates lots of high-tech “magic” infrastructure for directing water flows and requires massive, costly, complex site interventions. It’s explicitly against density and vehemently pro-automobile. It’s just super-high-tech suburbia in the guise of environmentally avant-garde high art. Naturally it comes with heaps of opaque theory, designed to mystify and impress the nonelect.

And of course who can forget the landscape urbanism bullshit generator.

Historic French City – No a rebuilt post war sink peripheral estate

The multiple award winning Plessis-Robinson

There is a key lesson from this project, the area is not directly served by the suburban rail network, the nearest station is 1.5km from the town centre.  Yet the parking layout is exactly the same as you would find in an historic area built before cars, i.e. only a limited number of on street spaces and strict parking controls.  Yet it works, because there is a critical mass of people to make high frequency bus services economic, and because outside of work hours so many trips are internalised by the intention of making a city.  This is a lesson that can be applied to many suburban developments in high value areas which are hard to service directly by transit – Charlton Riverside springs to mind.