Proof the Free Market & the OECD Growth Agenda is the Answer to all our Economic Woes – NOT #NPPF

The New Free Enterprise Group of freshman MPs is seats so safe they can say what they like is urging the chancellor to abolish labour regulations and undertake other structural reforms.
“There is not a huge amount that can be done in the tax and spend envelope but supply side reforms is what the government needs to do so our focus has been on infrastructure and labour market reform,” Elizabeth Truss MP said FT

Well we know she has written admiringly of German labour regulations – curiously as they are some of the strictest in the world.  Well today a chart from the OECD has been doing the rounds thanks to Dani Rodrick showing how responsive different countries have been to OECD recommendations.  Most responsive are Ireland, Spain and Portugal, least responsive Germany, Switerland and Luxemburg.  So there you have it them undertaking free market economic reforms is the route to growth and prosperity.

Of course the chancellor is always keen to quote the OECD in justifying the need for the NPPF and the removal of controls on protecting the countryside.  Well done George im sure you are most admiring of Spain’s 20% unemployment.

Another Success Plan challenge on SEA Grounds ‘ Had the options had “sprung fully formed from the brow of Zeus”. #NPPF

We have all been waiting with abited breath for the SEA on the outcome of the joint Greater Norwich Core strategy.

The objection was on SEA grounds and Planning reports that the objection on grounds of failing to consider the impact of the chosen site was rejected, but

It is part of the purpose of this process to test whether what may start out as preferred should still end up as preferred after a fair and public analysis of what the authority regards as reasonable alternatives..

that the councils failed to explain in a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) which alternatives were chosen for examination, or why those were chosen and not others, and failed to explain why the preferred option was selected.

He said: “I conclude that, for all the effort put into the preparation of the JCS, consultation and its SA, the need for outline reasons for the selection of the alternatives dealt with at the various stages has not been addressed.”

He said that this constituted a “breach on express terms” of a European Directive on the assessment of environmental effects.

As a point of law the finding seems to be identical to the Forest Heath case.   Even if an option has been ruled out at an early stage there has to be an audit trail in the SEA.

According to Eastern Daily Press

At one point during the two-day judicial review in December, Mr Justice Ouseley had likened the council’s case to “wading through treacle” and asked if the options had “sprung fully formed from the brow of Zeus”.

The Judge will make a decision on what relief to grant at a further hearing on Wednesday, but it looks certain to go back to the examination after a fresh SEA.  However the objectors are seeking a highly dispersed strategy, 10,000 dwellings across 60 parishes, or 166 per village on average (and many parishes are tiny) and so is certain to be rejected on sustainability grounds that is likely to spread traffic and infrastructure problems, the visual and loss of countryside issues would be the same and impact on existing communities more.

Here is press notice of the judgement of Mr Justice Ouseley .

The counil’s reaction is as follows:

“We remain convinced that the Joint Core Strategy is needed not least because it is important to manage all forms of development in a planned way that takes account of the needs of those who will live, work in, and visit the area.

“Careful, sustained, well-paced planning means we can achieve our aspirations to deliver jobs, homes and prosperity while protecting all that we cherish about Norfolk and its unique character.

“If the Joint Core Strategy is held up, it will be harder for us to challenge or prevent speculative development, and a free-for-all is in no-one’s interests.

“The strategy is a plan for growth and prosperity in our area, providing homes that families can afford, alongside employment opportunities in a thriving and diverse economy. With the recent allocation of £86.5 million Government funding for the NDR we would also have key infrastructure that will provide easier journeys for businesses and residents and improved Bus Rapid Transit links on key routes into Norwich.

Note it does not cover the comparative advantage of their preferred option!

FT – ‘The essential essence of the #NPPF will remain the same’ – due on Budget Day

No surprises at all that it is out of Budget Day- March 21st – either a convenient day to bury bad news, an opportunity for Osbourne to stamp on his critics or a convenient day to meet the end of March deadline.  Most likely a combination of all three.

The leak on the definition of sustainability is confusing as it is the same as before, probably confused briefing by a SPAD. Any SPAD that uses language such as ‘essential essences’ is clearly not a master at exposition.

No need to lose all hope as the ‘essential essence’ remaining the same is how some changes might have been sold to Osbourne.  Dont hold any hope any any policy protecting the countryside or any nuanced, deliverable or balanced approach to the presumption though.


George Osborne, the driving force behind the “national planning policy framework”, is expected to publish the final document in his Budget in late March.

The chancellor sees the framework, which will force councils to give priority to any “sustainable” development, as a crucial element in pro-growth reforms.

But the plan has prompted fury among environmental groups who fear it could lead to swaths of countryside being concreted over.

After a high-profile dispute last summer ministers have reworked the document, answering some of the criticisms.

It will for example give a more clear definition of “sustainable” – as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – and also confirm ministers’ preference for brownfield development.

But the essential essence of the framework will remain the same, paving the way for another clash with influential conservation charities such as the National Trust.

The Problem is Cameron doesn’t know when he’s Beaten #NPPF

The early months of the colation government saw David Cameron garner a reputation for u-turns and weakness of resolution.  The classic case being the Forestry sell off.

Campaigners thought all they had to do was raise enough of a national stink and Cameron, encouraged by his pollster Andrew Cooper, would have his attention drawn to an area where policy had been delegated to a minister and then ;lighthouse’ style to use the analogy used by the civil service focus in, give the minister a hard time and reverse policy.

This was the analysis which led campaigners on the NPPF to so vocally seek a meeting with the prime minister, which in the end was by all accounts was cold and confrontational.

The problem is that number 10 was horrified by it being presented as irresolute and being bullied by public opinion.  And when you analyse it none of the so called ‘u-turns’ was over a central piece of policy in the manifesto or coalition agreement.  Rather they largely concerned managerial issues to do with the delivery of spending cuts, as in sentencing policy, and indeed the Forestry sell off, or where policy was overpromised and out of the Prime Ministers hands, as in the powers of European institutions in the new Eurozone treaty.    Their has been no u-turns on major policy issues, rather at best as in the NHS ‘listening’ exercise they have been at best PR exercises to make it look like policy has changed when it has not

Indeed the last couple of weeks has seen the opposite phenomenon – blind stubbornness in the face of large scale public opposition to a policy and even where it is obvious the policy is already dead or dying.  The obvious example is workfare where we see attempts to cover up what the policy is, dozens of firms pulling out and rather pathetic attempts to bully the police into clamping down on tiny peaceful demos and blame it all on the Socialist Workers party despite the huge discussions and impact on social media.  The other obvious example is the NHS reforms.

Now the NHS is a central plank of policy in that ‘Open Source Planning’ was in the manifesto and accepted by the Lib-Dems because they had no serious policy on planning of their own.  Of course before the election their were complaints of no real consultation – it emerged ready baked and contradictory.  The key elements, abolition of regional strategies, localism, neighbourhood plans, the NPPF and  a presumption in favour of sustainable development were all their – but they were sold as anti-development tools.  The ability to locally vote down development.  If anyone did vote on planning alone it was because they were opposing development not in favour of it.  Indeed many property developers and housebuilders were so concerned they threatened to reduce or withdraw funding.  What we saw after the election was the same tools used to the opposite ends, pro-development and through appeals able to overturn local opinion.  The need for housing trumps local concerns has it does, eventually despite brief dalliances in the anti-housebuilding such as John Prescott, for every post-war government.

So I would see little hope in the government scrapping the key structural components of the NPPF.  Where there is hope is their malleability- to achieve different and often contradictory planning gaols.  The consultation set out to achieve  a 1980s style appeal led system and abolition of protection for the ordinary countryside.  They seem to have realised that they dont want such an aggressive and confrontational approach.  The silence on the open countryside is a worry but the madness of an NPPF without even a section or reference to the qualities of the countryside would be a mistake I would hope they would not wish to repeat.