No Cat Conditions Ineffective – SoS refuses scheme because of impact on adjoining SPA

Talbot Heath Decision Poole here

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector  that the central issue is whether it can be established confidently, beyond reasonable scientific doubt, that the proposal will not have a significant adverse effect on the integrity of the designated European sites, either in its own right or in combination with other plans or projects having regard to the mitigation measures proposed. The Secretary of State also takes the view that, despite the argument advanced…that an appropriate assessment is unnecessary since, with mitigation measures there would be no significant effect, the terms of the Habitats Regulations are such as to require him to undertake such an assessment before he could grant planning permission and that, in undertaking any such exercise, he should have regard to any representations made by Natural England.

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the two key elements in the mitigation package are the no-cat or dog covenant and the cat/people proof fence and…he agrees with
her conclusion that little weight can be placed on the long term effectiveness of the no-cat or dog covenant in preventing the keeping of these pets within the new development. He therefore considers that any mitigation scheme would need to be heavily reliant on the efficacy of the cat/people proof fence….

However, the Inspector then goes on to raise doubts as to the feasibility of implementing the fence for the whole of the proposed length …as a result of uncertainties surrounding the Right of Way application and the fact that Talbot Heath is an open access area under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000.

The Secretary of State recognises that the right of access to open access land is not absolute and that it is the points of access that will be restricted. He also recognises that access to open access land can be restricted for ecological purposes under the CROW Act. However, whilst the Secretary of State is not in a position to predict the outcome of the rights of way application, which has to follow its own process, and whether there may be further applications to divert or stop the
path, the fact that this application has been made creates uncertainty as to whether the fence can be erected in its entirety. This would have significant implications for the effectiveness of the cat proof fence in restricting access to the heath at the
Isaacs Close end. These factors weigh significantly against the proposal

Not only does the Secretary of State agree with the doubts raised by the Inspector relating to these two potential access points, but he also shares the concerns of NE and the RSPB regarding the more general efficacy of a linear fence. In particular, he agrees that cats would still be able to enter Talbot Heath round the end; that, in the absence of an effective enforcement of the anti-pet covenant, the number of visits generated by residents with dogs from the proposal would be greater both to Talbot Heath and to other heathland sites; and that there would be potential for deliberate breaching of the fence in view of the direct route to key destinations. Overall, therefore, having regard to the requirements of the Habitats Regulations, the Secretary of State gives significant weight to the advice from Natural England with regard to the proposed mitigation measures and agrees with their overall conclusion  that the proposed development on its own is likely to have a significant adverse effect on the integrity of the international sites.

A key precedent.

Naturally  RSPB are delighted.

What about George Osbourne?  Did Pickles tell him at Cabinet today how he refused this scheme yesterday  to implment a European directive.

Guardian – Cameron says Planning Laws Throttling Recovery #NPPF

Anyone to blamje but him.

David Cameron has told the cabinet that a series of blockages, ranging from restrictive planning laws to the “gold-plating” of EU directives, are holding back economic growth.

In a sign of the government’s nerves about Britain’s slow rate of economic growth, the prime minister devoted almost the entire cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discussing the implemention of last year’s growth plan. This was published alongside the budget last March.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “It was an unusual cabinet today in that it essentially had one item on the agenda which was economic growth. Rather than being a policy discussion this was a discussion about implementation and removing blockages to delivery.”

George Osborne, who will deliver his third budget on 21 March, led the discussion which identified three key areas which are slowing growth:

• Regulation, including the gold-plating of EU directives.

• Over-restrictive planning laws.

• Finance for business as the world copes with what No 10 described as an “impaired banking system”.

As banks rebuild their capital positions, the amount of credit feeding into the economy has slowed. Osborne will give an update on his plans to address this through credit easing.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “It is very easy for governments to unveil and announce new policy initiatives. What is much more difficult is implementation. Some of the issues that are being addressed through the plan for growth and were discussed at cabinet today – the weight of regulation on businesses, the problems with the planning system, the tendency for EU directives to be gold plated in the way they are implemented in this country – are issues that have been long debated and looked at by successive governments. But they require real political will and pressure to make a difference.”

The spokesman said ministers would be urging officials to challenge a tendency to “err on the side of caution” and to take a more pragmatic approach to EU directives. Ministers believe officials have a tendency to over-interpret the measures and to place overly restrictive burdens on business when they introduce them in the UK.

“We are certainly concerned about the level of regulation and the impact of regulation on businesses,” the spokesman said. “By having a one in, one out policy on regulation we are seeking to bear down on the level of regulation whether it comes from Brussels or Westminster.”

The special cabinet session shows ministers are nervous about the slow recovery. While ministers believe the government has won reasonable support for cutting the deficit, there are concerns that Labour is winning a hearing for its charge that the coalition has an inadequate plan for growth.

The spokesman said: “[We are] sticking firmly to our plans to reduce the deficit but it also means a relentless focus on growth and measures to support growth. There has been good progress on implementing the measures set out in the plan for growth a year ago. But today was an opportunity to see where we can move faster on implementation and see where we can push forward even faster.


How to Double Densities, and halve Green Field Loss, with Narrow Fronted Townhouses #NPPF

One of the key problems with the UK residential offer is it offers no quality house solution for densities intermediate between terraces and the typical semi-d, detached plot.  So you rarely see housing at around 50 DPH, an ideal density for walkable neighbourhoods and public transport, rather you get a big leap down to schemes of executive type homes at 20-25 DPH.

But some parts of America seem to offer more choice.  In particular im thinking of narrow fronted town houses, one step up from the very cheap shotgun homes.

Here are some 1970s houses in Houston built in historic style.

Note late 20th Century houses in a US Suburb without on plot parking.  At only around 4.5m wide there is only width for one room and a stairwell, two rooms per floor.  But with the loft bedroom you can still get three bedrooms on a tint plot.  The front and rear windows give you all the light you need so the side stairway windows dont cause privacy problems as they look out onto a wall.

Consider also these late Victorian examples in St Louis.

So lets set this out in black and white.

1.  It is possible to double existing densities from those typical of greenfield sites in the UK

2.  You can still have detached housing!

3.  It means parking on the street, you can get one space with parallel parking and two with angled bay with 5m plotwidths

4.  These densities will make public transport and walking to public transport practical

5.  But of course you need enough of them to create the critical mass to ensure that the public transport is practical and economic – which implies concentrated strategies not dispersed ones (take note SNUB and Stratford on Avon).

So with Smart Growth solutions it is possible to halve the potential landtake and loss of green field sites with this measure alone, whilst still building houses.  Sarkosy realises this – when will Cameron?

Note one potential disadvantage with this form is that there are certain advatages with wider frontage small cottages which are breadth on to the street rather than end on.  This was the historic form predominant before Georgian times.  However with modern streets they use up far too much road, so I would only consider them practical in new communities in pedestrian only alleys.

Saving Pullman Chicago – could become a National Park

Pullman Illinois is one of the most important North American sites in the history of urban planning, its most important company town – alongside Lowell.

But it has been neglected as the areas around it have declined.

Now according to USA today Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr is sponsoring a bill for a study that would see the US National park Service take over.

Lynn McClure of the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association says the study would determine the suitability and feasibility of making Pullman a national park site. Having such a site in Chicago would be “incredible,” she says. “It is the only big city in the country that just has zero national park presence.”

The Pullman District is an industrial and residential complex built in the 1880s by George Pullman to build the famous Pullman sleeping car and house workers in a company-owned community with homes, a church, hotel, market and recreational facilities.

A strike in 1894 by Pullman workers and the formation of the first all-African-American union in 1925 helped shape the black labor movement.

The African Americans hired to work in the factory and as porters allowed many to move into the middle class, and porters helped spark the historic migration of blacks from the South to northern cities by spreading the word about jobs in the North, says Lionel Kimble, who teaches history at Chicago State University. The porters’ “impact on history can’t be seen in a negative light,” he says.

Jeff Soule, outreach director for the American Planning Association, says Pullman was “the first industrial city designed with the inhabitants’ welfare in mind” and included nice, if modest, homes for workers and proximity to the goods and services they needed. Planners “are trying to re-create the community that Pullman already is,” he says.

A Pullman national park site could be modeled after Massachusetts’ Lowell National Historical Park, which highlights the early textile industry, says Patrick Brannon, president of the Pullman Civic Organization and a resident. “It could have a lot of tourist draw,” he says, although some residents worry about being inundated by visitors.

Michael Shymanski, a Pullman resident and president of the Historic Pullman Foundation, says the district was the birthplace of many “significant ideas in the experiment of America. It’s an international icon.”

Telegraph – Prime Minister at Cabinet Urges Ministers to Move Faster on Planning Reform #NPPF


The Prime Minister exhorted the Cabinet to step up efforts to increase house-building, speed up major infrastructure projects, and cut red tape for businesses…during a Cabinet meeting, Mr Cameron and the Chancellor, George Osborne, demanded that ministers hold “urgent” talks across government departments to ensure their plans “move faster”.

A “relentless focus” on implementing measures to help the economy must accompany cuts to public spending to reduce the deficit, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

With three weeks left before the Budget, the Cabinet met specifically to discuss growth. Unusually, implementing growth plans was the only item on the agenda.

Speaking at a regular Westminster briefing, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had “exhorted” their colleagues to focus on injecting energy into the economy.

“The economic situation and the economic challenges facing the UK are the top priority,” the spokesman said.

“That means sticking firmly to our plans to reduce the deficit but it also means a relentless focus on growth and measures to support growth.

“It is very easy for government to unveil and announce new policy initiatives. What is much more difficult is implementation.”

He set out areas of particular concern, including regulations for business, problems with the planning system, the tendency for EU directives to be “gold plated” when they are implemented in this country.

Government and other parts of the public sector can be concerned about the possibility of policies being open to legal challenge, slowing down progress, the spokesman said.

“It is difficult to get big infrastructure projects off the ground, whether in the public or the private sector. That is very difficult to make happen,” he said.

“The point is that all government departments, all Cabinet ministers, need to be challenging that kind of culture. It is the job of Cabinet ministers, the job of government to show real political will and push these things through.”

Mr Osborne, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet office minister and Mr Cameron’s policy adviser, and Nick Clegg all spoke at length during the discussion.

The spokesman also confirmed that details of the government’s planning law reforms would be published “soon”.

“Reform of the planning system is a key part of what we are doing to boost growth,” he said. “We set out the principle of a presumption in favour of sustainable development. I think we will be setting out our plans on that quite soon.”

Cabinet Today discussed #NPPF ‘Unblocking Housing Growth’, ‘unfounded legal fears’, ‘another blockage to growth was planning system’

According to the Number 10 press spokeperson as tweeted by Politics Home Political Editor Paul Waugh – @paulwaugh

More plumbing at Cabinet today. Ministers discussed “removing blockages” to growth. Housing, regulation, unfounded legal fears

No.10 said another ‘blockage’ to growth was planning system. Is Greg Clark the Coalition’s Mr Muscle? Does the Daily Tel know?

No.10 re growth: “It’s the job of Cabinet ministers and the Govt to show real political will and push these things through”

No.10 spksman:”It’s v easy for governments to unveil + announce new initiatives, what’s much more difficult is implementation”.

When I point out we heard this ‘blockages to growth’ stuff last yr, No.10 spksman: “It’s good that u have a sense of deja vu”.

So did Greg Clark attend cabinet today to brief?

The ‘unfounded legal fears’ issue is interesting must refer to ‘lawyers charter’ concerns.  My view is that it is a lawyers charter but that with a proper definition if sustainable development and a much stricter and nuanced rewording of the ‘presumption’ legal issues can be overcome, and I have offered suggestions.   This seems also to be the view of civil servants.  So it might not be that they are ignoring consultation responses entirely, just the parts of the responses that pointed out the NPPF could be counterproductive due to sloppy wording.

It is clear they are going to be bullish and rather than trying to hide the NPPF on budget day it will be a major headline – after all it may divert from the lack of stimulus or tax cuts.

RTPI should stop digging on the £3 billion figure #NPPF

Oh dear – the new RTPI president Colin Haycock has repeated the error from last year that Micheals Balls study that Planning transaction costs are ‘£3 billion a year’ is

based on a 20-year-old study which looked at a regulatory system, part of which included planning, that no longer exists…. surprising is Prof Ball’s claim that “planning approval” takes over a year. This is another myth. A report from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) last July found only 0.7 per cent of planning applications take longer than 12 months to reach a decision.

They earlier made this claim to the DCLG Select Committee and the DCLG and Professor Micheal Ball wrote to correct them, but they still make the claim.

The 2010 Ball report does not rely on the 20 year old data but

a large sample was collected. Data on the time taken in development control was sampled for over 900 sites from 45 English local authorities. Sites were identified which were successful in achieving planning permission in a two-year period, 2005 and 2006.

So the RTPI is confusing apples and oranges the data is not for all applications but only for major developments  resulting in housing approval. Indeed the mean time was 42.7 weeks, not quite a year as in the Micheal Ball letter the RTPI is responding to but not far off.

Where the Ball study does fall down is the aggregation of costs.  £2billion comes from direct costs – which is the full total cost of the whole development control system – not just for major housing – and an extra £1billion which comes from the transaction costs of holding land for the extra period.  However since then interest rates have fallen and so will land holding costs.  Also he calculates costs on landholding times of 1.25 years, but that contradicts his figure of 42 weeks.  The difference is the time taken by developers to prepare the scheme not the time in planning.  It is unfair to include this in costs.

What the RTPI seem to have done is confuse two £3 billion figures, the Ball 2010 one with an earlier one from the Barker report which is coincidentally the same and is based on 20-30 year old data.  However the NPPF impact assessment clearly references the 2010 study so the mistake is unforgivable.

You can criticise the Ball report for a number of things but stating the primary research is ’20-30 years old’ or based on false data on application processing times are both false and the RTPI should write to the DCLG and the FT to apologise.

The real issue is that Ball counts every day after submission of allocation as a ‘cost’, which assumes that all such applications should be made illegally without any consultation on the day they are submitted.  It also fails to include, as the recent report for the CPRE points out, the benefits of the planning system to which costs should be weighed in.  Im also annoyed at the RTPI as I privately wrote to them last year to point out this error, and set the record straight on here, yet they keep repeating it.

Misunderstanding Household Formation – Not 232,000/annum but higher #NPPF

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the use of household projections to calculate planning for housing requirements.

Myth 1 – You can simply read off from Household Projections Housing Requirements

No but it is a good starting point.  Since 2007 the government target for new housing has been 240,000 new dwellings a year – a figure read directly off household projections.  Grant Shapps has not set a target but said we need to build around this level, although the latest 2008 based projections show a recession induced dip to 232,000 dwellings a year.  The Welsh Government advises that you should average growth over 5 years to avoid such cyclical issues.

But it is just part of the formula used in strategic planning – which is (ive included a number of corrections to the original approach set out in the 70s).

Delta HH =  Delta HS −  Delta SEC −Delta SH – VAC − DEM

Or change in household formation =change in housing stock minus change in second homes minus change in enforced sharing (concealed households) minus vacancies minus demolitions.

Vacancies is the number of frictional vacancies – that is housing unoccupied between occupants, plus the change in the number of long term vacancies – that is housing outside the housing market. So because of frictional vacancies along you need around 3% more houses than the change in households.  Demolitions should only be counted where they are part of the short term housing stock otherwise this is double counting.

Now imagine a situation where the household stock etc is fixed.  Then the requirement for new dwellings is the same as the change in households plus the frictional adjustment.  But that does nothing to clear any backlog of household of concealed households.

Also imagine a situation where housebuilding also rose with household formation but incomes rose steadily.  Wealth effects would cause some households to consume more housing including second homes, reducing affordability and supply in the stock available for single home owners.

Indeed you can gather terms and produce a formula:

Delta HS =Delta HH+Delta SEC +Delta SH + VAC + DEM

Because of second home ownership, demolitions and the backlog element the figure will be a lot higher than 240,000 per annum.  Sadly there is no national data for some of these terms especially enforced sharing which is typically measured at a local level, however rough estimates by the Smith Institute, JRF and others estimate we need around 270-300,000 dwellings per annum.  Of course at a local level SHMAs should do this, though in a number of new localist housing studies, which to my mind have taken a giant technical leap backward from many SHMAs, this seems not to be done.

Myth 2:  You can replace Household Formation with Affordability Targets

Household formation is a trend forecast not a projection.  It assumes that society will keep doing in the future much as it did in the past.  So if as a society we have built roughly in line with need and plan to do so in the future it is a fair guide.  But if we dont build to that level then affordability will decline.  So if you want to increase affordability then you can’t simply assume the continuation of past trends as the purpose of planning policy will be to change the current situation.  This of course was the basis of the Barker Review recommendation to take into account affordability issues as well as household formation, and the setting up of the shortlived NHPAU.  But has led some writers notably Meen and Andrew 2008 to recommend replacing planning by household formation with planning by affordability target.  But affordability is affected by the economic cycle, so in a downturn do we need to build less homes?  Planning for housing is a long term issue planned over more than one business cycle.  Short term price signals alone can be a very bad indicator.  Planning cannot control the demand for housing, money, only supply, but by steadily increasing supply it can maintain and increase affordability.  The key is the actions at the margins of concealed households who are forced to share because they cannot afford not to.  This is the same as the enforced sharing element above – so ultimately over the very long term accommodating household formation and clearing the backlog will maintain affordability – and it is much easier to calculate.

Myth 3: Because Household Formation is also caused by housing availability you can stop it growing simply by not building housing

This is an argument recently put  Collins Stewart Hawkpoint described by Chris Brown (the full report is subscription only) as follows:

[Household Formation] assumed to be a driver but CSH suggest that it is an outcome from building more houses and making mortgage finance readily available. They also point out that household size in the UK is at the EU average and the suggestion is that it could just as easily start to increase due to the mortgage shortage (indeed there is some evidence that this is already happening).

CSH suggest that house builders deliberately peddle the housing shortage line to help ramp up the political pressure to get land with planning permission (they have certainly achieved that under successive governments) and, perhaps more importantly, to convince investors of the underlying investment story in the housebuilding industry.

Certainly causality is a two way street.  Increased household formation causes politicians to release more land, which creates more homes which concealed households then go on to form new households into etc. etc.  And indeed if housing is steadily built there will be no housing crisis.  But of course it can so easily go wrong, especially given the variability in construction in affordable housing.  If it does then private rental prices will shoot up and real incomes decline.  Some residents opposing new housing will say there is ‘no need’ because their are unsold houses in their villages etc.  By the law of averages most villages will have several such properties.  But all this probably shows is that there are elderly people who have died and new potential purchasers cant get a mortgage.  Look at the youngsters in town forced to pay for extortionate rents for a proper measure of need.  All this shows is the crisis in the banking sector nothing about housing need.

Indeed if you did as CSH suggested then will people stop getting divorced, will they euthenaise themselves to stop getting older, will immigration cease (net migration is steady despite the government efforts), will they stop deferring cohabitation and marriage and will they conveniently share with there parents for the rest of their lives?  Of course not.  What CSH is suggesting is a return to the medieval extended household.

The fact that housebuilding and household formation is a two way causal street does not mean that we can ignore or seek to cap household formation as if the policy aim was restriction of the housing stock.  rather it requires the planned expansion of both and in step over the longer term.