If the Chancellor talks about ‘liberalising’ the Habitat Regulations in the Budget #NPPF

Recall the following:

Hansard Environmental Audit Committeee 1st Feb

Q206Caroline Lucas: Going back to the regulation, did you agree, Minister, with the Chancellor-I am not sure whether you are allowed to say so if you didn’t-when he said he thought the transposition of the habitats directive was imposing “ridiculous costs” on British business? Also, does the Secretary of State agree that such sentiments understandably send shivers up the spines of people who are concerned about the future of environmental protection measures such as the habitats directive?

Miss Smith: I will give a very brief answer because I am sure we need to press on, what with the votes in the House. Yes, I absolutely can see the direction in which you are going. Perhaps the Secretary of State will deal with this one.

Mrs Spelman: We have started our work on the habitats directive review. Again, this is part of reviewing the regulation to see how well it works and whether we can make it work better. We had a stakeholder meeting in DEFRA last week, and I thought it was very constructive. We had a wide range of stakeholders that work with the habitats directive sitting together with us and the NGOs, talking about how we might get the directive to work better in the handful of cases where it doesn’t.

I think it is important to put this issue in proportion. In the vast majority of cases, the habitats directive operates perfectly well in the decision-making process. There are a handful of cases where we have had problems, and it is interesting that that often correlates with a port. I found it really encouraging at the stakeholder meeting that the RSPB and Associated British Ports sat together, and together spoke about how they had worked out a way to help the habitats directive work better in the environment of a port. It is in the 0.5% of cases in which the operation of the habitats directive has caused some problems that we are working through, with the stakeholders, how to get that regulation working better. There is no question of resiling from the directive.

Q207Caroline Lucas: Do you agree, though, that it is unhelpful in terms of wider understanding if you have a Chancellor who talks about “ridiculous costs” on British business, particularly if you are saying that that applies only to 0.5% of the habitats directive? What I want to know is whether you agree-yes or no-that that is an unhelpful comment.

Mrs Spelman: The Chancellor was talking about the ports cases in particular. There were problems at Immingham, Falmouth and Felixstowe, many of which have now been resolved.

Q208Caroline Lucas: But do you think it was helpful to say it in the way that he did? That is all I want to know.

Mrs Spelman: It has helped the review of the working of the habitats directive to have drawn to the attention of all the stakeholders that there is a better way forward, which is to bring them together and work through how we can get this directive working better. There is no question of resiling from the habitats directive; we have signed up to it.

Q209Chair: The point we are trying to make is: if it is joined-up government, where does the Treasury fit in with that?

Mrs Spelman: It is perfectly joined up. We sit around a Cabinet table and we discuss the habitats directive. I spoke with my colleagues about our offer to do two things at DEFRA. One was to look in detail at the handful of cases where there are problems, and if we can find better ways of working that benefit everybody, to take those forward. That is exactly what I have been doing. It is a DEFRA lead on the subject.

Q210Caroline Lucas: Did you know that the Chancellor was going to talk about the “ridiculous costs” on British business of gold-plating the habitats directive? If Government are so nicely joined up-did you know that?

Mrs Spelman: No, in the same way as the Chancellor does not know what I am saying now-he will read the record of it. How can any Secretary of State know everybody’s utterances at all times and in all places?

Q211 Caroline Lucas: That particular statement sent waves through the green movement. It suddenly sounded as though this Government were not trying to be the greenest Government ever, but were actually trying to row back from environmental regulation. If the Chancellor is going to be saying that, I would have thought that he might have cleared it with the Secretary of State for the Environment first.

Mrs Spelman: There is no question of rowing back from our signature to the habitats directive. We have done a great deal of work to make sure that it is applied more effectively and to work with the stakeholders to ensure that we use the regulation better. I think that is a constructive, helpful thing to do.

What he really means is liberalising it from Defra and the opportunity of Caroline Spelamn not missing an opportunity to make the Chancellor look an idiot

Mrs Spelman: No, in the same way as the Chancellor does not know what I am saying now-he will read the record of it. How can any Secretary of State know everybody’s utterances at all times and in all places?


Scores of Environmental Regulations set to be Scrapped, and Habitat Regulations ‘liberalised’ on Monday – Guardian #NPPF


Scores of environmental regulations are to be slashed under government plans to be announced on Monday, the Guardian has learned.

The rules affected include controls on asbestos, invasive species and industrial air pollution; protection for wildlife and common lands; as well as restrictions on noise nuisance and deadly animal traps.

Ministers are expected to say the cutting of red tape will save businesses £1bn, but the move has shocked campaigners, who argue that the government’s search for economic growth is mistakenly targeting the environment.

The impending announcement follows intense pressure from David Cameron and George Osborne to remove what the chancellor has called the “ridiculous costs” of “endless social and environmental goals”.

The document obtained by the Guardian lists 174 regulations that will be scrapped, merged, liberalised or simplified. Neither the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, nor any other environment minister was present at the “star chamber” conducted by Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, who leads the government’s red tape challenge (RTC). A Guardian analysis shows that 97% of the thousands of public responses on the RTC website demanded stronger protection or no change in the rules on air pollution, wildlife and landscape management.

“The brazenness with which the government has, via its insidious red tape challenge, sought to undermine the very principles of environmental protection is shocking enough,” said Green party MP Caroline Lucas. “But it’s also astonishing that ministers have been so willing to waste taxpayers’ money on such an ideologically driven vanity project.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The red tape challenge has given everyone, including environmental groups and businesses, an opportunity to tell us how we can protect the environment in a more effective and efficient way that puts fewer burdens on businesses. Regulation has an important role to play in protecting the environment and our natural resources, but some of the rules we ask businesses to follow are either too complicated, ineffective or just obsolete.”

Craig Bennett, policy director at Friends of the Earth, said: “There is no hard evidence that this will save business £1bn, but it could cause havoc to the environment. Most of these regulations are recent, from the last 10 years, so what can have changed in that time?”

The EU habitats directive, which protects the UK’s rarest and most threatened wildlife, was a specific target of Osborne and will be “liberalised”, according to the document.

But Spelman, who a year ago performed a humiliating U-turn on the sale of public forests, has revealed that a mere 0.5% of projects affected by the habitats directive have had problems. Furthermore, those problems – affecting the building of offshore windfarms – are being resolved not by cutting regulation but by negotiation.

Next week is also expected to see the government climb down on the most controversial aspects of its slashing of planning regulations from 1,000 to 52 pages, such as reinstating the requirement to build on brownfield sites first.

Letwin invoked the planning changes at the star chamber he chaired on 12 January, when he told environmental officials he wanted the thousands of pages of regulation and guidance cut down to 50 pages, as it had “worked very well” on planning regulations. However, the cuts expected on Monday, some of which will be subject to consultation, fall short of Letwin’s goal.

Rules such as preventing environmental pollution by asbestos will be scrapped because they are “totally redundant”, while rules limiting industrial air pollution with smoke, grit and dust will be “reviewed along with the clean air act”. Twenty regulations related to the wildlife and countryside act are listed.

Many of the regulations in the document are labelled “deregulation with impact”, which appears to mean their scrapping will cause costs to businesses. Following are some of the key regulations facing proposed changes:

• Regulation covering persistent organic pollutants, which the document states are “a threat to human health and the environment”, will be reduced.

• Regulations ensuring the “reasonable” cleaning up of contaminated land will be reduced, because they “create a burden for the housing industry“.

• Rules banning works on common land will be liberalised, or their implementation improved.

• Rules requiring local authorities to investigate and abate noise, dust and odour nuisances will be liberalised or improved.

• The need for waste management plans for construction sites will be scrapped.

• Regulations requiring manufacturers of electrical goods and batteries to take financial responsibility for their safe disposal will be liberalised or improved.

• Recycling targets for larger UK businesses will be liberalised or improved.

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, said: “This latest attack on so-called environmental red tape shows how out of touch the government is with everyone who cares about the countryside. We need leadership to create green jobs, not desperate measures from a panicking government which has no idea how to create jobs and growth.”

A source close to the process told the Guardian: “The external costs of this deregulation falls on taxpayers, as damage and depletion will need paying for even if businesses won’t pay. It also falls on to communities, usually the poorest, on to other businesses, and on to future generations. It is a true race to the bottom.”

Sim Brum – Wins £50 million prize to develop ‘city simulator’

IBM to help develop a city-wide strategic decision-making tool

Birmingham is the only UK city to have been selected by IBM to receive this year’s IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, it was announced today.

The grant provides Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, with access to IBM’s leading experts to help develop a strategic decision-making tool to support city-wide planning, ensuring Birmingham becomes an even better place in which to live and work.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant programme in which IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide between 2011 and 2013. Teams of specially selected IBM experts will provide Birmingham city leaders with analysis and recommendations in support of modelling the entire city’s services and in helping to achieve better outcomes in areas such as  economic development, transportation, healthcare, public safety, education and the environment.

Birmingham joins an elite group of 32 other worldwide cities to be awarded this year’s IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, having shown a strong commitment to innovation and change. Strong leadership was also recognised in the selection process, and the city’s application gained cross-party support.

Cllr Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham has proved itself, yet again, a force to be reckoned with on the world stage; competing with over 140 cities from around the world to be the first English city to achieve this accolade. This recognition from IBM will hopefully provide the basis for a stronger, lasting relationship and the start of a strategic partnership. The modelling work that we have done in Birmingham, and which forms the basis of our successful bid, shows that this city is leading the way in understanding our own city dynamics – its pathways to outcomes.”

The successful bid outlined the desire for Birmingham to develop a sophisticated strategic city ’simulator’ to support future investment decisions, and that helps identify ways to maximise and accelerate jobs and long term growth in Birmingham; increase the collective city investment in economically productive activities that reduce spending on recurring social costs; and break cycles of dependency and reduce the demand on ‘treatment’ services.

The model will track the key relationships between council interventions, costs and outcomes achieved, using the best available data. Such information can include everything from school test scores, smartphone adoption, crime statistics, foot and vehicle traffic, to tax revenue and library usage.  The city is taking a whole systems approach to explore causal chains and relationships. It is seeking to identify those pathways and clusters of interventions that will have the greatest impact on creating a high quality of life for its residents.

Over the course of a few weeks the IBM experts will work with key city leaders to provide advice on the different modelling approaches required for different parts of the city’s systems. They will provide guidance on data gathering, real-time processing, data analytics and visualisation. To help ensure the best possible outcomes they will also advise on stakeholder engagement strategy.

Cllr Paul Tilsley, Chair of the Digital Birmingham Partnership, said: “We think that a city that has deep understanding of the multiple impacts of all its interventions and how they work together has a powerful mechanism for directing its investments in a smart way. This is smart strategy for a smart city. In addition, the ability for Birmingham to demonstrate such insight will attract further external investment to our city.”

Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, added: “The approach being taken is ground-breaking, such a model does not exist anywhere in the country. We believe Birmingham, working together with IBM, can provide a world-class template for how city government can transform outcomes for its citizens, based on state-of-the-art understanding of the city as a ‘system of systems’, and exploiting integrated digital technology platforms across all sectors to create a truly Smarter Birmingham.”

IBM selected cities that made the strongest case for participating in the Smarter Cities Challenge.

“The cities that have been selected are all different, but they had one clear similarity: the strong personal commitment by the city’s leadership to put in place the changes needed to help the city make smarter decisions,” said Mark Wakefield, IBM UK Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager. “These cities demonstrated a desire to set an example for other municipalities, an eagerness to collaborate with multiple stakeholders, and a strong commitment to consider implementing recommendations the city felt would be the most feasible and beneficial to their residents.”

Both the council and IBM fully expect that the model will be of major interest to other councils, particularly the larger metropolitan councils in the UK and similar cities elsewhere in Europe.

During Smarter Cities Challenge engagements, IBM helps recipients using tools such its free website called City Forward (http://www.cityforward.org).

The site gives policy makers, citizen-advocates and the public a new perspective on how their respective cities are performing compared with others. It captures vital statistics on the performance of many specific services such as education, safety, health, transportation, land use, utilities, energy, environment, personal income, spending, population growth and employment.  Users can then gather, compare, analyse, visualise, and discuss statistical trends, giving them real-world insight that can help shape public policy.

Update: Malmesbury Appeal Decision In – Scheme Undermines Neighbourhood Planning #NPPF

The inspector for the Park Road site found that the 5 year supply and 5 year demand differed by just one unit.  The inspector also endorsed the employment driven household projection method found sound at the South Wiltshire Core Strategy.

Please also have a look at the Appeal ruling for a Malmesbury development test case.

It has implications for the WC 5 year land supply, developer contributions for infrastructure and the neighbourhood planning process.

Here are some important extracts from the appeal decision document

“I do not attach any weight to the appellant’s payment of a financial contribution

toward primary education infrastructure through the mechanism of the S.106

Undertaking. Since the use to which such a financial contribution would be put

is currently unknown, it cannot meet the tests of CIL Regulation 122.”


“In my judgment, the increased strain that the proposed new housing would

place upon the already pressured primary education infrastructure of

Malmesbury is not, of itself, sufficient reason to refuse planning permission

outright for residential development; it is, however, one of the many material

considerations to be weighed in the overall planning balance.”


“I consider that it would not be appropriate to refuse planning permission for

the current proposal solely on grounds of prematurity. It nevertheless remains

the case that by pre-determining the location of some 29% of the minimum

housing requirement for Malmesbury Town for the plan period 2006-2026,

granting permission for this development would seriously compromise the

ability of the local community to determine where future housing growth

should take place, and so would conflict with the evolving spatial vision and

housing objectives for the area. This is a material consideration that weighs

against the proposal.

53. As to wider policy objectives, it is material to note that ensuring local

communities have an increased ability to shape the development of their areas,

through mechanisms such as Neighbourhood Plans, is a key plank of the

government’s Localism Agenda.”


“I have found that the Council can demonstrate an up-to-date five year supply

of deliverable housing sites. I have concluded that the increased pressure the

development would place on primary education infrastructure, and the

possibility that it would be premature in relation to the adoption of the

Neighbourhood Plan, would not in themselves amount to reasons to refuse

planning permission, but have found that the proposal would nevertheless

conflict with the housing objectives and spatial vision for the area.”


Simon Killane,

My Website: http://simonkillane.mycouncillor.org.uk

Wiltshire Councillor for Malmesbury,   www.wiltshire.gov.uk

Malmesbury Town Councillor,   www.malmesbury.gov.uk

CBI Told #NPPF will be published on Budget Day

Changes every day

To all members of the Localism Group

 Good afternoon,

Please note that DCLG has confirmed it will be publishing the National Planning Policy Framework on Wednesday 21st March alongside the Budget. The sensitive nature of the announcement means that we are unlikely to hear of any details in advance of the publication but we will be putting together a response on the day.

If you would like to share any intelligence with us or feed in your views to inform the CBI’s reaction to the document please do not hesitate to contact me.


Kind regards,




Tom Thackray | Senior Policy Adviser

CBI | Business Environment Directorate

The real coalition battle over the #NPPF is between the Neos and Paleos not libdems and conservatives

Neoliberals and liberals, neconservatives and paleoconservatives.   The neos being fans of Austrian economics and Hayeck – the paleos referring to collective notions wider than the individual such as ‘community’ or ‘nation’.  If you doubt this just look at any of the planning discussions at LibDem voice or Conservative Home, with for example Cllr Pallett of ‘abolish the Green Belt’ fame being accused of the kind of ‘neoliberal…who is taking our party to the dogs’.

Of course the leadership in both parties is predominantly neo, which is why the coalition was possible, whilst the membership is overwhelmingly paleo.

Zac Goldsmith at Conhome # NPPF must not be a blank cheque for developers



Like many colleagues, I have been inundated by letters from constituents about the Government’s proposed reform to the Planning system, almost of all of which express major concern. People are right to be paying attention; whatever reforms are introduced will leave a legacy for years to come.

I don’t doubt that the current system needs radical reform. It is, on so many levels, utterly perverse. It lacks democracy, it dis empowers even locally elected representatives, and it leads more often than not to the kind of development most people abhor.  Indeed it is hard to imagine a system better designed to alienate and enrage.

The system therefore needs reform. The question is what sort of reform do we need? Like almost everyone who has written to me, I want a planning system that delivers more protection of green spaces (and not just the green belt, but the places that really matter to people). I want local people to have more say over the design and nature of developments, so that we can prevent the ongoing destruction of communities by inappropriate and deeply unpopular development. I want the reforms to introduce a stronger bias against sprawl, and in favour of building on land that is less environmentally valuable.

The Planning Minister, who was well known in Opposition as a localist and as a campaigner against inappropriate development, believes his reforms will deliver all the protections that campaigners are asking for. He maintains that Local Authority ‘plans’ will be sovereign, which means that where planning goes wrong, it will be because locally elected representatives have got it wrong, to which the answer is to throw them out at a subsequent election. It is a compelling argument.

However the message from the Government as a whole has been confused and contradictory, with some departments clearly viewing the Planning system as an economic impediment. They want it to become a mechanism to promote growth above all else. In the National Planning Policy Framework draft paper itself, these elements of Government appear to have prevailed. Their position is flawed and has to be challenged.

Of course we have a national housing crisis. Countless people are struggling to get on the property ladder. But that is largely a problem of finance. The banks have frozen their lending and simply aren’t helping people.

Yesterday, 45 Coalition MPs signed a letter to the Prime Minister, warning that simplification of the system this “should not come at the expense of the ability of planning to protect and enhance the environment.”

We urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the final NPPF, due out some time around the budget, include explicit bias in favour of developing brownfield land first, as well as a recognition of the  “intrinsic value of the ordinary, undesignated countryside.” We asked that the revised NPPF include a commitment to “genuinely sustainable development that does not prioritise short term economic interests over long term quality of life and wellbeing.”

Planning is a hugely important issue for millions of people, and the Government risks losing their long-term support if it steamrolls through destructive changes to the system. It is worth remembering that trusted organisation like the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and the National Trust have many millions of active members. In the more immediate term, it risks a battle in Parliament, as this letter signed by 45 Coalition MPs demonstrates.

The Government must ensure that the new rules cannot in any way be interpreted as a blank cheque for developers. It needs to show that where it talks about local democracy, quality of life and the environment, it means it.

Cive Aslet Daily Mail – ‘Noises’ that Treasury is Winning Battle over #NPPF

Daily Mail

One of the great dramas of the past year has been played out between the National Trust and the government over the planning document known as NPPF – the National Planning Policy Framework, which replaces the whole of the existing planning rule book with a dossier of about 50 pages.

Until recently, my money would have been on the National Trust. It has over four million members, and they are mostly of the silver-haired vintage who like to exercise their democratic right at the ballot box – and whose instincts are naturally Tory or Lib Dem.

The noises I have been hearing recently suggest the odds have changed the other way. It’s madness, but the government, led by the Treasury, appears determined to yield as little as possible to the arguments against concreting over the countryside.

Expect an announcement to coincide with the Budget: it’s an Osborne initiative to stimulate growth by building houses that most people can’t get mortgages for. Besides, Budget day is a good time to bury bad news.

We can already see the consequences. A planning inspector has given permission for a wind farm to be built bang next to Lyvden New Bield in Northamptonshire, an inspiring and mysterious Elizabethan house, built – but never completed – by Sir Thomas Tresham, a passionate Roman Catholic, in the form of a cross (he had already built a Triangular Lodge, symbolising the Trinity).

One of the iniquities of the NPPF is that it removes the protection previously given to the surroundings of historic buildings. Poor old Northamptonshire, a county of great estates which, as a result, has until now preserved large areas of its countryside intact, must feel that it’s under siege.