Simon Jenkins – We’ve won the #NPPF battle but not the war

Telegraph

The countryside emerges this week bruised and bloodied from the most bizarre assault on it for half a century. Since the publication last year of draft changes in planning rules, no county in England has felt safe. But a last minute climb-down by the Planning Minister, Greg Clark, means that the character of our landscape is back under some sort of control.

The campaign against the Coalition’s planning reform was fierce but heart-warming for all who value England’s unique inheritance of relatively unblemished fields, woods and hills, even in heavily populated regions of the country. People cared about this inheritance. The National Trust petition had more signatures, 230,000, than the membership of the Tory party. Cities joined the campaign, their vacant acres desperately in need of brownfield regeneration. Even Eric Pickles, Local Government Minister, seemed at one point to worry about advertising hoardings in meadows, though not very much.

The battle, admirably supported by The Daily Telegraph, had nothing to do with the Government’s concern for growth, rather its desperate susceptibility to lobbyists. There was no evidence that planning restrictions on rural building land, nowadays all too modest, were impeding growth. Ninety per cent of commercial planning applications are approved, and within a new six-month deadline. Business parks are almost 20 per cent empty and existing permits for domestic and commercial sites lie unused.

The impediment to growth is government economic policy, the failure to re-stimulate demand. Adopting land-use planning as a short-term economic regulator is futile and damaging. Flogging off woods and fields as if they were so much North Sea oil is no answer to recession.

Clark’s draft was an awesome concession to developers. Over most of England, 50 years of plan-led regulation was to be replaced by what amounted to central building licences. Outside the 14 per cent of land protected for its natural beauty and the 16 per cent already built-up, development would be encouraged as long as it was vaguely “sustainable”. The word appeared to embrace any residential or business structure with a solar panel on top. The slightest argument would lead to a “default yes”.

Those who thought the National Trust, The Daily Telegraph and the Campaign to Protect Rural England were alarmist – or “semi-hysterical nihilists”, as one minister put it – should get out more. Applications were coming in from landowners for houses and factories in meadows at random. David Cameron’s assurances on national parks and green belts, which were never at issue, clearly implied that the remaining 70 per cent of rural England was vulnerable.

Since permits on appeal must “take account” of current government policy, which included the draft, fields along motorway corridors have already sprouted billboards, as enterprising farmers invite advertising. Inspectors have disregarded local planners and permitted building estates round Oakham, Fakenham, Kingswood, Malmesbury and Redditch, to name but a few reported cases, often citing the draft as guidance.

There has been a noticeable spillover into turbine licences, with arrays defacing views not just in the western uplands but across the Midlands from Lincolnshire to the Welsh Marches. Northamptonshire is planned to have the densest turbine coverage of any English county, with huge Treasury subsidies to landowners. The Duke of Gloucester has won permission for turbines looming over the National Trust’s Tudor garden at Lyveden. This precedent bodes ill for a proposed line of turbines on the Bolsover bluff near Hardwick in Derbyshire.

This week’s screeching of brakes in Whitehall stands to the credit of an older and wiser Clark, despite furious pressure from a philistine Treasury. The redirection of development towards urban renewal is welcome, though is not strong enough. The amenity value of ordinary countryside is to be a consideration in planning. The definition of sustainable is tighter, and was strengthened in Clark’s Commons statement on Tuesday. The new framework is no longer open season for cowboys.

Experts doubt whether planning decisions will be simpler or faster. References to sustainability remain a lawyer’s charter. Rural councils will still have to offer up land for steady encroachment. This absence of certainty will leave much planning in the lap of lawyers, even if the Porsches may be replaced by BMWs. But integrity is restored to the concept of a truly local plan, fed by neighbourhood opinion. Previously the Government would tolerate localism only if local meant more “land for business”.

Nobody ever questioned the need to simplify control, on which discussion was under way when last year’s bombshell landed. But the chief blight on development lies not in planning but in the chaotic world of building and health and safety regulations, now proliferating beyond reason or common sense. Anyone trying to erect a business premises faces a costly and time-consuming morass of permits, certificates, contractors and inspectors, all demanded by central government.

None of these has been rescinded by George Osborne’s Treasury or the “deregulation” minister, Francis Maude. Cynics might say that this is because their cost suits the big builders by making life hell for smaller competitors. If half the effort spent trying to help the big boys had gone into deregulating small businesses, there might be something to show for this upheaval. Inertia on deregulation is the clearest sign that this was not about growth but about helping developers expand their land banks. This is despite their sitting on unused permits for an estimated 330,000 houses.

There is a shortage of land in all European countries. But in England tens of thousands of acres of derelict and “brownfield” land lies idle, epitaph on a collapsed manufacturing economy. I believe a system of “listing” land by scenic and amenity value, as with buildings in cities, would be a far better way forward. Each county would draw up a comprehensive plan of what rural land should be safeguarded for all time, and what might one day be released for varying forms of development. It was put in place under the 1947 planning act but dismantled under the last Labour government.

Under such a scheme, “grey” areas could be designated for eventual use, which might even include land in redrawn green belts. In return there would be certainty for developers and security for communities. I am convinced this would yield more sites for building than the Coalition’s prescription of running gladiatorial fights by lawyers.

The National Trust has a public mission to protect the countryside and has done so for more than a century, usually against precisely the interests recently on parade in Whitehall. The year has shown the Tories as the ugly party, careless of beauty and craven to money. Cabinet naivety towards lobbyists was alarming. Thankfully that has been set aside and disaster averted. But this campaign will never be over.

Simon Jenkins is chairman of the National Trust

Clarification: 1 year #NPPF implementation period also applies to saved policies

From Adam Dodgson at PAS following a very helpful discussion on their forum:

I just wanted to try to get this one firmly answered and understood, so please bear with me!

If you have adopted an ‘old style’ local plan or UDP using the transitional arrangements in the PCPA 2004, then you have adopted it under the provisions of Town and Country Planning Act (1990). This is clearly set out in the 2004 transitional arrangements.

The transitional arrangements were written to assist local authorities who had reached a certain stage to allow them to carry on to adoption. Again, these were adopted using the provisions of the TCPA 1990.

So, [NPPF para] 215 applies to saved policies AND ALL old style local plans or UDPs EVEN IF they were adopted after the PCPA 2004. This is because they were adopted using the provisions of the TCPA 1990. None of them were subjected to tests of soundness and they are not Development Plan Documents.

The Advice for Inspectors on the #NPPF

Here

Mainly deals with transitional casework issues for cases in the system.

Annex D is interesting as it lists the main NPPF policy changes.

The impact assessment has not been published.  I can only guess it has not been finished as arguments with the Treasury on content went down to the wire.

Changes listed in National Planning Policy Framework Impact assessment

  •  Introduction of presumption in favour of sustainable development.
  •  Removal of small scale rural office development from ‘town centre first’ policy.
  • For major town centre schemes where full impact will not be realised within 5 years, impacts should also be assessed for a period of up to 10 years.
  •  Removal of the maximum non-residential car parking standards for major developments
  • Removal of national brownfield target for housing development.
  • Require local planning authorities to allocate and update annually a 5 year supply of housing sites with at least 5% buffer (moved forward from later in plan period) and 20% buffer (moved forward from later in plan period) where a record of persistent under delivery.
  • Removal of national minimum site size threshold for requiring affordable housing to be delivered.
  • Increased flexibility for delivery of rural housing to reflect local needs.
  • Increased protection for community facilities.
  • Minor technical changes to the detail of Green Belt policy.
  • Provide more flexibility regarding manner in which local planning authorities meet local requirements for decentralised energy supply.
  •  Encouragement for local planning authorities to map areas for commercial scale renewable and low carbon energy development opportunity, and then to apply these criteria to other applications.
  • Requirement on local planning authorities to take strategic approach in Local Plans to creation, protection, enhancement and management of networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure.
  • Recognition of designation within Local Plans of locally designated sites of importance for wildlife, geodiversity or landscape character.
  • Clarification of which wildlife sites should have same protection as European sites.
  • Removal of requirement to set criteria and select sites for peat extraction.

Note the difference from the draft impact statement.  This referred to removal of national target – and priority – critical.  Of course the draft made lots of assumptions on loss of Green Field land which were widely ridiculed.  I doubt the final version will make that mistake.

Government Response to the DCLG Select Committee Report on the #NPPF

Thanks to Josh for the link, tucked away on the National Archives, with seemingly no government or parliament web site links to it yet.

Here are the key recommendations only partially or not accepted.

CLG Select Committee recommendation 1: We welcome the fact that the Minister is receptive to specific suggestions for improvements to the NPPF. We consider that there needs to be a clear narrative at the start of the NPPF, stating: where planning policy has stayed the same, but has been simplified or summarised; where new policy has been introduced;
where current policy has been changed or removed; and the relationship of the NPPF to other national policy documents, including National Policy Statements and the Natural Environment White Paper. There is no harm in increasing the length of the document moderately, if that results in a more comprehensive and less ambiguous document.
(Paragraph 23)

The Government accepts this recommendation in part. We have amended the opening sections of the Framework to set out clearly the Framework’s relationship with other statements of national policy including National Policy Statements and the Natural Environment White Paper. We have also made changes to provide certainty about the relationship between the Framework and the legal framework for planning set out in the planning acts.

As recommended, the Framework sets out in Annex 3 a clear and transparent list of the documents that it replaces. The Government has where possible acted on suggestions for improving the clarity of the Framework, but does not consider that it would be helpful or in keeping with the nature of the Framework to articulate the new policies by reference to existing policies in Planning Policy Statements, Planning Policy Guidance notes or other existing policy documents that have been cancelled on publication of the Framework. The Framework is written to be simple and accessible to non-specialists, and to reference each existing policy in every Planning Policy Statement, Planning Policy Guidance note or other existing document would make the Framework much less accessible and clear.

CLG Select Committee recommendation 2: Brevity and simplicity are to be applauded in any document. However, we consider that the NPPF does not achieve clarity by its brevity; critical wording has been lost and what remains is often unhelpfully vague. If the NPPF is to be a document that assists with practical decision-making, rather than a lawyers’
charter or an easy-to-read guide to the planning system, its drafting must be more precise and consistent, and sufficiently detailed to enable local authorities to write their own Local Plans. The Government should carefully consider the alternative drafts, submitted by many organisations as part of DCLG’s consultation, in order to produce a
tighter, clearer document, and should not make a fetish of how many pages it is. Examples of such words and phrases needing tighter definitions in the NPPF include: ‘significant weight’; ‘great weight’; ‘substantial weight’; ‘considerable weight’; ‘significant flexibility’; ‘a high degree of certainty’; ‘sustainable economic growth’; ‘absent’;
‘silent’; ‘indeterminate’; ‘out-of-date’; ‘certificate of conformity’, ‘where practical’; and ‘where reasonable’. (Paragraph 29)

The Government welcomes the Committee’s support for the objective of achieving a simpler and shorter national policy framework, and accepts the recommendation that the terms used should be as tightly defined as possible. The Government welcomes, and has carefully considered, the detailed comments and drafting suggestions submitted by the Committee and others as part of the consultation, and has amended the Framework to define terms wherever relevant and to be consistent in the description of the weight the Government attaches to policies.

Note they did not respond to the concerns about the brevity of the document.

In a key paraa it states

The Government will now embark on a new exercise to consider what underpinning guidance continues to be needed, involving practitioners and other interested parties. The outcome of this process will be an appropriate and easy to use set of guidance, focussing on issues that require national expression, to support implementation of the Framework. It will not always be the case that the guidance should come from Government – in some cases professional bodies may be the most appropriate bodies to publish guidance. The Government has been clear that until such time as the guidance review is complete, the existing guidance where relevant can still be used.

&

The Government agrees that it should be clear that Local Plans can reflect issues that are not explicitly referred to in the Framework. Consistent with this Government’s commitment to putting locally led planning at the heart of the planning system through Local Plans, the Framework makes clear that “plans and decisions need to take local circumstances into account, so that they respond to the different opportunities for achieving sustainable development in different areas”.

And in a very curious acceptance of a erecommendation the government says it is rejecting they say

The Government does not accept the Select Committee’s wider concern that the definition may lead to “affordable homes” that are not actually affordable to local people. We have amended the definition to be clear that eligibility for affordable homes should be determined according to local incomes. This was ambiguous in Planning Policy Statement 3.

The government accepted in part the recommendation that the NPPF draft was largely ‘placeless’

We have amended the Framework to also be clear that planning should “take account of the different roles and character of different areas”

And

Reflecting consultation responses we have amended the Framework policies on evidence, where necessary, to clarify expectations, for example to clarify that local planning authorities should understand the need for educational infrastructure and that evidence relating to the environment should include the implementation mechanisms for the Water Framework Directive.

On the critical issue of the definition of sustainable development

We have amended the Framework to make reference to both the longstanding Brundtland report and to the five guiding principles set out in the 2005 UK Sustainable
Development Strategy.  The policies in the Framework reflect the Government’s views of how the principles of sustainability should be applied in preparing local and
neighbourhood plans and in making planning decisions. We have amended the Framework to be clear that the economic, social and environmental roles of the planning system should not be pursued in isolation, because they are mutually dependent. We have also been clear that local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and NET GAINS across all three.

Note the language it is a reference not a definition.  Subtle difference.

Also note the three net gains approach – the three circles approach promoted by Greg Clark at his select committee appearance and vigorously promoted on this blog only appears in the plan making section of the NPPF in para 152.  It looks curiously out of place.  It looks moved by the Treasury from the front definitional/general principles section.  So can this approach to mutual gains and compensation and mitigation be applied on casework, no reason why not.  The legal advice (to the NT)  is that every para of the NPPF is equally relevant to casework unless the NPPF says it is not, which it does not here.  Treasury clever clever fail here.

The Government accepts the recommendation that the ‘default answer is yes’ should be removed from the Framework. This language has given rise to unwarranted concerns that development should be allowed to proceed at all costs, which was never the intention of government policy. However, the Government remains committed to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support economic growth.

And on the issues of ‘significantly and demonstrably’ and ‘burden of proof’

CLG Select Committee recommendation 15: The phrase ‘significantly and demonstrably’ should be removed throughout the document; we prefer the simpler test of significance. Indeed, the alternative wording from the Practitioners Advisory Group’s version – “this presumption should apply unless to do so would cause significant harm to the objective, principles and policies set out in this National Planning Policy Framework” – encapsulates, in our minds, a clearer, more balanced approach to the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Such new wording should also place the burden of proof of the presumption not causing significant harm onto the developer or applicant, not on the planning authority. (Paragraph 86)

 The Government does not accept this recommendation. The Committee indicated that it favoured a test of ‘significance’ rather than ‘significantly and demonstrably’. We considered carefully whether the word ‘demonstrably’ was in some ways unclear or ambiguous. We have concluded that, to require that something is demonstrable, is simply to require it to be based on more than assertion – in other words, to be based on evidence, which is a theme that runs through the whole of the Framework.

The Government does not accept that the burden of proof that development would not have adverse impacts which significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits should fall onto the applicant. It will be a matter for the decision-taker to assess whether development should or should not be granted planning permission based on the right information. The Government encourages applicants for planning permission to discuss what information is needed with the local planning authority and expert bodies as early as possible.

The last para is ctitical because it shows that there is no ‘burden of proof’ rather there is a threshold of information and the decision maker must decide on the evidence whether the decision test in para. 14 is met.  This is exactly the approach we recommended.

CLG Select Committee recommendation 17: We consider that the transport section of the NPPF is a good illustration of lack of balance in the document as currently drafted; by the use of such phrases as ‘where reasonable’, and ‘where practical’, it gives the impression that the ‘sustainable’ part of ‘sustainable development’ can be jettisoned almost at will. Local authorities should be able to expect that they can reject or enforce changes to development on transport or environmental grounds, not just where the impact would be ‘severe’, but where it would run counter to local priorities and wishes, or where an individual development might contribute to a ‘severe’ cumulative impact caused by several developments. This example serves to illustrate the difficulties local authorities may have in making a determination on particular applications. (Paragraph 95)

The Government accepts this recommendation in part. The Government believes there is a need to strike the right balance between allowing development proposals to go ahead and enabling communities to ensure necessary transport improvements can be secured. In particular, it accepts that consideration of the cumulative impact of development on the transport network needs to be more clearly expressed. We have, therefore, amended the wording to be explicit that in addition to considering the impact of a specific development, account should be taken of the cumulative impact of development on the transport network.

On absent, silent, out-of-date or indeterminate local plans

CLG Select Committee recommendation 19: There is a tension between the advice in the NPPF that Local Plans should be succinct, and the need for local authorities in the absence of national guidance, to produce comprehensive plans tailored to local circumstances. We share the Government’s desire for succinct Local Plans, but accept that somewhat longer Local Plans are inevitable because they fill significant gaps left by the loss of regional plans and by the substantial reduction in detail of national policy (paragraph 104)

The Government does not accept this recommendation. We do not accept that the revocation of regional plans or the simplification of national policy will lead to significant gaps. Where there are particular local circumstances that mean that councils wish to reflect policies in regional plans in their Local Plans, they can do so by undertaking a quick review focussing on those policies. Councils can also continue to draw on evidence that informed the preparation of regional strategies to support Local Plan policies, supplemented as needed by up-to-date, robust local evidence.

In another important phrase

We have clarified the Framework to make clear that the ambition of neighbourhoods should be aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.  The Framework sets out what the strategic priorities of Local Plans must  include.

We have also amended the Framework to be clear that once a Neighbourhood Plan has demonstrated its general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan and is brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in the Local Plan for that neighbourhood, where they are in conflict.

Now on the critical issue of the Duty to Cooperate and Larger than Local Planning

The duty to cooperate and evidence bases for Local Plans CLG Select Committee recommendation 21: Consistency between local authorities in assembling evidence bases for Local Plans is crucial to the effective functioning of the duty to co-operate. While we understand that the Government believes the Duty to Co-operate contained in the Localism Act 2011 coupled with other developments such as the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships will ensure that spatial planning is adequately addressed, we share some of these concerns. Without consistency, it will not be clear what benchmark the Planning Inspectorate will use for judging the ‘soundness’ of plans, especially when neighbouring local authorities have been unable to reach agreement about the need for or location of new housing. Therefore we recommend that the guidance being produced by practitioners on assembling an evidence base for housing be officially adopted by the Government. We also recommend that the Government commission groups of practitioners to produce similar, authoritative guidance on assessing needs for other types of infrastructure. (Paragraph 117)

The Government accepts the thrust of this recommendation. The guidance published by the Department on carrying out Strategic Housing Market Assessment guidance will remain in place once the Framework is published. The guidance sets out a methodology which enables local authorities to work in partnership across housing market areas to develop a robust shared evidence base on housing issues.

We are committed to reviewing the guidance on strategic housing market assessments as part of our wider review of guidance. The consultation on the draft Framework asked for views on what any separate guidance should cover, and who is best placed to provide it. The Department is considering the responses to these questions in deciding a way forward.

Note the government did not answer, and has not answer and cannot ever answer the issue of what happens when there is stalemate under the duty to cooperate.  Some additional principal or mechanism is necessary.

Note however the government is only partially accepts recommendation on brownfield first.

CLG Select Committee recommendation 29: We welcome the Government’s openness to reinstating the familiar and well understood term ‘brownfield’ in the NPPF, whilst recognising that more sophistication is needed in its definition to avoid unintended consequences. There is a danger, nevertheless, that the removal of the brownfield target and the ‘brownfield first’ policy—in conjunction with the introduction of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and changes to requirements for allocating land for housing—will result over time in less importance being attached to the use of previously-developed land first where possible. This principle should be strongly stated in the NPPF, and reiterated by requiring local authorities to set their own targets for the use of brownfield land. This would allow for adaptation to particular circumstances and would in addition be a useful mechanism for local accountability. (Paragraph 143)

The Government accepts this recommendation in part. We have amended the Framework to clarify that planning policies and decisions should encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has previously been developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. We do not believe a national target is appropriate, as it cannot capture the range of local possibilities for the use of brownfield land. However, it is open to local planning authorities to consider setting a locally appropriate target for the re-use of brownfield land.

And a critical clarification follows

Where local planning authorities prioritise the re-use of brownfield land they will be able to reflect this in their five year supply of sites for new housing.

The government rightly says:

The Government does not accept that it would be justifiable, or indeed lawful, to seek to preclude all out of town retail development. Planning law establishes that development proposals should be judged on their individual merits.

On the suggestion of a second consultation.

The Government does not accept this recommendation. We have undertaken a full and detailed consultation on its proposals for the new national planning policy. The revisions the Government has made to the 19draft Framework reflect the comments and suggestions made during the consultation which were comprehensive and detailed.

The Government has engaged closely with Parliament in the preparation of the Framework. In addition to the two Select Committee inquiries, there were focussed debates held in both Houses and many comments were made in the debates during the proceedings on the Localism Bill. The Government strongly believes that Parliament and its Select Committees, having contributed to the development of the Framework, should supervise its implementation with debates in both Houses during the new session.

This is new debates on implmentation after the State opening of Parliament.

When Digging a Hole pays off Debt – Top Economists Prove Osborn’s Schoolboy Economics are Wrong

There was a delightful comment on my earlier blog about how events had proved Keynes and Minsky right from Jerry Hyman.

So you conclude that Keynes/Minsky have been “proven” right, the answer to the debt problem is more debt, and we can solve everything by following the ‘principle’ of “when you find yourself in a hole, keep digging”.

You have a well-respected, highly informative planning blog, please don’t prejudice that by encouraging the sort of financial illiteracy that has wrecked our country.

Oooh I had to rise to that.  I welcome the flattery on planning but the economics posts on here have just as much thought and background, indeed we are undergoing something of a revolution in economic ideas at this time.

I responded

You make exactly the same fallacy of composition – if your view was right how come the huge loans made by the Ombama administration to General Motors etc..have now been paid off in full, saving 100,000s of jobs, when 3 years ago they faced a debt mountain, the reason 1) the money went to investment 2) stimulus cushioned employment losses and deleveraging?

The earth from the digging goes somewhere, and that somewhere is aggregate demand which creates employment. If you dig to create an unshored hole to fund public sector wages and consumer spending it hole will collapse on you. But if you use it to build the foundations of private sector investment, like Obama has, it wont. Keynesian Economics in America is creating rapid growth, Austrian Economics in London slips us back into recession, fact.

This is why Osbourn’s schoolboy hole analogy, after all he failed economics at Oxford, is simplistic and plane wrong (even Conservative MPs are saying his economics has failed look at the papers today), as well as dis-proven by sophisticated and empirically verified economic forecasting by Professor Steve Keen, Professor Steven Kinsella etc. It was the failure to listen to the ideas of this school, who after all was the only one to predict the 2008 Crash, which got us in the mess we are in.

But the best response is from research from two of the worlds top economists presented at the Brookings Institute last week by two of the top Keynesian Economists, Brad De Long and Larry Summers.

Gavyn Davies has an excellent coverage of it at the FT

Rapid correction undoubtedly damages near term economic growth, but is intended to reduce the risk of a sovereign debt crisis coming suddenly out of the blue. Slow correction does the opposite. There is no theoretically “correct” policy on this. The result depends on how the near term loss of output should be weighed against the risk and consequences of a fiscal crisis, which is an empirical matter. (See this earlier blog: Assessing the risk of a financial crisis, which attempts to measure the risk of fiscal crisis.)

It is possible for reasonable economists to disagree about this, and for the “right” policy to be different in different countries. However, occasionally a piece of research comes along which changes the “dial” on the debate, and I believe that applies to the important Brookings Paper published last week by Brad DeLong and Larry Summers. This paper, which is well summarised here and here, essentially implies that the trade-off between near-term GDP growth and the probability of fiscal crisis can be irrelevant, because temporary fiscal expansions, at a time when interest rates are at the zero bound, are eventually self-financing.

The intuition behind this result is reasonably straightforward. It depends first on a belief that the “multiplier”, which measures the relationship between a fiscal injection and the resulting rise in GDP, is unusually high at present, so that fiscal easing would have a large beneficial effect of GDP in the near term. And it also depends on a belief that the current recession will have permanent effects on the long run future path for output in the economy. This results in a “hysteresis” coefficient, which is defined as the relationship between a near term shortfall of GDP relative to trend, and the permanent loss in trend GDP which this causes.

If either the multiplier or the hysteresis coefficient is equal to zero, then there is no possibility that temporary fiscal expansions will be self-financing, and the DeLong/Summers result becomes irrelevant. However, if both of the coefficients are positive, then it is possible that fiscal expansion can be self-financing in the long term, and that fiscal contraction can actually make public debt ratios worse.

Basically, a fiscal expansion today raises GDP today; higher GDP today permanently raises the path for GDP; and a permanently higher path for GDP results in permanently higher tax receipts. Eventually, these higher tax receipts might fully finance the original cost of today’s budgetary injection.

All of this has been in the public debate for quite a while (see Paul Krugman for example), but the important additional contribution of DeLong and Summers is that we can now quantify the parameters involved. Their methodology, which was apparently unchallenged at the Brookings meeting last week, enables us to plug in estimates for the multiplier and the hysteresis coefficient, and then calculate whether a fiscal injection will be self- financing.

The authors, for example, suggest a case in which the multiplier is 1, and the hysteresis parameter is 0.05. Their equation then suggests that a temporary fiscal expansion will be self-financing unless the real yield on treasuries exceeds the long-term growth of GDP by more than 2.5 per cent per annum, which has hardly ever happened in recent US history.

Gavyn Davies perceptively says this is true to the extent that the bond markets believe it is true, but if they can be persuaded that future debt repayment capacity can actually be increased by more ‘hole digging’ then the theory becomes self fulfilling.  The bond markets like any other are creatures of fashion and now we have a new spring collection – George Osbourne is wrong – we have a clear choice, austerity or prosperity.  Jerry Hyman, where is the ‘illitereracy’ in this approach.

‘Get orrrf my planning application’ Grumpy Farmers and Landowners respond peevishly to #NPPF

Sometimes a group is so unswerving and demanding of ‘privileges’ that it is its own worst enemy.  I am reminded of the French ‘ultra royalists’ who in the aftermath of the restoration of the Monarchy after Napoleon would not give an inch on any social concession of the revolution, promoted their own poor candidate for King |(who signed his own fate) and living a life of total excess.  Once a wedding was conducted with such huge excess that the hungry Paris mob burned down the church.

Our own landowners arent quite as stupid, after all the English landowning classes survived because of their flexibility; however inflexibility and stupidity seem to be growing.  The attitude still is – we should be able to put up an ugly shed where we like when we like.

Today the public has great expectations of the English Countryside.  It is treated as a giant collective back garden.  We don’t just expect it to grow food, it must be humanely produced and tasty, and preferably either organic or in the ‘bargain’ range. We turn our noses up to fields of oil seed rape and megadairies, but smile at biodiverse verges and fluffy lambs hugged by children.

Of course our expectation are very high, perhaps too high.  We dont often connect our cheap food requires places to grow it, and our managed hedges and fields require an income stream to keep this wholly man made landscape as beautiful as it is.

However this should be an opportunity for farmers to demonstrate their worth as countryside custodians and not make enemies.

But boy do the CLA and NFU like making enemies. Although many of their suggested changes to the NPPF were sensible and not taken up,   they never seem to miss an opportunity recommend regulatory changes which conjure images of gassed badgers, ramblers entwined in barbed wire or falling off too narrow coastal paths, bats and newts banished and giant slurry pits stinking out the nearest village.

Take their responses to the NPPF:

The CLA has criticised the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for failing to get heritage policy right.

The Association said that while the NPPF is a step forward in terms of relaxing the planning system, its chapter on heritage is a disappointment which threatens our nation’s heritage.

CLA President Harry Cotterell said: “CLA members manage more than a quarter of all heritage in England.  If heritage is to be looked after effectively for future generations, good heritage policy is vital. Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5) was a big improvement on what preceded it but there were important heritage holes which the NPPF has failed to deal with.

“The NPPF does not recognise the need for heritage to be changed in a sympathetic way so that it is maintained and kept relevant.  Waiting until a building is decaying before change can be considered is not heritage protection, it is heritage death by red tape.”

Whilst the NFU

“The section on protecting the natural environment reinforces the importance of taking appropriate regard to different designations is welcome. But farmers will be surprised that the NPPF provides planning status for Nature Improvement Areas and introduces the concept of ‘stepping stones’ and ‘wildlife corridors’ as part of the countryside hierarchy

What CLA was objecting to was the restriction in PPS5, now in the NPPF that owners of historic buildings be allowed to demolish and later buildings provided there was not ‘overwhelming harm to significance’ of heritage assets rather than the ‘low bar’ as they put it of ‘significant harm’.  Whilst the NFU seems to be living in an ecosystem services, Natural Environment White Paper free world.  Alienating the whole of the heritage and green lobbies, not a good way of making friends.

Indeed both organisations seem to rest in the last century in terms of their PR operations.  They can no longer survive today on an expectation of special treatment.  Like it or not the huntin, shootin, fishin, farmin lobby though large and noisy is largely a spent and defeated force by the environmentalist/animal welfare lobby (in the battle of public opinion if not public policy).  They need to recast and reform their approach in that light, and start making friends.  They need to be more more Hugh Fernleigh Wittingstall/Jimmy Doherty and much less old school like Harry Cotterell.

Indeed I would say that to stay relevant they need to abolish themselves, merge and relaunch themselves as a new operation, as many NGOs have done.  Perhaps Farmvoice (with a smily pig logo) – with the strapline ‘stewards of the countryside‘, with extra stakeholders on the board and media friendly spokepeople and campaigns.

Responses are welcomed.

Portas-Plus – what the government has accepted – and rejected – from the #PortasReview

The Government has published its reponse to the Portas Review.  Press release here, response here.

Grant Shapps said:

“Today, I’m accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas’s review – but I’m also going that one step further, offering a ‘Portas-Plus’ deal, with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again.

“Mary Portas’s review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With Internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.

“Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future.”

In what he referred to as a ‘Portas-Plus’ response new funding measures include:

  • A multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund – kick started by £10 million of taxpayers money focussed on bringing empty shops back into use – which, if supplemented by both councils and landlords, could see £30 million going to support new business start-ups whilst bringing empty High Street properties back into use;
  • A £1 million Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year’s time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets;
  • A National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres;
  • A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help Town Centres access loans for their set-up costs; and
  • Launching a further round of Portas Pilots, to trial some of Mary’s recommendations and come up with new ideas to breathe life into underused high streets. This is in response to the massive interest from hundreds of locations across the country, sparked by the competition for the first wave of 12 pilots launched last month.

Responding to the first recommendation in the review, Mr Shapps said he wanted to see hundreds of Town Teams – made up of key players in the local area including the council, local landlords, business owners and local MPs – being formed and mobilised across the country to drive forward the necessary change.

He encouraged these Town Teams to consider:

  • How their high streets can become the “beating heart of the community”, offering more than just retail with entertainment venues and leisure facilities, as well as housing and local public services;
  • How they can work with councils to use the forthcoming new powers to offer local business rate discounts, and to ensure businesses are aware of the option to spread the payment of the retail price index increase in business rates bills over three years, giving them the flexibility to manage their bills and help their cash- flow. This is in addition to Small Business Rate Relief, which in England has been doubled for two and a half years, from 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2013;
  • How they could stimulate a vibrant evening economy by encouraging local shops to open later, offering a service to people as they come home from work, instead of people resorting to online shopping; and
  • How they could make more imaginative and exciting use of public spaces and remove street clutter to make town centres more pleasant for visitors.

In responding to other recommendations he proposed:

  • Help councils revoke unnecessary and archaic byelaws through a new streamlined process – enabling  outdated rules hindering efforts to get new markets and businesses up and running to be swiftly scrapped;
  • Reform current planning rules to allow the conversion of space above shops to two flats, rather than the current limit of one; and
  • Consult on abolishing centrally-set minimum parking charges, to give councils the flexibility to levy lower parking penalty notices if they choose. The Government will also take steps to ensure greater transparency on parking charges to introduce greater competition between town centres.

The response itself is strong on issues of design and accessibility – clearly Grant Schapps gets it here:

In his forward:

Redesigning the High Street
In re-imagining their town centres, communities should look to see how a redesign and more creative shared use of public spaces could reinvigorate their area and encourage many more people to visit. Accessibility is key: a less polluted, cleaner high street, with greener local transport and better
access for cycling and walking to help improve air quality and reduce congestion, encouraging local shoppers back to the high street.
For example, Exhibition Road in South Kensington has been completely redesigned to remove unnecessary signs and barriers, as well as the narrow and congested pavements. This action has made it easier to navigate for both pedestrians and drivers. And in Brentwood, food markets and arts events have been drawing crowds who otherwise would not have visited.
We have written to councils encouraging them to rethink the numbers of signs, advertising hoardings and railings that all too often clutter our streets making them unsightly and confusing for the public. But our response to Mary’s Review shows how Town Teams could also be the driving force for making this a reality, and we would encourage them to look closely at shared space as a way of bringing life back to their public spaces.

The report goes on:

Between shops’ closing times and the pubs opening, a no-go zone can develop, allowing anti-social behaviour to
take over, keeping people away and causing the high street to go into a spiral of decline. Town Teams will be free to select the issues relevant to their high street but we would encourage them to consider how to tackle this problem,
as well as the health and wellbeing of local residents and visitors, by, for example, allowing shops to open later, or hosting entertainment and events to encourage more people to visit.

In terms of recommendation only partially accepted or rejected:

Recommendation 8

Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of the Retail
Price Index with a view to changing the calculation to Consumer Price Index.

Response

Subject to European rules on state aid. We are committed to review the use of the Retail Price Index for business rates once our fiscal consolidation plans have been implemented and the duty  increases inherited from the previous Government have come to an end

Recommendation

12. Address the restrictive aspects of the ‘Use Class’ system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street.
13. Put betting shops into a separate ‘use class’ of their own. Mary’s Review recognises that, through the Use Classes Order, there is already an effective national deregulatory tool which allows changes between
uses that have similar land use impacts without having to apply for planning permission.

Response

Local authorities can go further and will want to ensure the local development plan sets out a robust strategy for managing local needs and improving their high streets. Local planning authorities and communities can develop Local Development Orders to deregulate particular uses in a defined area, making it easier to start a new business. Additionally, Neighbourhood Development Orders will enable communities to require local authorities to introduce proposals for greater permitted development for change of use.
The planning system also provides a tool (Article 4 directions), to help local authorities and communities control certain uses, such as betting shops, by removing permitted development rights, and requiring a planning application to be made. Article 4 directions no longer need to be approved by the Secretary of State, making them more responsive to the needs of the local community.
The Government is committed to deregulation and we have undertaken a wider review of how change of use is handled in the planning system. We worked with external partners and published an issues paper during
2011, which invited views and evidence from a range of organisations and individuals. This review will also form part of our thinking. We intend to consult on the emerging findings shortly.
Currently, anyone can convert space above a shop into a flat without planning permission. To encourage more people to live in town centres and promote regeneration we propose to double this, allowing conversions to two flats without permission.

Recommendation

15. Introduce Secretary of State “exceptional sign off” for all new out-of-town developments and require all large new developments to have an “affordable shops” quota.

Response
As we have overhauled the planning system, our changes will help to address this concern as local plans will be in place that reflect community wishes, with less need for central intervention. When a planning application is called in it takes responsibility for decision making away from the local planning authority, which is best placed to understand local needs, adds costs and delays to the process, and is contrary to our ethos of devolving power to the local level. We will continue to use the call-in power sparingly.
The Government supports affordability but we are concerned that to require all large new developments to have an “affordable shops” quota could increase the adverse impact of that development on town centres.

Recommendation

22. Empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new ‘Empty Shop Management Orders’

Response
Local authorities already have significant powers and we are not convinced there is a demand for Empty Shop Management Orders. We will evaluate the success of the High Street Innovation Fund and consider what more is needed

Spot the reason why the neighbourhood plan funding extension only runs for four months, the rest of the financial year has been ringfenced off to provide the £1million pounds ‘extra’ ‘Portasplus’ funding to pay for high street neighbourhood plan support.

Where is the #NPPF Consultation Summary Report?

There are three missing documents which should have been published with the NPPF but have not.

1.  The Summary of Consultation Responses

The consultation report is always published on the same day as the policy itself right back to the days of PPS1.

2.  The Final Impact Statement

The draft contains lots of assumptions about greenfield land loss, which were quickly discredited, so what are the assumptions now?

3. The Government Response to the DCLG Select Committee Report

The government has published a press release that it has issued a response, but the select committee itself has not published it.

Managing the news agenda  by not publishing bad news until after the Easter Recess if at all?  After all the consultation report will likely show the most overwhelmingly negative response of any recent government consultation, even the NHS reforms.  To achieve a result in parliament and the press the DCLG would not want these coming out the same day would they?

 

Landscape Institute (LI) responds to the #NPPF

The last 48 hours have seen many people poring over the new National Planning Policy Framework, just published, to see whether the government has listened to the issues raised in the consultation period.  What follows is a first impression from comparing the two documents.  Is the new one any better?

 

According to the LI’s Chief Executive, Alastair McCapra, yes, it is.  He said: “From the Institute’s point of view the changes made to the final version represent a major shift in the potential impact of the NPPF.”

 

Described in some quarters as a ‘builder’s charter’, the draft NPPF gave overriding priority to economic development.  The final version offers a much better description of what sustainable development is (para 9); it also sets out the importance of maintaining a thoughtful balance between economic, social and environmental considerations when making planning decisions (para 152); and it directs those involved in planmaking not to consider economic, social and environmental consideration in isolation from each other (para 8).  The need to support economic growth is still emphasised (para 19) but the context is more balanced.  Taken together, these changes go some was to addressing the main concerns the LI addressed to government when the draft was published last year.

 

Some Key Improvements:

  1. A strengthening of the importance of design in the built environment.  The draft talked about ‘good design’; the LI argued for ‘high quality design’ and this form of words has been adopted (para 17). The draft said that developments of ‘demonstrably poor design’ should be rejected.  As we suggested, this has been changed to just ‘poor design’ (para 64).
  2. There is a new emphasis (para 58) on the need to ‘establish a strong sense of place, using streetscapes and buildings to create attractive and comfortable places to live, work and visit’.
  3. There is a clearer emphasis on the importance of public space (para 57)
  4. The final NPPF has a strong and very welcome section on the environment and health (paras 69-78).  This section retains the wording from the draft, that ‘Access to high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and well-being of communities’ (para 73).
  5. Brownfield land:  we urged that the re-use of brownfield land be an explicit principle of the NPPF, while recognising that such land often has high biodiversity value.  This has been incorporated, though there are no longer specific targets for brownfield use. (para 111)
  6. Multifunctional land use: this is also included (para 17) though unfortunately not linked with green infrastructure.
  7. Green Belt protection is strengthened.
  8. There is a strong emphasis on the development of town centres
  9. Landscape strategy is required in the case of proposals for new or extended mineral extraction sites (this is contained in the Technical Guidance).  This is new and it is welcomed.

Some Partial Improvements

  1.  Green Infrastructure: We argued for a much greater emphasis on green infrastructure in the NPPF.  The final version strengthens the references to GI and include a good definition of it in the appendix, which is very helpful.  Nevertheless the term is used in a somewhat narrow sense in the document, and its full multifunctional benefits are not alluded to clearly. Moreover there is no mention of green infrastructure as a strategic priority of high importance in the context of the duty to co-operate.
  2. European Landscape Convention: We recommended that there should be more explicit links with environmental policy and the ELC.  The final version is considerably better aligned with them but does not make explicit reference to them.
  3. Environmental Regulation: Paragraph 121 is a bit of a mystery since it requires that remediated land should not, at a minimum, be capable of being determined as contaminated under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  Regulations under Part 2A of this Act were among the environmental regulations which the government proposed to cut back significantly just a week ago, so it is not clear what the consequences of this will be.

 

Still Missing

  1. Definitions and Guidance: Much of the NPPF remains open to interpretation – indeed some have already said it has changed from a ‘builder’s charter ‘to a ‘lawyer’s charter’.  That may or may not turn out to be true.  The LI made a number of recommendations about the need for more detail in the NPPF itself, but these have largely been ignored because the government has stuck firmly to its commitment to move to a principles-based system and to avoid detailed prescription.
  2. Landscape Character Assessment: The role of landscape character assessment is not very clear in the context of the NPPF.  It is mentioned explicitly only in the context of heritage (para10).  LCA remains a very useful tool to inform planmaking but it is unfortunate that there is not more explicit acknowledgement of this in the document.

Overall the government has maintained its original purpose to move to a radically simplified principles-based planning system for England.  Almost everything which was in the original draft is still in the final version.  However the government has plainly listened to a wide range of views and made a number of amendments.  Overall the final version is much more coherent and legible than the draft.

-ENDS-

 

For further information please contact Sarah Harrison on 07768 372892 or sarah@sarahharrisonpr.com

Things that make Simon Marsh Really Happy about final #NPPF

RSPB

Here are some extracts that make me really pleased: all things that planners or the planning system have to do, which have been added in the published version:

  • ‘Pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people’s quality of life, including … moving from a net loss of biodiversity to achieving net gains for nature
  • ‘recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside’
  • ‘recognising the wider benefits of ecosystem services’
  • ‘contributing to the Government’s commitment to halt the overall decline in biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks’
  • ‘encourage the effective use of land that has been previously-developed (brownfieldland), provided that it is not of high environmental value’
  • ‘identify and map … wildlife corridors and stepping stones that connect them’
  • ‘where Nature Improvement Areas are identified in Local Plans, consider specifying the types of development that may be appropriate in these areas.’

And here are some good things which were in the draft thanks to our influence, and are still there in the published version:

  • ‘… encourage multiple benefits from the use of land in urban and rural areas, recognising that some open land can perform many functions (such as for wildlife, recreation, flood risk
    mitigation, carbon storage, or food production)’
  • ‘identify and map … areas identified by local partnerships for habitat restoration orcreation’
  • ‘local planning authorities should … not identify new sites or extensions to existing sites for peat extraction’
  • ‘… ensure … high quality restoration and aftercare of minerals sites takes place, including for agriculture …
    geodiversity, biodiversitynative woodland, the historic environment and recreation.’