DCLG clarifies treatment of windfalls and garden windfalls in #NPPF

I need to be cautious about what I say on this subject as there have been private communications, some furious, that will continue under Chatham House conditions about the interpretation of certain key passages in the NPPF that were holding up a lot of authorities from moving forward; including on such fundamental issues as demonstrating housing supply and determining live applications.

From an email today from a head of policy in the East of England regarding a hotline question originally unanswered (and causing some frustration) about whether in years 6-15 you could include windfall projections against your trajectory, and whether the omission of a garden exemption in the glossary definition of windfalls was significant.  My answer on a close reading of paras 47-48 and the glossary was on balance yes, thought it did make a distinction between ‘5 year supply’ and ‘target’ – composed of the three familiar 5 year tranches.   I guessed that the glossary omission was an error and should be included in an errata – it didnt make sense to me.

DCLG has just called me back, to try and answer my queries, and in essence provided the following info:

We can include an element of windfall for years 6-15. Key is to demonstrate a good provision of allocated sites. But can include an element of windfall based on local evidence.

The Glossary definition is the key one. Windfall can be sometimes green or brownfield. Evidence will be key. However, para 48 provides a further constraint to the definition of windfall for the 5 year supply only (e.g. definitely can’t include residential garden land). For years 6-15 the definition of windfall can be wider.

The reference to ‘broad areas’ in para 47 is part of our justification for including windfall in years 6+. E.g. a windfall rate could be used for a broad area such as a whole village. I mentioned the issue of how to deal with windfall estimates for our countryside areas, e.g. AH, rural worker dwellings etc, which are a regular and policy-based source of supply – and got the impression that the urban biased CLG had indeed not thought of this scenario. The advisor indicated that our local evidence/circumstances were key, and based on my description it appeared reasonable to include a ‘countryside’ windfall rate for the whole district.

DCLG will be putting some clarification on their website soon, regarding this and other issues raised on the hotline.

Very good news on the FAQ issue.  The garden issue is interesting and surprising.  The official view is of course a literal reading of the NPPF, and I understand that the recent Tesco supreme court decision has limited the ability to read into policy assumptions about what sentences and meant to say.

I cant help feeling though that it is very confusing, has no clear policy justification, and would have been simpler on the KISS principle to have dealt with the issue in an errata as other UK nations do.  It makes forecasting difficult, you now have to constantly recalculate the allowed and not allowed garden windfall supply throughout a plan period, it also is in my favourite term ‘stock flow inconsistent’ as at the end of the plan period if you build to 5 year supply the housing trajectory will no longer intersect the axis at zero (excluding any buffer), I thought about demonstrating this though a spreadsheet mathematical model but I think you can all get the problem, the moment you pass year 1 of the plan you  no longer divide by 10 none first five years etc.  but by 9,8 etc and over time the discrepancies build up, at year 7 you have three years at the end of the plan period where you can count gardens, and 7 years behind and 5 ahead where you cant!   Above all though it fails to pass the Councillor Sloe test – can you explain in simple terms why a passage of policy is worded why it is – what planning justification it serves – anyone?

So I hope DCLG reconsider on this issue – planning doesn’t have to be complicated unless we make it so.


My Adopted Local Plan Database Made Public #NPPF

Sadly and rather incredibly the DCLG no longer keeps a database of plan progress.  Which of course means it can have no idea of the implementation of or impact of the NPPF geographically.

I keep getting requests all the time for my own database so to save time and public  im publishing it below as a Google Spreadsheet, which of course you can download as Excel etc.   I also hope to get any feedback if there are inaccuracies.Please email or twitter me or comment below.

The data was originally obtained by Andy Boddington from A PINS database, and he did a lot of work on it.  I obtained it from him and did several days work correcting and updating it as a small part of a wider research project for CPRE.  In particular I added a few missing authorities and made sure it was organised by local planning authority for plan making purposes, so it includes a number of unfamiliar names for joint planning authorities such as South Lincolnshire and Greater Norwich, as well as all national parks.

A few notes:

As said it is by local planning authority for plan making purposes, so includes joint plans (e.g Greater Norwich) and National Parks

The focus is on top level plans – the plans formally known as core strategies – so simply having one of these should not be taken as implying that these authorities have a 5 year supply of deliverable and developable land, especially when allocations DPDs have not been prepared or these are out of date. especially given the redefinition of windfalls etc. in the NPPF.

By LPA 43.5% have adopted plans or examined and found sound and where adoption is imminent at NPPF publication date.

However because of local government reorganisation some areas have partial coverage of adopted plans – e.g. Northumberland.  To account for this ive calculated by area – 42% of England by area has adopted  plans or or examined and found sound and where adoption is imminent.  Areas where the South Downs now partially covers an adopted plan area also have % coverage.

I want to add phone contacts and webpages details when I have time.  I also want to add the ONS codes for each authority – however because joint plan areas have no codes I have to use my own unique identifier.  I want to raise this issue with the ONS because I dont like a home-brewed approach to classification.

There are a few unusual and difficult to classify cases – such as Greater Nottingham.  However as they havent set up a joint planning authority they are listed separately.

Castlepoint were at examination until their inspector questioned why they were allocating land on Canvey Island (where they vote differently to the majority party) where residents could drown in a catastrophic flood if the flood walls were breached rather than higher (Green Belt) land – the plan was withdrawn.  This might be unfair on Castlepoint but they were unfair to criticise  (including directly to ministers) their inspectors concern about the value of human life so frankly I don’t give a damn.

The data is held in an sql table in an ArcGIS database.  For every national planning constraint I have divided the UK into 1ha grid square all snapped to each other.  This enables me to automatically calculate statistics for each and every LPA, or for any arbitrary geometry such as wards, in one go for the whole of the country.  To get the data out I used filemaker to create some look up tables so the data was readable outside Arcgis and then into Excel, from there I could import directly into Google docs and publish to WordPress.

As the focus of the research was on the adopted this is more accurate than those LPAS not adopted or not yet submitted.  I also found the reported anticipated dates of authorities somewhat fantastical.  With some saying it will take them anything up to 4 years to adopt and others publishing dates for the next stage from outdated LDSs that passed six months ago.  There was so many problems with this field I decided it was best not to publish it at all until all LDSs have been reviewed where necessary in the light of the NPPF.

What I would really like to do would be to publish this as a live web service – so import/export would be a thing of the past for applications that support this.  That would require an ontology however the previous planning portal work on this is years out of date – any interest in developing a standard ontology for development plans anyone?

But as ever in the last couple of years why should we have to spend time and effort on national statistics – is this Big Society in action?

Garden Cities of Today – Kate Henderson in Guardian #NPPF

Guardian Blogs

A little under a year ago I wrote a blog highlighting what we could learnfrom the ideals of garden cities. Since then the idea has gained momentum — both politically, and across the housing sector – and theTown and Country Planning Association is no longer alone in recognising the benefits of bringing forward new communities….

In September 2011 housing minister Grant Shapps, who also happens to be member of parliament for the world famous Welwyn Garden City,stated that “the scale of housing need that we now face means that we need imaginative proposals to come forward which get us back to Howard’s original ideas”…

Today, we still face the primary challenges confronted by early garden city pioneers: meeting our housing shortage, generating jobs and creating beautiful, inclusive places. However, we also have the new challenges of globalised markets and the urgent need to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

By November, locally-planned large scale development had appeared as a rung on the government’s strategy for housing. Over the past few weeks we have seen the principle of garden cities in the prime minister’s speech on infrastructure and the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework….

Creating garden cities can provide the opportunity and the economies of scale to truly fulfil the ambitions of sustainable development by delivering multiple benefits including social housing, zero carbon design, sustainable transport and local food sourcing. New communities also offer a powerful opportunity to introduce governance structures that put people at the heart of new communities and hand over ownership of community assets.

We are working with local councils, planners, investors and developers to explore the types of partnerships and model approaches for creating new garden cities and suburbs through the emerging policies. Our experts are exploring how we can reconnect people and planning, giving communities a stronger say and developers a greater certainty.

Christine Whitehead on #NPPF ‘The devil lies not so much in the detail but in the lack thereof’


GoodPeice.  The first part does not acknowledge how similar the key principles of the NPPF, such as plan led meeting needs etc.  are to those in past PPS/PPGs = so not a game changer – unless people try to press through the coorts arguments on nuance or interpretation that it is.  Later in the article she gets into her stride.

Overall the NPPF follows closely on past planning regimes including word for word cut and paste from earlier documents going back to the 1947 Act. Arguably the only people who could object to the principles are the NIMBYS and BANANAS, i.e. those who argue Not In My Back Yard or Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. Most people will not put themselves in that category – but equally most will not vote for development that has costs to those nearby, even if it is beneficial to the community as a whole. It is this conundrum that has been handed to local planning authorities to address – and the incentives that they have available in terms of the New Homes Bonus and the new local government finance regime are relatively small – certainly not enough easily to compensate the losers.

The devil lies not so much in the detail but in the lack thereof. Some 44 documents that supported the existing planning system have been replaced or revoked – and with them goes much of the case law which has in the past supported the general statements that make up the national planning policy. Doing away with a thousand pages of detailed guidance sounds like a simplification – but it has not been replaced by a substantive framework that spells out how the objectives are to be achieved. Rather it leaves the stakeholders to work it out for themselves. Definitions – of the core concept of sustainable development, or indeed of many of the other terms in the extensive glossary – are not clear enough to stop those who dislike the outcomes appealing against planning decisions. Many ambiguities have already been pointed out and more will be discovered as the system starts to bed down.Thus, even if the pro development agenda does ultimately become embedded into the system over a period of time, in the shorter term – likely to run for at least a decade – there are likely to be delays and costs associated with the new regime. Land use planning is a process that is meant to address the longer term and the benefits to future generations so these costs may be worth paying. The fact that building is still in the doldrums and the economic environment is not yet encouraging investment will at least give planners and developers time to take the core changes on board. But for the next few years, I fear the framework will build in further delay rather than stimulate development.

Indeed there were exactly the concerns of the three distinguished planning lawyers on Radio4 from the programme posted earlier.  Of course any planning change causes uncertainty and risks – the issue is whether the fog is so great it will outweigh any benefits.  So far the signs are not good.

And USA’s Densest Metropolitan Area is LA! – The concept of Dense Sprawl #urbanplanning

This week some US Census results were published and as ever people are surprised that the densest city areas are not New York and East Coast cities but Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The highest-density urban areas with populations greater than 1 million included, in order:

1. Los Angeles (6,999 per square mile)
2. San Francisco (6,266)
3. San Jose (5.820)
4. New York (5,319)
5. Las Vegas (4,525)

But surely LA is car orientated sprawl!, but in another interesting fact the setreo type of dreadful public transport use is false, as Freakenomics points out.

compared with the majority of U.S. cities, Los Angeles is not a transit wasteland. The region is second in the nation in transit patronage, behind only New York. Even on a market share basis (passenger transit miles traveled as a share of all miles traveled), Los Angeles’s ridership rate is relatively high: 11th among the 50 largest urban areas.

Also Las Angeles has the lowest commute to work times of of mega metropolitan area in the world.  Whys is that?  You might hypothesise as I first did that its sheer volume of freeways was such given that it blew past the point at which building roads induces traffic because there were no longer potential induced households to switch.  I was wrong again Freakenomics:

taking into account the area’s vast size, the network is one of the most underdeveloped in the U.S. According to the Federal Highway Administration, of the 36 largest metro areas, Los Angeles ranks dead last in terms of freeway lane miles per resident. (Chicago is second to last, and New York is near the bottom as well. The most freeway-heavy big city by this measure is Kansas City.)

So clearly LA is a very different beast to the likes of Houston, Kansas City or Pheonix of low density, high highway sprawl but what?

Eric Eidlin in an Excellent Article ‘What Density Doesn’t Tell us about Sprawl’ in Access #37 puts his finger on it.  I would recommend reading the whole article but here are some highlights.

These facts present a bit of a mystery. If one were to measure sprawl by measuring a region’s average level of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), Los Angeles would certainly qualify as sprawling. But if we measure sprawl by population density, LA would not sprawl at all. In fact, it would be the least sprawling urbanized area in the country. How can Los Angeles be so dense and yet also exhibit so many characteristics associated with sprawl, including high levels of car travel (both in per capita and absolute terms) and low rates of walking, bicycling and transit ridership?

Part of the answer lies in the vagaries of Census geography. Sprawl is a regional attribute, so when observers point out that LA is denser than New York, they are not talking about the cities of Los Angeles and New York. Rather they are talking about the urbanized area, which is essentially the combined area of the cities and their suburbs. The other part of the answer is that density by itself—the simple ratio of population to square mile—is not a very useful way to measure sprawl. What matters is the distribution of density, or how evenly or unevenly an area’s population is spread out across its geographic area. If we look at the density distribution in Los Angeles, we notice that its suburbs are much denser than those of other large U.S. cities, such as New York, San Francisco or Chicago. These high-density suburbs compensate for the comparatively low density of LA’s urban core, and, in so doing, increase the average density of the area as a whole. In other words, Los Angeles has both a relatively high density and a relatively even distribution of density throughout its urbanized area.

The LA region’s combination of high, evenly distributed density puts it in an unfortunate position: it suffers from many of the problems that accompany high population density, including extreme traffic congestion and poor air quality; but lacks many of the benefits that typically accompany more traditional versions of dense urban areas, including fast and effective public transit and a core with vibrant street life. Los Angeles has, to borrow a term coined by urbanist William Fulton, “dense sprawl.” (Or, to be less charitable, it has “dysfunctional density.”) It is too dense to function like classic suburbia, but also has few areas dense enough to be a “city” in the manner of central city New York or San Francisco…

Los Angeles lacks a super-dense core like Manhattan. But it also lacks a very low-density suburban periphery. Suburban neighborhoods in the Los Angeles region are much denser than their counterparts in the Northeast and Midwest. Indeed, one might say that they are not classically suburban, in the sense that few of them offer large houses on large plots of land, uncongested roads, and easy access to open space.

Why do standard measures of density mislead? Two reasons: first, the standard measure relies too much on where the urbanized area’s formal boundary is drawn, and second, the measure is determined by total land area, even if some of the land is sparsely populated….So is there a better way to measure density? Below I discuss three alternative approaches that might be more helpful in understanding the development patterns of dispersed and polycentric urban regions like LA. One method measures unequal density in the distribution of population; the other two attempt to measure density as it is experienced by the average resident of a given urban area….

One approach is to measure the extent to which the population density varies across an urban area. Using a statistical tool called the Gini coefficient, we can get a sense of the degree of variation for different urban areas. The Gini coefficient is based on the Lorenz curve, a cumulative frequency curve that compares the distribution of a specific variable (in this case, population density) with a uniform distribution that represents perfect equality….

Another approach to measuring density, which was developed separately by both Gary Barnes and Chris Bradford, is to use “perceived” or “weighted” density. The purpose of perceived density is to capture the density of the place in which the average person lives. A good way of conceptualizing the difference between “standard density” and “perceived density” is that where standard density measures the average amount of land around each resident of a city, perceived density measures the average number of people around each resident of that city. Measuring perceived density involves four steps: 1. Divide the city into small geographic units such as census tracts. 2. Calculate the standard density of each of these census tracts. 3. Assign a weight to each census tract that is equal to its share of the total population of the city. 4. Average the weighted densities of all of the city’s census tracts. This produces a weighted or “perceived” density for the city….

Bradford pushed the concept of perceived density a step further by developing the density gradient index. The density gradient index, which is the ratio of perceived density to standard density, is an indication of the unevenness of population distribution—or, to use Bradford’s terminology—a measure of “clumpiness.”

Many urbanists admire places like Boston, New York and San Francisco, which give their residents a wide range of transportation options and have charming multimodal streets. Many urbanists admire Los Angeles as well, of course, but recognize that it is often a difficult place to walk, bike or use public transportation. However, planners who seek to emulate Boston or New York, or to avoid the less desirable elements of LA, will go astray if they simply focus on increasing density. The urban form of older metropolitan areas is one of great variance, not great density. The New York urbanized area offers its residents both a super-dense, vibrant core and a low-density suburbia. The places where land is used very intensively in the center often see it used much less intensively on the outskirts. While it is possible to have an area that contains nothing but extraordinarily high density, such places are unusual, and often islands (think Hong Kong or Singapore).

Acknowledging these land use patterns should make us question some conventional planning goals. We might say we want more density or less sprawl. We might even say that we simply want more places to look like San Francisco or New York. But what exactly are we trying to accomplish by doing this? Do we want super-dense urban centers, or very-low density suburbs, or both? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and standard measures of density will offer us little help in trying to answer them.

It is also important to realize that no measure of density, no matter how comprehensive, can capture every dimension of sprawl. Much of what we consider sprawl is determined less by the density of people or jobs, and more by how buildings and parking are arranged on the street, and whether streets are designed in a way that makes walking and biking safe and comfortable. Nevertheless, in the future planners and policymakers might find it useful to assess the perceived density of the places they are trying to improve. Policymaking is about people, after all, so perhaps we are better off examining density as people experience it.

Or as I would put it – how would you increase the perceived density in a neighbourhood in a way which does not increase car use?  This has block level urban design and strategic implications for smart growth.  Thought for the day.

Footnote:  The term perceived density sounds subjective – I prefer propinquity index

Further Reading

Gary Barnes. 2001. “Population and Employment Density and Travel Behavior in Large U.S. Cities.”
Minnesota Department of Transportation, September.

Chris Bradford. 2008. “Density Calculations for U.S. Urbanized Areas, Weighted By Census Tract.
Austin Contrarion blog post. March 24.Available: http://austinzoning.typepad.com/austincontrarian/2008/03/weighted-densit.html.

Eric Eidlin. 2005. “The Worst of All Worlds: LosAngeles and the Emerging Reality of Dense Sprawl,” Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1902, pp. 1–9.

Paul Sorenson. 2009. “Moving Los Angeles,” Access, Vol. 35, Fall, pp. 16–24.

Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy. 1999. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence. Washington, DC: Island Press

The Regional City: Planning for the End of Sprawl Peter Calthorpe, William B. Fulton Island Press 2000


Radio 4 Unreliable Evidence – Does #NPPF strike the right balence?


Clive Anderson and guests discuss whether our planning law strikes the right balance between encouraging economic growth and the protection of the environment. The programme explores concerns that the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework tilts the playing field in favour of the developers.

Planning lawyer Nathalie Lieven QC argues that the new NPPF sweeps away detailed and useful planning guidelines in favour of the meaningless concept of a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The lack of clear details, she says, will create work for lawyers for many years.

And all the guests agree that, at the end of the day, if you want to stop a development, whether it’s a high-speed rail network, a airport runway or a new supermarket, identifying a threat to the habitat of great crested newts or badgers will be most effective.

Producer: Brian King

‘The Blinkered’ Way Economist’s Think about Planning – Need for a ‘Political Economy of Planning’ – Marsh #NPPF #urbanplanning

Alex Marsh on his blog pulls together a number of papers and Ideas we have mentioned on here.  Spuured by the new Niemietz IEA report Abundance of land, shortage of housing (which we commented on here) he says.

it would be fair to say that over the last few years the arguments over the role of planning as a barrier to development have been tempered a little. Economists have tried to set the effects of policy and the planning system more clearly in the context of the impact of history and geography on local spatial development. Equally importantly, even in the conventional housing economics literature there has been something of a move towards understand the causes of planning regimes. That is, in the Niemietz’ terms, when we focus upon planning as the problem we are focusing upon a symptom rather than the cause. If one were to be incautious one might even suggest that the literature is edging towards a political economy of planning….

If we want to develop a more rounded understanding of the problems of housing supply then we we have to get beyond an obsession with planning. That doesn’t mean that planning and planning reform isn’t part of the story, there is too much evidence that it is an issue for it to be ignored. But it means that a persistent and exclusive focus on planning provides an equally partial and inadequate understanding of what is happening.

One factor that [recent literature] don’t mention is the structure of the construction industry. To build a comprehensive understanding the problems of housing supply then the distinctive highly concentrated nature of the building industry needs to be integrated in to the story (as I previously noted here).  It is to these factors, not the deficiencies of the planning system, that we need to look for the explanation of the recent desperate performance on housing supply.

David Miles’ recent paper for the Bank of England is highly relevant to this discussion. He argues that explanations for the dysfunction in the UK housing market that focus upon planning are superficial because they don’t account for, among other things, the way in which the value of and demand for non-developed land changes with growth in income and population density. This suggests that even viewed from a strictly economic perspective, suitably specified, the relevant trade-offs can look rather different. He develops a simple model from which some of the stylised facts of the UK experience of relatively poor housing supply performance can be derived.

But, equally, this is a debate in which you rapidly run up against the boundaries between the economic worldview and other perspectives. What is it that is motivating people in their decisions over local spatial development? Is offering them the opportunity to pocket a few quid or save a few quid on their local tax bill sufficient to change their minds? In this respect it echoes the debate over whether Grant Shapps’ New Homes Bonus offers a sufficient incentive for communities to agree to development locally.

Glaeser and Ward draw the following conclusion in their recent paper** on local land use restrictions:

Regulations do appear to increase prices, but the impact of density on prices is generally quite modest. As a result, communities seem to have density levels that are far too low to be maximizing their land values. This suggests the possibility that current land use controls are suboptimally restrictive, and it leaves us with the puzzle of understanding why communities are not choosing to maximize land values.

To which the non-economist might reply: because when people make decisions about their neighbourhood, its environment and amenity they are focusing on their subjective assessment of quality of life not on maximising land values. As with other “puzzles” in economics – such as the puzzle of voluntary regulatory compliance – they are only puzzles when your worldview is constrained by a particular type of economic blinkers.

As I said earlier in the week

There is nothing more ingrained in the shires than avoiding all discussion of ‘opportunity costs and trade offs’.  There is no evidence at all that the use of incentives has made any difference because in the anti-development campaigners mind these trade offs and anti-opportunity costs don’t exist.

The challenge Marsh sets down of developing a political economy of planning should be taken up, after all there are glaring gaps in the new literature of ‘market urbanism’ as well as the more old fashioned ‘free-market’ of the likes of Policy Exchange/IEA & Heartland.

  • How for example can this ‘productionist’ literature (with its focus on the production of housing not struggles over the use of space) explain why planning systems are most developed and controls over land strictest in rich densely populated areas abutting undeveloped areas or undeveloped air above and within cities?
  • How does it explain the way urban planning decisions are made – even in purely economistic terms how does it account for the high weight given to space ‘consumption services’ which are currently free goods, such as fine views, in decision making?
  • How does it account for the difference in these assessments by people who have not yet moved into an area and those existing local taxpayers and voters that have, and which vote and control political institutions.   – are they missing something here such as the Homevoter Thesis?
  • How does it explain the huge gulf between pro and anti NPPF campaigners with them largely talking past each other because of different world views and priorities?  Clearly the antis views were more prevalent in the general public, but from a political economy perspective why was this?

Im going to start to try and set out some answers to these questions in a series of more serious and less knockabout pieces looking in a friendly but critical way at the rapidly emerging market urbanist literature.