Is the #NPPF an #omnishambles ?

During the consultation yes.

But things calmed down after the ‘mean what you like, when you like’ final version came out.

Now all new major changes have a period of uncertainty, and trouble might have been several months away in EiPs, appeals etc. as they thought there way through the veil of muddy wording.

But then announcements that simply make matters worse, such as today the helpline cant offer any help on urgent decisions – beyond parody.

The word of today is omnishambles, im not afraid to use it.

Malcolm Tucker should be down Bob (two jobs)  Kerslake’s neck (just as soon as he has had a word with Osborne and May)  as we speak

The Spanish Hair Trigger – Managing the Creditor Impact of a PIIGS/UK Debt Haircut

I really want to follow this up with a more detailed post with some numbers and modelling, but I am very busy on a pure theory paper, but it is important I think to set down the broad parameters of the issue.

People sometime wonder why the markets are getting scared about Spain, after all its sovereign debt to GDP ratio is not so bad and before 2007 was much better than Germany.  It has not been profligate.

The problem simply put is the sheer scale of bad debt on its banks books following a collapsed housing bubble, caused in large part by lax planning for new housebuilding.


Spanish banks’ bad loan ratio, which at 8.16% of the total €1.763 trillion in loans, or €143.8 billion, is the first time loans more than 3 months overdue were greater than 8% since October 1994. Indicatively bad debt levels were about 1% in the years prior to the collapse of the country’s property market. Furthermore, with the rapid deterioration in Spain in the past 2 months, expect this chart to leg up substantially in June when the series catches up to April real time data, most likely crossing double digit territory. But for now the fact that of the country’s roughly €1.4 trillion in GDP, over 10% in bank debt is “bad” and surging, should be a sufficiently loud wake up call.

So if the Spanish Government is forced to take these bad loans onto its balance sheet then its already precarious sovereign debt position goes to Greek like levels.  As we have explained on here before several times Spains sovereign debt dyanamics and GDP projections are unaffordable.  Without intervention it will default within a few months.

The risk then is banking contagion as explained in the previous post.  The €600m is not a ‘big bazooka’ but a peashooter.

The excellent Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph

With yields on Spanish government debt again above 6pc, and a couple of crucial bond auctions looming, matters are once more coming to a head. Crushed by repeated austerity programmes, the big southern European economies are sinking back into recession, raising new doubts about their ability to meet fiscal targets.

Discussion will therefore once again focus on the creation of a firewall big enough to provide for more, and even bigger, eurozone bailouts, including Spain and possibly Italy, too. This is proving both difficult to achieve, and misses the point, for it presupposes that the crisis is at heart just a confidence issue that can be solved simply by creating a backstop large enough to convince markets they cannot break the euro….

At Davos this year, the talk was of a bailout fund – eurozone and IMF combined – with potential firepower of $2 trillion or more. Only a firewall of this magnitude, it was said, would backstop Spain and Italy against further speculative attack. These hopes now looks like pie in the sky.

The true reason is that she can’t raise it. Member nations are understandably reluctant to cough up for a cause whose endgame is still so uncertain.

The US, knowing it could never get enhanced IMF support through Congress, has already said it won’t contribute any additional funding, while even the UK is beginning to get cold feet.

As things stand, Germany has a great deal more to lose from any substantive break-up of the euro than to gain. German lending to Spain alone is in the region of €1 trillion. Spanish devaluation could as much as half the value of these loans, never mind contingent claims and likely further losses resulting from contagion to other parts of the eurozone. There would also be the loss of export competitiveness to content with. Exporting to the periphery at a highly competitive exchange rate is a key part of the German success story….

It’s going to be a close run thing. Both sides are having to accept a degree of punishment neither bargained for when they signed up to monetary union – Germany to permanent transfers, and the South to levels of reform that test the boundaries of democratic acceptability to breaking point. Who blinks first?

With its belly aching over the size of firewalls, the IMF remains firmly stuck in the foothills of this debate. It dare not scale the peaks, for they remain strictly taboo. A Washington moment? I fear it’s just more wishful thinking. Like poverty, this is a crisis that seems destined to be always with us.

The PIGS debts will not be rapaid, neither I would say would the UK’s which if you do the numbers is even more leveraged.   They are unaffordable.  Unless Germany agrees to permanent transfer union, over decades, then we have to admit that these debts wont be paid.  If there is default then there is also no doubt we would have contagion of debts many times greater in scale than 2007.  Of all the countries affected Germany would be most affected of all, it now benefits from its EZ position and a combination of relative devaluation post EZ and a collapse in its housing bubble would be fatal to its banks.  Germany is therefore caught between a rock, transfer union. or a hard place, global financial collapse.

There is an alternative, raised by the likes of Micheal Hudson, Steve Keen and Dirk Bizemer at last weeks InetBerlin.

If the debts are too big to be paid then they must be forgiven, a solution which worked in Latin America, and the impact on creditors managed.

If is important to think about the key impacts on creditor banks.  The trouble of course is the macro theory issue on this pint is bleedingly new and unfinished – but you can hypothesise a sequence of events.

-Debts are forgiven, in large part, by one of several possible means

-Creditor Banks have on their balance sheets assets based on future payments of these loans which are in reality bad debt, if these are simply cancelled or defaulted Banks face an immediate cashflow crisis and likely bank run given their level of leveraging.

-To prevent a bank run governments will need to declare a bank holiday and reinflate banks by creation of inside money. This will like Iceland require short term capital controls to prevent currency arbitrage and capital flight.

-The only sure way to stop debt contagion is to grant this inside money to individuals in a equitable manner, such as granting money directly to deposit accounts and granting unlimited overnight credit  to banks – classic Bagehot.

-Creditors would be wiped out- this mechanism would see a massive and necessary transfer of global wealth from Creditors to Debtors – this would be a feature not a bug.

-But amongst those creditors would be pension funds, relying on government bonds maturing to fund purchase of annuities to fund pension liabilities.

-These pension founds would require, like banks, in the short term to be socialised, and funded by a tax on the idle balances of the inside money that has been placed in the bank accounts of citizens (taxes on the economic rent of idle sources of rentier income help too).

-This is the key we think of these ‘savings’ being stashed away for the future but in reality pension liabilities today are funded from the state of the economy today.  If the economy bumps along the bottom for 20 years there will be no growth to fund the pensions and this will leave in a debt nightmare for a generation.

-With people having money again in their balances and having to spend to prevent it being taxed effective demand would be reflated, business confidence would grow and investments begin again.  With firms making profits again banks would slowly rebuild their balance sheets.

-There is much moral hazard here, there would be several weeks of chaos, but nothing compared to the  impact of a Weimar like collapse in Germany and the Eurozone. Its is not true we have no ammunition, rather we are in too much debt to buy more ammunition.  The real ammunition is goods and services produced and sold creating growth again.  The answer is obvious – a debt Jubilee.

The #NPPF Muddline gets Ever Muddier

Today at the NLP NPPF event Steve Quartermain clariefed that his chief planning officers letters issued with the NPPF did not mean what it said.

Planning Resource

In a letter sent to chief planning officers following the launch of the NPPF, Quartermain said that the muddline helpline – 0303 444 5500 – had been established to “assist with questions planning authorities may have about the implications of the framework for plan-making or decision-taking”.

But Quartermain said today: “The advice is not geared at telling you: ‘This is what the policy means’.” Quartermain said that instead the helpline would give advice about the process councils can follow to test their policies for conformity against the NPPF.

He said: “What it’s geared at is trying to aid local planning authorities who might ring up and say: ‘We’ve got a plan that we’re about to submit to the Planning Inspectorate, what should we do?’”

“We’ll give you advice about the process that you can follow to test what your policies are. We can give you advice on bespoke packages that can be applied to individual circumstances.”

Quartermain said that the government intended to publish a frequently asked questions guide online shortly.

So it did not mean then ‘implications for…decision-taking’ at all then?  That you for that correction clarification.

Quartermain’s comments came as questions were raised over the potential ambiguity over parts of the NPPF, including on how far local plans can conflict with the new framework during the 12-month grace period that councils have to bring plans into line with national policy.

There are also questions over how much extra land councils need to plan for on top of the required five-year supply.

Of course we have commented on this many times on here and here and here.  A well known figure from one known DCLG agency even went so far as suggesting I was being ‘mischeavious’.  Err I responded that the mischief was entirely of the DCLGs making through refusing to clarify important matters of policy ambiguity that were shared by almost all of the profession and which it seemed the DCLG had not properly thought through in modelling how real world local planning authorities would and should apply the NPPF in their day to day casework.

Im glad though that the DCLG have realised how dangerous it is to give off the cuff and potentially incompatible answers through a helpline and have taken up my suggestion of an FAQ (and hopefully in futre an errata) where necessary.

In a few weeks time I have an Eland House meeting to talk about the FAQ, of course that will be Chatham House.  So if there are any questions you would like me to put/think about please comment below or email me.

Tulips from Terrington St Clements

Lovely picture story from Daily Fail in Norfolk. My two year old daughter sadly sees flowers as food.

Someone on comments said.

Forget acres of indigenous trees, wildlife habitats, or food for the 30,000 children that die of starvation each and every day, let’s clear the land and grow pretty flowers instead.

I would normally sympathise, however if we can’t plant a few fields with flowers for children and everyone to enjoy what a sad lot we are.  And in East Africa of course fresh flowers are becoming the number 1 cash crop and taking 100s of thousands of people out of poverty and providing them with income to spend which encourages investments and higher productivity in the local staples foods industries.

Epping Forest – Example of the Hard Green Belt Choices Faced under the #NPPF #Planorak

At a meeting yesterday I heard storeys of a presentation on the Epping Forest SLAA which has taken an epic three years of work.  Part of the reason might be how scared they were of the results – I could not possibly comment.

Im glad this presentation is now public as of course I could not repeat advice I had privately given them as a contractor on other matters- so lets see NLP do the talking.

The remaining 327 [Filtered and not unsuitable at a site level]  are considered potentially ‘suitable’ depending on the
need/demand identified…but:
• Only 34 sites are ‘suitable’ within the envelope of existing Council planning policy (no significant policy change would be required) – providing capacity for up to 1,540 homes
• 19 sites (with a capacity of 2,450 homes) are not in the Green Belt but are subject to other factors
– For example many of these are open green spaces within urban areas, such as playing fields, allotments or amenity open space and would require associated policy changes
• 274 sites (with a combined theoretical capacity of 88,350 homes) are within the Green Belt (would require alterations to Green Belt boundaries)
• Not all of these sites would be allocated (or need to be allocated). They provide a range of potential locations where development might be considered through the plan.

So, if the need for development in the district is greater than can be accommodated on those sites plus windfalls, the Council will need to review its existing policies to explore whether it should:
• Look at whether green spaces within towns and villages might be developed; or
• Review its Green Belt boundaries to allow some development; or
• Look at the existing land use designations (e.g. for industry) and determine whether these should be changed to permit other uses.
• In exploring these options the Council has a choice over the strategy and which sites it chooses to allocate, but it must be evidence based and justified….
• Very few sites are considered unachievable for development

Some qualifiers need to be added to this presentation

In Epping Forest need for more  employment land  is if anything more than need for housing land

There is joint working (though not yet joint agreement) on the expansion of Harlow New Town

The fact that a site is by itself suitable & available does not mean for a moment that cumulatively they will be the ‘best possible plan’ or deliverable or collectively suitable following appraisal against a preferred settlement strategy – for example the large sites around North Weald Bassett all drain into a small stream which would have very little capacity in terms of sewerage dischage – which prevented this being chosen as a strategic site at a regional scale in the RSS.   Also AA will likley show issues concerning pressure on the Epping Forest SAC, which will be a constraint but not nearly as much as from an SPA.

No transport study on assessment of options has been undertaken, impacts on the key junctions to the M11 and M25 will be key

Some of the villages where NLP have identified large sites no services or limited services – e..g Abbess Roding.  They will be filtered out im sure during strategy consideration.

A Settlement Edge Sensitivity Study is under way also due to be published soon

Having said that Epping Forest like so many Metropolitan Green Belt Authorities face a problem.  Local ‘objective’ need will inevitably require consideration of loss of Green Belt sites given the lack of brownfield land and low (non garden) windfall rates in recent years.  Under the duty to cooperate positively prepared soundness test and the justified and effectiveness test that includes looking across boundaries and assessing those options against SEA and AA.    The key options here will mostly be Greenfield, which is inevitable given that the East of England has so little brownfield land and what brownfield does exist (in the main old airbases) is often in inaccessible locations.

An LPA can only reject need where ‘any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole’ etc.  Merely being in the Green Belt is not sufficient, in particular as there boundaries are supposed to last ‘in perpetuity’ the assumption being theat if they stay as they are development will be diverted outside the Green Belt.  As the Prime Minister indicated in his recent speech.  The governments aim is not that net overall development is reduced and housing needs nationally are not met.  Green Belt boundaries in plan making can be altered in ‘exceptional circumstances’ which including meeting housing needs, and providing sites outside the Green Belt have been rejected as unsuitable (including outside the local authority area) the ‘exceptional circumstances test is met.  Eric’s ‘inviolate’ speech is not policy and did not make it into the NPPF.  It was worthless pre-election rhetoric (Eric is of course MP for the eastern part of this constituency).  This principal has been supported in many recently adopted plans – such as Thurrock, some plans that have not followed it and inspectors have considered this makes it unsound have been withdrawn, notably Castlepoint and the first Woking attempt, and other such as York and BANES are now trapped in limbo because of it and look very likely to be withdraw on found unsound, and if not be subject to likley successful legal challenge by development consortia.

So the issue then is should this development go inside the Green Belt or outside it.  If Epping Forest want it to go outside it they need to promote and study, preferably with the host authority, a ‘garden city’ type scheme somewhere further down the WAGN like, on a much bigger scale than proposed currently for Elsenham.  If not they need to bite the Cherry and allow expansion of Harlow and one or more of their towns/commuter villages.  Of those only four, Denham, Theydon Bois and Epping and Chigwell are on the tube (Waltham Abbey has rail and can also take some) and outside flood risk areas, and the highly exposed fields north of Denham are likely to rule out large scale development on landscape sensitivity grounds – unless this was considered not  a local priority – (the fact that  Denham used to elect BNP cllrs in numbers is a key local political though not a planning issue, trouble will be caused).  Which leaves the appropriate balance between Epping, Chigwell, Theyon Bois and Waltham Abbey, where im sure impact on Epping Forest will be key, though much less of an issue on flanks away from the Forest.  At Chigwell away from the tube development would simply be more peri-urban London sprawl, and here slope is an issue as is risk of Chigwell village being swallowed by Hainhault, clearly here Green Belt performs a strong purpose in Green Belt Strategic Review Terms.  (for those of you asking any reinstatement of the tube’ read old single track pre-war branch shuttle line – to North Weald and Ongar would have very low capacity, and be expensive to bring it to modern safety standards, unless vast sums were spent making it double track).

So planning here is politically difficult.  It inst that technically difficult.  The broad shape any sound plan would have to take are pretty clear and really come down to the advantages and disadvantages of different masterplanning options for those settlements and their comparative appraisal.    Waltham Abbey and Epping can certainly take modest expansions without harming the strategic purpose of the Green Belt, and Theydon Bois offers real potential for Smart Growth in Garden Suburb form as only one flank of land adjoining the tube station has been developed.   Here there is potential for development to make the place better – in the positive spirit of the plan making chapter of the NPPF.

The lesson then from all of this is that without a regional strategy the Green Belt here is much more at risk than with it as the onus for dealing with growth falls locally.  Will the local MP Eric Pickles now realise that the ‘big gun’ he pulls out whenever regional is mentioned has fired in his face?

Bermondsey Councillors #NPPF Confusion over Money Shop Application – A Case Study for all Councillors #planorak

Bermondsey Councillors sitting on the local community council have made an utterly barmy decision on a planning application which deserves wider circulation as it is a classic example of how to misread and misapply national planning policy for non-planning ends.  It will be a case which will prove very costly to Southwark Council and where there will be very likely to be forced to back down.

London SE1

A bid to open a controversial payday loan shop in Tower Bridge Road has been halted by Bermondsey Community Council.

The community council’s six Liberal Democrat members voted unanimously to refuse planning permission despite the recommendation of council officers that the go-ahead should be given.

Instant Cash Loans Ltd – which trades as The Money Shop – has more than 400 branches up and down the country.

The application for change of use from amusement arcade to class A2 (financial and professional services) for the shop at 82 Tower Bridge Road was brought to the community council due to the number of objections received.

The 11 written representations included claims that the change would encourage people on low incomes to borrow money at high rates of interest whilst more affordable loans are available locally from London Mutual Credit Union.

Opposition to the proposed new payday loan shop has been led by Labour councillor Claire Hickson whose Chaucer ward includes the western side of Tower Bridge Road opposite the premises. She was joined at the meeting by local residents and Labour activists Kevin Dolan and Charlie Samuda.

In a written submission Cllr Hickson said that the southern end of Tower Bridge Road was home to a large number of small, independent businesses which should be protected. The applicant was a national chain and allowing more national chains could push small businesses out.

The Agenda Pack is here – its the first item 6.1

The Officers report said

A number of local residents have raised objections regarding the type of service that the business would offer, with particular concerns that it would be used by vulnerable people or those on low incomes, who in turn would be charged very high rates of interest for the loans and services offered. Objectors consider that this would not benefit the community and could lead to crime and social unrest in the area if people are unable to pay back their loans and fall into further financial difficulties.
Concerns have also been raised that the proposal would be contrary to strategic policy 10 of the Core Strategy which seeks to increase the number of jobs in Southwark and create an environment in which businesses can thrive, including the protection of existing business space and supporting the provision of new business space.
The use of the premises, when it was occupied, was as an amusement arcade and this is not classified as a business or B class use. It is identified in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order (1987) as being a sui generis use, which means that it does not fall into any particular use class. As the existing use is not classed as a business use, the proposal would not conflict with strategic policy 10 of the Core Strategy. Furthermore, given that the existing use is not B class, saved policy 1.4 of the Southwark Plan which seeks to protect such uses does not apply. Saved policy 1.9 does not apply either, because this policy relates to changes of use within protected shopping frontages from Class A1 retail uses to other classes. As such, there are no policies to protect against the loss of the existing sui generis amusement arcade.
The provision of a new Class A2 use, which is defined as financial and professional services within the Use Classes Order, would be appropriate within this retail parade and these uses are a common feature of shopping streets. Financial and professional services include banks, building societies, estate agents and employment agencies.
The proposal would return a vacant unit back into active use and would generate activity which would contribute to the vitality and viability of the parade, which the two vacant units at 82 and 84 Tower Bridge Road currently detract from. The concerns raised with regard to the type of businesses operated in terms of interest rates for loans are duly noted, but this is not a planning matter and cannot be taken into account. How such money lending uses are controlled is dealt with under separate financial regulatory legislation.
Whilst there is clearly a level of local concern about the proposed use, the matters raised are not material considerations. Members should assess this as an application for a financial and professional use, which, in terms of land use planning policy, is considered acceptable in this location.

Its a good little report, though it does not make it clear that the site is not within a protected shopping frontage.  The report mentioned Planning for Growth (now cancelled) and the draft NPPF, however the meeting was held after the NPPF was published leading to the confusion.

So what happened on Monday?

In a written submission Cllr Hickson said that the southern end of Tower Bridge Road was home to a large number of small, independent businesses which should be protected. The applicant was a national chain and allowing more national chains could push small businesses out.

She continued: “The proposal is contrary to the Core Strategy of reducing inequalities. MPs from all political parties have been campaigning against the practices of payday loan companies which apply huge interest rates, and this business has been criticised in Parliament for such practices.”

Speaking during the meeting she stressed that the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework should be a “material consideration” despite officers’ claims that it wasn’t relevant.

The applicant’s agent claimed that the payday shop would bring increased footfall to Tower Bridge Road and create 16 new jobs.

The hour-long debate covered traffic problems as well as objections to the introduction of any financial services which might reduce the area’s retail attraction.

However, the main discussion focused on the interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework which emphasises ‘a presumption in favour of sustainable development’.

Lib Dem councillors claim that alterations to the NPPF proposed by their parliamentary colleagues enable councillors to consider the social and environmental consequences of development as well as economic sustainability.

Cllr Nick Stanton considered that traffic issues were a “red herring” but backed Cllr Hickson’s claim that the NPPF was relevant.

“We have seen in Bermondsey Street a loss of retail for licensed premises and offices and it would be nice to protect this part of Tower Bridge Road as a niche area,” he said. “We prefer this to be retail and nothing else.”

In answer to suggestions that the new planning guidelines had yet to be tested on appeal, Cllr Mark Gettleson declared: “Someone has to test the NPPF and it might as well be us.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hickson said: “I am delighted that we succeeded in getting this application for a new payday loan shop refused.

“The local Labour Party campaigned against it and for it to be taken to community council for a decision.

“The recently published National Planning Policy Framework says sustainable economic development should be at the centre of all planning decisions.

“I argued that the presence of these shops is the opposite of sustainable economic development – they have grown rapidly in deprived areas while the economy and incomes decline. They send a bad signal about the health of our high streets.

“I am thrilled that Bermondsey councillors agreed that this part of Tower Bridge Road needs a boost not a business like this one.

“My major concern about payday loans is that they can trap consumers in a cycle of debt if they cannot pay off the loan on time. Southwark and Lambeth Labour councillors have been campaigning against them since last year.

“Given the amount of concern about them, I am disappointed the Government is not prepared to go further than discussing a voluntary code of conduct to regulate them.”

Cllr Nick Stanton said: “We want to protect the retail offer in shopping parades like Tower Bridge Road and don’t want to see shop units being lost to the financial services industry.

“I’m pleased this new power, created by our local MP and the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government, has allowed us to reject this planning application – it is an example of the good work being done by the Liberal Democrats in Government which is having a real impact for local people here in Southwark.”

Now I should make clear I have used Money Shop in Woolwich to send Western Union.  I don’t particularly like certain moral aspects of the business they are in and that is a legitimate agenda for campaigning.  I have seen when I was there on more than one occasion someone go in who in the parlance was clearly a ‘smackhead’ seeking to use a suspicious amount of old fashioned gold jewellery as collateral for short term loans.  If pubs should not serve drunks neither should money shops for secured loans by clearly drug using or influenced individuals?

However such moral issues are not material planning considerations.  Planning applications can never be decided on whether someone is a nice or not nice person or someone is running a nice or not nice business.  Imagine the humiliation if you applied for an extension and your parish neighbours told you you didn’t deserve one because you went to the pub too often.  There have certainly been parish council meetings where that has been the tone.  A free society has to avoid planning decision meetings becoming moralistic Jacobin committees for public decency.

The General Principles for making planning decisions are set out in The Planning System General Principles – this has not been cancelled by the NPPF and I understand the aim is to up date it is due course, removing the paras that are no longer relevent.  Paras 7 , 8 (bar reference to RSS), and 10-16 on material planning considerations are still as relevant as ever.Paras 17-19 are replaced by annex 1 of the NPPF.   20-24 on conditions are still relevant.  25-26 on the Secretary of States role has been replaced by more up to date parliamentary answers on call in and recovered cases policy.  Para 27 on propriety is still relevant, 28 on standards board needs updating in the light of the localism act.  29 on public and private interests and 30 on other legislation remain relevant (though the first two acts referred to need to be replaced by reference to the Equalities Act 2010 which replaced them).

It was intended to replace this with the abortive Development Management PPS and its annexes, however with the NPPF Bob Nudd has stated that separate guidance on development management (now known as decision taking) will be issued.  But for the moment the General Principles document is the best we have.  It largely anyway is just based on still relevant planning caselaw.  The NPPF of course cannot make material something which caselaw has stated is not a material planning consideration unless subsequent law or national policy now says that it is material.

Para 11 of the above cites the well known Stringer case which every planning decision maker, officer or cllr, should have tattooed on their butt. ‘any consideration which relates to the use and development of land is capable of being a planning consideration.’   The fact that poor people pay interest on loans is not a material planning consideration it relates to the use of money in people’s pockets not the use and development of land.

However of course the General Principles goes on (para 13):

The Courts have also held that the Government’s statements of planning policy are material considerations which must be taken into account, where relevant, in decisions on planning applications. These statements cannot make irrelevant any matter which is a material consideration in a particular case. But where such statements indicate the weight that should be given to relevant considerations, decision-makers must have proper regard to them. If they elect not to follow relevant statements of the Government’s planning policy, they must give clear and convincing reasons (E C Grandsen and Co Ltd v SSE and Gillingham BC 1985)

Now government policy has evolved over the years to include factors which indirectly affect the use and development of land.  For example on affordable housing, local financial considerations etc.  The latter case is interesting because the government in debates on the Localism Bill clause 124 stated that taking account of new homes bonus etc. would only be material and lawful to the extent that it effected the use and development of land.  So clearly the governments view is that it still has to be a material land use consideration – that this is the trump factor – even in the reformed system.

So has the NPPF widened what is a material consideration?  No, some issues given additional stress, such as viability, have been material considerations for years.  As has the three aspects of sustainable development, social, economic and environmental – all the way back to PPG1 in the early noughties.  The Southwark Councillors fell into a classic elephant trap.  They assumed that the draft NPPF was policy and the final one represented a change in that policy.  Now the policy it replaces is PPS1, that is where the comparisons should be drawn.  Once final policy is issued draft policy ceases to be a material consideration at all, and draft policy (in terms of differences with extant policy) is a weak material consideration in any case (see para 14 of the general principles).

So what are the differences between PPS1 and the NPPF on the social and environmental, versus the economic, aspects of sustainable development?

Para 4 of PPS1 says the three aspects should be perused in an ‘integrated way’  Para 8 of the NPPF says they are mutually dependent, stronger as a philosophical point but weaker as an operational one. In terms of operational implementation of SD the NPPF says two things of relevance.  In para 9 it says pursuing SD means both making it easier to create jobs, and improving the conditions in which people live, work, travel and take leisure.  But in terms of decision making it says nothing about the balance between these factors.  This is a matter for the decision maker, in the light of para 19, which gives ‘significant weight’ ‘on the need to support economic growth’ and the presumption in favour of sustainable development in 11-19.

No-one seems to be claiming that the development plan (recent) is out of date here so para 14 states that you should approve schemes that accord with the development plan without delay (unless material considerations indicate otherwise).

The rest of the clause requires the ‘significantly and demonstrably’ threshold to apply where a plan is ‘absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date’ which does not apply here.

where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date, granting permission unless:
–any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or
–specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted

The councillors are concerned that it will national chains will drive out local independents.  Does the NPPF then introduce a fascia test?  No it does not.

Does the NPPF end the planning law principle of non-duplication that it should not tread onto ground of other legislation – such as regulation of financial services – no it does not?

Does the NPPF change the consideration of the balance to be made between the three pillars of sustainable development?  Yes it does.  PSS1 required these three to be pursued in an ‘integrated way’ including in decision taking.  Whilst the NPPF says that (para 152)

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. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued. Where adverse impacts are unavoidable, measures to mitigate the impact should be considered. Where adequate mitigation measures are not possible, compensatory measures may be appropriate.

Note however this ‘balence’ para appears only in the plan making section, not in the section on the general sustainable development principles or in the decision taking section.   Indeed my view is it was moved (it sits poorly in its context) to allow on cases for the consideration of the weight to be given to the three pillars to be left to the decision taker, in the light of the hierarchy of weight in the NPPF.  This gives ‘significant weight’ to job creation and economic growth, which would be outtrumped by the ‘great weight’  of national parks, heritage assets etc, but which outtrumps the normal weight given to social wellbeing, community cohesion, and local environmental assets.  Now you could argue that para 152 sets out principles which are material at all times.  We await the first appeals and SoS decisions on that one.

How did councillors get fooled into thinking the policy gave greater rather than lesser weight to non economic factors? Read the policy of your coalition partners in future in more detail.  Don’t get fooled again.

Of course a key issue any inspector would consider is what is the fallback position ….errr an amusement arcade, so even if fleecing was material consideration it would get approved on appeal anyway as the fallback would fleece you a lot more.

And of course stopping a legitimate high street operation would leave the poor of Bermondsey only one place to go at times of financial distress, loan sharks.

I am not making a political point here, I have cllrs friends in all major parties and none.  It is an issue of good decision making.  I note that Southwark is about to abolish controversal non strategic planning decisions being made by solely local councillors.  Problems here have been legion and expensive.

The cllrs did not set down reasons for non-compliance with national policy, as required in the General Principles and the Costs circular, rather they missplied national policy.

Para b16, b18, B20 and b21/B22  of the costs circular 03/09 are relevant.

Planning authorities will be expected to produce evidence at appeal stage to substantiate each reason for refusal with reference to the development plan and all other material considerations including anyrelevant judicial authority. If they cannot do so, they risk a costs award against them for any unsubstantiated reason for refusal….

vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about a proposal’s impact, which are unsupported by any objective analysis, are more likely to result in a costs award.

Planning authorities are not bound to accept the recommendations of their officers. However, if officers’ professional or technical advice is not followed, authorities will need to show reasonable planning grounds for taking a contrary decision and produce relevant evidence on appeal to support the decision in all respects. If they fail to do so, costs may be awarded against the authority.

While planning authorities are expected to consider the views of local residents when determining a planning application, the extent of local opposition is not, in itself, a reasonable ground for resisting development. To carry significant weight, opposition should be founded on valid planning reasons which are supported by substantial evidence. Planning authorities should therefore make their own objective appraisal and ensure that valid planning reasons are stated and substantial evidence provided.

Planning authorities will be at risk of an award of costs for unsubstantiated objections where they include valid reasons for refusal but rely almost exclusively on local opposition from third parties, through representations and attendance at an inquiry or hearing, to support the decision

And above all para B29

The following are examples of circumstances which may lead to an award of costs
against a planning authority:
• ignoring [Note not misinterpreting, though they did ignore NPPF paras 14 and 19] relevant national policy …
• acting contrary to, or not following, well-established case law

So im sure when an appeal is lodged and a threat that costs will be claimed at that appeal a report will be written recommending no case to answer. An additional reasons might be added which was not mentioned before, such as effect on the setting of the world heritage site, that would be an act of desperation which would risk a partial award of costs in itself.

So Southwalk Cllrs have a choice, either they back down, or if they ‘play to the gallery’ risk an ward of costs which would costs a good part of someone’s job.  At a time of 20% cuts in London leaving them ever more vulnerable to fighting appeals on genuine grounds on behalf of their communities.