Presentation from Weds RTPI Conference on the Duty to Cooperate #NPPF

Here  David Vickery of PINs presentation

Some nice graphics.


Duty to Coperate Test
•s33A legal test in 2004 Act
•A legal PROCESS, like the Statement of Community Involvement and Sustainability Appraisal
•First test at Examination – where not demonstrated then ‘non-adoption’ – “Showstopper”
•Test is on preparation only
•Duty to Co-operate, not to agree

Framework Soundness Test

•Soundness OUTCOME
•Part of the soundness criteria in the Framework:
•Positively prepared: meeting the needs and requirements from neighbouring LPAs
•Effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities
•Work collaboratively & demonstrate evidence of effective co-operation (para 178 to 181)
•Will the co-operation deliver the goods?

Inspector will ask:

•What sub-regional assessments have been done in consultation with others?
•Is there an assessment of needs from adjoining authorities?
•How will Plan’s policies, proposals and infrastructure affect others – and vice versa?
•Can identified needs be met within the area?
•Can identified outside needs be met in the area?
•If not, how will they be met?
•It’s all about the delivery of evidenced needs

General observations

•Could pass Duty test (engaged but not agreed), but not Framework test (no agreement so not effective)
•Little cross-boundary requirements = easy to satisfy both tests
•Need for cross-boundary working = demonstrate that both tests have been satisfied (difficult)
•Overlapping geographic markets for employment / housing / retail = close joint working (difficult)
•Strategic infrastructure = close joint working (difficult)

Slides 11 & 13 should be in the PAS guidance – emailing them now

PAS Finalises Duty to Cooperate/Strategic Planning Advice

PAS has completed and updated its work on strategic planning in the light of the NPPF.

Without regional strategies the delivery of infrastructure, homes and economic growth will require a corporate approach and strong political leadership to:

  • ensure the alignment of priorities and investment plans for strategic infrastructure, major development areas and other issues that are best managed strategically
  • maximise opportunities for both public and private sector funding and make the most of new fiscal measures to support growth: Community Infrastructure Levy, New Homes Bonus, Growing Places Fund and initiatives resulting from the Local Government Resource Review
  • translate corporate policy objectives and priorities through into delivery on the ground, helping to boost investor confidence
  • build effective partnerships and relationships with communities affected, neighbouring local authorities and other partners, helping to manage political sensitivities and local impact.

Its an excellent resource and rightly includes things, like integrated coastal management, minerals, traffic management, Green infrastructure/natural areas, & water catchment management  that are puzzling ommissions from the list of strategic priorities in the NPPF.

On the duty it says in a very helpful section.

The ‘duty to co-operate’ is a legal requirement of the plan preparation process. It is the first thing that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will look at. PINs will need to see sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the ‘duty to co-operate’ has been undertaken appropriately for the plan being examined.

There is no fixed format for how this evidence should be presented, nor what it should comprise, but it should be:

  • succinct
  • flow from the issues that have been addressed jointly
  • highlight the practical policy outcomes that have resulted.

A ‘tick box’ approach or a collection of correspondence will not be sufficient. Councils will also need to show how they have considered joint plan-making arrangements, what decisions were reached and why.  Finally, councils need to report how the duty is being taking forward on an ongoing basis through the Annual Monitoring Report.

Just because a local plan passes the legal test of the duty, it does not mean it will be found ‘sound’ in dealing with strategic matters. The policy outcomes of co-operation will need to be tested against the evidence at examination in the normal way. 

What happens if a council or identified public body will not co-operate or cannot agree?

Co-operation works two ways. Situations may arise where an invitation to co-operate is not accepted, or agreement on shared policy outcomes cannot be reached.

Where co-operation is not forthcoming, PINs are likely to consider the extent to which  the request to co-operate is ‘reasonable’ based on the evidence. If the deliverability of the plan is dependant on a reasonable request for co-operation by the plan-making body that is not forthcoming, the plan may still be found unsound unless some form of working arrangement can be brokered.

If PINS consider that the legal requirement to co-operate has been met through joint working but there is disagreement about the policy outcome (for example the proposed level of housing provision), then this will need to be resolved through the examination process based on the evidence. 

All of these scenarios will cause delay and uncertainty and should be avoided if possible. Councils and other public bodies covered by the duty should make every effort to ensure that strategic issues are properly addressed at the formative stages of the plan preparation process, and that any major disagreements are resolved well before the examination.

However of couse, and this is not PINs fault but ministers, a noncoperating neighbour can still game the system by refusing to cooperate and making their neighbours plan undeliverable – as we found at Stevenage/North Herts & Central Beds/Luton.  And how can the examination process resolve differences if your non-coperating neighbour has ensured their plan is examined after yours?

These are fatal flaws in the Localism Act System and I predict that quite soon, possibly from York, BANES or Milton Keynes we will have a decision which will shake the system like Stafford and Lichfield did.  I was treated to ridicule when I predicted that Stafford and Lichfield would be found unsound so i’m not afraid to stick my neck on the line again.

It would have been useful to have some guidance on the SEA/AA implications of joint working, consideration of reasonable alternatives too, especially in the light of Greater Norwich.

As ever though when they publish anything new don’t try today because there servers cant handle more than a few visiting the website at once.

Forest of Dean Core Strategy Appropriate Assessment Challenge

The Site in Question, owned by HCA, a former Colliery

The adopted Forest of Dean District Core strategy and Cinderford Area Action Plan have been challenged by the local Freinds of the Earth for failing to carry out an appropriate assessment.  The Council states in the SA

The provisions of Article 6 (3) and (4) of the Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (Habitats Directive) requires appropriate assessments’ are carried out to assess the impacts of the Core Strategy against the conservation objectives of European protected sites within the district. These include Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA’s) and Ramsar sites.

Following consultation English Nature considered “that the Core Strategy does not require an appropriate assessment.” This means that there is no requirement for an appropriate assessment

However from the FoE submission it is clear that the position taken is that

The District Council and  Natural England appear to have taken the stance of deferring an AA to the lower level assessment [that is application specific habitats assessment] in accordance with the Tyldesley Draft Guidance for Natural England

FoE challenge this on the basis of this European Court Case from 2004 which the UK government lost.

This is the key para

Article 6(3) of Directive 92/43 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora makes the requirement for an appropriate assessment of the implications of a plan or project that is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of a site in a special area of conservation conditional on there being a probability or a risk that it will have a significant effect on the site concerned. In the light, in particular, of the precautionary principle, such a risk exists if it cannot be excluded on the basis of objective information that the plan or project will have a significant effect on the site concerned.

The key issue being to what extent Natural England followed a precautionary approach based on the science  – the Wadenzee Test .  This has been an issue in several areas though this is the first development plan to reach JR on it I know.

York Core Strategy -Inspectors Concerns – First Post #NPPF Test Case

We have been following the York, Milton Keynes and Bath core strategies very closely as they are the first true tests of plan compliance with the NPPF, all three proposes quite epic undershoots of ‘objective,..need’ and all three show not so much cooperation with neighbours as a state of war not seen since the War of the Roses.

Concerning York a  short sharp filleting covered with usual gusto at Kirkwalls so we dont have to (and today is a crazy busy day).  They covered however a letter issued a few weeks ago.  The letter of the preliminary meeting has yet to be issued.

Greg Clark is keeping his eye on inspectors, but inspectors here are the hero not the villains, the last line of defence between the principles of good planning set out in national policy (incomplete but there) and the total chaos of – Dick Turpin Planning – to use another York reference – local authorities not cooperating, and not fulfilling their basic duty to provide for the development we need in a sustainable way,  holding development stakeholders to ransom,  .  Perhaps having read reports such as this the SoS should change his gaze and ensure that localism is not given a bad name by such highwaymen that block progress across the (metaphorical) queens highways.

The Case for Scrivener as a Policy Writing Tool

Iv’e been trying out Scrivener for the last few days as my main writing tool.  You might not have heard of it but it has taken off like wildfire over the last few years especially amongst those writing long documents, such as novellists of those writing disserations or research reports.  In those two days, after a short sharp learning curve I have become a total convert.

The problem being that traditional tools like Word are really designed for writing letters and short reports and imagine you start at the first word and type continuously from that word to the last one.  Word has terrible tools for long documents and none at all for non linear writing and research.  It is also dreadful at design which is why I always use Indesign for long documents and those with a design element such as leaflets and posters.  So I avoid using word as much as possible, it drags down my productivity.  One area I have used word a lot for recently however is research papers, as its integration with endnote, for paper references is amazing, just one custom button and it insets the reference and updates the reference list at the end.

But for a current project I have half a dozen policy statements from different NGOs and need to see them side by side and see if common positions can be gleaned from them.  I need something much more non linear, where I can take snippets of text and move them around.  Hence after many recommendations I tried scrivener.

The Basic Philosophy of Scrivener is that it is for writing, then you export to something like Word or Indesign to do the final edit.  It is less a word processor than an ideas processor.  You write snippets of text on index cards, arrange them in one or more ways visually, and when you are ready stitch them together linearly into a stream of text then ‘compile’ to your output program, to pdf, html whatever.  It keeps each snippet of text as a separate file in a database.

Just as important within the writing environment it allows you to see and organise your research alongside your text.  An example lets say you had lots of evidence base reports.  In scrivener you could create a folder called EveidenceBase_transport say.  Have a PDF on that in the bottom of the screen and in the top of the screen a policy snippet of text on transport,  What before could easily become buried and lost in a crazy file system is all there easy to view.

There are of course big advantages in modern document management and collaboration tools such as Objective (FNA Limehouse) bringing within them ideas from the corporate document lifecycle management world.   But it isnt necessarily a tool for creative policy writing.  Indeed you can always tell a policy written in Objective a mile off – it has a certain writing style, ideas live in hierarchical silos, there is little creative integration.  Sorry but I find them very often boring and often way too long.

So im convinced that the fist drafting, or fist radical redrafting of policy should be in a more non-linear tool.  Where for example as you can in Scrivener have multiple different document organisation pattersn all at once in the same file.  For example you can experiment with a place based and a them based structure reusing the same text fragments within each – quite amazing.

I have to say the Mac version is much more advanced than the word version.  Things I really need such as endnote integration, setting up styles, autonumbering of policies, autosyncing with other programmes, and references are only in the mac version.  Its the application that is finally making me move to the Mac (I can do the GIS stuff in Bootcamp and parallels).

A really cool workflow is to keep a Scrivener project folder in dropbox.  Because each section of text is a separate XML file you can then have separate people working on different sections of text and a project manager can see it all assembled at any time, it autosaves and syncs constantly (every 2 seconds).  So its a hypercheap solution for document collaboration (£25 a seat), as long as you manually make sure that two people dont try and work on the same text segment at the same time, you can coordinate this collaboration with free online tools such as Asana  .  Of course with dropbox syncing the Scrivener  they don’t even need to be in the same continent.  You can also set up auto-sync expert.  For example you could output the text to a folder to undertake collaborative commenting (which Scrivener doesnt do) in Word or indesign/acrobat (i much prefer acrobat commenting to word).

In terms of getting text in to a document management collaboration system like Objective as each snippet of text is a separate XML file it should be trivial.  Indeed you could set up a workflow to mark up text using the XML tags – like Policy – that Objective uses.  Indeed on a mac you can link other programmes such as Instant Cursor and multimarkdown so that with a simple keyboard shortcut it will correctly format with tags a section of text for you.

Its opened up a powerful new way of thinking about documents for me.  I no longer see them as linear but as a snapshot of ideas organised as a narrative, and it is that lack of a clear short simple compelling narrative that so many policy documents lack.

Oh and Scrivener is an English, or I should say Cornish, creation.

It is particularly useful when combined with the ideas in this fantastic book Organizing Creatively

Cameron’s Little Green Remarks and Osborne’s Anti-Green Agenda

7 nminutes of chat most of which saying hello to the energy ministers, rather than the big speech reassuring green energy investors.  But this is the critical part

“Renewables are now the fastest growing energy source on the planet, and I am proud that Britain has played a leading role at the forefront of this green energy revolution,”

Note past tense

“Our commitment and investment in renewable energy has helped to make renewable energy possible. Now we have a different challenge. We need to make it financially sustainable.”

Note again past tense, what future committment?  Reads much deeper cuts in subsidy than the 10% planned.  Of course if the task is to make it financially sustainable why the new subsidies to Gas and Nuclear?

The renewables industry will get the message from remarks with Osbourne’s fingerprints all over them.  The message is dont invest in Britain.

Has this been coalition cleared?  Well why then did Ed Davey at the beginning of the conference say

“In some quarters, the green agenda is painted as an unbearable burden”

Whilst two days later the PM says that renewable energy is financially unsustainable, even though most of the recent increase in electricity prices is due to the rise in price of Gas, and shale gas, which the Lord Lawson cliché lay so much emphasis on is the most expensive form of gas to extract of all.

What we have now is not an energy policy but an energy war in cabinet.  Not fought over the issue of what will do most to lower energy bills, all the evidence is that the carbon eaters in cabinet are wrong, but over an ideological dislike of anything ‘Green’ and any commitment to carbon reduction.

Osborne has brought the Tea Party culture wars, where the right is vehemently anti sustainable development, to Britain.  If Osborne forces this point he could split the coalition, that must be his plan.  He is reported to give a speech in the next few days saying that environmental regulations are hindering economic growth as it is like ‘driving a car with the brakes on’ .  It will of course be widely lampooned as what he is trying to do is drive over a cliff with the lights turned off.

Why Greenspace is Essential for Smart Growth

Very good article from Kaid Benfield at Atlantic Cities

One of the problems I have with a lot of what passes for smart infill development – on the whole, a good thing – is that parks and green space are treated as afterthoughts at best, and frequently ignored altogether.  And one of the problems I have with park advocacy is that many park advocates are only interested in the green space, and frequently instead of development rather than in support of it.  Both approaches seem wrong to me: the environmental advantages of urban density are such that we need more, not less, city development; but our cities also need more green space, especially as we add new residents or businesses. We humans need a connection to nature.

So why not do both at the same time? I feel silly even writing that because it is so obvious. But in my experience it almost never happens.

Infill developers frequently work with small parcels, without much if any room for green space; and, even if room can be found, providing what is essentially a free public amenity in lieu of additional housing or business property cuts into already thin profit margins. They, like far too many smart growth advocates, see parks as someone else’s worry. Park advocates, for their part, frequently distrust residential and commercial development of any sort. Rather, they see their job as preventing new development from crowding city neighborhoods.

An exception to the latter is my friend Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land and author of Urban Green. Peter believes that parks and urban density can have a healthy symbiotic relationship. Parks near density are better cared for and provide benefits to more people; city homes and businesses near parks enjoy higher property values and soften urban hardscape. (If well designed, parks also help filter stormwater before it becomes runoff.)

The combined municipal government of Miami and Dade County, Florida seems to agree. The parks department wants to find investors willing to take vacant and obsolete properties such as old strip malls and turn them into updated housing, commercial property, and public parks, as part of the same concept. For a 10-acre parcel, for example, the idea would be to use two or three acres for immediate green space, reserving the rest for mixed-use development. The presence of the park would attract people and raise the value of the adjacent land for development….

The idea of taking foreclosed or outmoded property and converting it into what I’m calling park-oriented development builds on ideas pioneered elsewhere, such as Philadelphia’s Green2015, which seeks to add hundreds of acres of park land by greening vacant and blighted properties. (The Philadelphia Horticultural Society also has a program to green blighted lots.) Atlanta has piloted an idea supported by the Speedwell Foundation to turn foreclosed commercial property into parks (“Redfields to Greenfields”).

But what seems special about the Miami-Dade concept is that mixed-use development is also a major part of the plan, from the beginning. This brings two of our most pressing urban needs together in the same package, a win-win worth rooting for.

Indeed there is a discussion on the Green Cities Linkln groups at the moment on the theme of

Is the protection of natural areas & corridors compatible with dense, transit friendly urban form? Some argue that you can’t have both; that setting aside green areas promotes sprawl.

I replied as followed – it an idea im working on and hope to produce a paper with diagrams and maths soon.  There seems to be a big gap between geography and planning theory at the moment and they need to be brought together.

 Imagine a classic Homer Hoyt type city growth a central cbd with radial transport corridors, where growth occurs alongside those transport corridors

Now set some mathematical constraints on what land uses are needed in a city of radius x. Green infrastructure, and ecosystem services considerations alone will determine a certain rough % of land will need to be green.

Some of this land will lie between the radial fingers of growth. If the unbuilt and built land uses are in exact balance then if the city has to grow it can continue to grow on these corridors and protect the green fingers inbetween as the ratio between the unbuilt/built will be exactly the same as the city expands.

Now it gets interesting, what if for a city radius they are out of balance, not enough greenery. Then to accommodate the same population you have to expand green areas in brown areas and increase the density of brown areas to compensate.

What if you introduce public transport, then you can accommodate more people along the transport corridors, and so build higher allowing more space for green land use.

What this shows is that the amount of green land use is a function of the number and attraction of centres in a city and the number of radial transport corridors from those centres. Take Manhattan, high central attraction (jobs) and high number of overground corridors, land for green land uses get squeezed unless you go up. So to build open space (central park) residential densities have to be very high. Ah you say what if transit goes underground? This will only squeeze land use around stops not along the corridor and so allows both higher densities for jobs in the centre (skyscrapers) and allows for lower densities at the ends of the network.

What I am trying to demonstrate here is that Smart Growth results from mathematical relations between land uses and locations, and what this results in is a a transect of varying densities.