Cameron’s Laughable Following of Phillip Stephen’s Script on Heathrow ‘Shake Down’

April 30th FT Phillip Stephens

David Cameron confronts a couple of challenges. The first is to rescue his premiership; the second to put an end to the chaos at Heathrow. Mr Cameron should merge the two projects by borrowing a trick from Margaret Thatcher. The Lady knew well that at times like this the best a prime minister can do is take the side of the voters and run against the government….

Mr Cameron should then summon Theresa May. He should tell the home secretary that Heathrow’s broken immigration system cruelly mocks his globe-trotting efforts to promote Britain as an international business hub. You cannot be open for business and closed to foreigners. Ms May should clear the queues within the week or clear her desk.

And Jim Hacker Style what does he do the next morning?


The Prime Minister had a one-to-one “update” with Theresa May, after it emerged travellers have been forced to wait for up to 90 minutes for passport checks at the London airport.

Asked whether the Prime Minister has confidence in Mrs May, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Home Office have made clear they think there is a problem here and they are deploying resources to deal with that.”

Downing Street denied that Mrs May was being read “the riot act”, saying it was understandable that the Prime Minister would want to be updated about “important issues” in person.

Of course the previous Head of the Border Agency lost his job for taking sensible measures to claer queues so his successor Brain Moore said today

Asked how he would feel if there were four-hour queues to enter Britain during the [Olympic] Games, he said: “If that is necessary in light of the threats and risks that we face at that time, then so be it. We will not compromise on safety.”

So the attitude of Heathrow Staff is clearly to do exactly what the Home Secretary Says whatever chaos it causes because we don’t want to lose our jobs.  Eventually the Prime Minister will notice and sack the Home Secretary.

Minister plan to cut 1,552 posts in the Border Agency by 2015 (channel 4 News) whilst at the same time increasing land fees at Heathrow to make up the difference.

In acting both as regulator and provider of entry services at Heathrow the Home Office is effectively running a protection racket no different to a New Jersey wise guy demanding payment for ‘waste disposal’ services for which they were the sole supplier.  The provision of entry services at Heathrow should be referred to Ofcom, and if it is not airlines should simply boycott Heathrow.

DCLG refuse FOI request on #NPPF Helpline – Clarity could be reduced by Clarification

DCLG has refused a perfectly reasonable FOI request on the Helpline.  It says in effect that that the clarity of policies could be reduced by clarification  Planning.

The DCLG this week refused to disclose the advice note given to those manning the NPPF helpline to ensure consistent handling of calls.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request by eco-campaigner Shlomo Dowen, the DCLG said the document was generated for “internal communication only”.

“The public interest in refusing to disclose this material outweighs the public interest in disclosing it,” it states, adding that there is “strong public interest in ensuring policies in the framework stand alone”.

“The policies in the framework should be interpreted and applied by decision-makers in the light of the facts and circumstances of the matter before them.

“It is important that the clarity of the policies is not reduced by material that may be misinterpreted as further statements of policy.” [eeer what ifthey are unclear in the first instance]

Dowen, who fronts a network of campaign groups against waste incineration, says he put in the request in the hope of restoring the balance of information available to community groups that cannot afford access to lawyers and planning professionals.

He told me: “There’s no check and balance on whether people are following the advice from the helpline. We haven’t asked for that but want to know generally what should be happening so we can hold local authorities to account and ensure that questions are answered consistently and

Dowen has
 immediately requested an internal review of the DCLG’s handling 
of his request, arguing that the purpose of the advice note is to be to guide external
 communications with local planning authorities.

We’ll have to wait a few weeks at least to see whether he is successful. Perhaps the frequently asked questions guide for the helpline, promised to be made available “shortly” by Quartermain, will go some way to making the situation more open and transparent.

However the public interest test only applies if a public interest exemption under the 2000 Act.  This isnt quoted in the planning peice but I guess the exmption that might be used is section 36:

Information which in the reasonable opinion of a ‘qualified person’ (a minister or designated senior official) would be likely to (a) prejudice collective responsibility (b) inhibit the free and frank provision of advice
or exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation or (c) prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

I cant see how any other exmption such as relating to the Royal Family etc, would remotely apply.

If this were a email say between PAS, PINS and DCLG asking ‘hey what do you think about this question’  etc.  of course this would be exempt.  But this is rather an advice note intended to ensure constistency of advice not deliberation.  I cant see how its release would fall under section 36 so any eventual appeal to the information commissioner is likely to succeed.  Mind you Whitehall is getting notorious at the reasons it cooks up to refuse requests.  For example yesterday I had a request refused from the Treasury under section ‘likely to prejudice the economic interests of the UK’  !!!

A Wind Map of England #NPPF

Yesterday saw a lot of debate about wind farms, numbers and windyness.

Ive mapped the national windspeed database for 45m, and imported it using some python.  There is also mapped data for 25m and 10m but these show very similar maps with greatest differences being lower windyness  at lower levels for lowland areas.  I believe the scale is M/S average over a year but the technical documentation puzzlingly does not confirm this.


  • The database was originally developed the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at some point before 2001, and as far as is known, the data that was used to build up the database was drawn from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.
  • The data uses an air flow model to estimate the effect of topography on wind speed.
  • There is no allowance for the effect of local winds such as sea, mountain or valley breezes.
  • The model uses a 1 kilometre square resolution and does not take account of topography on a small scale, or local surface roughness (such as tall crops, stone walls or trees), which may have a considerable effect on the wind speed.
  • The data should be used as a guide only and should be followed by on-site measurements for a proper assessment.
  • Each value stored in the database is the estimated average for a 1 kilometre square area, at either 10 metres, 25 metres or 45 metres above ground level (agl).
  • The database uses the Ordnance Survey grid system for Great Britain and the grid system of the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

I have overlaid this boundaries of English LPAs for Plan Making Purposes.  I can provide (on the clock) detailed maps and analysis for any LPA through interpolating down to the 1Ha grid I have for the whole of England and all national designations (part from flood risk) applying to each 1 ha grid square.  From this it is easy to produce statistics for any geographical area, such as area within or outside AONB by LPA, within 10km of AONB etc. etc.

From the map you can see the windiest areas, North York Moors NP top, The South West is also very windy, the least windy areas being those areas in wind shadow of major upland areas.  Most of SE England, the Midlands and East Anglia are fairly evenly windy with higher areas relatively (such as Northamptonshire, Downs, Chilterns, Charnwoord Forest etc.) being relatively more windy/

Pickles thinks he can Press #NPPF on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Extraordinary answer in commons yesterday – Greg Clark always immediately answers to such questions that planning is a devolved matter.  So is his policy to push via officers similar reforms on the devolved nations?  One wonders what Alex Salmond and Jim McKinnon think of this?

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): What discussions have taken place with the regional assemblies about the new planning proposals?

Mr Pickles: We have engaged in a number of discussions with the assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have been very constructive, especially at officer level, but it is still up to individual constituent parts of the United Kingdom to decide whether to implement the proposals.

A New Ministerial Policy on Appeal Recovery/Call-in? #NPPF #Planorak

There has been speculation for several months that policy has changed from previous statements on each (yes there is a difference call in is where the SOS intervenes to stop a local decision call in is where it has already been appealed and the SoS will decide it him herself) after the policy was omitted from the draft NPPF (it was in the practitioners draft) this is confirmed by the oral answer in the commons yesterday (which again confused the two).

What this means is that if an LPA decide to approve a scheme contrary to their own local plan then it is unlikely to be called in unless of national significance.  It remains to be seen if the SoS considers approval in Green Belts or of out-of-town schemes of national significance.


16. Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): What criteria he uses when calling in or recovering planning applications; and if he will make a statement. [105729]

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): The Government believe that planning decisions should be taken in, and by, local communities, and so use their call-in powers sparingly. Essentially, the powers are used when matters are of national significance.