Test Case Lowland Post #NPPF Windfarms Permitted

The Bawick Road Site

Two nearby windfarms in Northwest Norfolk have been permitted after a c0 joined appeal.

The decision letter is here

At the close of the Inquiry the Barrister for one of the appeals marked it out as a test case as Barrister Jeremy Pike said

“If a wind farm is not acceptable at Chiplow, then no wind farm can be considered acceptable anywhere in lowland England. It really is, with respect, as simple as that,”

The inspector on rgional targets concluded

EEP Policy ENG2 sets targets for on-shore renewable energy to meet 10% of the region’s energy by 2010 and 17% by 2020 (subject to meeting international obligations to protect wildlife including migratory birds). This reflects on-going national targets for the provision of renewable energy (which can only be met by local delivery). They are objectively
assessed needs in the terms of paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework. Whilst the regional targets themselves may go as and when the Plan is revoked, the need to develop renewable energy will not disappear. The evidence base that underpinned the EEP targets can remain relevant, as the Government confirmed when it first proposed the abolition of regional plans in 20101.

A 2003 landscape character assessment stated that both sites had a ‘high’ capacity to accommodate a ‘small scale’ turbine group.

The inspoector concluded

The identified landscape and visual harm would be real but not as extensive as some have suggested. It needs to be weighed with any benefits of the developments

On the issue of impact on heritage assets the inspector leaves in a few stray references to PPS5 but this makes little difference as he acknowledges that the policy on the setting of heritage assets is substantially the same in the NPPF.  They concluded that here would be a moderate but less than substantial adverse effect on the setting of an ancient monument hillfort 2.5-4.5km away.

Regarding the impact on Houghton Park

the few points within the park at which the Chiplow turbine blades might be seen, they would distract attention away from what is otherwise a complete and substantially unchanged 18th century park.
As the setting is so original and intact, any modern intrusion into the setting would risk some harm to the park’s setting and heritage significance. However that harm to significance would be minor and not substantial as the turbines would only be visible from some parts of the park (particularly in summer when the park is open to visitors and the trees are in leaf), would not intrude on any important planned or open vista, and would appear as relatively small features at this distance.

There was considerable debate about collisions with Pink Footed Geese, a natura protected species which migrate to a nearby SPA.  Indeed local protesters had dressed up as these Geese.  The number of anticipated collisions was around the 1-2% mortality rate of significance however a novel mitigation scheme involving rotated sugar beet was proposed.  The inspector crucially concluded that the scheme met the Waddensee test, but it was unclear from the decision letter if this was before or after mitigation.

The core strategy was recently adopted and the inpector balenced its policies on renewable energy and local landscape.

I conclude here on the evidence before me that the benefits of both appeal schemes clearly outweigh the individual and cumulative identified harm.In the terms of the local Core Strategy Policy CS08 the locational and other impacts are thus not unacceptable as they are here outweighed by wider environmental and economic benefits. Similarly the public benefits here outweigh the modest loss of interest or significance of environmental assets in the terms of local Core Strategy Policy CS12 and the National Planning Policy Framework (as carried forward from the previous PPS5 Policy HE.10). Both appeal proposals are therefore in overall accord with the local development plan and with regional and national policy. The Framework urges at paragraph 14 that, for decision-taking, the Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development means that development proposals that accord with the development plan should be approved without delay.


Is your Roof Insured against Climate Change? -‘Diurnal Drift’ causes Roof Collapse for Will Self and Neighbours

Four houses in a terrace in a Stockwell South London Conservation Area will need to rebuild their roofs after a collapse.  One of them is owned by Will Self.

The unlikely cause – Evening Standard

The writer and his family were among those evacuated after bricks, masonry and other debris fell from the properties on Tuesday evening when the roofs crumbled.

Today structural engineers told residents the collapse could be a result of “diurnal drift” – which is the change in temperature over the preceding 24 hours.

On Tuesday the capital experienced the hottest day of 2012, with temperatures rising to nearly 26C – 17C higher than the lowest temperature the day before.

The home of the Solicitor General, Edward Garnier, MP, was among those affected.

His wife, Anna, 57, said: “There were meetings on the site all day yesterday. The engineers have been wonderful. They told us that they think it happened as a result of diurnal drift – which is the change in temperature.”…

Will Self’s wife, Guardian columnist Deborah Orr, last night voiced concerns that insurers would not cover the incident.

Tweeting about a future claim, she said: “The bummer is the insurers are very reluctant”

Early reports claimed the cause of the collapse could be “wear and tear”, which is not covered by insurance, but it is unclear whether the heatwave would be deemed “an act of God”, which would not be covered either.

Just try challenging the Solictor General on the insurance policy fine print, just try.  Is your roof insured against global warming?

Our Blog Post Sparks Row over Realism over Stratford DCs Local Plan #NPPF

In February we blogged on the unrealism of the Stratford Third different draft version of its core strategy.  Basically that it was unrealistic in both distributing the vast majority of new housing to small villages whilst at the same time imposing a 2% dwelling cap on each – it simply didnt add up.

This has become a key issue at the West of Shottery appeal (the inquiry into it having closed last week) which we blogged about yesterday.  This is because the new NPPF on the issue of the weight to be given to emerging plans requires them to be assessed against the ‘degree of conformity’ to the NPPF.  This in effect makes each and every major housing LPI into a mini EIP on the realism, deliverablility, growth orientation, sustainability and other national policy compliance of the merging plan against the NPPF.

In Stratford’s case the appellant Bloor Homes even went to the length of writing to everyone of the households in the ‘dispersal villages’ setting out their estimates of the impact on their villages.  This you can imagine created something of a local furore

Cllr Chris Saint, Leader says: “The Bloor Homes leaflet has been produced seemingly at vast expense [eer Stratford has commissioned identical work]  but regrettably it contains many errors, incorrect information and misleading conclusions that may have alarmed many residents.  A number of Councillors including myself have been contacted by residents expressing concern about its contents.  I hope that the Company will act responsibly and withdraw the leaflet.

But it was entirely fair to highlight the broad settlement by settlement impact of a dispersal strategy as the Stratford DC consultation had studiously avoided this and Stratford challenged the figures based on estimates of existing houses per village.  Bloor challenged back.  But Bloor misunderstood the source of the data (my own GIS work was the source of the data) it was not census based but based on local OS derived gazeteer information and used judgement based estimates of village extents where there ws no local plan or census based settlement boundary.  The spat could have been avoided if the two sides had cooperated on ‘findings of fact’ but in any event the differences were only significant in terms of global figures for 4 or 5 villages without defined settlement boundaries and the basic issue remains.  Bloor though had misread the 2% cap policy CS16, its a cap per estate not per village though my own work still showed it impractical as it implies nearly 10 estates per village.  The policy simply hadn’t been thought through.

Bloor have argued

Rural villages will bear the brunt of district’s new housing

Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s new housing plans earmark rural hamlets and villages to accommodate the district’s future housing needs.

The Council’s revised emerging Core Strategy suggests that thousands of new houses should be “dispersed” among rural villages across the district, despite the fact that many are poorly served by facilities or fall within the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

39 villages in the district have been identified to take 2,240 new homes— 40% of the total number required —and a further 560 new homes are destined for smaller, as yet unidentified, hamlets.

The council previously focused new house-building between Stratford-upon-Avon and other rural centres which have existing services where new homes are most sustainable, but has now reversed this approach to devise a plan that spreads the housing further afield.

Also, the council now seeks evidence to support this new strategy by instructing consultants to reverse the conclusions of those it originally employed to underpin its earlier strategy.

The council claims that none of the 39 villages would grow by any more than 2 per cent of their current housing size under the new plan, but the policy just doesn’t add up and would leave the council far short of its overall target.

In fact, some villages will grow by up to nearly 14 per cent if they are to accommodate the required number of houses.

There are some clear flaws with the council’s new approach:

  1. Spreading new houses around the district’s smaller villages is not a sustainable approach. They will be far removed from local services and employment – which is primarily focused in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  2. Small housing estates will not provide the capital contributions that the district needs, so new roads and community facilities will be paid for from the public purse.
  3. The dispersal strategy identifies 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ to take 2,240 of the new homes, but stipulates that the growth should be no more than two per cent of the existing homes in each village.Research shows that there are around 15,200 existing homes in these villages, but 2% growth would only deliver 304 new homes.
  4. Some of the 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ are located in special areas where development is not permitted – i.e. Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Beauty.

So where else does the council plan to “disperse” houses to in order to meet future housing demand?

We have produced a map which shows all of the 39 villages identified by the council to bear the brunt of its new housing dispersal strategy.

The map highlights all the Local Service Villages that have been singled out by the Council and shows how many homes the Council would be suggesting for each. We have also shown the seven ‘Main Rural Centres’ that the Council has designated for an additional 1,680 homes.

There are also an additional 560 homes to be allocated; but the Council has not yet said where they will go.

The table below shows each of the 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ and their status in terms of Green Belt or AONB. The first column of numbers shows the current households in each village and the second column of numbers calculates the new homes in each village that the Council’s 2% growth would create (just 304 houses). The final column of numbers estimates the new homes that each village would receive as a proportionate share of the Council’s stated target of 2,240.

Local residents are being asked to comment on the new dispersal strategy in the meantime.

It is important that you let your local councillors know what you think of this strategy before the end of March by writing to your parish council or district council ward member.

For Athens Surely Some Things are a Higher Priority than Urban Planning?

Former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos launched a project which he said was a ‘top priority’ on the 21st March.

Was this anything to do with Greece’s economic crisis? – no it was an international urban design competition to redesign Athens City Centre.  Even I am led to think that there are certain times and places when urban planning is not the top priority.

Of course most of Athens City Centre, like most of Athens, is an urban planning disaster, dominated by the car, noise and congestion but running the Rethink Athens Competition at this time seems rather obscene, even though it will be a charity the Onassis Foundation and EU regional development funding  that will pay for it rather than the government.   Though if the Green Government had not just paid E500m to a Cyaman Islands based vulture fund owner who refused to take a bond haircut they might have more funding for genuinely important infrastructure projects such as this.

The central idea will be to make main boulevard Panepistimiou Street, now a hellish to cross one way street,  more pedestrian friendly with a string of walking friendly routes connecting archaeological sites leading off it.  The design competition is effectively to do the urban design bit at the centre of a wider traffic management and public transport plan

Professor Panagiotis Tournikiotis of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) has driven the changes and responding to a question over whether reducing traffic will encourage the lawlessness that has begun to characterise the area:

What is more important for the safety of citizens is the revival of activity in the city center, during the day and at night. The operational rejuvenation of the city will shed light into its darkest corners.