Ths St Albans Local Plan Debate on Video

Here only dropped in on it.  Quality of debate very high, though it gets bogged down in proceduralism over petitions, amendments and motions.  All controversial plans will inevitable receive a batch of petitions.  But these need to be be debated as amendments to the substantive motion then move the substantive motion on the plan unless the amendment makes it a nullity.  Quite why it took the Council well over an hour to get to that very obvious point I dont know, proper agenda management should have worked all that through well before the meeting.  I have always said by the way that council constitutions should state clearly that their should be no separate scrutiny and petition motions on plan making as this is a statutory consultation and scrutiny process and it confuses the public to have decisions discussed several times over and potentially unlawfully out of context of the legal requirements on decision makers to consider all the issues  – in particular the need to consider reasonable alternatives on plans and programmes under the sea  directive.  If a plan needs to be amended or delayed just move a motion to that effect.

Osborne Reinvents RSS: Are the New LEP Strategic Growth Plans Covered by the European SEA Directive?

Yes – so they will require SEA which will require consultation, they will be a return to strategic planning by the back door and in a most unsatisfactory way.

The Autumn Statement revealed that LEPs will be asked to

 “lead the development of new strategic plans for local growth consistent with national priorities”.

Which will be used as a basis for bidding for a a single funding pot for housing and transport schemes to be distributed to LEPs from April 2015.

Lets look at directive 2001/42/EC.

All plans and programmes which are prepared for a number of sectors and which set a framework for future development consent of projects listed… are likely to have significant effects on the environment, and should as a rule be made subject to systematic environmental assessment.

“plans and programmes” shall mean plans and programmes, including those co-financed by the European Community, as well as any modifications to them:

– which are subject to preparation and/or adoption by an authority at national, regional or local level or which are prepared by an authority for adoption, through a legislative procedure by Parliament or Government, and

– which are required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions;…

an environmental assessment shall be carried out for all plans and programmes,

(a) which are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent….

The characteristics of plans and programmes, having regard, in particular, to

– the degree to which the plan or programme sets a framework for projects and other activities, either with regard to the location, nature, size and operating conditions or by allocating resources,

– the degree to which the plan or programme influences other plans and programmes including those in a hierarchy,

– The following plans and programmes are not subject to this Directive:

– financial or budget plans and programmes.

To my mind future infrastructure spending will undoubtedly affect future development consent and transport and Housing (under land use and planning) are explicly mentioned as is allocation of resources.  It is not a purely financial or budget programme as there is not yet a budget it is a spatial plan which constitutes a bidding document.

Of course AA may be required under similar principles.

So this means they must be subject to early consultation, assessment of reasonable alternatives and a report on their environmental effects – just like, just like RSS.

Of course we know from a generations experience that infrastructure planning separated from planning of location of housing just doesn’t work.  So of course the new plan includes both housing and infrastructure.  Of course such a plan cant say ‘we will allocate money to whichever LPA chooses to allocates lots of growth’  that would be contrary to every principle of the directive including assessment of explicit alternatives and the hierarchical; principles of plans and programmes.

So rather than democratic regional planning we will have corporatist regional planning no different really from that in Mussolini’s Italy.

Those of us who said all along that the directive mandates regional planning and the government would be forced to reinvent it have been proven triumphantly right – and even Gideon now agrees.

And what about the impact assessment on the abolition on the ‘savings’ in research, consultation, staff time etc. now that government will be spending that money anew?

Two points – firstly the directive covers plans or programmes so it doesn’t matter if the spending programme is not statutory as it would be covered under the ‘administrative provisions’ provisio.

Secondly under article 8.

The environmental report prepared ,,,shall be taken into account during the preparation of the plan or programme and before its adoption or submission to the legislative procedure.

There is no submission to a legislative process bub there has to be a transparent adoption process.  No closed board meetings.  The report and minutes would constitute environmental information.

A final point.  As challenge funding bidding documents they are likley to overbid and therefore in toto be wildly undeliverable and unrealistic in terms of available resources, back to the bad old days of 197os unrealistic sub-regional plans?




Cameron Backs Boles over Building on Countryside – Telegraph


Planning minister Nick Boles has come under fire for suggesting that the nine per cent of England built on so far should be increased to 12 per cent to meet demand.

This would see 1,500 square miles of open countryside – over twice the area covered by greater London – covered with new housing.

Questioned in the House of Commons about why the Government wanted to build on more greenfield land, David Cameron praised Mr Boles for raising the issue.

Elfyn Llwyd, the Plaid Cymru leader, asked whether he thought Mr Boles’ remarks were “bonkers” after he said “that over the coming months and years tens of thousands of new homes will have to be built on greenfield sites”.

Mr Cameron replied: “Yes we should build on brownfield land, yes we should try and deal with empty homes.

“We do have to have a frank conversation about more flats and more houses so we don’t have the current situation where if you don’t have help from the bank of Mum and Dad people are in their mid-30s before they buy their first home or their flat.

“I don’t think that is acceptable in this country. All credit to the planning minister for trying to fix this problem.”

Last week Mr Boles, a Conservative minister who was appointed in the September reshuffle, also risked offending millions of people living in England’s suburbs by describing many of them as “pig ugly” in a speech.

He said that, rather than fight all development, people had to recognise that some buildings could be more beautiful than nature itself.

Mr Boles’ controversial comments emerged after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting was given over to discussing how to boost growth, with Prime Minister David Cameron telling ministers that he wanted to see “every department prioritising growth”.

The Daily Telegraph led an eight month campaign called the Hands Off Our Land campaign earlier this year before the policy was set urging the Government not to weaken protections for green field and green belt land.

Mr Boles’ intervention came after deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg complained last week that the country had been “under-building for decades”.

Osborne’s School Boy Error on ‘Growth Enabling’ Flood Defence Schemes

Buried deep within the Autumn Statement is a ring fencing of half of the the EA flood defense budget to ‘growth enabling’ projects.

This is a school boy CBA error as this is already fully accounted for in the EA CBA methodology and will simply lead to funding of sub-optimal schemes with lesser economic benefits whilst those living in flood prone already fully built up areas will have to wait far far longer.

The growth benefits of the multiplier effects of new building which becomes possible is already accounted for.

And if say a 1:20 year flood is prevented the growth destroying unnecessary expenditure of 1:20 of that benefit (discounted to NPV) is accounted for.  If the benefits of protecting existing housing outweigh the benefits of new housing so be it.  The 50% ring fending is arbitrary and totally without any economic justification.  Indeed it is double counting, it shows the ignorance of the spotty schoolboys at the Treasury.

Of course you could say the full benefits of new housing, including new publicly funded housing – such as reducing homelessness, should be accounted for in a cross government CBA methodology, but that would be reintroducing the dirty words infrastructure planning and spatial planning.

Public Sector Workers Your Future Redundancy Letter

Thanks to Derek Thompson of the Atlantic for this corpratspeak crap letter from Citigroup sacking 11,000 people

“Citigroup today announced a series of repositioning actions that will further reduce expenses and improve efficiency across the company while maintaining Citi’s unique capabilities to serve clients, especially in the emerging markets. These actions will result inincreased business efficiencystreamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.”

Design Council CABE Departure Inevitable in its Disabled Form

The departure of Design Council CABE director Nahid Majid was inevitable, and coming only a short time after Tony Burton’s departure. Though even tweeting ‘The Last Person Out Turn Off the Lights’ about it today got me an invite for coffee from the Design Councils director John Mathers (sadly im in Uganda where the coffee is so much better).  CABE is now gone.  Its now Design Council with a Design review department.  The policy function has gone like that in most other quangos.  They can no longer criticsise government on design  as government thinks its is its jobs to criticise quangos and procurement of cheap modular design free buildings, like Gove’s box academies is the in thing.  The reissuing of the Building for Life Standard whereby boxy houses and car dominated layouts are now acceptable was simply an exercise to please and not of independent design thinking.

Better Approaches than Central Planning for Predictable Major Decisions

According to Planning Nick Boles the Minister for Central Planning yesterday admitted at Committee stage to the G&I Bill that the major infrastructure route for major applications would

But would be “more predictable because it will be timetabled”.

But there is a much better solution, both for this and the proposed nationalisation of decisions for authorities falling into special measures.

The solution would be two fold.  Firstly a Statutory timetable for all major applications, giving PPAs the force of law.  If LPAs had not made a decision result in by the last day the application would be automatically approved. A measure overdue since the Dobry report in the 1970s and similar to reforms suggested by Lord Debden.

Secondly a hearing would be conducted by a planning inspector at the end of the period who after a defined period – say a maximum of 6 weeks – would present a report which then say a week later would be put to a vote by the LPA.

On the second point I would reform PINS so that it became a company limited by guarantee, with statutory independence but owned by local government.  A model similar to the Local Government Clearing House.  PINS would then appoint inspectors to local panels – much like in Scotland.

Local government could collectively issue guidance to PINS at board level on the treatment of appeals providing this was lawful and did not contradict the NPPF or other national policy.  A useful means of fleshing out the minimalist NPPF.

Of course local members may reject the findings, but the developer could then appeal to PINS itself and a partial award of costs would then be very likely.

This reform would have the advantages of localism, predictability, and accountability which the centralist PINS system currently lack, and learning the lessons from the reform of the appeals system in Scotland.

Responses from Local Government, and Inspectors, welcome.

First Target for Massive Civil Service Staff Cuts Should be Economists that Produce Impact Statements

Given the massive cuts in the Civil Service proposed with remaining staff supposed to focus ‘ruthlessly’ on ministerial priorities where should the cuts first fall.  I would suggest on the staff producing impact statements which have now become a complete and utter waste of time.

The Civil Service used to operate on the basis of objectively identifying the pros and cons of different options.  The Civil Service Code states as one of its four key values

Objectivity –basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence

But we no longer have evidence based policy but policy based evidence.  In the last couple of years Impact statements have become a joke.  We are expected to believe they are objective when one year they can argue one position – for example that brownfield first doesn’t reduce housing numbers because of the viability test, and the next the precise opposite.  Impact statements have become post-hoc justifications of policies drempt up by lobbyists and dumb tanks and no options presented by department or agency civil servants (the latter having had their policy role – essential as an expert based check on policy excesses – completely abolished).

Indeed it is no longer evidence that doesn’t matter but reality.  England has become infested with the same ‘reality deficit’ that neoliberal values  has caused the rot of American Conservatism.  Science, statistics, impacts are all derided as ‘moral relivatism’ and inferior to gut instincts.  A position laid to ridicule by the triumph of Nate Silvers cool calculated methods.  If you doubt this is happening look at the impact statements of the DWP, as so comprehensively savaged by the JRF,, where civil servants attack the Work Programme as ineffective, even though the DWPS own buried research suggests a low cost per job, when the replacement programme has a worse chance of finding you work then had you not been on the programme at all.  All claimants have to do now is state that they are refusing to go on it as the evidence suggest it will hinder their chance of finding work.

When civil servants droop to such moral relativism they do not justify their position according to the values of the Civil Service Code.  Values sadly now only of historic interest to be remembered with nostalgia in St James Clubs and Institute for Government Seminars.

So What if RSS is Revoked if Inspectors Find the Targets are Too Low

Those local planning authorities hoping that revocation of regional strategies will see relief from high ‘imposed’ housing numbers, and allowing for ‘locally derived’ figures that do not presume pre-GFC levels of growth will get a sharp shock from the preliminary findings of the East Hampshire Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy as reported in Planning.

The strategy seeks to provide 8,500 new homes during the plan period to 2028,…But the inspector’s note said that while the figures conform to the South East regional strategy, evidence submitted to the examination suggests that there is a need for at least 11,308 to 11,770 new homes up to 2028.

He said the council has failed to produce an up to date strategic housing market assessment (SHMA) for the district, which makes it difficult to fully assess housing needs in line with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The note states

the South East Plan recognises that the number of dwellings allocated is below the forecast growth of households
and states that local planning authorities can test higher numbers through the development plan process (my emphasis)

Further the South East Plan is to be revoked and the National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework) requires local planning authorities to ‘use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in this Framework’’

The Council  produced SHMAs for South Hampshire in 2005 and 2006 and for Central Hampshire in 2007 and 2008. The last SHMA was produced in January 2008, over 4 years before the submission of the JCS for examination. Later assessments of need have been carried out but they do not provide an update on the full housing needs of the District. I consider this to be a serious shortcoming in the evidence base supporting the JCS and I do not see how I can properly consider whether the Plan meets objectively assessed need without an up to date SHMA.

The inspector continues

I am concerned that the level of housing proposed in the JCS [A low projected economic growth scenario] (added to an
aging population) would limit the supply of local workers, prejudicing existing businesses and making the District less attractive to new employers. It could also lead to increased levels of in commuting.

On affordable housing the inspector states that assuming that most of the backlog would be addressed over the lifetime of the plan would

 consign many in need to a long wait. This is not acceptable and, in my view, the undisputed and urgent need

The inspector did not consider that 60% of the districts being AONB was a reasonable excuse for not having an up to date SHMA.  Those lpas making the same excuse because of high Green Belt coverage (St Albans till last Weds) please take note.

Finally there was no SEA of options to deal with higher levels of growth.