Medway Core Strategy – Undeliverable Because of Nightingales – A pragmatic decision?

We have just had through the Inspectors letter on the Medway Core Strategy, arguably one of the key decisions so far, for great interest because of the infamous Skylarks issue at the newly designated Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill SSSI and the reputed instruction from the Prime Minister to Natural England to ‘Get it fixed’.

Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill has become a nature conservation cause-celebre as you can see in the articles written by Simon Jenkins and George Monbiot on the issue, and the inspector showed the value of a robust politically independent inspectorate, the issue here I think is if this site is not guaranteed to deliver is it the right course of action for the whole of the core strategy to fall?

Lets get back to the letter.  The Core Strategy (plan) includes a strategic allocation (Policy CS33) for a new freestanding settlement at Lodge Hill on the Hoo Peninsula, a former MOD site.  Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill was notified as an SSSI on 13 Mach 2013 an enlargement of the Chattenden Woods SSSI. Consultation on notification is still underway and the notification must be confirmed (with or without modification) within nine months of the notification date, or it will cease to have effect.  One of the key reasons for the extension is the presence of Nightingales on the Lodge Hill site.

Just to clarify here Nightingale are not listed in schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Annex Ito the EC Birds Directive or section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (species of principal importance forthe conservation of biodiversity in England). I tis an amber‐listed ‘Bird of Conservation Concern’  and is subject to the general provisions protecting wild birds and their eggs and nests in part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  Therefore there are no issues of European Law (the Habitat Directive) applying, solely issues of UK law.  A report to the English Nature Board on the 11th March 2013 included legal counsels advice on possible notification as an SSSI :

There has been case law on this point and both the High Court and Court of Appeal were clear that if the science supports the designation of a SSSI then the Board should designate it as such. In other words, as regards section 28(5) [of the W & C Act] there is very little discretion if the science indicates that the site is of special scientific interest.

As the NPPF is clear that proposed SSSIs are to be treated as SSSIs in terms of national policy it is clear the Inspector had little discretion also in taking impact on the habitat of the site into full consideration.

Natural England advises that the development envisaged at Lodge Hill under Policy CS33 would damage a substantial proportion of the SSSI. It estimates that it is likely that 83% of the nightingales on the site would be lost. NE are not currently aware of any other sites with greater than 1% of the British population and the site is therefore particularly important for the population of nightingales….

Whatever the proportion of the site that is previously developed, the fact that it has been designated as a SSSI and is therefore of high environmental value means that its development does not benefit from
any particular support from the Framework in this respect. Policy CS1 of the CS, which encourages the use of previously developed land, is not wholly compliant with the Framework, because it does not include the caveat regarding high environmental value.

Now we move onto the controversial issue of biodiversity offsetting.  For those who think offsetting doesn’t apply to SSSIs they have conceded in this case that it can

I give significant weight to the conclusions of the BTO [British Trust for Ornithology] study that: it is ‘theoretically feasible to create habit that will be occupied by nightingales in lowland England’ and that ‘if the right conditions are satisfied (my emphasis), there is greater probability of achieving success in Kent than in most parts of the Country’.

The report on compensatory sites can be prepared very late in the day and their were doubts about the delivery of some of the sites and whether landowners had been properly consulted.

Taking all factors into account I agree with Natural England’s conclusion that habitat compensation for nightingale has a good chance of success, providing the sites chosen meet agreed criteria on design location and scale, but that it is not without risk.

The conclusion

Paragraph 152 of the Framework advises that significant adverse impacts on any of the dimensions of sustainable development should be avoided by, wherever possible, pursuing alternative options.
Development at Lodge Hill would have a significant adverse impact on the SSSI and the Framework’s objective of halting the overall decline in biodiversity. For the reasons given above, I am not convinced that there are no reasonable alternatives to the proposed development at Lodge Hill. The Framework only requires mitigation and compensation measures to be considered where adverse impacts are unavoidable.
However, in considering the balance to be struck between all the dimensions of sustainable development I am not persuaded that the social and economic benefits that would flow from development on this site would outweigh the harm to a site of national importance for biodiversity…of the allocation site as a SSSI are material changes in circumstances. I conclude that Policy CS33 is not consistent with national planning policy and is therefore unsound.

In other words even if biodiversity offsetting is possible and of an appropriate location, scale and degree of risk according to the recently published Natural England Metrics the NPPF rules against it unless it is ‘unavoidable’.  Of course biodiversity offsetting was not directly included in the NPPF (though it was in open source planning) because at the time Natural England had not concluded the pilots.

My conclusions regarding the Lodge Hill allocation (and the lack of any contingency), in conjunction with the shortcomings relating to objectively assessed needs, mean that the extent of main modifications required .would be so significant as to amount to the plan being rewritten. A significant amount of further work and consultation would have to be undertaken. I consider the changes required are so significant that I am unable to deal with the matter through main modifications and that the only reasonable course of action is for the Council to withdraw the CS and prepare a new Local Plan.

Now the issue here is whether the loss of such a key site would make the plan unsound.  The NPPF of course does contain a let out in the case of European sites where alternatives have been exhausted.  But this is not a European site and alternatives have yet to be properly explored.

One key issue is whether or not the inspector should have simply considered the plan sound, but for a reduced period of less than 15 years, and ordered an early review.

Some plans have been allowed through on these occasions, Milton Keynes, Hertsmere for example, where the plans were prepared in line with the South East Plan and of course this was then revoked.  This is somewhat more controversial in the case of Dacorum where it was deliberately prepared contrary to prevailing policy and to undershoot housing need.  There are two counsels opinions supporting the view of this blog that is beyond the reasonable interpretation of the NPPF – the council cites caselaw saying the inspector has flexibility in interesting national policy – I say the supreme court has ruled this cannot mean the planning world of Humty Dumpty – making the NPPF mean the opposite of what it means.

Pending the outcome of the Dacorum case I do wonder if the pragmatic thing to do would be to make the plan sound and order an early review, after all there are other big sites in Medway that need to be gotten on with and there is no reason why these cannot start now.   Medway prepared their plan in good faith – so they should be given the benefit of the doubt.  By then it is likley the NPPF will (for right or wrong and I am a sceptic) excluded offsets sites from the NPPF definition of serious harm.

One can imagine bungalow bob trying to explain the subtleties of this issue to the Prime Minister. There was a time when the department employed ‘fixers’ such as Henry Cleary, John Hack, and Joyce Bridges, to resolve such problems, now they are all gone and no-one of such caliber to sort big key sites out.

Also I think Medway made a key tactical mistake, arguing against the nature conservation value of the site and claiming that because some of it was brownfield this trumpted all – both untenable positions that would have been unsustainable on JR if it came to that.Their press release today is just ridiculous.

(I am always available for consultancy work on this issue).

Sraffa’s Hidden Treatment of Money – A Wages Fund

The common assumption is Sraffa had no treatment of money, that any commodity could act as one in his system.  This is an error, it is there but hidden.

I came across this reference in Sraffa’s unpublished notes in an article by Gehrke and Kurz – in the form of a note on von Bortkiewicz, in 1943, when Sraffa had reached a crucial theoretical turn

The transformation of wages [into value – in contrast to von Bortkiewicz]  has been done by introducing (in all but in name) money; and taking the Annual Revenue as unit of money (hence the “proportion” = money wage).(D3/12/35: 9(1-3)

Here we are talking about a specific system of production and what Sraffa terms (in reference to Ricardo) as ‘proportional wages’ that is the w (wage share) in his famous formula r=R(1-w) where r is the rate of profit, and R is the maximum amount of profit (a flow value) over the turnover period (the revenue).

In Ricardo however there is a very simple relationship between proportional wages (the wages share) and the nominal value of an individual workers wage.  This was that capital advanced as wages/population=the wage.  Capital advanced is R(1-w), the wages fund, and in early classical dogma the higher were wages the smaller investment, and increases in wages by one set of workers simply depleted the wages fund for others. Here we can see a close relationship with Kalecki’s profit formula as capital advanced is simply profits minus consumption (including a contribution to a depreciation fund).

You might think that no economic concept has been more discredited than the wages fund.  However none of the theoretical core ideas of classical economics underwent such thoroughgoing evolution as the wages fund doctrine, even surviving in a modified form in Austrian Economics – as first the ‘subsistence fund’ and then the ‘pool of funding’, though picking up a few fallacies on the way, such as the ‘creation of money out of thin air’ depletes this fund.

At the core of the ‘fund’ concept is an important physical relationship that has been completely lost in neoclassical economics. That is the relationship between the physical output (surplus) and the labour force – the land/labour relationship we find in Petty, Cantillon, the Physiocrats , Torrens and Ricardo, where a fund of corn grows, is depleted by consumption, and reinvested for the next turnover period.  Sraffa was of course seeking to restore economics to this objective physical foundation.

The Wages Fund approach was greatly refined over the period of classical economics dominance.  It grew beyond the rigid and false approach of an iron law of wages to embrace that it is is a ‘fund’ which can grow or be depleted through in and out flows over time.  Hence if wages grew this would add to demand which would grow the fund.  It was in this revised form that JS Mill modified the concept in 1869 (it was not a recantation), and FW Taussig  in Wages and Capital: An Examination of the Wages Fund Doctrine  1896,and Frances Amasa Walker in the Wages Question 187, conceptualized it in more stock-flow consistent terms. In particular rather than population as a permanent divisor diluting teh fund labour was treated as the source of wealth and demand.  Though as Marshall commented in such a radically reconceptulised form it lost a lot of its original political economy vigour (or rather from the capitalist side of the argument).

In Böhm-Bawerk’s reconception of the ‘english’ theory it becomes a a stock of consumption goods that sustained a worker until the capital service was on stream.  In his famous Crusoe economy example Crusoe hoarded coconuts for a few days to sustain him through a few days constructing a stick to reach more coconuts.  The fund is fairly easy to model in a world of a single good which is also a consumption good.  When conceived in monetary terms however complications ensued.  Both Wicksell and Blaug have stressed the similarity on the wages fund idea.  Rather than a fixed stock of population and a fixed period of production there now was a fixed stock of population and a fixed stock of capital advanced which sustained a period of production – or as Wicksell more correctly termed it a period of investment.

Some defenders of Sraffa see wages and interest as essentially undetermined in his system – and so should be treated as purely social forces.  Sraffa however, though stressing that both had social components, was more inclined to treat interest as the exogenous variable, and of course the rate of profit has a crucial regulating role for the rate of interest.

Various attempts have been made to graft a monetary basis onto Sraffa, and as a result describe production in monetary term making his theories compatible with Sraffas.  I don’t regard any of these theories as fully satisfactory. One potentially fruitful approach is to regard money as a commodity like any other [ I take the Circuitist approach as implying that money must be a different commodity than those being exchanged not a commodity at all]  which is produced at a profit by holders of money.  Such an approach chimes well with the endogenous theory of money and the business model of banking.  It produces a problem though a it treats interest as a cost of money which capitalists will employ through debt if it produces more revenue at or above the average rate of profit, for the bank then the cost of producing the loan will be less than the revenue hence a profit.  But this requires the rate of interest to be known at the beginning of the period of investment.  In his lectures on value theory Sraffa called this ‘circular reasoning’ requiring value to explain vale.  For this reason I think Sraffa treated interest as exogenous as he was keen for an explanation of value which was invariant through time, but because production takes time there is also the need to fund the goods sustaining labour through time, so Sraffa was also forced to make labour endogenous.  Indeed modern interpretations like that of Sinha see  he approach as  frozen moment in time rather than a process in time gravitating towards any kind of ‘equilibrium’ .

Let us deal briefly with own rates of interest.  Sraffa in his critique of Hayek suggested that each commodity would have its own rate of interest.  So to give an example if over a year maize would produced twice its own seed and wheat three times its own seed then maize would earn a higher own rate of interest than wheat.  This is I think to confuse Agio – productivity – with interest – which I treat as a purely monetary phenomenon – agio on money.  A holder of a company which owns land suitable for growing maize would have higher stock prices than one which holds land suitable for growing wheat.  The equity markets would even out the rates of profit.  So if I borrowed money to buy stock it would be at the average agio.

If money (at interest) is required to sustain labour throughout the period of investment then the cost element of labour is not the sum of labour costs over the period of investment but the discounted cost at the prevailing rate of interest.  Here we assume that this is debt financed rather than through retained profits, but if the rate of profit is low in that industry than these retained profits will rationally be interested in another industry at a higher rate of profit.  If labour is homogeneous for a given production technique across the period of investment then the cost of the last employed unit of labour will be the marginal cost.  But here marginal cost is the residual o0f the avlue process and not the cause of value.  This shows that at the margin the marginal and the cost of production theories are equivalent, however the cost of production approach is more enlighting of the total circular flow of production.

Wicksell Lectures on Political Economy (1901) reconceptualised the concept as a ‘Wages Flow’ It is the flow of capital into investment not a fixed fund of capital, that hires workers and creates incomes. When capital advanced capital turns over faster, through increased demand for example,an originally  fixed fund of capital can generate more investing whenever a surplus of labor seeks jobs.

If one is solely concerned with simple interest then a fall in the rate of interest increases the period of investment, Bohm-Bawerk and Hayeck seem vindicated, however once interest is compounded through retained profits and reinvestment that this simple relationship does not hold – we get Wicksell effects.  So back to Sraffa, it is not simply the case  of reswitching of choice of technique that occurs at higher interest rate, because at a given productivity a technique will take a given period of time which at different interest rates will have have different costs.  Hence at higher interest rates you might get switching back to a technique that takes a longer period of time depending on the period of investment of the goods of which the capital good is composed.

Therefore there is a treatment of money in Sraffa, which can be conceptualised by a ‘wages flow’ like process, but which needs to be modelled in a flow input flow output model of surplus, retained profits and investment.  The challenge is to do so in a manner which avoids the ‘circular logic’ trap.  This will be followed up in a future post.

All Party Protection of Green Belt Group Formed

Guy Opperman MP

I have joined with other MP’s to form an all party Parliamentary Group dedicated to the protection of the Greenbelt. I hope the group will allow the voices calling for the protection of the Greenbelt “to be heard louder, and at the very top of government.”

People fighting to protect the Greenbelt are pinnacles of our local community. People realise we are simply guardians of our beautiful land, and we must protect what green space we have. I believe we can have the housing we need, in the right way, without suffering widespread environmental damage to wildlife, farm land, hedgerows and green space under tonnes of concrete and mortar built on with  executive homes. That is why the Greenbelt is so important.

Boles Says Build on the Green Belt if Its Boring

Boles seems to miss the key lynchpin of Green Belt policy, it is a policy of urban containment not of landscape protection, and as such ‘its ‘environmental value’ is not material to whether Green Belt should be maintained as Green Belt, all that matters to this is whether the policy of urban containment should be relaxed, and if so whether the sites in question are of value to green belt purposes.  He even gets the test wrong, for plan led release its ‘very special circumstances’ not ‘exceptional circumstances’.


Developers should be allowed to build on fields if they are boring, the planning minister has said, after a fellow Tory minister accused him and David Cameron failing to protect the countryside.

In controversial comments, Nick Boles said people must be “realistic” about the need for more housing, which will mean building on “environmentally uninteresting” green spaces.

He made the remarks in a letter to Anna Soubry, a Conservative health minister, who wrote to his department to warn that housing is being built on the Green Belt despite David Cameron’s “repeated assurances” it will be protected.

Mr Boles underlined protections for the Green Belt but was unable to guarantee it will be safe in and around Mrs Soubry’s constituency, while arguing it is necessary to build on some fields.

“Given a two million increase in our population over the last ten years and historic under-provision of housing we have to be realistic that not all the housing that we as a country need can be on brownfield land,” he said. “In some places, this may mean buliding on low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields. In exceptional circumstances, it may involve a Green Belt review.”

The row underlines the concerns of many Tory MPs in rural constituencies, including the Prime Minister’s personal aide Sam Gyimah, who are fighting unwanted development.

However, Mrs Soubry is the first Conservative minister to say outright that the Coalition’s planning reforms and localism agenda are failing to protect the countryside.

Describing an “intolerable situation”, Mrs Soubry said planning inspectors are forcing local councils to accept more housing and build on Green Belt. She said up to 3,000 houses could be built in her own constituency of Broxtowe and a further swath in nearby Rushcliffe, whose MP is another Tory Cabinet minister, Ken Clarke.

Mrs Soubry wrote directly to Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, with a plea for him to give it his “urgent attention” as there is a “great disconnect” between the rhetoric of ministers and the reality of housing on the Green Belt.

“Notwithstanding the localism agenda, the National Planning Policy Framework, the abolition of the RSS [regional spatial strategies] and the repeated assurances of your good self and the Prime Minister that Green Belt land remains specially protected and should not be built on save in exceptional circumstances, local authorities like Rushcliffe and my own are unable to determine their own housing needs, set their own targets and protect their Green Belt land from development, ” she wrote to Mr Pickles.

“In short, assurances about localism and continuing protection for the Green Belt at ministerial level are flying in the face of advice from the inspectors leaving local authorities with no alternative but to agree to development on Green Belt land.”

Mr Pickles’s junior minister, Mr Boles, wrote back in reply, but was unable to give a concrete guarantee that the Green Belt land in the two Nottinghamshire constituencies would be safe.

The letter said councils are “in charge of their Green Belt” and the boundaries of protected areas will only be changed in “exceptional circumstances”.

However, he would only say planning guidelines in favour of sustainable development would not “automatically” override Green Belt protection and a council’s efforts to fight the housing will not “necessarily” fail.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, criticised the planning minister’s comments and accused the Government of being “in denial” about the scale of building on the countryside.

“What he classes as uninteresting fields might be essential for growing food or somewhere that people absolutely love walking their dog on or just looking at,” he said.

Mr Spiers also called on the Prime Minister to “intervene” to stop the “huge amount of development going up on the Green Belt”.

It is not the first time Mr Boles has provoked the ire of countryside-lovers. Earlier this year, he suggested housing provides more “human happiness” than fields.

Last night, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said there are very strong protections for the Green Belt.

“Whilst we do not comment on individual correspondence between Ministers and MPs, the Government has repeatedly made clear very strong protections exist to safeguard the Green Belt and other areas, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” he said.

“Local councils are in control of their Green Belt boundaries, through local plans, which this Government put at the heart of the planning system to allow communities to deliver the right development for their local area.”

Mr Boles, who became planning minister in the re-shuffle last year, is currently planning further changes to the rules to encourage house-building, including the controversial plan to give home owners compensation for neighbouring developments.

He has also set out plans to make it easier to allow agricultural barns and high street shops to be converted into residential housing.

The Government will also put pressure on developers to speed up building on land that has planning permission while “bullying” them into building “more beautiful” houses rather than “soulless, identikit rabbit hutches.”

BNP Paribas – Local Plans Short of 51,000 Houses a Year Nationally

The fourth annual BNP Paribas report on housing targets suggests a shortfall of around 51,000 this year between local plan housing levels and the household projections baseline used in previous reports.  To maintain comparability they didnt use the latest household projections, but if they did the gap reduces to around 26,000/annum (though this increases affordable housing need).

Here is a summary 

Labours plans on Landbanking – Telegraph


Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will say companies sitting on land while waiting for the price to rise must “use it or lose it” under moves to ease the housing shortage.

In a speech in Birmingham, he will suggest that building firms should be fined if they refuse to develop land that has been given planning permission. Councils could also be given “compulsory purchase” powers to buy back sites that lie empty for years, despite having been approved for development. The proposals will be examined as part of Labour’s policy review and could feature in the party’s next election manifesto.

Planning permission has already been granted for 400,000 homes across the country, equal to a city the size of Birmingham, but they have not yet been built, in a practice known as “land banking”.

The Labour leader is concerned that property prices have risen too high, making homes unaffordable for many young working families.

He believes that homes must be built across the country but the priority should be to develop land that already has planning permission, rather than seeking to build on new greenfield sites.

In a speech to Labour’s National Policy Forum, he will say that the “promise of Britain” – that each generation does better than the last – has been broken because young people cannot afford their own homes.

“For decades now, Britain simply hasn’t built enough homes,” he will say.

“The result has been that the prices of houses and flats have gone up, even in these difficult economic times.

“Working people in their twenties will now have to save for 30 years before they can afford a deposit for a new home.

“That leaves millions of young people unable to get that start in life that their parents’ generation took for granted.”

Mr Miliband will acknowledge that some land banking is needed to maintain a supply of new building sites.

More info in the Independent

Property firms which buy land as an investment and fail to develop it would face tough penalties under a Labour government in a drive to raise levels of house-building.

They could receive heavy fines or tax demands from local councils and even the threat of compulsory purchase orders as a way of forcing them to develop the land.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will claim Britain is in the grip of its worst housing crisis for a generation, exacerbated by unscrupulous developers hoarding land in the hope that its value will grow because of property shortages.

Across the country, planning permission has been granted for 400,000 homes which are yet to be built and in London 45 per cent of undeveloped land is held by companies that do not carry out construction work.

At the same time demand for property is outstripping supply – about 100,000 homes will be built this year in England, about half the number needed.

In a speech tomorrow to the party’s national policy forum, Mr Miliband will signal that house-building would be a key priority for an incoming Labour government and announce that developers would come under pressure to “use or lose” the land they have accumulated.

Options being considered include giving councils the power to fine companies that own swaths of undeveloped land or to require them to pay council tax or a “land tax” on undeveloped areas. As a last resort developers who refuse to build could find themselves facing a compulsory purchase order.

Mr Miliband will say: “We have to be willing to confront some of the obstacles to house-building.

“Across our country there are firms sitting on land waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building on it – landowners with planning permission who simply do not build. We have to change that… permission to build should mean landowners build.”

The Labour leader will argue that the move would instantly mean more homes being built without an extra cost to the taxpayer, providing a shot in the arm to the economy and creating jobs.

He will point to research by the housing charity Shelter which concludes that it can take couples up to 11 years to save the deposit for a home and take single people up to 30 years.

A series of initiatives have been announced by the Government in an attempt to stimulate house construction. It includes a £10bn loan guarantee scheme to encourage developers to start building, £3.5bn of which is being targeted at housing associations to build properties to rent out to poorer families.

Boles gets his own national policy wrong in criticising ‘use it or lose it’ policy on landbanks #NPPF

Boris Johnson has in recent weeks proposed a ‘use it or lose it’ policy in the review of the London Plan to prevent excessive landbanking, now Ed Milliband has picked up on it.

BBC News

Labour says permission has been given for 400,000 homes that have not been built

Labour is considering giving councils more powers to make landowners go through with building projects, in an effort to tackle the housing shortage.

Leader Ed Miliband will say too many developers with planning permission for projects are “sitting on land” while it gains value instead of building on it.

The party is looking at giving local authorities in England “use-it-or-lose-it” powers over developers.

The government said confiscating land “will not help build a single house”.

Mr Miliband will use his speech to Labour’s National Policy Forum to say planning permission has been granted for 400,000 homes in England that have not been built.

Too many developers are holding on to land while it gains value, rather than pushing ahead with projects for which they have permission, he will argue.


In his speech on Saturday, Mr Miliband will say “obstacles to housebuilding” must be overcome.

He will add: “Across our country, there are firms sitting on land, waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building on it. Landowners with planning permission, who simply will not build. We have to change that.”

Mr Miliband will also say: “All options should be on the table, including giving local authorities real power to say to the worst offenders that they should either use the land, or lose the land.

“Permission to build should mean landowners build. If there is unnecessary hoarding, developers should be encouraged to do what they are in business to do, build houses.”

The Labour leader will admit that governments over the past few decades have failed to deal with the issue of housing shortages.

This has pushed up prices, preventing millions of young people from buying a home, he will add.

Planning minister Nick Boles said: “Yet again Ed Miliband is too weak to offer a coherent policy. Most normal planning permissions already expire after a three-year period and councils don’t have to renew them.

“Labour clearly learnt nothing from its failures in government as 400,000 homes represents less than two years’ worth of the number of new homes that we need to build. And confiscating any land from development will not help build a single house.”

But no you cant.  Firstly under the NPPF there is a presumption in favour of development, a double presumption in cases where there is no 5+ year supply.  Secondly the only way you could make a use it or lose it consent stick is with a permanent and personal consent, wheras circular 11/95 expressly does not allow this having a presumption in favour of renewal.  (paras 95 and 108-113).  I have lookked into this in some detail for a number of authorities.

Boles again confuses stock and flow with teh issue of landbanking.  Certainly iof we were building enough housing per annum then the stock opf landbanking would be much higher, however if as now allocated and consent schemes were left idle for 10, 15 years or longer the stock of landbanked homes, and numbers of permissions granted, would have to be much higher.

From CIL to a ‘Community Investment Fund’ – Do Labour’s Plans make sense?

Yesterday Planning reported that

 Labour’s planning spokeswoman Roberta Blackman-Woods said that the party is considering getting rid of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and the current system of planning gain agreements, including section 106 agreements.

This would be replaced by a “community investment fund”, said Blackman-Woods, in which developer contributions would be spent on local infrastructure over a long-term period. The pot would also include government money to be spent on housing, she said.

Does this make sense?

Leaving aside any pointless changes in name for much the same thing, which we have seen much too much in this sector, a single large pot for infrastructure combined with other fundings streams makes sense.

Labour is thinking of pooling housing benefit funding with current housing benefit capital funding, on the lines suggested by the IPPR, this would give a large enough revenue stream to ‘invest to save’.

A key question is whether this would be combined with the single local pot as recommended by the Hesiltine review.  It would make perfect sense to do so and include local transport and regeneration funding in the same pot, as well I would suggest for funding for expansion of school places and capital upgrades of schools, the current systems for which are far to centralised.

The issue then arises as to what scale these should be administered.  It would make sense if this was done at a housing market/travel to work area level, through partnerships that would merge current housing market area partnerships and LEPS.

I would go even further and create a funding structure which would make the duty to cooperate really bite.  In this local revenue government spending for the existing population would be split from all capital and revenue funding for household and population growth and change.  All regulatory services would be self funded through increased fees, and the burden of care funding would revert to the NHA.  In this system local government would avoid the ‘graph of doom’.

In this system a joint SHMA would set out the level of housing need a partnership area would commit to provide for.  It would commit its locally CIL raised funding and bid for the rest through a formula system for government, some arriving on publication of targets, more on publication of plans etc. and the final installment on completion of housing.  This would be a super new homes bonus system if you like.  Development control would be self funded through self set fees, LPAs and PAS have done all the work for this, whilst LPAs would have to bid for funding for development plan making from this fund.  Therefore head in the sand parochial plans simply wouldnt get funded, almost all plan making above the neighborhood level would be joint work.

Please Labour ask for opinions for reform from the sector and stakeholders, but please dont ask only chief planning officers.  These days few dare be more than ciphers for politicians and Turkeys wont vote for Christmas.

As for the idea of ‘saving up’ CIL monies whats the point, the last thing we need economically is more none invested idle balances.

There will always be a need for one off S106 contributions on major schemes, so p[lease dont mess with that.

Kirklees – How Delaying Submission till after RS Revocation can lead to a DTC fail

Kikleess this week wrote back to the inspector withdrawing plan- here is the original inspectors’s letter.  The long and the short, Kirklees didnt even try to meet the duty.

Even though it has recently been revoked, the Regional Strategy (RS) encapsulated the outcome of [a] strategic process. I agree that the YHRA did provide, if not co-operation, then a foundation of co-ordination which could be built upon. Appendix C of CD12 indicates that, so far as housing is concerned, other adjacent Councils are bringing forward proposals which are broadly in-line with the co-ordinated approach set out in the RS. The exception
appears to be Kirklees Council…. so far as housing is concerned, the Council appears to be abandoning the foundation of co-ordination which could be provided by the RS. This impression is reinforced by the fact that submission of the Core Strategy for Examination appears to have been delayed until the RS has been revoked. The object of the Council’s timing appears to be to ensure that the Core Strategy cannot now fail the test which required that the document should be generally in conformity with the RS. I find it difficult to reconcile the Council’s position that, as a participant in the YHRA, its Core Strategy was prepared against a background of strategic co-operation with its position where, in contrast to other participating Councils, it is proposing to adopt an approach to housing which is significantly different to the strategic approach set out in the RS. In my view this significantly weakens the Council’s case that participation in the YHRA indicates a degree of strategic cooperation during the preparation of the Core Strategy and that the ‘duty to co-operate’ has been fulfilled.

On housing need

The Council makes clear that the Core Strategy does not pretend to meet the whole of the identified need for housing in the local authority area. My understanding is that it seeks to provide only enough land to build sufficient market housing to accommodate those who can afford to buy them together with the number of affordable homes which could be reasonably provided alongside the market houses – the total being termed ‘the effective demand’. The Council’s approach takes no account of the requirements of paragraph 47 of the NPPF.
I can see no endorsement of the Council’s approach in national guidance. The Council may consider that it is a pragmatic approach given the current availability of private finance. However, I would question whether this is a proper approach for Councils to take. In my view the government is expecting that Councils should be seeking to put in place the conditions which will enable developers to build the houses which are required to meet the full need. It is for the developer to decide whether the houses will be capable of being sold. If he concludes that the houses will not sell, he will not build.

This is interesting as it implies a permanent lack of delivery and a permanent requirement for the plus 20%, so the 20% would add to the overall housing numbers, it wouldnt simply be a phasing issue.

And there is Forest Heath fail

…I draw the Council’s attention to some recent case law. In the case of Save Historic Newmarket Ltd v Forest Heath DC the judgement made clear that the background information supporting a Council’s plan needed to be of sufficient quality in terms of information, expertise and perceived effects to ensure that those members of the public affected by the plan are able to understand why the proposals are said to be environmentally sound and why alternative proposals have been discounted. In the case of Heard v Broadland District Council and others – which drew heavily on the Save Historic 5ewmarket decision – the judgement indicated that all alternative strategies should have
been considered in the same depth as those sites chosen for development. I have seen no clear evidence to demonstrate that a detailed comparison of alternative strategies has been carried out which would be in-line with these judgements.