Why Large Commuter Villages are the ‘Planning Anarchy’ Frontline

From the remarks by Micheal Hepburn in the excellent ‘Unplanned England’ article in Planning last week it would seem like many in the consultancy business would not be unhappy if local plans went away altogether.

He said the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provided adequate tests in terms of sustainability and design to ensure that quality remained high even for unallocated development, and added that the pre-application engagement and consultation process as well as the formal planning process gave councils and communities “plenty of scope” to have some control over such schemes. “The last thing we want is for people to think that development outside an adopted plan is automatically poorer quality.

Indeed it is not. However that doesn’t mean it is the right development in the best location.  We should be careful though is scouring the biggest appeals for urban extensions.  Many of these sites would come forward for development anyway, if not in the next local plan the one after that, or the one after that.  Public outrage per-se is not to be taken as good evidence of policy failure, after all housing will always be controversial and lack of public buy in to an appeal led system is an issue of political legitimacy not one of necessarily of poor planning outcomes.  Nor should any infrastructure gap be insuperable.  You can always block development by saying their is insufficient infrastructure and the current approach of the government is to build the housing first and then have parents desperate for school places, or doctors filling the shortage of primary care, to come along later and build free schools or surgeries using new homes bonus funding on developer supplied land.  A non planning approach that always delivers too little infrastructure too late, but at least it delivers some.

Rather I think for examples of where the NPPF is failing is to loom at where a disproportionate amount of development is proposed when there are better alternatives, better alternatives that can’t be considered under the NPPF.

Where developers are now targeting now they have optioned out every urban extension potential site is large popular commuter villages.  Arguably these places have received too little development in recent rounds of local plans.  Villages with populations of over 2,000 within 5 or 10 miles of a larger employment centre, with good a or b road connections or a rail link, with good schools capable of expansion , some shops and services and a bus link.  These will tick the minimum sustainability standards of the NPPF.

These villages often had lpost war estates built of poor quality and this led naturally to hostility to developement, and many local plans/core strategies have focussed development on urban extensions or have dispersed strategies.  The problems with these is deliverability.  large urban extensions often have infrastructure prerequisites with long lead in times.  Whilst spreading development across dozens of villages is often impractical as you cant build have a form entry onto a primary school.

Classic examples of such villages are Feniton in Devon and Tattenhall and Hartford in Cheshire.  The last having 350 houses allowed on recovered appeal.   Some of these villages have proposals to increase their size by 30%, 50% or more in one fell swoop.  A more reasoned expansion over a plan period would be more like 15% to cover natural household growth plans a small premisum of 5% or so if a village was to absorb some growth from smaller villages where it si impractical.  Such a rate of growth, of one percent a year or so in population terms over a 15 year plan can be absorbed organically across multiple sites and not have the appearance of a suburbanised estate.  It is impossible to make any estate of more than a couple of dozen houses appear ‘rural’ and a natural part of a village.

A very simple change to the NPPF could accommodate this.  Simply requiring the scale and pace of development in a village to be appropriate to a villages size and character.


5 thoughts on “Why Large Commuter Villages are the ‘Planning Anarchy’ Frontline

  1. The Village of Waingroves in Derbyshire has lost every field around it to opportunist developers, taking advantage of the ‘presumption in favour’ previously 400 houses, will have in excess of 2,000 new homes within a 1 mile radius

    Surely if the NPPF and the localism Act are both ‘law’ that they should over ride a presumption?

    All of the development around Waingroves is contrary to the NPPF as it will create a massive conurbation turning this rural village into a city, and is contrary to the localism Act, as we can choose nowhere as our open spaces, we have NONE left to choose from

    The land we had chosen for our Neighbourhood plan as open space, is an ancient Common which pre-dates the doomsday book, was once owned by the illegitimate son of William the conqueror, has ancient ridge and furrow on it and is abundant with the ever rarer hedgehog, as we have been releasing them onto this land as it was originally protected

    Our borough has in excess of 100 hectares of brownfield, 2,500 homes with permission not built, 2,000 homes standing empty, and because of this ridiculous ‘presumption’ we are to lose this beautiful Common, an island of land surrounded by villages

    Will Mr CaMoron lose the next election on this issue? I sincerely HOPE SO! although it will be too late for our Common and all the other greenbelt and greenfield sites that make up our emerging ‘Core Strategy’

    Vive la revolucion!

  2. ” You can always block development by saying their is insufficient infrastructure and … using new homes bonus funding on developer supplied land”.

    Reality is, though that using the new homes bonus may not provide these facilities. The current plan is to allocate some of this bonus (quite a large chunk) to Local Enterprise Partnerships for them to decide where the monehh should be spent and there is no guarantee that they will go where they are perceived to be needed most.

    Some councils also, unfortunately, cannot be trusted to build where things are needed: they often build where it is most expedient, wheere permissions will be quickly gained but not appropriate or where there are votes to be caught or they spend money on vanity projects.

    • The reserve matters were passed on one half of this site on Monday night, with an instruction that work can not commence until an environmental document has been put in and the environmental board agrees it

      In this neck of the woods they agree everything we already have neat sewage running into stream and brooks at present, we have a letter dated 1986 which states that this area can not accommodate any large developments as the combined sewer was not made to cope with it, planning is an absolute disgrace and provided it isn’t in the majority councillors back yards they are passing everything, greenbelt, ancient commons, the most toxic site in Europe is up for 3,000 homes??

      Please explain how the new homes bonus works if you can as if its not too late we may be able to use that, we have tried the lack of infrastructure, we have tried the environmental stuff, with photos, what we really need is a miracle, or someone who will make a national case out of what they are doing here, how can they possibly put 9,000 homes in a 3.5 mile radius of the most deprived, least appropriate area and expect it to work? its only a matter of time before this blows up in their faces, but by then all our open space will be gone, under flooding and neat sewage!

      I suspect our corrupt council will take any monies from this homes bonus? and use it in the west of the borough (their bit) as they have tried to with another plot of land that they were trying to sell, they held a vote in not spending the monies from it in the area that would suffer from the sale of greenbelt to put a supermarket within 100 yards of a supermarket? we have managed to stall this one at present but they will continue to try and push it through, as they need a ‘second’ leisure centre in their main stronghold town, we know where the money will go! we are currently fighting around a dozen plots all up at the same time all in the same 3.5mile radius, all on greenbelt or open space, heeeeeeelp!

  3. Yes, “stronghold towns” are a real problem. We have one here: most of our Executive Cabinet come from the area, as do their friends. As a result, everything is being concentrated on this one town whilst others lose out. Millions have gone into new social facilities, the potential relocation of their HQ and subsidising an arts centre that would be bankrupt were it not for the council money.

  4. Couldn’t agree more that the NPPF should encourage housing provision in villages to be of an appropriate scale and pace for those settlements as you suggest.

    There are all sorts of facets to the problem at the moment though: LPAs being offered little certainty whether (and to what extent) they can profile delivery from Approvals in Principle (e.g. for an SUE) in their five year land supplies; the cherry-picked rural sites may be clearly countable in the land supply but early delivery is not guaranteed as developers manage the local market; and a converse problem exists for determine the appropriate scale of development in a given settlement as many LPAs would try and dodge the difficult political question of actually making allocations (to meet ultimately substantial needs) and seem to think the problem will go away – it won’t.

    How far we go down the Milliband route of ‘use it or lose it’ is something I’m undecided on overall, but we need some coherent way to tackle the above three elements. In the last year the NPPF has thrown the door wide open for all of the above to continue; worse still it takes us a step away from long-term guaranteeing the volumes of housing output we need and sets precedents for less sustainable development patterns in the future.

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