Stockton Cllrs ‘Whats the Point of A Planning Committee’ Under #NPPF

Northern Echo

Officers had recommended approving local businessman Javed Majid’s latest plan, to build 330 family and executive homes along with open public spaces, football and cricket pitches, play areas and allotments at the Tall Trees site.

The council’s planning officers cite changes the Government has made to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make it easier for developers to win approval for new housing developments. Local authorities across the country have been losing appeals under the new guidelines which can cost the council up to £30,000 a time.

The council has also failed to meet five year housing supply targets, which also makes it harder to reject new housing schemes.

Coun Steve Walmsley, a Thornaby Independent, said: “The NPPF is meant to be a guide, not an excuse. Why have a planning committee under this? We should just let the officers decide. We’ve got to make a stand somewhere.

“We’re against the Government on the bedroom tax and allowing so much child poverty and we say so, and we should make a stand here too. If you have haven’t got a backbone you shouldn’t stand for office.”

In the end the committee voted against the motion by seven votes to three on the grounds that it was outside the council’s development area and there was no sustainable transport for the area.

However Julie Butcher, principle solicitor at the council, said more details were needed and investigations made before the decision could be recorded. If good legal reasons are developed the decision may be accepted, if not it will appear before the planning committee again at a future date.

After the meeting Mr Majid said he would “absolutely” appeal against a rejection.

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Cheshire West Man Goes to Police Over Local Plan Housing Needs Assessment

Quite Bizarre.  At the heart of this row is a rather clumsy plan intervention by the local LEP and the failure of MR Jones to realise that the ‘objective assessment of housing need’ needs to not be job constrained.  The LEP had set a jobs target that was not informed by the latest HH projections.  Only an inspector and not the police can disintangle this now.  A very good case of how in 19 out of 20 cases LEPS have not stepped up to the strategic planning plate.

Chester Chronicle

Police have received a complaint from a city resident who has challenged the methods used by Cheshire West and Chester Council to calculate the number of new houses needed in the borough over the next 20 years.

Ross Jones of Saughall is concerned CWaC’s draft local plan includes a proposal to build 22,000 homes in West Cheshire between 2010 and 2030 which he considers on the high side, with implications for the green belt.

He agrees with Tory rebel Cllr Brian Crowe who recently dubbed the figure ‘an aspiration for growth’ rather than being evidence-based.

Mr Jones, 27, told The Chronicle : “I had been making inquiries regarding discrepancies between approved methodology in plan making and the council’s methodology.”

Mr Jones contacted the council’s former monitoring officer over the issue who advised that, if he had evidence, he should report it to police.

“Subsequently I contacted the police who were surprisingly helpful and requested many documents. In the meantime, while the police were investigating, I made a complaint of maladministration through the council’s complaints procedure, for which I am still awaiting a final response.”

Planning minister Nick Boles made clear any development plan must be evidence-based on a recent visit to Chester organised by city MP Stephen Mosley.

He said: “The politics, in any direction, of aspiration and growth or of restraint and protection of land, that should come in the later phase of what are we going to do, not in the up-front phase of what is the objective evidence telling us?”

Mr Boles explained that an inspector would test the robustness of the evidence at a public enquiry.

A Cheshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Cheshire police received a complaint in relation to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“The complainant has made a complaint to the council. Police are waiting on the result of its findings to establish if any police involvement is required.”

Council spokesman Ian Callister said the police had made it clear they were not currently ‘investigating’ the complaint.

He added: “Mr Jones has made a complaint to this authority and is well aware that his concern over the housing figures will be aired in full by the independent inspector at the plan’s forthcoming examination in public.”

Government Policy on Solar Farms based on “a few controversial and badly sited projects.”

Guardian.  Very true lets hope the Ellough case succeeds at JR quite the worst argued SoS decision in recent years.  The guidance makes the distinction between gerally flat and undulating countryside but the Ellough decision implied that if anyone could see the farm and complains it should be refused.   The decision not to subject the guidance to consultation (it includes a number of technical errors) seems increasingly bizarre.

“It’s very frustrating,” says Selwyn. “The government is making its whole policy based on just  few controversial and badly sited projects.” He says there was not a single planning objection to the Wymeswold farm and, until Ellough, Lark Energy’s success rate in getting planning approval was 100%.

As for critics, Selwyn says, those who claim glinting solar panels will blind their views forget that solar panels absorb light, not reflect it, while he argues that the £3.75m the solar farm earns each year in electricity sales and subsidy is a fair return on the £35m capital cost.

Ray Noble, co-chair of Decc’s solar strategy board, says: “If we put the solar farms on flat fields, low-grade land, away from houses and roads and get the screening right, no-one knows they are there. I reckon 85% are like that but a few overseas companies saw the opportunity and came in and put farms next to homes and on hills and that is what hit the press.”

.” He says there was not a single planning objection to the Wymeswold farm and, until Ellough, Lark Energy’s success rate in getting planning approval was 100%. As for critics, Selwyn says, those who claim glinting solar panels will blind their views forget that solar panels absorb light, not reflect it, while he argues that the £3.75m the solar farm earns each year in electricity sales and subsidy is a fair return on the £35m capital cost. Ray Noble, co-chair of Decc’s solar strategy board, says: “If we put the solar farms on flat fields, low-grade land, away from houses and roads and get the screening right, no-one knows they are there. I reckon 85% are like that but a few overseas companies saw the opportunity and came in and put farms next to homes and on hills and that is what hit the press.”

Elf Church May Block Icelandic Development

AP

 REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — In this land of fire and ice, where the fog-shrouded lava fields offer a spooky landscape in which anything might lurk, stories abound of the “hidden folk” — thousands of elves, making their homes in Iceland’s wilderness.

So perhaps it was only a matter of time before 21st-century elves got political representation.

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from to the tip of the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.

And it’s not the first time issues about “Huldufolk,” Icelandic for “hidden folk,” have affected planning decisions. They occur so often that the road and coastal administration has come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states in part that “issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on.”

Scandinavian folklore is full of elves, trolls and other mythological characters. Most people in Norway, Denmark and Sweden haven’t taken them seriously since the 19th century, but elves are no joke to many in Iceland, population 320,000.

A survey conducted by the University of Iceland in 2007 found that some 62 percent of the 1,000 respondents thought it was at least possible that elves exist.

Ragnhildur Jonsdottir, a self-proclaimed “seer,” believes she can communicate with the creatures through telepathy.

“It will be a terrible loss and damaging both for the elf world and for us humans,” said Jonsdottir of the road project.

Though many of the Friends of Lava are motivated primarily by environmental concerns, they see the elf issue as part of a wider concern for the history and culture of the very unique landscape.

Andri Snaer Magnason, a well-known environmentalist, said his major concern was that the road would cut the lava field in two, among other things, destroying nesting sites.

“Some feel that the elf thing is a bit annoying,” said Magnason, adding that personally he was not sure they existed. However, he added, “I got married in a church with a god just as invisible as the elves, so what might seem irrational is actually quite common” with Icelanders.

Terry Gunnell, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland, said he was not surprised by the wide acceptance of the possibility of elves.

“This is a land where your house can be destroyed by something you can’t see (earthquakes), where the wind can knock you off your feet, where the smell of sulfur from your taps tells you there is invisible fire not far below your feet, where the northern lights make the sky the biggest television screen in the world, and where hot springs and glaciers ‘talk,'” Gunnell said.

“In short, everyone is aware that the land is alive, and one can say that the stories of hidden people and the need to work carefully with them reflects an understanding that the land demands respect.”

Gunnell said similar beliefs are found in western Ireland, but they thrive in Iceland because people remain in close contact with the land. Parents still let their children play out in the wilderness — often late into the night. Vast pristine areas remain, even near the capital, Reykjavik.

And at Christmas, Icelanders await not just one Santa Claus, but 13 trolls known as the “Yule Lads” who come to town during the 13 days before Christmas, each with his own task, putting rewards or punishments into the shoes of little children. They include Stufur, or Stubby, who is extremely short and eats crusts left in pans; Pottaskefill, or Pot-Scraper, who snatches leftovers; and Hurdaskellir or Door-Slammer, who likes to slam doors at night.

“If you ask an Icelander about elves, they might say they don’t believe,” said Jonsdottir. “But we always have stories of them, if not from ourselves then from someone close like a family member. Of course, not everyone believes in the stories, but the stories and the elves are still there and being told.”

Hilmar Gunnarsson, a writer in Reykjavik, fondly remembers a story his grandmother told him about a mischievous elf.

“She told me about (a pair) of her scissors that went missing and she was certain that an elf borrowed them,” Gunnarsson said. “She would not believe that they were just lost and she would not buy (new) scissors. She said the elf would give them back when he was finished. She said they were returned.”

One of Iceland’s most famous daughters, the singer Bjork, had no hesitation in responding when asked by U.S. comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert if people in her country believed in elves.

“We do,” she said. “It’s sort of a relationship with nature, like with the rocks. (The elves) all live in the rocks, so you have to. It’s all about respect, you know.”

Cameron’s links to Lobbyist for Helisborough St Alban’s Green Belt Development

Daily Mail

David Cameron last night faced being dragged into a damaging ‘lunches for lobbyists’ scandal over a £400 million property scheme.

The Prime Minister was challenged by Labour to ‘come clean’ about his links to Simon Hoare, the lobbyist at the centre of the row over plans for a massive rail freight terminal.

No 10 has already been accused of a ‘whitewash’ after Cabinet Minister Theresa Villiers was last week cleared of wrongdoing over a private lunch with Mr Hoare – at which the development on a former airfield in Hertfordshire was allegedly discussed.

But Labour last night switched the attack on to Mr Cameron’s own links with the lobbyist, a Tory member of the West Oxfordshire council that covers the Prime Minister’s Witney constituency, and has been pictured with him on election leaflets.

Labour claimed Mr Hoare was a ‘close friend’ of Mr Cameron and demanded to know if the two men had ever discussed the rail depot project first proposed in 2006, which is still awaiting approval from Ministers.

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Ashworth said the Prime Minister must answer a series of questions over his relationship with Mr Hoare, chief lobbyist for rail depot developers Helioslough.

That included whether he had been invited to No 10 by Mr Cameron and how many times the Prime Minister had met him without officials present since 2010.

 Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood last week rejected a complaint from St Albans Tory MP Anne Main over Ms Villiers lunching with Mr Hoare in 2011 when she was a Transport Minister.

After the lunch, Mr Hoare reportedly emailed asking her to ‘press the case for a speedy and supportive decision’.

Sir Jeremy insisted Ms Villiers, now the Northern Ireland Secretary, took no action as a result of the lunch which she described as a ‘personal engagement with a long-standing friend’.

Simon Hoare (left) is at the centre of a row over the £400m rail depot project. Last week Cabinet Minister Theresa Villiers (right) was cleared of wrongdoing over a private lunch with the lobbyist

But Mr Ashworth said Mr Cameron should not have referred the complaint to the Cabinet Secretary – given his personal links with Mr Hoare.

The Labour frontbencher said: ‘He should have passed it outside the remit of No 10 to the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests.’

Last night, Mrs Main – who has branded Sir Jeremy’s inquiry a ‘whitewash’ – declined to comment on the Prime Minister’s links with Mr Hoare.

But the local MP, a fierce opponent of the plan to build five warehouses with railway sidings on the Hertfordshire greenbelt, revealed she had resubmitted her complaint about Ms Villiers.

In a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, she accused him of seemingly not even considering the ministerial code requiring Ministers to ‘ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests’.

Mrs Main added: ‘Many of my constituents believe Ms Villiers’s actions directly point to a conflict of interest, so there is at least the perception of a conflict.’

But No 10 last night denied any wrongdoing.

 

10% Fall in Proportion of Housing Development On Brownfield Sites

Telegraph – When will they get you can also have brownfield sites in rural areas.  You also need to look at volume rather than simply proportions though.  After all the easiest way to get 100% brownfield is to build one home on a brownfield site and no others.  It is also possible to build on every possible peice of brownfield and still reduce the proprtion of brownfield given the overwhelming nature of brownfield sites, and its limited stock and in-flow  in high demand areas.  None the less the data does provide a partial picture of the effects of the abolition of the ‘brownfield’ prioruiyu policy.

The proportion of new homes built in towns and cities has dropped by 10 per cent, according to new official figures.

The fall will raise fears that the Government’s desperation to build more homes has lead to more development on greenfield sites.

The National Trust warned that “if this trend continues we could see the unnecessary loss of green space”.

Land use figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government this week show that there has been a ten per cent fall in the number of brownfield sites being developed for new housing.

The proportion of new houses built on previously developed land fell from 80 per cent to 72 per cent between 2009 and 2011, according to the figures which are based on Ordnance Survey “land change” figures.

The volume of formerly brownfield land which has been switched to residential use also declined from 69 per cent to 62 per cent.

Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said: “These figures show a worrying decline in the proportion of development taking place on previously developed land.

“The Government has said it wants to encourage the re-use of brownfield sites, but there is growing evidence that this is not happening in practice. Ministers should take action to ensure that they deliver on their commitments in this area.”

A National Trust spokesman added: “‘We aren’t calling for 100 per cent development on brownfield. Some greenfield development in line with local plans will be necessary to meet housing need. But If this trend continues we could see the unnecessary loss of green space.”

The figures are adjusted to include development in residential gardens, which makes it possible to compare the figures like-for-like with those issued before 2010.

They date from before the Government introduced its new National Planning Policy Framework, which was fought by Telegraph readers through its Hands Off Our Land campaign.

The framework was highly controversial because it introduced a new bias into planning rules in favour of “sustainable development”.

Earlier this week the National Trust warned ministers were presiding over a “steady erosion” of the green belt, with more than half of councils planning to build on protected countryside land despite other sites being available.

The trust claimed half of the councils in England with green belt land are preparing to allocate some of it for development ahead of brownfield sites.

It said that 51 per cent of councils it surveyed with green belts are now “likely” or “very likely” to allocate the land for development.

A spokesman for the Communities department said: “These figures have changed since we’ve given councils new powers to stop garden grabbing and removed gardens from the definition of brownfield land. This is part of a wider package of reforms to stop unwanted garden grabbing.

“This Government is committed to building the homes our country desperately needs after house building fell to its lowest level since the 1920’s under Labour.

“We are working hard to make use of every inch of brownfield land and today’s official figures support that showing green belt development is at its lowest level on record; four times lower than in 1990.

“The green belt has a valuable role in protecting against urban sprawl and provides a green lung round our towns and cities.

“This Government has worked hard to safeguard national green belt protection by abolishing Labour’s regional strategies which threatened to rip up the green belt, and introduced a new protection for valuable green spaces.”

@NickBolesMP Why say Labour would dump ‘urban’ housing on neighbours when you advocated that 2 @nickherbertmp

Today 

Mr Boles claimed that the biggest threat to the green belt was Ed Miliband’s plans to “allow urban councils to dump development on their rural neighbors”.

A few weeks ago Nick Herberts letter after the Hasting core Strategy Decision which you drew his and other MPs attention to

I would like to draw to your attention to Hastings Borough Council’s plan.  This proposed a housing number that was HALF their objectively assessed housing need. …This case was drawn to my attention by the Planning Minister when I raised these issues with him.

Why – because Hastings was tightly constrained, like many of the ‘right to grow’ authorities.  And what has happened.  Rother district adjoining now finds overnight that its housing target has DOUBLED overnight. See here.  Because of the NPPF requiring objective need to be met in full, ‘including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so.’ (para. 182 )

See my Article ‘Don’t panic, its duty to cooperate chaos in Dad’s Army Land’ 

Of course Rother being over 80% AONB will now have to ‘dump’ its shortfall of housing on errrr Tunbridge Wells and Ashford which adjoin it!

Don’t get political with this Nick.  The ‘Right to Grow’ is simply a variant of the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ with the timescale compressed and in some ways just as badly thought through and no substitute for proper ‘larger than local’ planning/

 

National Trust – Half of Green Belt Authorities Plan to Dedesignate Green Belt #NPPF

It is only half because the other half have not yet published their plans or reviewed out of date plans with RSS housing targets.  Many Green Belt authorities have deliberately delayed publishing plans with proposals for a couple of years to avoid controversial Green Belt loss before the 2014 elections.  Take for examples ‘Pickles land’  Epping Forest, Brentwood and Basildon.

The Telegraph rather undermines the story by publishing a photo of Chipping Norton to accompany it.  Which has no Green Belt.

I find it astonishing that Boles continues to try to score party political points on this matter.  TRhat wont wash in that.

1) The 26 areas ‘threatended’ by RSS listed in the Conservative party press release when Pickles first proposed to abolish regional plans have all now proposed loss of Green Belt in their plans, having forced to by inspectors using the NPPF, or will shortly be forced to when they publish up to date plans.

2) The NPPF requires plans to meet unmet needs of their neighbors.  Many authorities have already been forced to do so, the ‘right to grow’ is simply the consequences of this made explicit.  Indeed Boles has been briefing MPs privately on the Hastings Decision which ‘dumps’ half of its housing need opn its rural neighbour.  What rank hypocracy.

The LGIU survey is not yet online.

Guardian

More than half of English councils with greenbelt land are preparing to allocate some of it for development ahead of brownfield sites, new research suggests.

A survey commissioned by the National Trust found that of 30 of the 59 councils that responded who had greenbelt land in their local authority area – 51% – were likely or very likely to allocate it for development in the next five years.

More than half of the 147 respondents to the survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) said they had brownfield sites available that could help meet a five-year housing land supply target – but these had not been considered viable.

The findings of the survey, conducted over the summer among senior officers and local politicians responsible for public parks, green spaces and planning, come 18 months after the government unveiled its controversial national planning policy framework. In the biggest shake-up of planning law for more than half a century, it cut planning rules from 1,000 to 50 pages in an attempt to speed up and simplify often complex laws and encourage sustainable economic growth.

Under the framework, local authorities are required to work out future housing needs in their area, and allocate sufficient land to meet it, with a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

The National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have repeatedly criticised the new regulations, warning they are a developers’ charter that would lead to housebuilders and others concreting over the countryside.

The trust says that government promises to protect the greenbelt while promoting an explicit brownfield-first policy “seem to be coming undone in practice”, and that its findings confirm evidence published by the CPRE in August that the area of greenbelt under threat had nearly doubled in a year.

The chairman of the National Trust, Simon Jenkins, said: “The greenbelt has been the star feature of British town and country planning for half a century. In one of Europe’s most congested countries, it has prevented urban sprawl, protected a vision of rural England and retained access to green spaces for urban dwellers that has been admired worldwide.

“Some councils may want to review their greenbelt boundaries as has always been possible, but the planning system as a whole should attach a greater weight to protecting green spaces.

“The government’s definition of sustainable is in practice being interpreted as profitable, and has effectively killed the former planning presumption in favour of brownfield land. What is now happening is a policy of let rip, leading to steady erosion. For the first time in British planning history, planning control is now the slave not the master of profit.”

Chief executive of the LGIU, Jonathan Carr-West, said: “This research shows that the national planning policy framework and targets around housing supply are putting significant strain on councils’ ability to protect the greenbelt. It’s crucial that we build more houses but we need to allow local authorities the flexibility to take a strategic view on how this should be managed locally.”

The findings come as new national planning practice guidance is due to be issued by the government early in 2014. The National Trust said this could increase the threat to green spaces by causing local authorities to release more land than is necessary for development in the countryside, including the greenbelt.

Telegraph

Ministers are presiding over a “steady erosion” of the green belt, the National Trust warned on Wednesday, after a survey disclosed that more than half of councils are planning to build on protected rural land though other sites were available.

The trust claimed that half of the councils in England with green belt land were preparing to allocate some of it for development ahead of brownfield sites.

It said 51 per cent of councils it surveyed with green belts are now “likely” or “very likely” to allocate the land for development.

The findings will dismay countryside campaigners who have warned that the Coalition’s planning reforms have led to increased development on some of England’s most precious landscapes.

More than half of the 147 local authorities that responded to the National Trust survey said they had brownfield sites that could help meet the five-year housing land supply target. But these were not considered viable.

Sir Simon Jenkins, the National Trust’s chairman, said government policies had “effectively killed the planning presumption in favour of brownfield land”. He said that for the first time, planning control was “the slave not the master of profit”.

Changes to planning rules, brought in last year, introduced a new “presumption of sustainable development” to force through more housing proposals.

Councils that fail to adopt local plans setting out where building can take place are at risk from developers.

Sir Simon said: “The green belt has been the star feature of British town and country planning for half a century. In one of Europe’s most congested countries, it has prevented urban sprawl, protected a vision of rural England and retained access to green spaces for urban dwellers that has been admired worldwide.

“Some councils may want to review their green belt boundaries as has always been possible but the planning system as a whole should attach a greater weight to protecting green spaces. The Government’s definition of ‘sustainable’ is in practice being interpreted as ‘profitable’, and has effectively killed the former planning presumption in favour of brownfield land. What is now happening is a policy of let rip, leading to steady erosion. For the first time in British planning history, planning control is now the slave not the master of profit.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said earlier this year that the number of houses planned for green belt land had nearly doubled to 150,000 in the past 12 months.

Andrew Jones, the Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, who sits on an all-party parliamentary group to oppose development on green belt land, said: “I want to see councils protect their green belts. They are the decision-making body. It is up to them to protect the local environment. We need some homes but we need to put them into places that protect our environment.”

Nick Boles, the planning minister, said: “The green belt has a valuable role in protecting against urban sprawl and provides a green lung round our towns.

“The Coalition Government has safeguarded national green belt protection, abolished Labour’s Regional Strategies which threatened to rip up the green belt and introduced a new protection for valuable green spaces.”

Mr Boles claimed that the biggest threat to the green belt was Ed Miliband’s plans to “allow urban councils to dump development on their rural neighbors”.

Heathrow Hub Group is bug winners in Davies Review

Just a quick note on the Davies Review.

I don’t think the NW of Heathrow option has much legs.  It involves demolishing the whole of Harmondsworth including the conservation area and the Grade I listed Great Barn, as well as putting Sipson at the end of the runway.  You might as well demolish it completely.

The option requires building over or diverting the M25.

The other Heathrow option is to extend the northern runway to enable it to be split into two take off and landing runways.  This option is half of the ‘Heathrow Hub’ proposal not any consortium but a group of friends led by a former Concorde pilot.  Their proposal would include a transport hub to the north.  It also involves building over the M25.

This has all of the advantages of the idea of shifting many flights to the West but with fewer disadvantages.  There would be a big noise footprint plus which I’m not sure Zac Goldmsith, Hacan etc. either full appreciate or being so disillusioned by being let down so many times before are prepared to accept.  I cant see any point though in adopting half the Heathrow hub idea, if there is a ‘nouse plus’ then why not develop four runways even if they are not at full capacity.  There would be major gains in fewer flights delays that result from Heathrow’s 99% capacity at present.  The idea seems to be that runways are a ‘bad’ which you should provide as late as possible to minimize the harm  This isn’t necessarily the case with the hub proposal however, as you can increase runway alternation.

The big downer is likely to be how practical it is to keep the existing runways and M25 ‘on track’ whilst you extend the airport.  The sharpness of the bends of the diverted M25 in their drawings looks impractically sharp and dangerous.  It would be more practical I think to dig a tunnel under Heathrow to the east slightly, then divert traffic, then extend the new runways to the West.