Shadow Planning Minister Sets Out Proposals – Do they Stack Up?

From the Smith Foundation Pamphlet on localism.  Roberta Blackman Woods.  More details than set out before

housing must and will be at the top of Labour’s agenda for 2015. Recently the Labour leader Ed Miliband established a Housing Commission chaired by Sir Michael Lyons to develop a road map to enable the delivery of at least 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament. It will consider how councils can be supported to become ‘homebuilders’. The next Labour government will help by giving them a ‘right to grow’. Local authorities that want to expand and build the homes their communities need will have access to a fast-track planning process to resolve any disputes with neighbouring authorities that are blocking development.

Yes lets have a fast track procedure, but that wont work unless you have a proper system of considering options at a larger than local scale.  An inspector can only legally adjudge between realistic alternative options that have been SEAd.  That requires planning not simply mediation, or it will get bogged down in the courts.  Also ‘right to grow’ uis a terrible term.  Does Brighton for example have a ‘right to grow’ into the South Downs national park?  The best alternatives might not be immediate spillover cross border development.

Labour will also tackle the growing practice of land hoarding – whereby private developers hold onto land as it grows in value instead of actually building homes on it. Councils will be given powers to charge developers fees when they are sitting on land with planning permission and holding back development, and in the worst cases use compulsory purchase order powers to sell on the land to developers who will build.

Yes but the problem is not so much with developers – land banking – but owners who don’t develop – land hoarding.  They still fail to make this distinction.  Labour is in danger of being caught out by the facts as land banks as a % of pipelines is falling.  Yes lets have a tax on undeveloped land, a proper land value tax to replace the council tax.

The Lyons Commission will set out detailed plans to establish new towns and garden cities. To do this it will consider how a future Labour government could work with groups of local authorities who will identify with their local communities locations capable of sustaining suitable large scale sites for new towns and garden cities.

Call a space a spade – City Regional Planning – Strategic Planning what you will.

the potential for neighbourhood planning is starting to become clear. For example local people in the small town of Thame in Oxfordshire have approved
plans for 775 new homes; for a town of fewer than 12,000 residents this is a significant agreement. Planners and planning leads across the country have said that neighbourhood planning can be a useful tool in hashing out a compromise in favour of locally supported new development.

Neither of the Neighbourhood plan cases she quoted, here and Alconbury, proposed a single unit more than proposed in the emerging local plan.  They were good in setting the precise location where the development would go but not as she proposes in increasing housebuilding.  No Neighbourhood plan in the country is proposing any more units than in the local plan and as Charles Mynors argued last week if they did it would be illegal.  Neighbourhood plans are good for many things but they are not succeeding in increasing housebuilding one little bit.

in his 2013 conference speech Ed Miliband announced that Labour would incentivise local authorities either individually or in collaboration with others to bring forward plans for the next generation of New Towns, Garden Cities and Urban extensions.

How will these be planned, at what scale, who decides, how will they be delivered, how will they be incentivised.  Vague, vague vague.

In May 2013 Ed Miliband announced Labour’s commitment to give communities more power over their high streets by giving them and their elected representatives the tools they need to help make their town centres more diverse, unique and vibrant. This pledge includes powers to help communities crack down on the proliferation of payday lenders, betting shops, fast food outlets and other shops which have been taking over many high streets in recent years.

Yes the use classes order needs refinement but it is not always the key issue.  The licensing regime on fixed odds beting machines poerversely encoyrages betting shop chains to open many branches in a small area and tray and define ‘pay day lender’ in the use classes order when it is rarely uf ever the predominent pirpose of the use.

Neighbourhood planning must be incorporated into the plan making process at an earlier stage. Currently this community engagement is seen as a separate process. The result has been Local and Neighbourhood plans at odds with one another and communities left disheartened when their input is disregarded in favour of the legally superior local plan. Developing a neighbourhood plan led system will, of course, not be easy. It will require new means of encouraging community buy in, supporting community groups and reestablishing the governance structures that link communities, local government and central government.

As panglossian and berift of realism as anything Greg Clarke ever said.  How would a ‘neighbourhood plan led system’ work.  Dont get me wrong neighborhood planning is a good thing, and best practice in engagement is already to involve local communities form the earliest stage including the ‘objective need’ issues, but simply gluing together  local proposals and trying to make a coherent local plan out of them doesn’t work.  It rpoduces huge plans, that take years and in the end are thousands of houses short.  If you dount me look at plans which have done this such as East Cambridgeshire.  A local plan can never be produced in the face of an effective parish veto.  Indeed in America this kind of ‘spot zoning’ has been found contrary to common law and the constitution because such plans have not been supported by a defensible strategy and landowners rights have been breached in that zoning depends not on evidence and strategy but arbitrary local vetoes – which are often racially and socially discriminatory.

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