Princess Anne’s(and CPRE’s) Niavity on Village Housing

Princess Anne has fallen for the false ‘spits and spots’ of rural housing argument the conservatives fell for before the last election.

Sky News

New homes should be built in existing villages and market towns instead of as part of sprawling new developments of up to 15,000 plots, the Princess Royal has said.

She argued it would be better for existing rural communities to take the brunt of the 240,000 new homes needed each year.

Her comments will add fuel to the political debate over how to provide the number of homes needed without damaging the countryside.

Nick Clegg called recently for the Government to be “honest and upfront” about plans to build garden cities in the South East.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that planned cities were a better option than piecemeal developments.

But the Princess, speaking as patron of the English Rural Housing Trust, said: “Is it really necessary to only think in terms of large-scale developments where you might add 10,000 or 15,000 in a block, where you require infrastructure to be installed?”

She suggested it would be more efficient to build small scale developments in existing communities: “Maybe it isn’t such good value if you have to build in the facilities that need to go with it.

“You will need a new school, you will need new shops, you will need to create a community centre. But for many of the small-scale developments you already have that.”

In a speech at a housing conference in Cheltenham, she added: “240,000 houses sounds an awful lot until we identify the amount of villages and market towns there are.”

Ok over the next 15 years we need nationally to plan for 3.75 million new homes from household formation plus a 1 million home backlog (approximately of course), for sake of argument lets say around half of that is identified already in development plans and another 10% occurs through windfalls.  If you divide that amongst England’s roughly 10,000 villages thats around 230 houses per village.  Ive been doing similar calculations since the 2007 Housing Green Paper and warning that unless we have large scale growth areas it would mean the swamping of English Villages and warned thats exactly what we would see with the NPPF if, as as happened, it also cancelled Ecotowns and Growth areas – now ask yourselves is that just what we have seen?  Have we not seen planning application for in total several hundred homes now swamping villages.

Sean Spiers in the Telegraph

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of CPRE, said: “These are welcome words from Princess Anne. We want a living countryside, not a countryside of commuter villages or retirement ghettoes.’

Bit I thought the CPRE were supposed to be protecting the countryside?

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Guardian – Relaxing Planning in National Parks will Lead to Disaster

Guardian – Sarah Wollaston

A seismic change may be about to rock our national parks and other areas of outstanding natural beauty; and it is concealed within the technicalities of a proposal to grant landowners permitted development rights, without the need for planning permission. This would allow for up to three dwellings to replace or convert existing farm buildings.

If this addressed the desperate shortage of affordable housing in our national parks it would be worth considering. Sadly it is set to make a dire situation worse while destroying the landscape and a fragile rural economy.

The average house price within the Dartmoor national park is in excess of £270,000; nine times the median local income and over sixteen times incomes in the lowest quartile. The chance of finding affordable rented accommodation is also grim, and the situation is forcing out young people and families with serious consequences for rural communities.

An increase in housing supply will do nothing to reduce prices if it caters for an entirely different demand. The proposals would allow for new developments to be almost twice the guideline size for affordable housing. Rather than meeting a genuine need they would unleash a second and luxury homes bonanza, creating yet more ghost villages and hamlets inhabited only at weekends or in season.

The impact of a free-for-all will be huge – not only because developers are likely to prefer to convert remaining heritage outbuildings, but because of the chilling effect this prospect is already having on schemesto build homes for local people.

Since the reduction in capital grants, the best mechanism for creating affordable housing has been through granting planning permission on so-called exception sites. Where the landowner knows there is no possibility of selling to developers at open market housing rates, affordable housing is cross-subsidised by a small percentage of open market value properties.

But with the prospect of a free run at open market development with few strings attached, values are set to rise sharply and we will kiss goodbye to the only realistic opportunity for development land at prices that can deliver housing for local people.

Suburbanisation of our national parks might also deliver the final coup de grace to their fragile ecosystems, already under pressure from changing grazing patterns over recent decades. While cattle and sheep make way for pony paddocks in lower lying areas, loss of grazing livestock from the open moor will lead to a further degradation from heather to gorse. Who can blame them if hill farmers, asset rich and cash flow near zero, opt to fragment or sell their holdings and livestock. They have long struggled to maintain their way of life with scant recognition of their service to conserve this precious landscape on our behalf.

The planning minister, Nick Boles, has been bold in his effort to build more housing. He has walked towards the nimby gunfire on behalf of the people he believes should have the opportunity to own their own home. I hope he will look again at the unintended consequences of the proposed changes and place the need for affordable housing above pressure from developers.

When Lewis Silkin introduced the national parks and access to the countryside bill to parliament in 1949 he described it as a “people’s charter for the open air”. The open countryside of our national parks deserves our protection but also the living, breathing communities who conserve them for the future. We can build more homes for local people by supporting community land trusts and incentivising investment in genuinely affordable housing projects. The proposed measures, by further inflating land values, will kill off any hope for village housing initiatives and puts at risk some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Landscape Institute condemn ‘Kneejerk’ reaction to Flooding and Dredging

Telegraph

concerns that the Government’s approach risks being too focused on short-term problems are expressed in an open letter to Mr Cameron signed by leading professional bodies involved in flood prevention and water management, led by the Landscape Institute, which represents landscape architects.

“The commitment to provide essential funding is a useful step, but it is even more essential that this is invested appropriately, and provides the best and most sustainable outcome to both society and the affected communities,” the letter states.

The experts are calling for planners to adopt a series of measures aimed at tackling the risk of flooding, including exploring how measures like planting trees can hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers.

All new developments in towns and cities should include flood alleviation and protection measures, and that any new homes built on flood plains must be resilient to flooding.

The letter continues: “A comprehensive range of water management techniques could have helped prevent the effect of water through villages, towns and over the surrounding land seen in the last few weeks.”

Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, said: “This group of institutions were concerned that there seemed to be a culture of blame between departments. There seemed to be a lot of knee-jerk responses to the immediate problem.

“We want the money that is going to be invested spent wisely to give us a proper outcome.”

The professionals are particularly worried that Ministers’ promises to carry out extensive dredging of rivers, a move demanded by many flooded householders that reverses recent Environment Agency policy, may prove counter-productive.

Dredging on the inundated Somerset Levels will start at the end of next month as long as it is safe and practical to do so, the agency announced on Thursday.

Five miles of river channel where the Tone and Parrett rivers meet at Burrowbridge – an area identified by local people for dredging and where “significant amounts of silt” have built up – will be cleared out.

However, Ms Illman said: “If we just dredge inappropriately, we could just end up flooding other properties downstream.

“We are very concerned that huge amounts of money might be spent on dredging where it wasn’t necessarily appropriate.

“We are more concerned that if we are investing in water management, that we do so effectively, and don’t just respond to a crisis but respond to the long-term issues.”

The letter adds: “In the long-term, the way in which we manage, store and distribute our water, and how we rethink and plan both the natural environment, and the built environment of our towns and cities to make them more resilient, requires a clear strategy.”

Of course downstream of the levels is the sea – so probably an exception to the general rule.

Off to the UAE

Just landed at Dubai airport to take up a new job managing the Gulf Urban Planning tema for the international consultants Khateb and Alami, based in Sharjah .  Flight was delayed till the middle of the night from Uganda because of fog her in Dubai – in the Desert!

Will likely to be very busy for a while so updates here less frequent.  Will update phone number when I have a local line.

Stop Undermining ‘Liverpool’ Why S Northants Must win their JR

The battles over that most notorious hole in the NPPF – the Liverpool or Sedgefield is getting ever more nasty.

No-one has any doubt that where possible and realistic any backlog of need should be cleared as early as possible.  But in large growth areas with many big sites inevitably any trajectory will be endloaded, even if that trajectory in its early years easily meets household growth plus a boost.

The problem if you take Liverpool too literally is the tail wags the dog – you reject a perfectly sensible sustainable strategy capable of delivering housing numbers at scale over the long run in favour of a short term binge festival on scattered sites around villages that could only last a few years at most before the infrastructure of those villages was maxxed out.  Sewerage authorities have never planned for large scale growth around such villages and the capacity of sewage work s will soon be exceeded.

Quite the most extreme example of Sedgefield fundamentalism was the recent exchange at the Greater Nottingham EIP where the HBF has challenged the growth strategy and even threatened JR. So far at ALL of the four local plan EIPs where LPAs have proposed growth strategies with large strategic sites and consequently endloaded the inspectors have backed them.  Hence the HBF tactics.

At appeals though things continue to be made up as they go along with the SoS reliant on adhoc Liverpool or Segdefield judgments – for example at Bicester where the startegy is based on a large extension (0ne of the four remaining ecotowns) as ‘All eggs in one basket’ – errr where is that a criteria in the NPPF?

The worst injustices though have been suffered by South Northants, one of the three West Northants joint plan authorities – and the second largest growth area in England.  The Inspectors have backed a growth oriented strategy with some endloading based on huge urban extensions.  Yet at several S78 appeals inspectors have simply ignored the plan findings of their fellow inspectors, ignoring the prematurity and ‘degree of conformity tests’ and even the trajectory approach – all of which are embedded in the NPPF.

The justification

“this would become a self-fulfilling prophecy which would drive the supply of housing land even lower. The council’s preferred trajectory is manifestly inconsistent with the requirement to ensure a five year housing supply.”

Is patently absurd when the joint plan is about to release the largest tranche of new land in any development plan in England for over two decades.  Cheer on South Northants.

Part of the confusion here is there is two issues.  One is confusing the level of need with how quickly that need should be met.  If the reason for endloading is practical then I for one have no objection.  The problem is if it is related to recovery of the housing market.  Several local plan exminers have said that if the annual need is x you should allocate under the NPPF for x even if the market will only build out x-y.  The problem then you immediately have a zombie plan as you only build x-y rather than x.  This has a simple solution.  Set a MINIMUM figure on which to base your 5 year trajectory and grant allocations and phasing which would permit more if the market can bear it – up to any level set by physical capacity constraints (which almost always will be based on settlements and places rather than plan area).  This is a technical planning issue which has dogged planning policy for 20 years long before the NPPF yet its solution is not difficult.

Update – Bolsover policy LC5 proposes something very similar – now at examination – so in future we may speak of the Bolsolver method not merely Liverpool and Sedgefield.

Ed Milliband Proposes 4 ‘Next Generation’ New Towns – Standard

Standard

Ed Miliband today warns that London’s position as a global business capital is in danger unless hundreds of thousands of new homes are built.

Writing in tonight’s Standard, the Labour leader says affordable flats and houses are vital to ensure firms have the young professionals and skilled workers they need to expand.

He committed Labour to develop a “next generation of new towns” similar to Milton Keynes where aspirational Britons can raise families while working in the booming South-East. He also sets out plans to speed up housebuilding in London’s 32 boroughs, including action against property firms sitting on prime land and to reduce the number of empty flats owned by absentee foreign investors.

“There is a chronic shortage of affordable homes in Britain, and nowhere is this clearer than in London,” writes Mr Miliband. He highlights the ballooning cost of living for dashing the dream of home ownership for many young Londoners. “Their hopes are fading as fast as the prices rise beyond their reach.”

He says: “And it is also causing deep difficulty for employers, both in the public and private sector. Indeed, the CBI recently highlighted the cost and lack of suitable housing for skilled employees as the biggest threat to London’s position as one of the world’s greatest cities for business.”

Among Mr Miliband’s plans, set out in his article, are:

Creating new towns in “sustainable locations” resilient to flooding and the impact of climate change, similar to the Fifties and Sixties development of Stevenage and Milton Keynes. Party sources suggest up to four would be developed, including at least two to take the heat off London.

Councils could be barred from blocking housing developments pushed by neighbouring councils — a highly controversial move where interests conflict over issues such as traffic problems. Mr Miliband said “home-blocking local authorities” had caused years of frustration.

Developers will be stopped from advertising new flats overseas before Londoners are given a chance to buy or rent the new homes.

The Government’s Review of Consulitation on EU related Planning Legislation

Here

The planning section

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) noted that several EU requirements impact heavily on the home building industry, including those relating to Environmental Impact
Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments, Habitats and Water. It argued that the cumulative cost on development of fulfilling requirements in the planning system stemming from the EU was disproportionate to the environmental benefits provided.
The HBF considered that the economic benefits of development were missing from the debate on planning impacts as environmental aims would always trump the economic arguments, even though, for example, in its view providing sufficient housing is as important as protecting natural habitats. The HBF gave the example of a development where offsite translocation was refued and the methods to protect newts onsite cost £200,000-£300,000 (not including interest or loss of return on the proposed construction) in the context of a peak count of 23 newts. It also noted that in some areas 85% of Community Infrastructure Levy is required for mitigation of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, leaving little funding for schools and roads, commenting that this is disproportionate and unsustainable.
The British Property Federation (BPF) also raised concerns about understanding and treatment of the built environment at EU level. They considered that the European Commission could better engage with property owners and investors.HBF argued that in some cases, for example Ashdown Forest and the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Areas, no new planning permissions to build homes were granted for a number of years due to the cumulative requirements of EU regulations. They claimed that EU legislative requirements play a significant part in adding about 18 months on to the normal cycle of an application and this is costly to industry.

EDF Energy (EDF) agreed that while the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC rightly sets out species and features that should be protected across Europe, EDF understood it to specify what EDF argued was a novel burden of proof of no harm, implying in EDF’s opinion an absolute requirement to protect and preserve irrespective of cost. In EDF’s view this does not fit well with the rest of EU environmental law and it continues to generate a growing legal case load, without necessarily delivering any greater level of environmental protection in the final outcomes.

From the perspective of small firms the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) stressed that the focus should be on ensuring that SMEs could interact with a streamlined and responsive planning and development system. They considered that the current proposal for the revision of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU would have serious consequences for the UK’s small firms and limit their ability to contribute to economic growth.

The Explanatory Memorandum on the European Commission’s proposal to review the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive referred to research undertaken for the European Commission which identified that across Europe assessments usually take 6-12 months to complete and account for an average of 1% of a total project’s cost.  European Commission, Commission Staff Working Paper, Impact Assessment Accompanying the document, Proposal for A Directive of the European Parliament and Council Amending Directive 2011/92/EU on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Public and Private Projects on The Environment (2011).

There has not been any research on the costs of undertaking Strategic Environmental Assessments of plans or programmes in the United Kingdom. Research by the European Commission suggests the assessment of regional and local land use plans may increase the cost by 5-10% and there is no reason to believe the costs are any less in the United Kingdom

Habitats and Nature Protection

 Civil society and NGO groups did not have a single view of the appropriate level for action on nature protection, although environmental NGOs argued strongly for the need for EU level protection and cited benefits resulting from the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.
However, several of these same groups, also commented that the nature of the legislation itself left very little flexibility for Member States to implement in a sensible, proportionate manner.

Participants at the nature workshop and the workshop in Brussels, and the Royal Yachting Association, argued that nature protection has a very local dimension and should involve a strong element of local decision-making.

WWF and the RSPB considered that their evidence showed that EU competence had delivered long term improvements to habitat protection, and argued that it would be impossible for any individual Member State to deliver the environmental, social and economic benefits which had been conferred by EU competence. Bodies such as the WT and WWF argued strongly that designation and protection at EU level was the only feasible way to protect migratory or marine species in particular, giving the Brent Goose as a case study and citing the fact that the number of protected UK marine sites increased from three to 100 after the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC came into force. They also commented that in the case of the Dogger Bank Special Protection Area, the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC provided a common framework for ecological assessment across the territories of three Member State, meaning developers did not have to negotiate three different sets of Member State domestic regulation.

There were a number of respondents who said that more flexibility was needed for Member States to decide their own priorities. The British Ecological Society commented that it could be in the national interest for the UK to have more flexibility in implementation, particularly around building and planning, to free up resources to focus on other rare species. The British Ecological Society and the HBF specifically mentioned that greater flexibility around relatively populous species such as the great crested newt would be welcome, and argued that this would provide greater cost-effectiveness by allowing the UK to focus on other species that are nationally or internationally rare. However, the British Ecological Society commented that some EU scrutiny would need to remain to ensure internationally protected species were not undervalued.

The British Ports Association concluded that the current arrangements for regulation in this area were about right, but was strongly in favour of carrying out regular reviews akin to the Government’s 2012 Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC implementing review, focussed on ensuring that commercial interests were adequately balanced against environmental interests, and ensuring that the recommendations of such reviews were followed through.

Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment

Views on the right level of action for environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment were mixed. IEEP, on behalf of WT, WWF, RSPB and FOE and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, noted the benefits of EU level action for protecting the environment, particularly species that migrate across national boundaries and in facilitating a level playing field for developers across the EU (see Dogger Bank Case study for an example of its operation). English Heritage and the Institute for Archaeology argued that EU competence through the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 2001/42/EC is important for the protection of the historic environment which is otherwise almost exclusively protected at domestic level. They believe that this has resulted in the historic environment being perceived to be of lesser importance compared with issues dealt with primarily at EU-level.
By contrast, a review of subsidiarity has recently been carried out by the Dutch Government which concluded that EU legislation in this area is highly detailed, with too
much of an emphasis on means rather than ends. In the view of the Dutch Government this can have an unwanted effect on national approaches to implementing and costs. The Dutch Government concluded that decisions should be made at Member State level. Similar comments were made by some respondents to this review, including UK Coal and British Aggregates, who felt that the requirements of this EU legislation were burdensome and disproportionate. The HBF argued that following the subsidiarity principle, where issues are local (such as land use planning and its environmental impact) action should be taken at the national level.
The EU’s requirements for EIAs are currently under review and a number of respondents expressed support for the UK Government’s efforts to secure less prescriptive
requirements in future. The British Aggregates Association, Energy UK and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) raised various concerns that that current
proposals would swing the balance of competence too far towards EU level control and slow down UK planning processes. The ESA considered that the revised Directive would require Environmental Impact Assessments even for small projects which posed no risk to the environment. The Prime Minister’s Business Taskforce on EU Regulation also calls on the EU to drop the new proposals on Environmental Impact Assessments, which it believes may present a barrier to businesses expanding.
The MPA argued that the European Commission’s review of this legislation should aim to introduce greater discretion for Member States, to allow them to focus on those aspects of the environment that are most at threat in their territories.
Attendees at the Northern Ireland workshop considered the SEA Directive to be particularly costly. The Northern Ireland Department of the Environment cited a rise in
the volume and complexity of legal challenges which caused significant delay in bringing
forward new policy initiatives. Participants at the London Workshop One considered the SEA Directive to be too prescriptive for smaller organisations, and noted it took an additional 20 months to go through the Strategic Environmental Assessment process for their waste strategy.
Fjordr Ltd argue that the rules made under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 2001/42/EC saved costs and delays by ensuring developers are prepared for challenges they may face in development. They argued that this prevents loss and damage to significant historic assets, while environmental NGOs welcome the transparency provided by the regulations.

Land Use Planning

The EU has no competence over land use planning except as it relates to environmental matters. Environmental measures may affect town and country planning, but in this case such measures must be subject to a special legislative procedure and must be agreed unanimously by the Council after consultation with the Parliament. EU requirements stemming from environmental directives affect land-use planning in general terms. This includes effects on development, the development process, and the way land can be used, and in doing so they affect how land use planning is undertaken in the UK. There are an increasing number of directives which have implications for land use planning.

The Law Society, UK Coal, British Aggregates, HBF and CBI minerals believed that decisions on the balance of economic and social needs and environmental protection should be dealt with through the national land-use planning system. British Aggregates argued that planning rules should take primacy over EU rules (including those relating to Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and the Wild Birds and Habitats directives). The Scottish Government also highlighted the tension between EU legislation on habitats and birds, and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, on development objectives in Scotland….

A considerable body of evidence was received from respondents in relation to the implementation of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC in the UK. Many respondents felt that differential interpretation of this legislation across the UK, and the implementation choices in the UK, had affected businesses. This was the subject of the Habitats Directive Implementation Review by the Government in 2012 which made several recommendations about how to improve implementation in the UK.

Is ‘Sedgefield’ Legal After ‘Hunston’? #Planorak QC bunflight at Greater Nottingham EIP

See here.  The Vagueness of the NPPF on this issue comes home to roost with most of the main parties at this examination offering conflicting legal opinions.

Peter Village QC on behlaf of the NPPF argues that Hunston mean that the objective need must be met and full and must be met every year, irrectove of onstrstructure constraints/  ‘Liverpool’ in other words.

Morag Eliis on behalf of the councils argues

The Councils note that several Core Strategies have been found sound at Examination include a similar approach to varying housing delivery across their
plan periods, in particular Taunton Deane, Greater Norwich and South Gloucestershire (Inspector’s reports 3 July 2012, 13 November 2013 and 15 November 2013).

Morags argument simply is that ‘need’ in the NPPF means what it says, need. And it is then a matter of policy where and when that need is allocated in line with other NPPF policies.

I agree with the HBF Opinion insofar as it states:
(i) that “full, objectively assessed needs” means what it says; it is a policy-neutral figure;
(ii) that the subsequent application of policy considerations to that figure, which might justify a reduction, is an exercise which must
confine itself to NPPF-derived policy considerations.
However, nothing in the Opinion seems to me to justify the conclusions of lack of soundness or potential unlawfulness.

It seems obvious that Morag is right on this issue.  Whatever is the merits of Liverpool or Sedgefield in thsi cae it is a matter of policy judgement not lawfulness.  All piss and wind from the NBF on this one.

How to Bet on a Three Legged Donkey and Defend a Housing Appeal with the #NPPF

Defending housing appeals under the NPPF has been famously compared to betting on a three legged donkey by a councillor as the first few months of oits introduction saw an almost 100% success rate on large housing appeals.

But in recent weeks there have been a number of successful defenses, and it is useful to draw some lessons.   After all the way to make a real killing at the races is to bet on a three legged donkey and win at long odds.

Residents in Seaton have won an appeal on a Green Wedge site where officers at East Devon had recommended approval.   There have also been successful appeals on issues where the NPPF gives specific exceptions to the general presumption in favour of sustainable development.

So here are my rules of thumb of cases where you may be likely to win an appeal.

1) Is it a case where the NPPF gives absolute protection?  Such as protected species.  Then it is a knockout not only does the presumption nbot apply but the weiging and balencing exercise allows the economic and other benefits of the scheme only to be considered in exceptional cases.

2) Is it a case where the presumption in favour does not apply?  The obvious example is Green Belt, there is still a weighing and balancing exercise but there will either be a presumption against (as in Green Belt) or no presumption but strict tests (as for building on flood planes).

3) Is it a case where the NPPF gives relative protection? This includes issues such as ancient woodland, this is no absolute protection, as benefits can exceptionally overide harm but more appeals on this issue have been lost than won.  The other obvious case is where the traffic impact of the development causes ‘serious harm’ where the SoS has refused two cases in the last year.

4) Is an up to date local plan submitted  with a 5 year+ supply?  If so as at Seaton the inspector may judge any current undersupply as temporary as the market will quiclkly (bit not instantly) adjust to any increase in hhousing land through increase consents.

5) Does the scheme cause visual or other harm?  The NPPF does not protect bog standard fields but does protect ‘valued landscapes’ if these are protected by policy such as through gaps wedges etc policy then if you can demonstrate 4) above then the odds have swing in your favour.

6) Is a draft  neighbourhood plan/pr allocation plan  in line with an emerging local plan propose suggesting alternative superior sites? If the local plan is short on housing numbers then you will fall foul of the Tattenhall problem, bit if it doesn’t then the odds have again swung in your favour band you can show you arnt being Nimbey you are being positive loocalists.