Labour Plan to Get Out of Green Belts


A Labour government would not step in to prevent councils building on the green belt, under radical plans for the biggest transfer of power from London to the regions for more than 100 years.

Ed Miliband’s team will review national planning rules to ensure that every council in England contributes sites for the hundreds of thousands of new homes that are needed to ease the current housing “crisis”, the party said.
It will be left to individual councils to “weigh up” whether new estates should be built on so-called “brownfield” sites, which have been developed in the past, or potentially on unspoilt green fields or protected green belt land.
Hilary Benn, the Shadow Local Government and Communities Secretary, said he was a strong supporter of the green belt but could not promise to intervene to save it from development.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “I am very strongly committed to the green belt. It is for local communities to take those decisions – this is the really important point.

“Under the current system, if you take a bit of land out [of the green belt] you can replace it somewhere else, but that should be a local decision. It’s not a decision for me to make if I were to be in the post after the 2015 election.” England’s green belt covers over 6,000 square miles of countryside around towns and cities and is protected against development in order to prevent urban sprawl. But Mr Benn suggested that councils should be given more power to decide whether the need for new homes trumps the requirement to protect existing green belt land. “Everybody knows that we need more homes,” he said. The so-called “generation rent” of people in their 20s and 30s cannot afford to get a foot on the housing ladder unless more homes are built. Mr Benn confirmed that he would not scrap the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework but is ready to change parts of it to make sure all councils are living up to their “responsibility” to clear a path for the construction of thousands of new homes. “We would make sure all communities were properly identifying housing need because I think it’s a responsibility on everyone,” he said. The Coalition’s 52-page planning framework, which replaced more than 1,400 pages of guidance, was opposed by rural campaigners. Under the rules, councils in England have to publish and adopt local plans which set out where development can take place for the next five years. But many developers decide to ignore this and propose building in other areas, Mr Benn said. There are also concerns that some councils may not be identifying enough land for construction. Councils should be able to require developers to build on the sites which they have identified as appropriate, he said. Mr Benn’s proposal to devolve more power to “city and county regions” is intended to revive the Victorian spirit of locally-led developments which saw communities create parks, libraries, schools, clean water and sanitation. His plans are being billed as the most radical reversal of centralised control since the Local Government Act of 1888, which gave birth to modern local government structures of parishes grouping together into districts. Billions of pounds would be handed over to county regions, district groups and cities to spend on new railway or road schemes, joining up hospitals with elderly care services, job creation programmes for the long-term unemployed, and measures to boost local businesses. A “task force” on innovation in local government is due to report to the Labour leadership later this summer. It will propose detailed reforms for devolution which will save money and give people “more opportunity to do things for themselves” because “you can’t run everything from the centre”, Mr Benn said. “There is a crisis of confidence in our politics,” he said. “People feel alienated. They think that too many decisions are taken too far away from them. “They want a greater say and they don’t want to have to ask permission from the man in Whitehall to decide what they are going to do in their area, what they want to achieve. “I think in the wake of devolution in Scotland and Wales, which we did and which we are very proud of, my message is: it’s England’s turn.”

You have to hand it to Hilary – one minute scrapping the NPPF, the next reforming it, the next not changing it at all the next changing parts of it./  Lets look at his statement in more detail. Firstly he says he wont intervene on Green Belt decisions.  This implies no call ins or recoveries.  So Green Belt becomes purely a matter of local discretion.  What about the nation al test for removal of Green Belt land – very special/exceptional circumstances and all of that.  By saying that councils should be given more power here to ‘weigh up’ this matter again its suggests entirely local discretion.  The exceptional circumstances test going for one purely of planning balance.  For all intents and purposes this is the national government getting out of Green Belts, it becomes an entirely local matter, like a local Green Wedge Policy say with teh only difference being the NPPF being thre with its presumption against development if need be.  This is not scapping the Green Belt but what is is is scrapping National protection of the Green Belt for an optional protection if LPAs want it.

On housing need it is difficult to see how this would be any different to current NPPF policy with its strict requirement to identify housing need and meet it in full. What he might be suggesting in terms of ‘all councils’ is removing the option of Green Belt and other ‘constrained’ authorities to say part of their housing need should be met through the duty to cooperate.  Effectively scrapping it, and turning the ‘right to grow’ to a ‘requirement to grow.’  It is impossible to know if the option of this being met through a county or city region arrangement would be on the table or whether as at present this could only happen through unanimity – i.e. not at all, blocking Garden cities for example.
Again on requiring developers to build on sites in the local plan.  They can at the moment if there is a 5 year+ supply of viable and available sites.  His announcments would only be a policy change if he proposes to drops any of these three requirements – is he?
Again Labour is obtuse and confused on planning policy missing a clear opportunity to be pro growth but pro smart growth and open up some sustinable water between themselves and the coalition on planning policy.  Hiliary a tip, read Peter Halls Book, Good Cities Better Lives, hop on a plane to the continent and learn how progressive regimes manage to build far more housing than we do and still make it sustainable and high quality.  Dont be bound by the conservative government cant do anything narrative.

Are Harrogate Crazy to ignore a recommendation to withdraw a development plan? No

Planning resource

Hearing sessions for Harrogate Borough Council’s Sites and Policies Development Plan Document (DPD) were postponed earlier this month after inspector Phillip Ware warned that the authority’s annual housing target of 390 homes was less than half of the minimum estimates published in a strategic housing market assessment last year.

In a statement issued ahead of a full council meeting last week, Harrogate Council’s head of planning and development Dave Allenby said Ware’s concerns went “to the heart of the document”, which includes the council’s development management policies and site allocations up to 2024.

Ware said the council “will now need to prepare a new plan that looks at the possibility of accommodating a significant increase in housing and employment growth”.

But at the meeting councillors instead voted to write to Ware seeking to suspend the plan’s examination, challenge the new homes target, and explore the potential for the document to be amended with additional employment land allocations.

A spokesman said that the alternative move against officers’ recommendations had been tabled by the authority’s cabinet.

“The full council decided that they were going to write to Phillip Ware and ask to suspend the DPD examination in order to give the council more time to find extra employment land and to query the housing numbers,” he said.

The spokesman added that councillors could look again at withdrawing the DPD in the coming weeks, depending on the response from Ware.

Surely they are mad?  they will e found unsound and thrown to the wolves.  Of course since the localism act there is nothing an inspector can do to force withdrawl.  It is now a ,tter for the LPA alone.  And the LPA can ask forever the inspector to make recommendations to amend the plan.  There is no need to ever be found unsound – just keep amending the inquiry alive.  Better a plan that triggers the prematurity criterion on some policies and sites at least than a fully withdrawn plan that leaves you compleltely defenseless.

Beware when permissions outpace completions

Currently new dwelling permissions is well outpacing completions and starts.  The former is much more than a leading indicator of the latter, it has on occasion wildly risen above it. Most notably in the period 2005-2007, just before the crash, and was a sign of trouble.

What happened was that interest rates nudges upwards taking the heqt off demand just at the point the Brown Government was turning up the heat on housing in the light of the Barker review etc.  As a result developers built up their landbanks and maximised densities on sites in their landbanks (providing that supply is not fixed and does not vary according to a crude neoclassical supply-demand formula), at the point when demand was slackening, leading to a severe overhang of supply when credit dried up in the credit crunch.

The same could easily happen again.  Which is why I think Carny is reluctant to raise interest rates as that sucks effective demand out of the economy as a whole whereas macroprudential measures do not.  But beware an excessive continued uplift in permissions, especially if developers leverage off the rising value of their landbanks, could trigger another crash. It is not simply an issue of too little housebuilding, but developers building up excess inventory in comparison with effective demand.  If effective demand falls for any reason developers could be left with too much inventory and cease building, in these cases the macroprudential measures to take is to restrict housebuilding.

In all cases of housing booms and bust whilst shortage of housing supply triggered the speculation, it was excess resultant supply in comparison to lowered demand that caused a glut triggering the crash.

Labour proposes no reform of the #NPPF – whatever the DCMS select Committee Says

So now we know they ‘wouldnt change’ this  extremely poorly drafted counterproductive crock of shite.

The sector wants certainty but it doesn’t want idiocy, sprawl, lack of strategy or an appeal led planning vacuum.  Congratulations Hiliary Benn you have just abandoned any pretence to being a progressive environmental party.  Just keep whatever Ayn Rand inspired rubbish which led to the greatest drop in housebuilding in recorded history and has created war the countryside which really really cleverly abandoning strategic growth at the same time.  So Hiliarywhy should anyone vote Labour if they care about good planning?

Hiliary Benn has committed to not reform the NPPF even if the DCMS select committee finds that part of it need change and clarification because it is not working even on its most basic objectives of increasing planning and housebuilding.  Very clever, very clever indeed to throw away any political advantage or campaigning position you have.  Why not simply wear a vote Nigel Tee shirt Hiliary?

Labour has dropped plans to reform controversial planning rules which are allowing builders to push through new housing schemes across the country against the wishes of local people.

The news will dismay communities across England who are fighting housing schemes which are being allowed under the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework..

Last week the Telegraph disclosed how the number of large scale housing estates being pushed through by developers across England soared in the two years since the NPPF was introduced in March 2012.

The announcement, from shadow Local Government secretary Hillary Benn at a conference on Thursday morning, is an about-turn because the party had briefed last year that it would scrap the NPPF.

At a construction conference on Thursday morning Mr Benn said that a Labour Government would keep the NPPF in place.

He said: “No we wouldn’t change it because I think the sector wants some certainty and I think that is very important.”

Mr Benn said that instead Labour would focus on forcing developers to release land for new homes, rather than sitting on vast land banks.

In January Labour commissioned Sir Michael Lyons, a former chairman of the BBC Trust, to look at how a Labour Government could increase housing supply to 200,000 new homes a year by 2020.

Mr Benn said: “We would not change that basic structure but we are looking at through Sir Michael Lyons’ commission is how can we make sure that the sites are that are ‘permissioned’ are the ones where the building gets on and delivers.”

This has fuelled suggestions that Labour wants to embark on a huge house-building programme if it wins the 2015 general election.

The 52-page NPPF, which replaced more than 1,400 pages of guidance in England, was opposed by rural campaigners.

Under the NPPF, councils in England have to publish and adopt local plans which set out where development can take place for the next five years.

Speaking after the event, [and I guess a text telling him off from Roberta Blackman Wood Mp] Mr Benn added – while the NPPF would not be scrapped – the party was still committed to forcing more builders to use up more brownfield sites in towns and cities.

He said:: “We have always made it clear that there are some specific changes we want to make to the planning system to strengthen the brownfield policy – after all if there are brownfield sites that can be built upon that’s where as much housing as possible should go – and to ensure that all councils are making a proper assessment of housing need.

“And we would also give communities more power to make sure that where planning permission has been granted on a site the homes get built.”


Bolsover Fails Duty to Cooperate on Cross Border Strategic Site – Cooperation must mean more than Consultation

Here Inspectors conclusions

The concerns about the Duty to Co-operate centre on the former Coalite Chemical Works site (roughly 58 hectares) to the north-west of Bolsover which straddles the Council’s boundary and so partly lies in Bolsover (about 30 hectares) and partly in North East Derbyshire (approximately 28 hectares)…

This is a complicated brownfield site with viability and remediation concerns.
The present landowner has suggested that it requires comprehensive redevelopment (across both Districts) with up to 800 houses and nearly 95,000 square metres of commercial floorspace…

So far as the Duty on the Coalite site is concerned, I am not persuaded that the Local Plan Liaison Meetings were anything other than consultative and information sharing gatherings. The extracts of the various meeting notes (EX19f) are all written in that manner, and do not indicate any constructive,
active or on-going work to jointly and proactively plan for the Coalite site

PPG warns that effective co-operation “is unlikely to be met by an exchange of correspondence, conversations or consultations between authorities alone” (ID 9-011-20140306). The 2004 Act, the NPPF, and the PPG
use the term “co-operation” and not “consultation”. If the Duty had been merely to consult then the 2004 Act and subsequent Government policies would have said so. I have to test the outcomes of co-operation and not just whether the Council approached others

It does seem that after the failed attempt in 2010 to prepare an Area Action Plan that the Council focussed too much of its attention on the planning proposals and planning applications coming forward from the Coalite site
landowners, and put to one side, or forgot, the strategic plan-making requirements of the Duty which came into force at the end of 2011…

I have also carefully considered the judgement in Zurich Assurance Limited v Winchester City Council and the South Downs National Park Authority [2014] EWHC 758
(Admin) in EX13f, cited by the Council (particularly the sections it thought especially relevant), and also my colleague’s Report on the examination of the
Chesterfield Local Plan Core Strategy of June 2013 (EX19g). However, their circumstances are not the same as those here and they do not, in my view, form a precedent binding on this Duty issue which concerns a single strategic matter cross boundary site with a particular and unique history and sequence of




Boles admits to being Confused About Safeguarded Land Next to Green Belt

Well of course as he gave such poor advice to the York MP on this issue a few months ago his reply on the same subject in the commons yesterday  to the same MP, as we previously pointed out on here, was something of a mea culpa

He said: “I have to confess that for several months at the beginning of my time in this post, I, too, was somewhat confused about whether it was ‘safeguarded for’ or ‘safeguarded from’. He makes a good point about the terminology being — it is not deliberate — rather baffling to people. ‘Safeguarded’ seems to suggest protection, rather than an allocation for future development needs”.

He stressed that local authorities “must act carefully and with evidence” when safeguarding sites and that safeguarding is “not mandatory and authorities should use it only if necessary”.

Boles said he would commit to “go away and look at the simple question of the terminology and whether there could be better wording”.

Of course if is safeguarded from now and safeguarded for later.   Growth management over the very long term to avoid unnecessary sprawl now. The term used to be ‘white land’ then ‘areas of strategic reserve’ so why not bring back ‘ areas of strategic reserve’ which is much clearer.

So in this commons case Boles had a go again at answering ethe question of how much safeguarded land York should leave – which Boles so spectacularly balls up in answering in the previous commons debate which we pointed out on here. His response was more measured.

“While we do want all communities to embrace growth nevertheless a vaulting ambition is not sufficient justification for putting some kind of a threat over protected land.

“Ambition – the desire to grow even faster than your neighbours – is not sufficient justification for putting those protections under threat.

“It is only if it is necessary that an authority should be considering the possibility of designating some safeguarded land.”

But of course it still does now answer the question on how many years beyond the plan period you need to set aside safeguarded strategic reserve land for.

Bole’s reply is interesting in that it reframes the question in two parts.  Firstly how quickly should a town grow and secondly once it has determined this how long it should safeguard areas within its inner green belt for.   It suggests that the need for growth may be an exceptional circumstance but need for growth much faster than your rivals may not be – sensible or otherwise the competition becomes competition through sprawl rather than competition through managed controlled growth where cities expand only when they have to – sensible.

Qatar – School Places Shortages in Perspective

Qatar is front page news in the Guardian Today – where it says ‘.  Doha’s many glittering new buildings and massive construction projects are concrete testimony to its immense wealth and ambition.’

By coincidence in Doha today to meet with government officials. Their problem is the chronic shortage of school places – with the highest expat % in the world at 85% these expats have children and there is a critical shortage of school places.  Facilities for families is critical in attrating highly skilled professional Qatar needs and expat schools are in severe supply with many schools run in highly inadequate converted villas well away from neighbourhoods whee there is demand and where it si too expensive for the private sector to buy land. Hence the schools masterplan project where we have to spec out a projection method for school places for different nationalities and by area and determine where those schools should go. Around 300 current schools and around the same number again over the next 15 years as the population grows by 3.5% a year.  So we have to develop a GIS based methodology for determining need and optimum locations for these schools including potential replacements for sub standard schools.  In logistical and project planning terms – planning to meet the shortage to a deadline – no less challenging than organising a world cup I think.

Geoffry Lean – #NNPF Horrible Housing is Spreading Across the Land


It was David Cameron at his best – or maybe his worst. Rather more than two years ago, when The Telegraph’s campaign over the Coalition’s controversial planning reforms was at its height, he invested his credibility in trying to quell rising public concern at the threats they posed to the countryside.

In a coup reminiscent of Tony Blair’s declaring himself “a pretty straight sort of guy” to defuse a row over tobacco sponsorship in sport, the Prime Minister went on BBC television to insist that he would no more endanger lovely countryside than “I would put at risk my own family”. And he added that the reforms would “make it easier for communities to say ‘We are not going to have a big plonking housing estate landing next to the village’. ”

Delivered with evident sincerity, his assurances duly made an impact. But like Blair, he was handing a giant hostage to fortune. And now it is becoming clear – not least to his own backbenchers – that the assurances are turning out to be groundless.

This week, as this newspaper reported, the most extensive analysis yet of the effects of the reforms showed there has been a “substantial increase in both the number and proportion” of housing estates getting planning approval over the past two years.

That, in itself, should be cause for celebration. Britain urgently needs to build more homes – and doing so is one of the best ways of helping the economy. Indeed, the increase is not nearly big enough.

All over the country, villages are under siege by developers. Ancient Stow-on-the-Wold, just 2,000people strong, is fighting 150 houses in the supposedly protected Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the very countryside Mr Cameron compared to his own family. Nearby Moreton-in-Marsh faces what its district councillor calls “an avalanche of housing, way beyond this town’s capacity”.

Last week, Tory MP Martin Vickers told the Commons that Humberston, New Waltham, Waltham, Laceby and “other lovely villages in north-east Lincolnshire” faced “overdevelopment” that will “totally change” their nature. The day before, Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland protested: “Developers are still cherry-picking greenfield sites and building expensive multi-bedroom houses in areas that cannot support significant development.”

Former Coalition minister David Heath said earlier this year that Somerset’s picturesque Norton St Philip is besieged by seven housebuilding applications. Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi – a member of No 10’s policy board – warned that the damage risked becoming “the defining legacy of this Government”. Telegraph readers fill our Letters page with similar warnings.

Under the reforms, developers can effectively build wherever they choose – flouting local concerns and planning policies – if councils do not have finalised local plans in place. Ministers intended this nuclear option to speed up plans. Instead it seems to have slowed them down. They are now completed at about half the rate as before the reforms and the CPRE reckons that there will still be a free-for-all in more than 100 local authority areas by next year’s election.

And there lies danger, for anger is translating into voting intention. Last month residents of Uttlesford, Essex, shouted “Roll on May 2015” (the election date) when ministers forced councillors to approve 10,400 new homes. Visiting Gloucestershire, Nick Boles, the planning minister, was challenged by a rebelling, Tory voter to apologise to the local MP, and other Tories in marginals, for losing them their seats next year. And, little noticed in Westminster, Ukip is campaigning vigorously on local planning issues in the Government’s heartlands.