Green Belt Reviews – Delay until After the Election – But the Result will be the Same

Apologies with my blog being down, and me being in Indonesia, could not break the amendment to the SHMA guidance over Green Belt reviews two weeks ago.

The wording is identical to the letters that were issues in the ‘reigategate’ saga.  I.e Green Belts can be seen as a ‘constraint’ when deciding whether to meet OAN in full.

I said at the time despite denials this was a subtle change in policy designed to send the signal to LPAs to delay decisions on Green Belt reviews until after the next election.  People poo pooed it at the time but no-one is saying this isn’t stealth change in policy now.

However an LPA still has to demonstrate through the DTP that if they arnt meeting OAN in full that they have asked other LPAs to meet it, have worked positively and proactively with them, and assessed whether the meeting of the need in a displaced location is the best SEA location.  If they cant they will still be found unsound as plans as a whole still need to meet OAN in full.  That policy has not changed.

In other words Pickles is taking advantage of the delays inherent in the DTC system to punt decisions past the general election with the same inevitable result.

It seems to be having an effect with Guildford, York and Mole Vally all stalling.

Three  thing that haven’t changed.

1) The Gallagher case requirement to split the decision on what the OAN is and whether it should be met

2) the requirement for plans to be evidenced to be sound – so the ‘boles doctrine’ of LPAs having to decide themselves not inspectors to carry out Green Belt reviews remains, but no LPA in the country as far as I can see is still holding out to not do one apart from in London (different system- London Plan does not have to be sound) and if they did there would be insuficient evidence to support a sound plan and of course failure to meet the SEA requirement to consider relaistic alternatives

3) The requirement to meet the exceptional circumstances test (not the VSC test) on plan reviews, and housing need is material to this it is not to VSC.

4) the requirement to meet displaced OAN through the DTC.

This of course is being used by Pickles, togther with the Lyons Review to claim that Labour now is threatening the Green Belt.  The case of course is that planning approvals in the Green Belt have doubled since the NPPF and (pickles measures them by applications not number of units tut tut) whilst labour is planning Garden Cities (To take diplaced need from the Green Belt) which in the lonmg run would lead to far less Green Belt loss.  The situation remains, Pickles Policy is to meet OAN without a national new town policy, and as long prediucted in this blog this has and will require major chunks of Green Belt deletions.  Pickles Legacy.

Note:  Labours ‘right to grow’ in the Lyons review is implemented – as recommended on this blog – as a natural extension of the DTC and SEA best option.  LPAs would only have a right to grow if the urban extension was the best strategic option – sensible.  The only difference would be to have the SoS have back up powers to put in place joint plan  making structures where LPAs fight like raats in teh sack – as at Oxford and Luton – entirely sensible and inevitable whatever party wins the election.

So actually there is hardly a papers width between the parties on the issues – apart from pickles Niave view that one days everyone will get together and agree under the DTC, and his opposition to the one policy that will save the Green Belt – Garden Cities.  Pickles as ever is the hand maiden of needless sprawl.

7 thoughts on “Green Belt Reviews – Delay until After the Election – But the Result will be the Same

  1. Interesting post, but very hard to follow if you’re not familiar with the acronyms – they’re not easy to find even with Google!

  2. Pingback: Local Factors made CPBC Core Strategy “UNSOUND” now politics clouding the Local Plan? |

  3. You are correct to believe that difficult planning decisions have been put off until after the election – and sadly that the result will be the same, probably with many voters believing Conservative posturing as the saviour of the Green Belt and countryside.

    However, I’d suggest it is you who is being naïve in believing, as your blog suggests you do, that an OAN is always what it says on the tin – an objectively assessed need. There are many reasons why this may not be the case; personal ambitions in the political sphere with a local councillor or council leader wishing to pose as the “champion” who delivered what the treasury wanted, so “give me a constituency”; or dare I say the word corruption, which can take many forms – not all of which involve the passing of brown envelopes, or more likely nowadays, the code to access an offshore account. So OANs can be fixed, but your suggestion is that anyone who fights against an OAN they believe to be incorrect is fighting “like rats in a sack”. Then of course there is your assumption the only way the OAN can be delivered is by building on countryside or Green Belt; which again is naïve. There are frequently brownfield sites available, but are ignored; and there is always the option of higher density which need not be the same as low quality – most of the apartments bought by overseas investors are high rise. So high density can be high quality, and there are many continental examples of this – as a city Paris has a much higher density than London. Then finally there is the option of using land more efficiently, as our continental cousins have been doing for decades – for example, car parks underground, instead of consuming vast acres of open space.

    So before you denigrate campaigners in Guildford, Oxford, Mole Valley, York, Luton, etc why not take a look at their campaigns and see if they make sense, instead of suggesting, as you do, that resistance is futile. I have no doubt that some wise words in your blog would help restore sanity in these areas.

  4. Next year I will vote for shortly to be formed Green Belt Party to save the Green belt and reinstate ethical standards in local government.

  5. And how do you think it will be shown to be unsound if locals don’t campaign against it? Do you really believe an inspector is going to call an “OAN” unsound if there have been no protests against it? If you do, …. it would surprise me, nay; shock me, but perhaps you do truly believe LA planning departments are never wrong.

  6. In St Albans, the Council has ignored the only recommendation of OAN put forward by its independent consultants (Housing Vision), last November: an annual need figure of 584. That Housing Study (recently reputed to have cost £44,000), warned against using any of the 10-year scenarios it assessed. The Council ignored all that advice and chose the 10-year scenario which indicated the lowest housing need figure of all, 436 – lower even than the constrained target of 480 per annum which formed Policy 3 of St Albans’ ancient 1994 Local Plan.

    DTC? Well now that the Council has a housing need figure based on a Housing Market Area limited to its own District boundaries, it is only now approaching neighbouring Districts to ask if they’ll take some of this need: rejecting any suggestions that they might be required to take some of Luton’s or Dacorum’s unmet needs, let alone London’s.

    All of which suggests their draft Local Plan is designed to fail in the short term so they can see how the land lies after May.

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