Why Brandon Lewis Doesnt Like Local Plans – None Local Plan Areas are Increasing Housing Faster

Inside Housing 

Councils with no local plan in place are building homes at a faster rate than those with an adopted plan, Inside Housing research has found.

Exclusive research by Inside Housing using government andplanning Inspectorate data shows 127 councils with no local plan in place increased the number of homes started in 2013/14 by 13,020 compared with the previous year – an increase of 35.9%.

By contrast, 167 councils with any form of local plan only increased their housebuilding by just 22.6%, an increase of 11,760 homes. Councils which had adopted a plan after the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in March 2012, increased housebuilding by 29.2%, This was better than those with an older plan (19.4%), but they were still significantly behind those with no plan at all.

The figures are likely to spark debate about whether the NPPF, which makes it easier for developers to get planning approval in areas without a local plan, is leading to unsuitable or unpopular development.

Michael Carnuccio, policy adviser at the National Housing Federation, said: ‘This [the policy] makes it harder for local authorities to ensure housing is delivered in the right location and meets local needs.’ ‘To be effective, local authorities need to identify enough land to fully meet housing need and work with communities and developers to ensure sites are brought forward as intended.’ Brandon Lewis, housing minister, said: ‘Every council should be putting a local plan in place to help shape where development should and shouldn’t go.’ Earlier this month Mr Lewis said councils could choose to rely on the NPPF rather than a local plan and government would not intervene. Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister, said: ‘Local plans are key to building public support for new homes.’ She said Labour would make it mandatory for councils to adopt local plans. Labour has also pledged to introduce a common methodology of assessing housing need. Tony Stacey, chief executive of 5,700-home South Yorkshire Housing, said: ‘I didn’t particularly expect councils with local plans to be delivering less. What really matters, more than the local plan being in place, is the attitude of the planners and the council and how they work with partners.’ David Montague, chief executive of 70,000-home housing association L&Q, said: ‘There is a fundamental problem with local planning, as noble and important as it is. Something needs to change. The starting point should be a national long-term, cross-party strategy committing to 2.5m homes, and a tax system that incentivises using land and penalises sitting on it.’

In Numbers: Average housing starts by local plan status

Average starts 2012/13 Average starts 2013/14
Councils with a post NPPF local plan 299 386
Councils with a pre NPPF local plan 318 379
Councils with no adopted plan 286 388

Basic statistical error in the Inside Housing Analysis. Only 33 Lpas have post NPPF local plans.  Which means the average number of completions per LPA, taking accoiunt of standard rror, is statstically indistinguishable.  All the analysis shows is those LPAs without local plans have now to build as many houses that those that do, which is exactly what you would expect.

Guidance Amended To Raise Affordable Housing Threshold

But does have a mid-noughties syle rural exemption.

Are there any circumstances where infrastructure contributions through planning obligations should not be sought from developers? 

There are specific circumstances where contributions for affordable housing and tariff style planning obligations (section 106 planning obligations) should not be sought from small scale and self-build development.

  • contributions should not be sought from developments of 10-units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floorspace of no more than 1000sqm
  • in designated rural areas, local planning authorities may choose to apply a lower threshold of 5-units or less. No affordable housing or tariff-style contributions should then be sought from these developments. In addition, in a rural area where the lower 5-unit or less threshold is applied, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should be sought from developments of between 6 and 10-units in the form of cash payments which are commuted until after completion of units within the development. This applies to rural areas described under section 157(1) of the Housing Act 1985, which includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • affordable housing and tariff-style contributions should not be sought from any development consisting only of the construction of a residential annex or extension to an existing home

Revision date: 28 11 2014

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Do the restrictions on seeking planning obligations apply to Rural Exception Sites?

The restrictions on seeking planning obligations contributions do not apply to development on Rural Exception Sites – although affordable housing and tariff-style contributions should not be sought from any development consisting only of the construction of a residential annex or extension within the curtilage of the buildings comprising an existing home.
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What are tariff-style contributions? 

Some authorities seek planning obligations contributions to pooled funding ‘pots’ intended to provide common types of infrastructure for the wider area.Planning obligations mitigate the impact of development which benefits local communities and supports the provision of local infrastructure. In applying the planning obligations local planning authorities must ensure that these meet the three tests that are set out as statutory tests in the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010, and as policy tests in the National Planning Policy Framework. These are: that they are necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms, directly related to the development, and fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind. For sites where the threshold applies, planning obligations should not be sought to contribute to pooled funding ‘pots’ intended to fund the provision of general infrastructure in the wider area.

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Can planning obligations be pooled where the threshold does apply? 

For sites where the threshold applies, planning obligations should not be sought to contribute to pooled funding ‘pots’ intended to fund the provision of general infrastructure in the wider area.

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How does the 10-unit threshold relate to the statutory definition of major development?

For the purposes of section 106 planning obligations only the definition of 10-units or less applies. This is distinct from the definition of major development in article 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.

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Are there any exceptions to the 10-unit threshold? 

Local planning authorities may choose to apply a lower threshold of 5-units or less to development in designated rural areas being areas as described undersection 157 of the Housing Act 1985, which includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. No affordable housing or tariff-style contributions should then be sought from these developments.Where this lower threshold is applied, local planning authorities should only seek affordable housing contributions from developments of between 6 to 10-units as financial contributions and not affordable housing units on site. Any payments made (whether as an affordable housing contribution or contribution to a pooled funding pot for general infrastructure provision) should also be commuted until after completion of units within the development.

Revision date: 28 11 2014See revisions
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What is the procedure for claiming a commuted contribution under a planning obligation? 

The terms of commuted contributions should form part of the discussions between a developer and a local planning authority and be reflected in any planning obligations agreement. Agreements should include clauses stating when the local planning authority should be notified of the completion of units within the development and when the funds should be paid. Both parties may wish to use the issue of a building regulations compliance certificate (called a completion certificate when given by a local authority and a final certificate when given by an approved inspector) as a trigger for payment.

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Does this mean that no planning obligations can be sought for development under these 5 or 10-unit thresholds? 

Some planning obligations may still be required to make a development acceptable in planning terms. For sites where a threshold applies, planning obligations should not be sought to contribute to affordable housing or to pooled funding ‘pots’ intended to fund the provision of general infrastructure in the wider area. Authorities can still seek obligations for site specific infrastructure – such as improving road access and the provision of adequate street lighting – where this is appropriate, to make a site acceptable in planning terms.  They may also seek contributions to fund measures with the purpose of facilitating development that would otherwise be unable to proceed because of regulatory or EU Directive requirements.

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What is the vacant building credit? 

Where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building, the developer should be offered a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of relevant vacant buildings when the local planning authority calculates any affordable housing contribution which will be sought. Affordable housing contributions would be required for any increase in floorspace.

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What is the process for determining the vacant building credit? 

Where there is an overall increase in floorspace in the proposed development, the Local Planning Authority should calculate the amount of affordable housing contributions required from the development as set out in their Local Plan. A ‘credit’ should then be applied which is the equivalent of the gross floorspace of any relevant vacant buildings being brought back into use or demolished as part of the scheme and deducted from the overall affordable housing contribution calculation.
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Does the vacant building credit apply to any vacant building being brought back into use? 

The vacant building credit applies where the building has not been abandoned.

An Unimplementable Planning Brief

The brief for the Bishopgate Goods Yard states that one of the key equirements for the new development, is that it should ‘integrate with the surrounding area, taking into account the local character.’

On page 99 of the Design and Access Statement the applicant duly agrees that the first principle of their development is to ‘ensure the site integrates with the surrounding area, taking into account the local character.’ However, in section 3.1.20 of the same document the applicant says ‘It [the proposed development] will be a new place with its own distinct scale, identity and character; it will not attempt to become a seamless part of the existing neighbourhood.’

What a hostage to fortune, I dont disagree with the principle of tall buildings on this rare central London opportunity site, but with little remaining above ground level its was always going to be a site that has its own character, rather than mimicking a Georgian streetscape.

Lewis/Quartermain – What Lesson Not to Learn from Greater Manchester’s Informal Strategic Planning


Steve Quartermain, chief planner at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), read a speech from Brandon Lewis at the Town and Country Planning Association’s annual conference in London yesterday after the minister was unable to attend.

It said: “Councils need to ensure they work together where issues cut across local boundaries. Localism is not an excuse for isolation or parochialism.”

Lewis’ speech said that cooperation between councils was “strengthening”, citing the example of Greater Manchester Combined Authority where a city-region spatial plan is being prepared across 10 council areas and an elected metro mayor will take on strategic planning and housing powers.

The speech said: “There’s no doubt that councils across the country will be able to learn the lessons of their cooperation.

“It’s hoped that others will similarly want to take advantage of greater devolutionary powers.”

However the lesson not learned is that informal arrangements, where any Borough/distyrcit has power of veto over the plan never works.  There is a name for this Liberum Veto.

The liberum veto (Latin for “the free veto”) was a parliamentary device in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was a form of unanimity voting rule that allowed any member of the Sejm (legislature) to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed at the session by shouting Nie pozwalam! (Polish: “I do not allow!”).

It led to massive corruption as foreign powers no longer had to bribe half the assembly but one member only.  Harvard political scientist Grzegorz Ekiert, assessing the history of the liberum veto in the Kingdom of Poland, 1569-1795, concludes:

The principle of the liberum veto preserved the feudal features of Poland’s political system, weakened the role of the monarchy, led to anarchy in political life, and contributed to the economic and political decline of the Polish state. Such a situation made the country vulnerable to foreign invasions and ultimately led to its collapse.

Any political principle which allows any locality to veto housing has the same effect it so weakens the nation that it undermines national competitiveness, worsens inequality and leads to national decline. The kind of decline we have have in England for 50 years. The coalition planning reforms were based on institutionalising a liberum veto that having a half assed and unimplementable measure the ‘duty ti cooperate’ grafted on under pressure after the event.

Liberum veto strategic planning has never worked anywhere ever.


No Brandon Lewis You are not Minister for Great Yarmouth

Im wondering if Brandon Lewis is the worst and/or dullest minister for housing and/or planning ever to grace that post.

One looks in vane for his insiteful speeches, interviews and grand policy announcements.   If there was a book of the wit and wisdom  of Brandon Lewis it would be blank.  All he ever says could have either come from a SPAD, or from a backbench backwater MP, in his case all he ever seems to tweet about is hyperlocal events in Great Yarmouth.  Indeed he seems to find the post dull – as he says in the Great Yarmouth Mercury

Some might believe that being Minister for Housing is a rather mundane job.Something dominated by chart upon chart of complicated statistics and photo calls with unsuspecting new homeowners, to celebrate the latest milestone in house building.

They are complicated because they are so unrelentingly bad. No minister will have achieved so few adopted plans, so little allocated land, so few build houses, and so few social houses, or so much housing benefit.

Of course we al know he only got the job as Eric’s placeman.  Perhaps his instruction was to get planning out of the papers – the Minister for doing nothing.


Turley – Caselaw on Lack of Options on Consultations

James Anderson of Turleys rightly highlights the case of Moseley v the London Borough of Haringey (October 2014) – a council tax consultation case with much wider bearing.  Of course with development plans there is always the extra issue of SEA requiring consultation on realistic options.The main area I think this is not being don is in old style ‘county carve ups’ of housing numbers from joint SHMAs.  As ever you cant get away with a plan with consultation with options.

The judgment referred to a small body of case law on public consultations. The key case quoted at length, R v Brent Borough Council, ex p Gunning (1985), established the basic principles of a consultation in that it: (1) must be at a time when the proposals are still at a formative stage; (2) that  sufficient information must be given; (3) that adequate time must be given for consideration and response; and (4) the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any proposals.

Other cases also provided more guidance. Nichol v Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (1988) made clear that making consultees aware of previously discounted options was important in consultation exercises. The case ruled that it did not matter that a decision-maker had a preferred option, provided it was clear what the other options are.

It was this lack of an alternative option or options that was the important factor in the Haringey case. The Borough did not present alternatives as to how to address the shortfall in funding: the Borough had concluded that the other options were unacceptable before undertaking the consultation. This was considered unfair by the judges presiding over the case and, as a result, the consultation was judged unlawful.

It is interesting to note that other authorities that proposed a reduction in CTB, such as Birmingham City Council, were deemed to have conducted a fair consultation as they advised consultees of the implications of paying for the shortfall in other ways, and asked for their view on these options.

Are there any implications for consultations as part of planning applications?

Clearly the case involved a public consultation delivered by a public authority. The vast majority of planning applicants are not public authorities, and therefore use the results of consultations to guide their proposals in different ways.

As a result it is unclear of the extent to which the case will have implications for planning proposals.

Irrespective, the case has reiterated the importance of presenting proposals for consultation in a way which makes clear how they have evolved, and provides space for commenting on alternative options as part of the consultation. Useful lessons to bear in mind for all public consultations but especially for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects where the requirements to consult are more rigorous.

Case – Weight to be Given to pre-NPPF Plan materially same as No Weight

A case in Guildford countryside beyond the Green Belt. The policy in question was RE4. The officers report wrong (according to the Bloor and Sea & Land Cases) by saying as the plan was pre NPPF it should be given ‘no weight’. Their was no 5 year supply. Ash parish Council challenged teh appeal. They lost.  The court held though this was an error the decision would have been the same.  Thewir you have it in law where there is no 5 year supply the weight to be given to an adopted plan is materially the same as no weight.  Bye bye to the plan led system.

  1. Some of the wording in the report is undoubtedly infelicitous. The report also contains errors when it advises members that no weight should attach to RE4 because it pre-dates the NPPF. However, that is not the only advice which is given about the relationship of the policy with the NPPF. Other references deal with a lack of conformity other than simply because policy RE4 pre-dated the NPPF. To give the policy reduced weight was, therefore, correct on the basis of paragraph 215 of the NPPF. The report has to be construed as a whole and in the light of oral advice given at the committee meeting.

  2. Accordingly, policy RE4 was correctly identified as the relevant policy in the development plan non-compliance with which needed to be outweighed. The weight to be attached to it was reduced because of its non-conformity, in part, with the national policy in the NPPF. The defendant was, therefore, entitled to give it reduced weight. Having been through the evaluation of other material considerations to determine the planning balance the need for housing, in particular, was identified as a significant material consideration. The conclusion that the application should be granted permission as the adverse impacts of the proposed development did not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits was one which the defendant was entitled to come to.

  3. In case their submissions were wrong the defendant and interested party both addressed the issue of discretion. Strictly, it is not necessary for me to do so given my finding on the main issue. For the sake of completeness though I do.

  4. It is clear that members had to have regard to the five-year supply of housing, or lack of it, within the borough. It is clear also that although there was harm to the character of the land that was clearly outweighed by the material consideration of housing supply. The application site was land that was envisaged as being suitable for longer term development needs. Because it was outside the Green Belt it was in one of the least constrained areas of the borough. If RE4 should have been given greater weight I am in no doubt that the eventual decision would have been the same. In the circumstances had it been appropriate to do so I would have exercised my discretion and refused relief.

Is The Forest of Dean Megabasement PD?

Front page of the Daily Mail website today an extraordinary development, a whole leisure centre including 10 pin bowling ally, squash court , casino, badminton court and cinema in a back garden in cinderford.  The more money than sense owner is aghast at an enforcement notice issued, claiming it was buiild to be PD.  It has gone to appeal.

The report in Western Daily Press suggest the council is clamiing that it is 4.5m high rather than the max 2.5m.  However it is clear from the phoptos that they have measured this from the point at the bpttom of the excavation to its highermost point.  Not the method used in the ‘technical guide‘ based on caselaw and appeal precendent.

“Height” – references to height (for example, the heights of the eaves on a house
extension) is the height measured from ground level. Ground level is the surface ofthe ground immediately adjacent to the building in question. Where ground level isnot uniform (eg if the ground is sloping), then the ground level is the highest part of the surface of the ground next to the building.

The only grounds you could claim it being outside PD is that the excavations are so great it is an engineering operation. There is an appeal which states that  (according to Planning Jungle):

  • the excavation of a basement does fall within the scope of Class A, but that such works will be excluded from the scope of the GPDO if they amount to an engineering operation.[Source: September 2009 – Code a00028].

The very fact that he main defense is that the entire neighboutrhood will into a hole seems to pretty clear cut make the case that this is an engineering operation.

Of course if he poured concrete into the hole then what would be left above ground level would be PD.

As currently worded though the enforcement notice is so defective and incapable in current form of being coprrected, that a ground A appeal with costs is likely to succed, it not the building operation which makes it development, and as such none of the other grounds would fall to be considered.

‘The construction of walls and the erection of a building on the area of land which has been excavated is harmful to the residential amenity of the surrounding land in terms of the overbearing impact of a physical structure and the level of impact from the uncontrolled use of the building.”

Whose Manifesto Asks are More Likley to be Adopted

From the Politics Home Manifesto Asks Page


Campaign to Protect Rural England

Who we are

The CPRE exists to promote the tranquillity, diversity and beauty of rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources in town and country.

Key asks

– The right housing in the right places
– The right infrastructure for the right reasons
– A beautiful countryside to sustain us all

Manifesto link

Kennel Club

Who we are

The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs.

Key asks

Breeding – Review legislation on dog breeding to make the principles of the Assured Breeder Scheme mandatory and ensure it enshrines the principles of the Animal Welfare Act.

Acquisition – Prohibit the sale of puppies in pet shops and promote responsible buying of dogs from breeders breeding to the standard of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.

Training – Prohibit the sale and use of electronic shock collars and adopt he Kennel Club Accredited Instructor requirements as an industry based standard for all dog trainers and behaviourists.

Responsible Ownership – Update, consolidate and replace existing legislation on dog control with preventative legislation and measures based on the principle of deed not breed.

Routines in Everyday Living – Record information relating to the Public Spaces Protection Orders from local authorities and require them to engage with local dog owners when introducing Orders relating to dog walking.

Free from Animal Testing – Review the use of dogs as a second species for toxicity testing in human drug development in light of new research on the lack of usefulness of this practice.

Manifesto link (PDF)