Economic Growth in Essex as slow as in North of England – The 60 Year Plan to Throttle its Growth Succeeds


Growth in real GVA in Greater Essex has averaged 0.6% a year between 2004 and 2014, slower than the UK average of 1.3% and slower than any other county in the South East and East Anglia. This growth rate, however, is in line with the conurbations of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and West Midlands, all of which had growth rates between 0.4% and 0.6% over the decade. London’s 2.6% a year growth rate was double that of the UK.

The report states there is a severe shortage of employment space.

This is and was always the plan.

Circular 42/55

Even within the urban areas…[within Green Belt] , every effort should be made to prevent any further building for industrial or commercial purposes; since this, if allowed, would lead to a demand for more labour, which in turn would create a need for additional housing

What that didnt work did it as those unable to afford to live in London moved to Essex and continue to do so leading to population growth in Essex projected over the next 25 to be 5% greater than the national average.

Allies of Javid Claim Early Drafts of Housing White Paper Deemed too Radical by May

City AM

Much like a typical planning application, the housing white paper has already become mired in delay.

The policy document, a central plank of Theresa May’s government, was originally due out last year and then put back until January. The smart money is now on publication on 6 February although that date remains unconfirmed.

The white paper may be unpublished but it is already causing political waves. Allies of Sajid Javid, the secretary of state communities and local government, claim he was frustrated that early drafts were deemed too radical by the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, well-placed sources contend that the early blueprint did not contain enough detail for May, and that she sent it back to be beefed up into a deliverable policy.

The confusion is a hallmark of housing policy reform. Mark Farmer, author of a recent government report on UK construction, recently told City A.M. that the planning elements of the white paper will be something of a hot-potato among the Tories, with some MPs determined to protect their constituencies from the disruption of construction work.

However, given the current state of the UK housing market the government has no choice but to make difficult choices if it wants to meet its ambitious target of building 1m new homes by 2020.

Instinctively, Javid knows this. So what will the white paper say? Javid has shown a real interest in modular construction methods and it is hoped the blueprint will contain practical help for smaller developers such as Pockit, maker of affordable homes.

But pre-fab housing alone will not solve the housing crisis. Among all the schemes, incentives, consultations and government support, a straightforward solution exists: just let people build.

Farmer believes the white paper’s development policies are likely to focus on brownfield sites on the edge of urban areas. But there is another option: building on the green belt.

There’s a good chance that when you picture the green belt, it’s scenes of parkland, forests, and wetlands, thronging with animal and birdlife, that come to mind. But research by London First found 22 per cent of the Greater London Authority’s area is so-called green belt land.

That’s around 35,000 hectares. Could Javid really slaughter the sacred cow of the green belt? Now that really would be radical.

It may be unpalatable to some (shire-dwelling Tories, in particular) but without bold policies such as these, targets will be unattainable and the housing crisis will only deepen.

#NPPF led to Higher Land Prices and Fewer Affordable Homes – Study

FT  report here

Changes to the planning system under the coalition and Conservative governments have brought profits to landowners at the expense of local communities, according to new research.

The London-focused academic study, published on Monday, comes as ministers prepare to publish a housing white paper that will include more planning changes aimed at increasing construction and addressing the housing shortage.

A new planning framework published in 2012, which aimed to encourage development, caused land prices in London to rise, while the number of affordable homes has dropped, the study found.

The framework “reposition[ed] gains from planning more squarely in the hands of landowners while ensuring the developer’s profit, even if this means an erosion of value to the community,” said the academics at the universities of Reading and Kingston and the Royal Agricultural University, who worked with the property analysis firm Ramidus.

They blamed the financial viability process, in which private developers must set out how many affordable homes and other community amenities they can provide while still making a profit.

This process has meant that when developers pay a high price for land, they can say that building significant numbers of cheaper homes would make a development unaffordable.

This “shift in power relations” has moved the focus onto “increased developer confidence”, the academics said.

Residential land values in London rose by as much as 145 per cent between 2009 and 2015, the study said, while annual affordable housing delivery dropped by 37 per cent.

Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, has sought to address the effects of the process by offering an exemption to developers who plan to include 35 per cent or more affordable housing on sites. These developers do not have to show their financial models to local councils.

It may also include measures to push housebuilders to build more quickly on sites where planning permission has been granted.

John Healey, shadow housing minister, said: “The clearest result of current Conservative housing policy is the lowest level of newly-built affordable homes last year for 24 years, with the number of new social rented homes built the lowest on record, probably since the second world war.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: “As this report acknowledges, there is no direct link between the introduction of the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] and changes in land values.

“The reality is, this government has the most ambitious plan for affordable housing in 40 years, with more than £3 billion set aside for investment in London.”

No fake news from the DCLG press office the report says

Whilst there is no fundamental way of proving a direct link between the introduction of the NPPF and changes in land values, it is clear that changes to the planning system set the tone and the environment that has caused behaviour to push values beyond the point where a market equilibrium would have been reached without it.

Javid Hints at Reduced Restrictions on Council House Building in White Paper

24 Housing

Sajid Javid dropped a huge hint that councils would get the chance to build again in the Housing White Paper.

The hotly anticipated document, which has been delayed numerous times, is going to be “a whole new mindset” according to Javid.

Speaking at a Local Government Association event, he said: “It wouldn’t be right for me to reveal everything that’s in the white paper before it’s published.

“But I will say this much, I’m not going to be tinkering around the edges.

“The white paper will set out serious, lasting, long-term reforms that will boost housing supply immediately and for many years to come.

“This white paper isn’t just about changing guidelines or passing legislation or cutting red tape. It’s about a whole new mind set.

“A whole new attitude to house building at all levels – in central government, in the building industry and, yes, in local government too.

“Make no mistake, you will have a huge role to play in the future of house building.”

Theresa the Nimby Appeaser – Thin and Weak Housing White Paper on the Way


Theresa May’s long-awaited “industrial strategy” looks a bit thin….the government is making a habit of overpromising. What was billed as the biggest shake-up of the railways in 20 years turned out to be timid. The “biggest overhaul in a generation” of prisons has so far amounted to even less. Even with the publication of the much-advertised industrial strategy, Mrs May lacks a flagship domestic policy.

Well it wont be the Housing White Paper which after endless delays and interventions by number 10 and Mays massively over-promoted SPADS seems to have ever more meat lobbed off the bone and seems likely to emerge in skeletal form sometime in Feb, March, April?? with all substantial political meat scavenged by Nimbys.

The last few weeks and now months have been somewhat farcical with DCLG ministers in the press hailing policies is speeches and through leaks only for number 10 to reign back on them a week of two later – to the extent that the emergent draft White Paper is simply unable to deliver on the promise of Javid of a ónce and for all‘ solution to the Housing Crisis.  Javid rightly predicted in his November speech o that successful governments had got into this mess out of fear of political reaction – that is exactly what has happened in his interactions with number 10, with a series of delays to the white paper and reports of fear of number 10 of a ‘backlash’ by the Shires.  With policies like developing around stations in the Green Belt stripped off and seemingly of large scale land releases on Greenfield sites watered down.  Number 10 is spinning that ít wants to see ‘more meat on the bones’deflecting from interventions that have seen all meat stripped away leaving a White Paper draft that simply cannot deliver.

May is making exactly the same mistake that Prescott made in his first years at DoE, fearing a backlash on Greenfield releases, beliving (against 70 years of evidence) that industrial/regional policy will see people flocking to the North solving everything when of course the growth areas of the North like Manchester also have a shortage of Brownfield sites.  they persues not just a policy of Brownfield First (disgracefully stripped from the NPPF) but Éxtreme Brownfield First’ which leads to a reduction in land for housing because all of the evidence shows that policies promoting brownfield solutions, higher densities, empty shops to housing, commercial centre redevelopment, cant produce enough housing especially with limited government spending.  Besides all are already government policy so what extra difference will saying again they are government policy make, except feeding into the Nimby Agenda that you shouldnt release Green land providing X housing because of a fantasy drip drip source of housing never located in actual earth space or cordinates which could only deliver x-y units.  This is exactly the line pushed by appeal objectors and residents associations which simply wont believe the ‘facts’on housing numbers and so want to provide their alternatives.

As John Elledge states in the Guardian Today the solutions to the housing crisis are not that difficult in policy terms, they have been tried out in other countries and in other times in England and have been showed to work, intensification where it can be done and urban expansion and Garden Communities where it can’t, with social housing through land capture making up the gap where the market fails.

May seems to have a bizarre prejudice against Garden Cities, simply it seems because George Osborne liked them, and seems to be trying to shut down Ebbsfleet Garden City Development Corporation even though it has done its job and will deliver more completions than anywhere else this year.  But by pushing for sweet small solutions that dont make waves she is simply appeasing the Nimbys and building up pressures down the line with endless appeal led developments for totally disproportionate developments of 100s of houses in small villages to make up the difference.

The DCLG seem to be responding with desperate solutions, like making houses ever smaller to make up the gap in numbers, and digging holes to bury station car parks.  Just give every young person  a coffin and dig a few holes – that will be a once and for all solution.

Station Car Parks to be moved underground- Housing White Paper -to produce only One Village of New Homes

Daily Mail = Bonkers – it is area around stations that have potential – most station car parks in SE are tiny and huge costs of excavation will make most sites uneconomic or exclude all affordable measure. If you want really really expansive housing build on top of a huge concrete podium.   Most rural station car parks are tiny being former coal yards or station keeper gardens,  How naive and divorced from the economic realities of construction have civil servants become? What about ares for n and off ramps and risk of pluvial flooding?   A desperate measure because ‘brownfield first’ simply doesn’t have the numbers to provide a ‘once and for solution.  Next in the white paper move all roads and schools underground and build on top of them (Boris tried that one)

Railway station car parks could be moved underground to make way for thousands of new homes in a government drive to tackle the housing crisis.

Ministers are considering using surplus railway land to boost housebuilding without bulldozing swathes of protected Green Belt land.

Under one initiative, car parks at some stations could be dug underground to provide space for modern apartment blocks.

Plans to use disused railway land for housing are expected to be included in a housing White Paper released by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) in the next fortnight

A government source said: ‘Railway stations are an ideal location because, by definition, they already have good transport links. Many of them have enormous car parks, which are not a great use of space, so why not move them underground?

‘At some of these sites you could unlock a substantial amount of brownfield land for housing, in places where people want to live.’

The idea is expected to be among a number of initiatives outlined in a housing White Paper to be published by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid in the next fortnight. It will set out how the Government intends to meet its pledge to build one million homes by 2020.

Ministers are determined to pursue a ‘brownfield first’ policy that focuses new housing on previously developed sites to minimise the impact on areas of open countryside.

They believe the density of housing can be increased in many towns and cities without damaging the urban environment. They point to the example of the exclusive Kensington and Chelsea borough of London, where low-rise mansion blocks have helped create one of the densest neighbourhoods in the country.

The White Paper is also expected to include plans for more housing on high streets that have fallen into disuse. Empty shops could be transformed into flats and apartments built above existing stores.

Ministers launched a pilot project last year to build hundreds of new homes at stations in York, Taunton in Somerset, and Swindon.

Speaking at the time, the then communities secretary Greg Clark said stations had ‘unique potential’.

 The plans are part of ministers’ ‘brownfield first’ policy which aims to avoid taking over huge swathes of Green Belt land for development

‘Rail stations are a hub of communities, connectivity and commerce and should be making the most of their unique potential to attract investment and opportunities,’ he added.

‘With record numbers of people travelling by train, it makes sense to bring people closer to stations and develop sites that have space for thousands of new homes and offices.’

Ministers suggested the scheme could eventually deliver up to 10,000 homes across the country.

But Mr Javid is thought to believe the potential is significantly higher.

Some of the sites could also provide land for the first in a new generation of prefab homes, which ministers believe could slash the time it takes to get new housing developed. Theresa May has ordered ministers to pull out all the stops to make good on Tory promises to ease the housing crisis.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly identified the lack of affordable housing as one of the ‘everyday injustices’ faced by millions of families. She has said it is unacceptable that young people find it ‘harder than ever before’ to own their own home.

But Mr Javid has been forced to walk a fine line because of Tory pressure to avoid a surge in housebuilding on the Green Belt.

At least ten Cabinet ministers – including Mr Javid – are facing local protests over proposed housing development on the Green Belt, with several campaign groups vowing publicly to fight any loosening of the rules.

Countryside campaigners warn that mounting government pressure to build houses is forcing the release rural land for development.

A survey this month found half of councillors in England believe Green Belt land in their area will be bulldozed for housing in the next five years.

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Lord Kerslake Peer Reviews North Essex Garden Communities


His main recommendations

1. Develop a clear, differentiated strategy for each site

2. Resource up accordingly. You need a full time director and a dedicated project team

3. Explore development and finance partners

4. Build a much stronger, high level conversation with government

5. Revisit the delivery timetable

6. Revisit the Local Plans timetables to ensure the Plans are likely to be found ‘sound’ and discuss implications with The Planning Inspectorate.

7. Clarify the position on local plan timetabling with DCLG.


Plans for Oxford’s Green Belt are a Mess – But not Nearly as Messed up as CPRE Oxfordshire Suggest


We all know how the LPAs around Oxford can’t agree on where it should expand and roll back Green Belt.  Sadly a rational masterplan driven approach as suggested by Urbed is off the agenda for now.  A masterplanned approach would protect views of glittering spires, would provide new accessible public open spaces and ‘sponge’ infrastructure to absorb flooding. The extension can be served by dedicated pubic transport, services, employment and shopping areas.

This ain’t going to happen with each authority doing their own plan.  Why should we take it?  It isn’t like Cambridge where the City us surrounded by only one other local authority.

Given the mess individual local plan and call for sites come forward in a mess,  But it is scaremongering for Oxford CPRE to publish a map showing them all they wont all come forward.  The intention as the CPRE make clear is to scare not constructively contribute to the argument as to where the development should take place.  It is also disingenuous to say high density development is an option, in Oxford anything over 5 storeys causes a national and local uproar.  The aim is simply that politically the numbers or cumulative locations causes such a scare the plan making clock gets set back years, in other words it is a classic Numby tactic.  What they should be doing like URBED is getting their pens out and looking where an urban extension would have least impact – undoubtedly South East of Oxford.  Unlikely as that is where the greatest Oxfordshire Nimby politicians and donors – in South Oxfordhire live.

Oxford Mail

MORE than 17,000 homes could be built on Oxford’s Green Belt, with the protected land facing an ‘unprecedented’ threat.

The scale of what is proposed has been laid bare for the first time in new analysis produced by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

It shows a series of massive potential developments on the edges of the city, which are proposed in draft Local Plans by councils.

These include sites that could be earmarked for 4,400 homes around Kidlington by Cherwell District Council.

Others proposed in South Oxfordshire total 9,000 homes, but the district council has not yet decided which ones it will formally propose to take forward.

Potential developments are proposed south of Grenoble Road, between Cowley and Horspath, at Wick Farm, at Thornhill Park and Ride and at Wheatley.

Meanwhile, several other sites have been suggested in technical studies or schemes brought forward independently by developer.

Countryside campaigners have pointed the finger at Oxford’s colleges and other major landowners, claiming they will reap the rewards of a ‘financial bonanza’ if building is allowed on the Green Belt.

Helen Marshall, CPRE’s Oxfordshire director, said: “We need to stop this gravy train before it leaves the station.

“These attacks are unprecedented in the history of our Green Belt, which is designed specifically to protect our historic city from urban sprawl of this kind.

“It shows the flaws in the argument of allowing small parts of the Green Belt to be opened up to development – it is clear the merest whiff of an opportunity gets all the vultures circling.

“The colleges will claim altruism, but we don’t believe this will make any difference at all to those in housing need.

“The houses proposed are very unlikely to be genuinely affordable. In fact it is basic property speculation and will deprive existing local communities of access to the countryside and impact on their quality of life in other ways.”

The proposals for housing are emerging as local authorities scramble to agree how they will deliver thousands of new homes, in response to a report published in 2014 that said 100,000 were needed by 2032.

Of these, about 28,000 are needed to meet demand in Oxford but only space for about half will be delivered within its boundaries.

This is because Oxford City Council says it does not have enough space. It has asked neighbouring authorities to shoulder the other homes between them, calling for development to be allowed on the Green Belt.

However, campaigners claim it will lead to the ‘urban sprawl’ which the Green Belt was created to prevent.

Ms Marshall said more should be done to re-use brownfield land – sites already built over – such as Osney Mead industrial estate and developments made to a higher density.

Is Theresa Maybe Decisive Enough to Make Tough Decisions on Housing White Paper

With the news yesterday that the Housing White Paper as been delayed again ‘for a few more weeks’ (9th Feb is the latest DCLG callout) one has to question if the date of publication is in reality ever getting nearer or ever more slipping away.

The PM says she wants more ‘meat on the bones’ but is notorious for avoiding till the last possible minute real red meat and politically tough choices, look at the prevarication on publication of a Brexit White paper.  It is also clear the micromanagement of her top aides is simply bureaucratic and personal cover  for this political indecisiveness.

We don’t know precisely he issues between the DCLG and the PMs Aidees, but plenty of clues.  The briefing against Garden Cities for examples (for the very petty reason that the Policy Exchange, Osborne and his Pal Lord Wolfson backed them), of the cabinet wobbles over Green Belt loss or another ‘war on the countryside’.

Gavin Barwell in his speech on Monday said one of the four themes of the WHite Paper would be ‘Depoliticising Planning’  This seems a clear political direction to avoid it becoming an issue in the mailbag of ministers and cabinet members.  But Planning is a fundamentally political issue.  The NPPF based system failed in its intent of shifting these decisions locally as many authorities felt it easier to leave it to the planning inspectorate top make the tough calls under the Ministers instruction, the same with the ill judged power to allow the SoS a final power as court of appeal against planning inspectors on local plans.  With the potential for local plans by the notorious hold outs like St Albans, Castelpoint and South Staffs being taken over by the SoS it seems clear the SoS would be taking direct decisions on Green Belt reviews.  Without any stomach to take strategic decisions on overspill from Major cities the result, as the LPEG report made clear, will be everywhere, every LPA will simply have racked up targets for housing which under the presumption will mean every single town and village will be under pressure to expand and under threat of speculative appeal.  The very opposite of planning.  Political cowardice on taking big bold decisions on suitable locations for housing will continue to politicise planning with housing need pressures spread out across every field in view of a Tory voter in the shires  Like with Brexit and immigration (as every country demands freer movement as a price for freer markets) demand her poor political skills and technical weaknesses leaves the Prime Minister at risk of getting precisely the opposite outcome from what she wants.