The Big Post-Election Planning Decision Reduces to One Big Issue

Just as SoS appeal decisions favour refusals before a general election and approval just after; just after a general election is the time to take tough decisions.

The housing White Paper was a tinkering exercise.  On this blog i’m no longer interested in tinkering.  ‘Sajid David wanted a ónce and for all’solution to housing, we haven’t got it.

So what is the big problem?  Many local planning authorities are not planning for enough housing and plans are non-existent, delayed for years and out of date.  Although there are problems in places like York and Bristol by far the biggest problems occur with London, Birmingham and Manchester whose housing needs and backlog total over 2 million dwellings over 20 years.  By far the biggest delays in local plan making is in the Green Belt districts surrounding these cities, who now have no incentive at all in updating local plans with reviewed Green Belts, as the precedent of the South Banfleet decision shows even if a site has a draft allocated in a local plan delayed for years the SoS will not approve it.  Therefore the whole concept of the big stick incentive of ‘the NPPF simply doesnt apply in these areas – the NPPF alone doesn’t work. It needs an additional measure.

Real Politik suggests that trying to deal within all overspill with Green Belt reviews wont be possible.  The scale is too high and not all Green Belt sites are accessible.  Sadiq Khan holds an effective veto over Green Belt release in London which is untenable, as his his idea that London completions can double whilst retaining the same spatial policies.  Some sites will need to be release both in London and the ROSE Green Belt and in Manchester and Birmingham, but this needs to be part of a political deal where sites are only released where they have strong justification such as funding new transport links such as Crossrail 2.  The quid pro-quo of such a deal would be diverting most of the growth to well connected towns beyond the Green Belt but connected to the conurbations.

This is where the NIC and the proposed Oxford-MK-Cambridge Study comes in.  A grand deal might see say 50% of London’s overspill and 1/3rd of Brum’s overspill located in these areas, the rest in other areas outside the Green Belt, some additional intensification and selective urban extensions on sites around London’s urban fringe and in Green Belt towns.  The same logic as I have suggested could apply to the Inner Thames Gateway (which might accommodate say 15% of London’s overspill) and Crewe which might accommodate say half of Manchester overspill.

The speak quietly but carry a big stick principle applies here, for the SoS can say EITHER LPAs work cooperative to agree amongst themselves a distribution of overspill or the SoS will take over plan making in these areas and agree a distribution for them. The SoS would also be wise to depoliticize such decisions, giving reverse powers over the final phase of plan making was a big mistake.  Rather the SoS should introduce binding inspectors reports for the new style regional plans.

Once sites for major growth – which will surely include New Garden Cities – are proposed then the powers of teh Taylor Amendment to theNeighbourhood Planning Bill coem into force, LPAs could set up development corporations and purchase land at ‘no scheme’agricultural price, as clearly without a regional plan for Garden Cities there would be no scheme.

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