Hammond Wants to Tear Up Green Belt for Housing, May Still resisting

Sorry missed this from lat week as behind the Times Paywall

The Sunday Times today says May still resisting. large scale Green belt Loss.

As I report here on a soon to be published GIS analysis I have conducted, Green Belt land does have a role to play around some highly constrained towns where there is little real alternative  in environmental terms (such as Oxford) – however in global terms it is irrelevant, as the scale of overspill needed from London is so huge there is little choice to build whole new cities, and these need to be sustainable to avoid traffic chaos, and the best sites for these are outside the Green Belt in the main, as accessible (to transit) sites in the Metropolitan Green Belt are mostly taken or AONB etc..  So only around 5.3% pf strategic scale (1,000 unit plus) schemes needs to come from the Green Belt North and West of London.  

The total loss of the Green Belt will be higher as you can expect around another 5% loss to come from smaller sites and village expansions, which so far local planning authorities have been meeting fairly well and with less controversy than you night expect, for those authorities (not so many) brave enough to publish plans with a serious likelihood of being found sound.  The real threat to the Green Belt come not from the South East but from the North West, where in any event political blowback had reduced the massive scale of loss proposed.

If the CPRE thought strategically they would accept a small % loss of GB in the South East as long as the larger loss in the North was reversed and as long as development was mainly diverted to good sites outside the Green Belt.  the risk is that at some point someone like Hammond, or Osborne will become Prime Minister and the Green Belt policy will be rendered meaningless.  It could be like New Zealand where the policy become totemic to those wishing to see a large uplift in housing by a new younger generation of politicians and so as there (the Urban Growth Boundary) simply be swept away.  The GB boundaries were supposted  to last 20 years, they have lasted 40-50.  The best way to ave the Green Belt is to strategically review it, before the temptation to do away with it becomes too attractive to politicians.

Business Insider

LONDON — Philip Hammond wants to tear up Britain’s green belt land for house building in his budget next month, as he looks for cost-free measures to address Britain’s housing crisis.

The chancellor has been pushing for green belt reforms for months inside the Cabinet, the Times reports, which would be made in an effort to tackle low productivity levels and meet national demand for housing.

Theresa May has so far resisted Hammond’s calls for the radical housing and planning policy changes, with a senior cabinet ally of the prime minister telling The Times that it was not on the budget agenda.

Whether more greenbelt land, which is undeveloped and often agricultural land surrounding urban areas, should be used for housebuilding is a contentious issue within the Conservative Party.

Conservative MPs like Hammond believe more building must take place on the greenbelt in order to address the national housing dilemma. However, many Tory MPs represent constituencies where residents live near or next to greenbelt land and don’t want their surroundings to become sites for housebuilding.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has previously said that there is a “housing crisis” and that up to 300,000 new homes need to built this year. He told the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show”: “I’m sure the budget will be covering housing.”

He said the government should consider whether it “can sensibly borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing, take advantage of some of the record low-interest rates that we have.”

It was reported in July that Hammond could make more than £1.5 million in a deal over a possible housing development on green-belt land he owns in Surrey.

Land Registry documents revealed that he had agreed an option with a housebuilder on the land next to his house, which could be worth more than £3 million if there was planning permission for houses. The chancellor would get half that amount.

Cut and Paste EIA in Scotland refers to English Laws, Agencies and Birds

Glasgow Herald

US developers’ controversial plans for a championship golf course at one of Scotland’s most prized wildlife sites are riddled with “embarrassing” flaws, including the claim that English law, rather than Scottish, governs the application.

Documents lodged with Highland Council in support of the development at Coul Links on the Sutherland coast mention birds that are not there, omit rare plants that are there and repeatedly, mistakenly, refer to English laws and agencies instead of those that cover Scotland.

Conservation groups argue that the multiple mistakes undermine the credibility of the planning application. But the developers defend their work, accusing critics of being “misleading and biased”.

The development is being proposed by Mike Keiser, a US property millionaire who has rivalled Donald Trump in the golf business. He has teamed up with a US banker and entrepreneur, Todd Warnock, who already owns property in nearby Dornoch.

They have submitted a planning application for an 18-hole golf course at Coul Links near the village of Embo. But the site is legally protected by three national and international nature conservation designations because its network of sand dunes is treasured for rare birds, plants and insects.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Scotland the application contains a series of mistakes. One document suggests that birds such as nightjars and Dartford warblers are at Coul Links when they are not, the society says.

RSPB points out that the environment management plan frequently refers to the Environment Agency, which covers England, instead of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. In some documents figures and appendices are said not to match up and in one editorial questions remain in the text in red.

“RSPB Scotland has reviewed hundreds of environmental statements and this is certainly one of the more worrying we’ve seen,” said the group’s head of planning, Aedán Smith.


It is particularly disappointing and concerning that the developer has not taken more time to ensure their basic planning paperwork is in order and is free of errors. This raises serious questions as to whether the environmental damage might be even greater than they predict.”

Smith argued that the golf course would destroy a significant part of a globally-important wildlife area. He also accused the developers of “salami-slicing” the proposal by trying to “rush through” a separate application for a large reservoir to irrigate the course.

Dr Tom Dargie, a leading expert on sand dune ecology and chair of the local opposition group, Not Coul, has pointed out other alleged errors. At least a third of the habitat on the site has been wrongly classified as wet or dry, he said.

He also alleged that the developers had missed a nationally-scarce plant, Baltic Rush, and significantly underestimated the number of rare dune juniper bushes. He accused them of mixing up native Scots pine and imported lodgepole pine trees.

Dargie insisted he had never come across such a “weak” application in the UK. He called on the government’s wildlife agency, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to check it, and suggested that its ecological assessment was “invalid”.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust accused the developers of being out of their depth. “Alongside the embarrassing cut and paste mistakes about Dartford warblers are more worrying omissions and biases,” said chief executive, Jonny Hughes.

“The environmental statement assumes that the impact on dune habitats will be confined to the exact footprint of the greens, tees, fairways and rough. This is wrong, as any glance at peer-reviewed science will confirm.”

In response to the criticisms, the developers issued a joint statement. “All documentation produced as part of the environmental impact assessment process has been undertaken by a range of leading independent, experienced and professional consultancies,” it said.

“As a result, the validity of work undertaken and reporting is assured. The ecological surveys were conducted by experienced ecologists following standard good practice guidance.”

Any limitations and assumptions were clearly stated, the developers added. Analysis by Dargie “has shown a misleading and biased interpretation of the ecological survey work”, they alleged.

They stressed that local communities had reacted very positively to the proposed development, with 153 of the 173 who filled out a questionnaire at public meetings last week saying they were in favour.

The developers promised that they would “offset” the 14 hectares of a site of special scientific interest affected by the golf course with 20 hectares of improved wildlife habitat. They were now awaiting the “impartial view” of SNH and other official agencies.

Hammond, May and Javid in Deal to Put Housebuilding and Planning Reforms at Heart of Budget

Sunday Times

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have agreed a deal to make housebuilding a centrepiece of the budget this month after crisis talks last week.

The prime minister held a “trilateral summit” on Thursday night with the chancellor and Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, in an attempt to cut through cabinet divisions over housing, and agreed there would be new money, reforms to planning and incentives for the construction industry to build homes.

What might these be?

A few clues.  firstly Javid has widely pitched for more public spending on housebuilding.

The Treasury as always will demand ‘planning reforms’ as quid pro quo.

Javid and Hammond might have ganged up on May to revive measures taken out by her former aide Nick Timothy from the Housing White paper.  Alternatively it might just mean relaunching, Grant Shapps Style, measures already announced like the housing delivery test and the new OAN method.

A few other clues – what major measure championed by May’s Chief of Staff, was included in the Conservative manifesto but puzzlingly left out of the Housing White Paper – Land Value Capture of Course.

Another clue – what two year deadline is up on Budget day – the NICs report on the Oxford-MK-Cambridge strategy of course.

A bold move might be to announce the widening of it to focus more on housing, something the NIC have already publicly hinted at it doing next year, and various bodies have urged on it.

A really bold move might be to announce a series of New /Towns Garden Cities.  Perhaps in the Oxford-MK -Cambridge corridor.  It would be a mistake to announce prcise where they are to be – though everyone pretty much knows- Brown’s Ecotowns mistake, because that would result, rightly, in immediate legal challenges for not meeting the European SEA directive.  The moment something is announced in parliament it becomes part of an ‘Administrative process’ in terms of the SEA directive.

Another subtext here – Hammond and Javid are key reminder allies.  Brexiters are seeking the removal of both to tip the cabinet balance.  By ensuring a bold budget firm;ly aimed at young people they shaft Boris.  Simple really.  Expect lots of not so subtle anti Boris jokes in the Budget.