Now Its Official Policy – The Oxford-MK-Cambridge Strategy Gets a lot more Legally Complicated – Or Why the Budget didn’t announce the Location of 5 New Garden Towns

Many people who read this blog will know EU directive  2001/42/EC commission guidance and caselaw backwards – and even write textbooks on it.  So I won’t bore you with the details.  If you want that read the textbooks  🙂  Just buy them – after all there are lots of remaindered stock.

Just a quick note.  The NIC may have been considered a ‘safe space’ for the early exploration of the return of strategic planning because it is a non statutory advisory only body.  No legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions  (to use the words of the directive) have ever been issued by them.  They may have played a part in the government backing down on gideon’s promise to make the NIC statutory.  Even strategy doesn’t set the framework  for land use decisions directly it will automatically require SEA if governed by an ‘administrative process’ and the plan or programme promulgated would be covered by the Habitats directive – 1 million new homes – of course would require AA.

In the German and Dutch versions of the directive the terms ‘administrative process’ was left out.  But of course Germanic police powers law – under which zoning was established was automatically legal.  For strategic planning in the UK for many years there was no legal requirement for regional planning and when it was introduced it was very short lived.  It was always accepted by the government and texted in the courts that RPG/RSS was governed by an administrative process through government policy rather than a statutory one and so fell under 2001/42/EC.So now the government backs the NIC report (and they have saved themselves having feared abolition in the post Gideon Era) – that report says prepare a proper strategy covering economics, transport and land use/housing – including the location of Garden Cities/Towns etc.

No work thus far has been done on an environment baseline report, screening, scoping, assessment of options or early consultation on them.  All the directive stuff.  That Now kicks in with full legal force.  If the DCLG tried to circumvent this the locational announcement of any New Town would immediately and successfully be challenged in court.  Even the DCLG must know this.  So now things get interesting and complicated.  the question is is the DCLG ready and geared up to manage this after losing almost all of its key staff who knew anything about strategic planning?



The Government’s new OAN method – Instantly Out of Date with the Budget

   Planning for Homes in the Right Places Para 21

As the housing White Paper noted10, external commentators suggest that England needs net additions in the region of 225,000 to 275,000 per year.


to create the financial incentives necessary to deliver 300,000 net additional homes a year on average by the mid-2020s.

Oxfordshire saw a reduction in its housing targets in the OAN Method   To 85,375 over 25 years (equivalent).  In the budget the stretch target 2016-2031 is 100,00k per annum – though this appears way too low as this does not appear to include any overspill from land constrained areas such as London.  My own MOAN method produces – before employment growth –  a target of around 84,000 – and before London overspill (including Oxford Overspill backlog).  Even the NIC method produced by Savills underestimates as it calculates the corridor taking the same share nationally as other areas of London overspill, and a pre London Plan revision overspill (target now increased by 50%) at that (even though Kent- Sussex and East Anglia have far lower areas of unconstrained land within commuting distance of London) .

As for the Corridor the NIC state in the Oxford-MK-Cambs Final Report Page 26:

there is good reason to believe that the methodology used in undertaking assessments of local housing need can be conservative and can mask high levels of unmet need.22 Although local authorities are not consistent in their approach to calculating need, many use trend based household projections\which are based on recent migration trends. In many cases historic migration has been suppressed by low housing supply, leading to underestimates of migration in areas with high levels of demand and
growing housing needs. This is a national issue, but of particular relevance to the study area given high levels of demand for housing.

The Corridor Budget Announcement and ‘Planning for Homes in the Right Places’ the latter designed for an age without Strategic Planning, the former the first step in a new Age with it, have become massively out of step.  The Governments spreadsheet is now an embarrassment.  Even the NIC corridor target contains major technical errors (from teh Svills report which informed it) and is over a year out of date reflecting matters such as 17 year old census data a d p[re London Plan review .

Expect DCLG to quietly drop it and develop a new method in the new Year.