How @ONS & @MCHLG Mistakes Pandering to Guildford Nimbys caused the #OANinshambles, Oxford and Cambridge Need Car Crash and Near Collapse of Plan Making in England

Guildford Dragon  
Julian Lyon, chairman of The Guildford Society said: “It is hard to see how any local authority can plan for “need” when numbers are so variable and when consultants like GL Hearn [who produced Guildford’s OAN] have ignored requests to ‘show your workings’ so we can properly identify any flaws or differences of assumptions behind the analysis of the data available at the time.
As a result of the population analysis GSoc did for its 2014 response to the Local Plan consultation, and with the help of Rt. Hon. Anne Milton MP, the director general of ONS conceded then that there were flaws in their calculations but went nowhere near far enough in their next adjustment.
“We have explained in our paper why we think the government’s statisticians are working from flawed data in university towns, and we, along with Guildford Residents Associations (GRA) who have done (and commissioned) more work on this matter, have continuously been vindicated by the reductions in official population forecasts and statements of need.
Amanda Mullarkey, chair of the Guildford Residents’ Association added:
“Since the examination hearings, there have been two sets of data from the ONS suggesting population growth in Guildford, a crucial factor in estimating housing need, has been overestimated.
“GRA believes there is now an overwhelming case for re-opening the examination to take account of the latest official household figures.  We trust that the inspector will do this to enable a fair process and to make sure the Local Plan is sound.
“The changes in the figures are not random. They are the result of corrections to systematic errors in the way household growth has been estimated in Guildford.  The previous method overestimated need by under-recording students leaving at the end of their studies.  The ONS has agreed with the analysis undertaken by GRA’s expert, Neil MacDonald, which identified how student figures were distorting and exaggerating overall need.
There it is mystery solved.  Of course this is just another form of household suppression.  Lets take the case of a graduating PHD in bioscience in Oxford who wants to take a job in science vale – but cant afford the housing costs, so they take a job teaching biology in a comprehensive in Bradford.  Where is the ‘need’ if jobs led – as it should be in productivity booting clusters and corridors, it should be recorded in Oxford. This is a case of the ONS being overly purist and handing the job over to the MHCLG, who not employing anyone with the demographic, urban economics or statistical skills anymore didn’t understand the problem, they thought could be solved with a simple spreadsheet weight ‘global fudge factor’ without understanding  that IF OAN IS NEAR ZERO OR NEGATIVE THEIR IS NOTHING TO WEIGHT – THE FORMULA DOESN’T WORK. Its not like they weren’t warned on this.  Endless posts on this website developing an alternative Method for OAN (MOAN) method rightly said the demographically correct way was to adjust the demographic baseline and not apply an ad hoc post hoc ‘fudge’ as this would create some bizarre regional patterns (sadly OAN was a term I invented – it shall be on my tombstone I think).  Yet ministers insisted it was sound.  One wonders if they simply didn’t understand the point in causally dismissing the many technical representation to the consultation.  There now needs to be a fundamental revaluation at the Ministry on how they handled and will handle this in the future. I even emailed a very senior ministry figure 5 or 6 months ago saying a slow car crash problem was coming re Oxford and Cambridge in particular and asking they liaise with ONS about methodology, though then I hadn’t got to the bottom what the problem was.  Then the ONS had said there was a problem (in the latest 2016 based  population estimates)  with graduate migration estimates, but hadn’t said what the problem was and stated they hadn’t yet got a good method for fixing it.  Now it is clear, they did adjust the method in a purist way, which if still in the Ministry with an economist/geographer in charge of policy numbers (like the late Alan Holmans) the problem would have been picked up. AND THE HH PROJECTIONS AND OAN TARGETS WOULD HAVE BEEN RELEASED ON THE SAME DAY WITH NUMEROUS FOOTNOTES ON THE BASIS OF ALL ADJUSTMENTS AND CORRECTIONs. Instead their was a bizarre week long gap, which in itself caused near paralysis in plan making the length and breadth of England as many authorities, ignoring the ONS health warnings, (though a health warning is a sign of sickness). This was the first set of forecasts handed over for ONS release rather than DCLG, the wiley Alan Holmans knew it needed a political and policy sense check before release.  The naive MCHLG didn’t, and now in a panic last week as the #OANimshambles unfolded as plan making went backwards across the nation bid on the day last Friday the hotly expected SOAN figures were due to be release the MCHLG noticed & didn’t release them (perhaps realizing now their crude spreadsheets didn’t work) – so they threw the hot potato back to the OAN, who don’t have any policy remit.  Highly inappropriate. This clearly is a matter for the Statistics Regulator  (added note this was planned by 3rd December 2018 according to deep footnotes) .  But with the panic they realised they couldn’t release SOAN on Friday they had to wait till 3rd Dec.) After Fridays panic we wont now have to wait at last three months into 2019 until consultation on a new method and SOAN is concluded.   This is a Grocho Marxist approach by the ministry ‘If you don’t like my projections, we have others’ And now what will happen till at least March 2019, nothing, no one in their right mind will consult or submit, a local plan or JSP.  All EIPs will be frozen, some will have to reopen.  Its a disaster as great as Pickles abandoning  housing targets without a replacement, and Boles weighing in on Green Belt after a panicky phone call from Cameron after he listened to Chrispin Blunt on Today.  Both set back plan making by 1-2 years, as will this potentially as momentum is lost, that at least 4 years out of the last eight (more if you include the last administration and the introduction of a badly thought through sequential approach to housing) – in all such cases they were warned. With planning ministers having the lifespan of Spinal trap drummers we wonder why the government top domestic policy issue is struggling and why nonothings such as Boris and Mogg think its the planners are the problem. No the problem is much more systematic, the ministry has never has a strategy as to who does what and why in planning.  Localism, centralism, naughty step intervention and rhetoric about localism (now calling itself neo-localism implying (correctly) that the localist agenda failed), its played day to day and from crisis to crisis, usually shifting by whether the minister in question is a fan of Ann Rand,  Edward Goldsmith, Hayek, or Mr Bean. What happens next – I guess some typical letter from the Ministry ‘clarifying’ and seeking to stop panic.   But the MCHLG  has a fine choice in terms of what OAN we should be working on – out of date, discredited or not yet invented.  It would be hard as a result to ‘freeze’ the old numbers reversing the old numbers and SHMAS based on them, but it is by far the last worst choice even if it means backing down on the rapid roll out of SOAN the Ministry announced in the NPPG and NPPG last month. In the mean time mass gardening leave for all policy planners I think, or perhaps designing garden communities, instead, much more fun and positive.

Wirral Leader thinks ONS is trying to Protect Wirral Green Belt – Is he Council Leader who knows least about planning in England ?


In his letter to Mr Brokenshire, Cllr Phil Davies wrote that the housing target was incorrect and called for acceptance that the ONS figures more accurately reflect the real housing needs for Wirral.

He said: “We always believed these numbers were wrong and pledged to fight them on behalf of Wirral residents.

“Labour Councillors told us residents from Pensby to Prenton and Bebington to Bromborough were ‘up in arms’ about these house building numbers and the threat they presented to Wirral’s Green Belt – I’m delighted the Office for national Statistics has also taken that opinion.

“We now need the secretary of state to accept his national formula was – as one local paper called it – “a cock up” – and confirm he too accepts the ONS number as the basis for our Local Plan”

Kind of speechless.  The HH projections are objectives nothing to do with what ONS thinks about Green Belt in Wirral.  I agree though the formula was a cock up – mainly because it assumes people will move en mass from places like Wirral to places like Greenwich, so Wirral’s number shroud be much higher.  But that has nothing to do with the household projections!  The formula was of course based on ONS figures, so if the ONS cocked up why trust them as guardians of the Wirral Green Belt?  This is intellectual incoherence and thinking (or very little thinking) out load.

Truly does he know about planning or is he just a bruiser trying to pick a fight irrespective of the  facts or his officer’s briefings  He might also read the health warning in the numbers which explains why they arn’t a measure of need but a carrying forward of past (bad) trends which need to change and be changed by council leaders with courage to tackle the housing crisis ( trends including Nimby council leaders like him preventing enough homes being built by maintaining too tight a Green Belt and preventing his constituents getting onto the housing ladder – at wild variance with his own party’s policy on Green Belt and house building.)

As the ONS says

Now Mr Davis which of the below applies:

  1. you havent read the above provisos
  2. you have read them but didn’t understand them
  3. you have read them but think the ONS is wrong – in which case yoou think people coach surfing and living in overcrowded homes dont deserve one if they live near Nimbys who complain to you.  But you do of course think the ONS are right in other regards including threat they have a mandate to distort statistics to save the Wirral Green Belt (BTW they dont)

It has to be one of the above Mr Davis, but I very much doubt you understand this, you would much rather pick a fight.

Much like when you vomited out every Green Belt site however stupid in a consultation without any assessment or strategy or recommendation for the cycnical reason it would cause public outrage – vomiting is very unpleasant to see. No leadership or positivity here to get a plan through with the best (or least worst).  Again you would rather biovate and issue press releases than roll up you sleeves and get on with it.  You are the only leader in the whole of the UK picking a fight on your local plan now, is everyone else right and you are wrong?  Why are Wirral such poor performers on the local plan and haven’t moved forward in the long time, eternity you have been leader. 
Try looking in the mirror.  You fight miltants and hard leftists in Wirral but in your media palybook – its straight Dereck Hatton, picking a fight for fights sake you cant win  

The #OANnishambles Meeting @MHCLG

Even Malcolm Tucker would be lost for swear words at @mhclg #OAN omnishambles that evolved on Friday last The very day we were to get the new SOAN numbers the whole planning world was waiting for we get an 11th hour panic as the numbers the ministry had had for months and said were the basis for a ‘sound’ method, fell parts after a few blogs analysis conducted in 24hrs. So  an ‘irritated‘ groups of Council leaders from #Southanywheredistrictcouncils come to visit the minister Q where does #CaMKOX 1M Target come from? A You own SHMAs based on ONS household projections etc. A But they are out of date and the new ones say Oxford doesn’t need to grow by a single house. A ah they are dodgy we will have new ones next year – thing have changed, people cant afford to form households -manifesto commitment you know. Q But you’ve just told us to put forward plans for Garden Communities to hit the 1 million target! Which you say know is old, whilst the new one is dodgy. A Its an ambition – based on what we had at that time Q So whats our choice now base our plan on old, dodgy or non existent till next year numbers? A All three as long as its the highest, and as long as its at least 1 million, Phillip Hammond likes round numbers – every corridor has to have 1 million Q But the 1 million includes overspill from London im not having that A It might be higher- just got to get London elections done in 2020 before we can give a realistic number on what it might be Q So why don’t we just scrap our local plan and JSP and consult on it in 2020 when we find out what the fuck is going on. A Oh if you do that you’ll be on the Local Plan Naughty step you cant delay Q And what will you base the plan on when you write it – you just told me to make a high number up.  If you impose one ill JR you all the way and the growth deal is off, you playing with us, your not serious. Anchorman chips in – perhaps Minister I suggest we send every council a letter of clarification. Minister – clarifying the numbers you mean? Leader – ah yes what to use, old, dodgy or non existent? Minister – thank you for your time Cllr I have another meeting. Leader – I’ve got to try and explain this to my constituents – ill just refer them to your press office till you sought this mess out. You cant get a single house built without our help matey, and if you fail on this the PM will make you Governor of South Georgia. Anchorman walks out quickly- trying not to be tempted to walk like a penguin.

Leaders Demand More Details on Oxford-Cambridge Expressway as some councils ‘Irritated’ by 1 million Homes Plan

Oxford Mail

COUNCIL leaders have demanded clarity from the Government as they press for more details over the controversial Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. 6 comments

The Oxfordshire Growth Board – composed of all six of the county’s council leaders – will write to the Highways England and the Department for Transport calling for more certainty about the road’s route and construction. It could eventually cost £3bn.

Earlier this month, Highways England said potential routes to the east and west of Oxford are still being considered and consultation on them will start soon.

However it has dropped ideas of ploughing the road through Otmoor nature reserve between Oxford and Bicester.

City council leader Susan Brown asked the board to write to Highways England and the Department for Transport and attacked ‘a lack of clarity’ over current proposals. She was supported by her fellow leaders.

Ms Brown said it was critical highways chiefs considered links with public transport and the ‘continued uncertainties facing local communities and the difficulties for planning future housing and infrastructure’.

James Mills, leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said that clarity was ‘absolutely essential’ if the county was to deliver on the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and plans for hundreds of thousands of new homes over coming decades.

As part of the Housing and Growth Deal, the Government and Oxfordshire councils have agreed that a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP) is created for the county. That will need to be agreed by 2021 and will seek to develop integrated development plans between the city, four district council and county council until 2050.

Mr Mills said: “Clarity is absolutely essential if we’re going to deliver on the housing and growth deal. Part of that is the JSSP for Oxfordshire.

“It’s a bit difficult to do that if you don’t know where the road is going to go. I would support the suggestion that we write a letter making that point strongly because we need to get on delivering that JSSP.”

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said improvements to the A34 were critical in any further development – whether the expressway runs along the route or is built as a new road.

He said: “It is a controversial issue and some people have polarised views about it.

“But the way I look at it is the road that has the most impact on all 700,000 residents, all six constituencies, all city and district councils, is the A34.

“We only need to think back to Thursday, September 6, to the gridlock right across Oxfordshire after an accident that morning. There needs to be improvements to the A34.

“I think we have to say: if it’s relieving the A34, you’ve got to be in favour of the principle.”

The county council’s strategic director for communities said some councils have been irritated by proposals to build up to one million homes in the ‘arc’ between Oxford and Cambridge by 2050.

Bev Hindle told board on Tuesday that ‘quite a bit of tension across the corridor’ had formed because the Government has so far provided no solid commitment to fund many aspects of the project.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to provide further details in his Budget in the autumn.

Its a Planning System On Sizzurp as Ministry Drops Standard OAN at 11th Hour @kitmalthouse


causes motor skill impairment, lethargy, extreme drowsiness, as well as a disassociative feeling from all other parts of the body, specifically the stomach and digestive system


Should be gardening leave for everyone as no planning can get done until this is sorted.  It isnt that the MCHLG want warned.  In the meantime we can occupy ourselves by demolishing houses in places like Oxford the original method said had a surplus.

Specchless, speechless, just the craziest thing in planning since Nick Boles weighed in on 

Wirral – on Local Plan Naughty Step – goes All Derek Hatton ‘Government Dead Wrong’ over Green Belt and Housing Targets

This will not end well for Wirral.  Next step cllr redundancy notices delivered in taxis.  Just wait for SAON later this week.  Rather like Torridge and North Devon, Richmond, Peterborough and Great Yarmouth shaping policy based on a one week misleading gap in evidence.

Place North West

Wirral Council’s leader Cllr Phil Davies has used figures released by the Office for National Statistics as proof Wirral was right to tell ministers that it “should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula” on housing targets, as household growth in the borough is set to be lower than predicted.

The estimates are likely to add fuel to the ongoing dispute between Wirral Council and the Department for Communities & Local Government over Wirral’s Local Plan. Wirral had been heavily criticised by the Government for its lack of Local Plan earlier this year, with then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid writing to the authority due to “consistent failure” and “no exceptional circumstances to justify… such little progress.”

The council hit back following the letter, arguing the Government was “dead wrong” and said the local authority “neither welcomed nor appreciated the Secretary of State’s overtly political intervention.” When the draft Local Plan was released in July, the council said it was pushing a “brownfield-first” strategy and was resistant to Government figures which would see it need to release Green Belt.

Wirral was set a target of 12,000 homes by 2035, or approximately 800 a year, determined based on the Government’s formula using economic and demographic data.

However, the Office for National Statistics has released revised figures which Wirral Council said indicates the target should be much lower, closer to 500.

Cllr Phil Davies said: “Yesterday we received notification from the Office of National Statistics that the base figures for household growth for Wirral are to be downgraded to more accurately reflect the real changes in population we are experiencing here in the borough.

“The new ONS figures published indicate that the number of new homes actually required is in fact less than 500 – nearly half of the number first proposed.

“We have argued that the original figures were too high and were leading to a miscalculation which threatened our Green Belt. Indeed, I wrote to the minister advocating that we should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula – and we have been proved right.

“We now need to review what this means for our Local Plan and we will be writing to Government ministers to reaffirm our commitment to developing a robust Local Plan but urging them to take these new calculations into account so we can protect our Green Belt.”

Wirral is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan; comments are open until 26 October. More information can be found at:

Labour would remove Cameron’s On Shore Wind Embargo



FTThe next Labour government would change the planning system to make it easier to erect onshore wind turbines, reversing a virtual ban imposed by David Cameron three years ago. The policy is set out in a new document called “The Green Transformation: Labour’s Environment Policy” that will be published on Sunday. Labour would also support tidal lagoons, ban fracking and invest £2.3bn a year upgrading insulation in 4m properties. However, the paper also spells out a subtle shift in the party’s longstanding policy of getting 60 per cent of Britain’s energy from low-carbon sources by 2030. That framework has been shifted so the target is “within 12 years of coming to power”. Britain already receives more than half of its electricity from low-carbon sources such as nuclear, wind and solar. But getting 60 per cent of all energy from such sources is far more challenging because “energy” includes the electricity system and heating as well as some transport. “We’ve got a team of engineers and industry experts working on our proposals at the moment about . . . how we get there,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary. The document says Labour would “remove the barriers to onshore wind put in place by the Conservative government” and stop “chopping and changing” energy policy. In 2015 the Tory government pledged to “halt the spread of onshore wind farms” because they often failed to win over local residents. The move was part of an attempt to thwart growing support for the rightwing UK Independence Party. Mr Cameron ordered more stringent planning conditions on new onshore wind farms. Councils were ordered to specify in their local planning documents that their area was suitable for wind power — which very few local planning committees have done. Ministers also cancelled financial subsidies for new onshore wind turbines from April 2016, prompting a dramatic drop in applications in England. “They’ve killed it off,” said Ms Long-Bailey, who argued that the price of wind power had plummeted in recent years for both onshore and offshore. Recommended Sam Arie Renewables are primed to enter the global energy race “We don’t think that the government’s restrictive approach is helpful . . . we want to reform that.” Labour’s new guidance would still ensure that community opinions were heard, she said, but added: “We want to make it easier for onshore [wind power] to take place.” Labour is still unclear as to what role nuclear power would play under a government led by Jeremy Corbyn, a past critic of the nuclear industry. Most experts believe nuclear is needed as part of a low-carbon energy “mix” because it is less intermittent than solar and wind energy. Labour’s paper suggests greater use of “local, micro grids and batteries” to store renewable energy. However Ms Long-Bailey said nuclear would be part of the plan. “I would state quite firmly that we have to recognise that nuclear will form part of the mix, going forward.” Labour’s plans to step up household insulation would have the state pay for upgrades to low-income households and social housing. Meanwhile it would provide interest-free loans to more affluent households. A similar scheme called the “Green Deal” set up by the Cameron government had poor take-up — it charged an effective interest rate of 7 per cent

Nathanial Litchfield ‘Don’t get too excited’ about New Household Projections – Questions About Credibility as Basis for Planning Housing Need

Must Read
‘ The new projections show reductions from the 2014-based figures in every Housing Market Area except Ipswich, and in Cambridge it produces a negative figure – an output that raises an emblematic concern about the use of these new figures as the basis of housing need,’
ONS’s remit is to produce demographic projections based on past trends –its approach is not inherently wrong from a statistician or demographer’s perspective, but they now project forward trends that Government policy is explicitly seeking to reverse, raising questions as to whether they fit for purpose for planning for housing need. Perhaps the best examples of the concern is that the projections show zero or negative figures for Oxford and Cambridge over the ten-year period used in the standard method, which might imply no need for any new housing in two locations with acute housing problems. There is also an inconsistency in how communal establishments such as care homes are treated (excluded from the projections but included within the housing need figure).

Household Projections have Had Their Day in Projecting Housing Need @ONS @PlanningResourc #CaMKox

Analysis: New projections wipe out housing need in Oxford and Cambridge under standard method, experts say Lets call it.  Any method which makes such an obviously absurd prediction must be a bad method.  Imagine doing a PHD on housing need in CaMoX based on this you wouldn’t even to to a viva, you’d be laughed at. They had there day in the sun and for decades in roughly worked.  As the economy grew household formation would rise due to people being able to afford it through life choice events (such as getting married, having kids etc.) falling headship/household rep rates etc. Since the great recession that relationship has broken down.  people can now longer afford to form households in the way they had.  A generation rent of enforced sharers and couch surfers and failure to launch young people. If you have to ‘correct’ the national need by correcting up from 159k, to 300k, a correction factor of 100%, as 300-330,000 k a year is what many housing experts correctly state is what we need, then you do have to challenge the basis of a method that requires 100% correction. What is clear is there has been a radical suppression of household formation due to a lack of homes to form into.  Other explanations – such as less international migration, may only be temporary and play a much smaller part, as does the temporary blip up in mortality due to the severe winter last year which dumb trend projections project will happen every year for many years – hmmmm. Similarly the known dodgyness in estimating migration of students to Oxford and Cambridge which massively distorts the numbers. What might replace it?  Base it on population change and a multiplier based on what number of homes would be built in an area if enforced sharing and concealed households were zero. Lets call it the housing gap elimination ratio.  This could be estimated by questions at English Labour Force Surveys or English Housing Survey, with the sample weighted to improve local results in greater housing stress areas.

Friends of the Earth’s Alternative Plan for CamKox – Build a Million Homes on Retail Warehouse Parks in Oxford

Chris Church of Oxford Friends of the Earth and a veteran of 1980s road campaigns, says: “We have to make this so politically toxic that no one will pin their flag to it. We also need to demonstrate that there are viable alternatives.”
According to Church, these include the Varsity rail link to restore direct Oxford-Cambridge trains, and developing brownfield sites and rezoning underused retail parks for housing in Oxford to put affordable homes where jobs are.
Not serious.  If you want to be taken seriously come up with a plan that adds up to 1 million homes, not a few hundred from retail warehouse parks Brownfield sites are already included in each districts HELAAs and its hundreds of thousands short. Please if you want to be taken seriously
  1. Get out some maps
  2. Map what is already included in terms of planning permission and HELLA sites
  3. Then suggest some new sites so you don’t double count
  4. If you are planning homes around stations on the varsity line please also understand many people will need to get buses to those stations, industry and shops will need deliveries and yes some people will use cars.  A million homes will inevitably need new roads, and these problems wont go away if you image some fantasy ‘tup’ north’ area where they might be easier when in fact it is likely to be much more constrained and certainty as biodiversity sensitive.
So get real if you arn’t proposing, realsitically,  where it should go you are just a NIMBY in a fake green emperors new clothes outfit. This is not to suggest you shouldn’t build in sustainable locations, but there arnt simply enough sites within 20 minutes waling distances of stations existing or proposed.  So that will mean having to build BRT or some such, and that will mean some new roads even if bus only. And they will involve just as much habitat loss as roads with cars.  So the answer – plan routes which avoid sensitive sites and create as much habitat in new towns as you can. If course if you can’t agree a plan for fear of someone criticise it you become an ERG like joke.