@Helen_Whately England’s Most Nimby MP – Your Opposing Plans for 10,000 Homes, So Where Should they Go ?

No MP should ever oppose plans for homes in a local plan without saying where else they should go.  Otherwise they are bucking government policy.  Worst of all they shouldn’t run sham fake consultations on their website  that don”t allow for answers in line with government policy.  The issue is not whether you support A plan for a 5,000 home community but where you think they should go.  If you can”t say where – well your never going to get promoted to housing minister are you.

’Ive called on Swale Borough Council to reject plans to build 5,000 new houses at North Street.

The development is being considered for inclusion in Swale’s new Local Plan, which will set out where new homes should be built in the borough between 2022-2038.

The North Street development is one of four ‘garden villages’ being considered by Swale’s Local Plan Panel as a way of delivering new homes in our area.

I’m not against the idea of garden communities in general, but extra care needs to be taken when going ahead with such large developments because of the impact they have on the landscape and nearby communities.

The proposed development at North Street would be completely inappropriate for inclusion in the Local Plan. It’s hugely unpopular and would do enormous damage to an area of high landscape value as well as putting further pressure on local roads.

I’ve written to the Chair of the Local Plan Panel, Cllr Mike Baldock, to call for the North Street development to be rejected at the next opportunity.

Lenham Heath and the surrounding area are under threat.

Maidstone Borough Council has revealed plans for a new ‘garden village’ around Lenham Heath which could see 5,000 – or more – new homes built in this area.

The development would destroy an area of farmland at the foot of the North Downs and put huge pressure on local roads and services.

I’m working closely with the parish council, the “Save Lenham Heath” campaign, and Borough and County councillors, to oppose this development.

Both of these proposals would be rail based, outside the Green Belt and would protect the North Downs AONB by developing outside of them, as well as being well located to existing settlements and railway stations.  It always shows a true blood Nimby will oppose good planning anywhere.

Sue Cooper – Heres How to Have a Zero Carbon South Oxfordshire Local Plan

In response to a letter from the SoS Sue Cooper Leader of South Oxfordshire sends him a speech.  That will go down well.  As well as the following letter.

On the understanding that you continue to view eLP2034 proceeding to inspection as the only possible way forward, it would help us if your officials could list some examples of the kinds of significant changes which would address our concerns that can be made as modifications during inspection, and also an indication of how we could go further on sustainability and climate change policies.
There is obviously a lot more detail that I could give you. But it would be very much better if we could meet so that I can explain how and where we wish to plan for really good, affordable, well designed, energy-efficient housing in sustainable locations, rather than the depressing, sprawling housing estates of over-priced units remote from locations where the occupants work which make such poor use of our very
restricted land supply.

Here how you can do it Sue.  its easy:

  1.  Stop arguing about housing numbers.  They are fixed in the standard OAN method.  Building less than this will simply mean people having to drive further to work to work locations in South Oxfordshire.
  2. Start with south of Grenoble Road.  By far the most sustainable new location for a strategic site in the whole of Oxfordshire, which can be linked by transit to Central Oxford and the Oxford Business Park/BMW-Mini.  Other sites you might suggest will involve driving.  If you want to start with a clocation close to where people work this should be top of the pile.
  3. Scrap Chalgrove.  A silly unsustainable site car dependent and accessed via country lanes.  Instead make one of the East of Oxford sites in the Green Belt larger.  Clearly an SEA would support that.  By the way with the overly tight Oxford Green Belt you support it should be renamed the Black Belt after all of the extra exhaust emissions from the extra driving it causes.
  4. Relocate Oxford Airport to Chalgrove.  Work with Homes England to CPO the site.  This would create a huge brownfield site for 1000s of homes on Oxfords doorstep.
  5. Work with the County Council on a strategic plan for Oxfordshire.  Rather than scattering large estates on the edge of South Oxfordshires many pretty villages they should be concentrated in a few places served by rail and Bus Rapid Transit.  For example such a plan could see less scattered rural housing in South Oxfordshire and concentration at strategic locations – such as South of Grenoble, east of Oxford, and potentially a new Garden City at Grove – the size of Oxford.
  6. Work with Grant Shapps to restore the whole of the Wycombe Line, not just the Cowley Branch, and four track Swindon to Didcot.  Debeechingification should be prioritised, paid for by land value capture at places like South of Thame’and South of Grenoble Road.
  7. Positively masterplan new Garden Communities, avoid the mistake made by Uttlesford, who didnt even know their size, footprints, ‘viability, affordability or deliverability.
  8. Set world beating Zero/Negative Carbon Plan standards, including 60% plus active travel/modal share targets for strategic sites and built in design and transport infrastructure to make this happen
  9. Stop listening to Nimbys and Psuedo-Greens, start listening to experts. Nicholas Falk for starters.
  10. Stop chasing Unicorn Plans, start delivering a real one.

By the way the answer to your question is in paras 3.17,  6.1 and 6.2 of the local plan procedures guide.

National, Regional and Strategic Plans – Statutory or Non Statutory?

With the forthcoming Planning White Paper there will of course be calls for a formal National Plan, or a return to a tier of Statutory Strategic Plans.

This issue will be highlighted by the One Powerhouse initiative , which will publish its vision of a non statutory national plan combined of compatible non statutory regional plans, which will launch shortly.

Our proposal is to develop large-scale regional plans which are NOT statutory in nature but instead provide an over-arching vision and framework within which local statutory planning can take place.

This approach to regional spatial planning of major infrastructure, promoting economic regeneration and development and securing the future of the environment requires effort, but has been very successful in other countries.

Notably in Germany with the Rhine/Ruhr, in The Netherlands with the Randstad and in The New York Metropolitan area through the Regional Plan Association.

Similarly some counties are pursuing non statutory strategic plans, such as Surrey and Leicestershire, egged on by Catriona Riddle, following the disillusionment of the progress of new style strategic plans (such as West of England and NEGC) and local plans making strategic allocations (such as Uttlesford).

This issue is a difficult one.  There is no doubt that non statutory very large scale spatial plans have been successful.  Government support and backing of these through endorsing the One Powerhouse initiative would be a very easy step to take, could easily be done through the remit of the NIC, and would begin to make sense of key issues such as for example the linkage between HS2 and Northern powerhouse Rail.  We effectively already have a national ‘levelling up’ plan; It just isn’t written down, just intimated in speeches.  One remembers the Richard Wakeford rule – never write national planning policy through speeches.

Non Statutory plans can also be material considerations as government policy.  As the former RPGs were.  The trouble is that they would be covered by the SEA directive (still law), as ‘plans or programmes which set the framework for future development consent‘  or require habitats assessment.  It does not matter if they are non-statutory.  If they are covered by an administrative process they would be.  Consultation and consideration of options would be such a process.  Failure to consult on options, if used to provide a framework for consents, would also be contrary to common law – see here.

If a spatial plan provided no framework for consents, either T&CPA or DCO, well what would be the use of that it would be no plan at all?

Even so there would be great advantages in not embodying regional/national planning in Law.  The precedents for this have not ended well.  I have doubts whether making the London Plan statutory has been a great success.  It seems much easier all round for them to be non statutory but formally pursued through an SEA directive compliant consultative process with options.

Of course the reason why strategic plans have been so fraught is the issue of distribution of housing numbers.  Whomever has pulled the levers of these has taken the blame for “imposing’ housing on the countryside”.  Taking out the housing numbers ought makes them less fraught and simple to prepare, yes, and there is great merit in consulting on an early draft of strategic plans with spatial and infrastructure principles before the final housing numbers per strategic location are decided (of course this doesn’t dodge the SEA requirement).  But the issue of strategic distribution can never be ducked.  Remember strategic plan exist because some planning decisions have to be larger than local.  Under-bounded authorities and other land constrained areas mean that there will always need to be distribute housing need beyond local authority boundaries.  Discussions about this under the DTC are always fraught and in many cases held up by ‘awkward squad’ authorities who just won’t play ball; or in the very worst case, as in West Kent, where local authorities conspire to avoid asking each other to allocate for overspill.

At the very least then we need a more formalised system to deal with overspill.  Lack of a system has arguably led to a 9 year delay, which looks likely to be nearer a 15 year delay, since the Localism Act, of answering key questions of where strategic sites should go.  Given that RPG9 the South East Plan effectively deferred these decisions this extends to a 20-25 year delay.  We wonder why we have a housing crisis.

There are two aspects of the overspill issue.  The first is between a HMA, the second is from one strategic planning area (such as a major conurbation such as London or Birmingham to its surrounds).  For the former I hope ive demonstrated it doesn’t matter if its a local plan, SDS or non statutory regional plan, the requirement for SEA (and to consider options even without the SEA directive) apply.  For the latter I see no alternative for the government to issue a broad distribution between regions as national policy, as as policy as opposed to a plan or programme it would not be subject to SEA. I”ve suggested in the past a simple GIS based technique to calculate how to do this.

There is no technical reason this cant be done now, or in stages, as the overspill numbers for London and Birmingham have now been fixed and should be fixed for Greater Manchester by this time next year.

So overall i’d recommend:

  1. Compatible Corridor and Region Based Non Statutory but SEA directive compliant plans on the One Powerhouse model
  2. The government endorsing these through an overarching National Policy Statement, including an appendix on overspill housing number per region from land constrained areas
  3. Functional Region/sub regional plans,  whether as local plans statutory policies or SEA directive compliant non statutory plans.

All of the above not requiring one line of legislation.  Roll on the White Paper.