Jenryck Row Causes Boris to Drop Plans to Strip Councils of Planning Powers


Radical planning reforms that would have put extra powers in the hands of Robert Jenrick have been put on hold amid the lobbying controversy surrounding the Housing Secretary.

The Telegraph understands that the Government was studying plans to take responsibility for some major developments away from councils and put Mr Jenrick in charge instead.

Ministers believed the Prime Minister would include the proposals in a white paper on planning expected later this year, and had expected him to reference them in a major speech next week on rebuilding Britain after the coronavirus recession.

However, after days of revelations about Mr Jenrick’s relationship with property developer and Tory donor Richard Desmond, Number 10 said the proposals would not be in the speech and are “not our policy”.

Downing Street denied on Wednesday  night that there was any link between the Desmond controversy and the decision not to take the proposals forward.

Multiple sources told The Telegraph that government planning advisers had advocated a system of development corporations, which would be set up by the Housing Secretary, and which would have the power to take decisions on planning that would normally have been taken by local authorities.

The development corporations would be able to buy land with taxpayers’ money, grant planning permission to build on it, then sell the land to developers at a profit. All money raised would be used for public benefit by building schools, roads or other infrastructure. The development corporation would also have control over what developers could and could not build.

It would have put huge power in the hands of the Housing Secretary because it effectively bypasses local councils.

One senior minister said: “I’m expecting there to be some mention of development corporations in the speech next week. There is a lot of interest in them within Government.”

However, Downing Street sources said the idea was not going to be adopted.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson had studied controversial plans to make it easier for the Government to redesignate green belt land for development.

Jack Airey, Mr Johnson’s housing adviser, has said in the past that green belt rules have been used “to freeze cities and towns in time” and that “we should be prepared to let them grow in a natural way”.

Advocates of the idea have pointed out that London’s green belt includes derelict and unused land equivalent to 500 football pitches, which could be used for 20,000 homes.

Building on green belt land could help Mr Johnson to hit his target of 300,000 new homes a year, but moves to allow building on green belt land have proved unpopular with grassroots Tories in the past and Downing Street said this, too, was now “not policy” and would not be in his speech.

A Downing Street source denied the planning proposals had been considered by Number 10 and said: “These claims are untrue.”

So it seems two proposals have been put on hold, one to enable housing schemes of over 1,000 dwellings to proceed by DCO, the other to expand development corporations.

New Deal for Planning Must Avoid ‘Planning by Cronyism’ to Avoid any Chance of Success

We all await what Cummings has in store as part of the ‘New Deal for Planning’

I will write much more on this next week, including what is necessary as part of a wider package of measures to ‘make zoning work’.  It certainly wont work if presented as simply part of a wave of liberation and removing planning red tape.  Zoning is about reforming not replacing regulation.

A basic pre-requisite however is that ‘planning by cronyism’ must play no part otherwise the reforms will lack any moral or political justification.  The worst thing that could happen is simply to hand consenting powers to developer led development corporations.  Then effectively planning permissions would be seen as capable of being bought and sold depending on the scale of political donations.

Jenrck is a bust.  He will go in the sepember reshuffle.  Im sure th planning white paper and any new deal will wait until a new clean pair of hands is through teh door.  If it isnt then the reforms will have xero legimimacy.

There is nothing wrong with the development corporation as the main deliverer of change.  They have been around since the middle ages and when set iup correctly can be very successful.  The Olympics was a great success, the LDDC a great failure, spending a great deal of money investing in the wrong infrastructure  and then having to replace it at huge expense.    But boards of DCs packjed with developers has everywhere been a conduit for cronyism.  In many regimes they are packed with party palacemen.  They have become a vehicle for rent seeking.  Their power is used to wrench aside existing owners of property and development rights and then reallocate them to cronys.  They are the antithesis of free markets, property rights and competition.  Everything that Sunak says he is for.

A classic case is Cairo – a city I know well, which has been badly planned for 80 years.

The Guardian

Looming above the affluent Zamalek neighbourhood in the centre of Cairo, the Forte Tower has stood as the tallest building in Egypt for the last 30 years – yet it remains unfinished and abandoned. A …t was to be the first part of a “new Manhattan of Egypt”, a cluster of skyscrapers imagined by president Anwar Sadat to rise from Gezira Island in the middle of the Nile, signalling Cairo’s place on the world stage. Following Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the project hit the rocks.

Empty … the unfinished Forte Tower.

“This building sums up the Egyptian way,” says Mohamed Elshahed, author of a new architectural guidebook, Cairo Since 1900. “A developer gets direct permission from the president, then another president comes in with his own circle of businessmen who want a piece of the cake. The original investor says no. The project is abandoned. “

We can see the same pattern in crony led development corporations around the world.

This is what happens when the normal ‘liberal; virtues of democracy and the rule of law get replaced by dictat and decree.  We can already see the pages of the Daily Telegraph calls for the ‘orbanisation‘ of the political system, abolish elected mayors, human rights – they just get in the way.

Be very clear,  This is nothing to do with markets and efficiency,  It is everything to do with rewarding through rent seeking elites and political client groups who can be bought off at the expense of others – the only aim being retention and enlargement of political power.

FT – Planning System set for Shake UP


Ministers are preparing for a major overhaul of the planning system in England to speed up approvals for new developments as part of the government’s attempts to kick-start the economy hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.  Central to the proposals are the introduction of a zonal planning system and the creation of special development zones, in which private developers will play an expanded role.  Robert Jenrick, communities secretary, said the government wanted to “rethink planning from first principles” with a shake-up designed to accelerate the process.  “The time has come to speed up and simplify this country’s overly bureaucratic planning process,” he said on Wednesday. “This government is thinking boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future.”

Ministers hope that the reforms can be agreed in time for a wider economic announcement in July by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, which will also include extra infrastructure spending.  Mr Sunak, Mr Jenrick and Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, are leading the discussion from the government’s side, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Those familiar with the discussions say initial plans are being described by ministers as a “New Deal” for planning. “They are moving fast, the question is whether they are willing to take the radical steps that are required,” said one.

One proposal is to change England’s design codes so that “attractive” buildings can be sped through the planning process. The model for that could be the “as-of-rights” system used in the US whereby a proposed development that complies with all applicable zoning codes does not require any special consideration from the authorities.

Ministers are also considering the creation of new development zones — in which the government invests in public infrastructure to stimulate private development. These would be along the lines of the London Docklands Development Corporation, which was set up in the early 1980s and led to the building of Canary Wharf and the wider regeneration of the Docklands area in the east of the capital. The government is also likely to go further in allowing change of use for existing properties, for example turning unused shops into homes or offices.

Downing Street has set up an advisory panel that includes Bridget Rosewell, the national infrastructure commissioner who recently headed a review into accelerating planning appeal inquiries, property developer Sir Stuart Lipton and barrister Christopher Katkowski. The other members are Nicholas Boys Smith, founder of Create Streets, co-chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, and Miles Gibson, head of UK research at advisory group CBRE.

In March, Mr Jenrick announced a consultation called “Planning For The Future”, which recommended expanding the system of “permitted development rights”, allowing empty buildings to be knocked down and replaced with housing without the need for a planning application. That document proposed that councils simplified the process of granting planning permission through zoning tools such as “local development orders”. As part of the overhaul being discussed, “the government will be looking for green spaces and well-designed buildings in return for relaxing planning restrictions. The private sector will put in finance and expertise to bring about development quickly,” said Alistair Watson, UK head of planning and environment at law firm Taylor Wessing, adding the reforms amounted to a “stratospheric planning change”. But the proposals are likely to cause disquiet among councils and planners if they reduce the scrutiny of new developments.  David Renard, the Local Government Association’s planning spokesman, said it was essential that councils continued to play a big role in taking planning decisions.  “The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding,” he insisted. “Nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils, while as our recent analysis shows, more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade have not yet been built.

Jenryck Backs Policy Exchange Report on ‘rethinking planning system from first principles’


The Housing Secretary has called for a rethink of the “overly bureaucratic” planning system, with reform seen as a key part of the Government’s economic recovery plan.

Robert Jenrick has said he wants to “speed up and simplify” the process and help young people buy their first home.

Ministers consider planning reform to be one of the ways to get the UK economy going again after the coronavirus pandemic, with work ongoing in Number 10 and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Mr Jenrick made the comments following a report by the Policy Exchange think tank, which described the current system as a “straitjacket” and called for reform.

He said: “As Housing Secretary, I want everyone, no matter where in the country they live, to have access to affordable, safe and high-quality housing, and to live in communities with a real sense of place.

“It’s time to rethink planning from first principles. High-quality design and sensitivity to the local vernacular must be at the very heart of the process.

“The time has come to speed up and simplify this country’s overly bureaucratic planning process.

“We’ll do that with a focus on creating beautiful, environmentally friendly places, building homes of all tenures and helping more young people onto the ladder.

“This Government is thinking boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future.”

Bridget Rosewell, the National Infrastructure Commissioner, said in the think tank report: “Abolishing the Plan does not mean a free-for-all.

“A framework of long-term investments in infrastructure for power, transport and water is still needed, and that in turn needs some vision of longer term ‘big’ things. But in detail, local interests and local people can fight it out.”

She added: “My review of planning inquiries showed that they could be done twice as fast just by applying sensible rules, most of which already existed, to manage the process.

“Other planning disputes are often also resolvable without having a complicated set of rules including local plan preparation and examinations in public.”

The report Planning Anew is a series of often contradictory essays from wildly different points of view – not a coherent programme of reform.

Easily the most idiotic is from Briget Roswell who should know better

Abolishing the Plan does not mean a free for all. A framework of long
term investments in infrastructure for power, transport and water is still
needed and that in turn needs some vision of longer term ‘big’ things. But
in detail, local interests and local people can fight it out.

Ah replace a plan with a plan and a fight with a bunfight.  That really makes sense

By far the best if from David Rudlin

Robert Adam simply proposes a return to an 18th Century position where great estates can build what they like (providing it is classical).

Even less coherent si from Warwick Lightfoot head of economics at the Policy Exchange.

The review should be informed by the principle that a land owner should be free to build or change the use of a building rather than relying on a presumption for development within a baroque framework of development plans, inspection decisions and case law

So an 18th century system again, no plans just massive PD rights.

Only David Rudline presents a coherent plan which could easily come from a TCPA paper.

The top tier was a National Spatial Plan, the middle was City Region / County Spatial strategies and the third was district-level zonal coding plans,

Sadly his ideas based on what works intyernationally are least likley to proceed.

The other essays are an odd bunch on topic specific issues.

I will place a bet that this round of ‘reform’ will get nowhere.  That is because in the last round at least quad/PAG had a clear plan based on legal principles and structure.  Know one at the Policy Exchange has.  It is series of incoherent malcontents and rambles, nothing to even put in a green paper.


Cummings Cant Liberalise Planning without any Plan where Growth will go

The Sundays (Sunday Times etc) are full of briefings that Jenryk and Cumming are planning a ‘liberalisation’ to boost housebuilding and growth post Covid-19

Hmm another ‘expert’ group lacking planners and composed entirely of hacks and axegrinders – like PAG – that turned out well didn’t it.

Cumming’s goal was set out in the Sun last year.

Dominic Cummings, the senior advisor to the Prime Minister, told ministerial aides of the plans in a briefing on Tuesday 17 December. The reforms will be aimed at boosting supply to meet the housing crisis. He is reported to have said:

“Every time a review is done, planning always comes up as a big drag on productivity, but nobody ever does anything about it. But we are going to do something about it.”

The reforms discussed include extending permitted development rights to allow landowners to build upwards by adding up to two extra storeys on homes and blocks of flats without needing approval.

Other putative reforms include reclassifying and releasing greenbelt land where there are existing developments and nearby train stations, a new system of rebates if councils delay in deciding applications and scrapping the need to apply for permission to demolish  commercial properties to replace them with residential uses.

The Javid agenda of widening PD rights will be implemented alongside the Planning White Paper – and will as disastrous and misconceived as the Office PD rights – leading to a wave of ugly Fulham Style mega roof extensions.

We will see if the rolling back of the Green belt – Javid’s plan blocked by May, will go ahead, it looks not.  The concept of development corporations is new.

The problem,  development corporations were always and everywhere designated as an instrument of implementing government policy,  Policy as to what goes where.  Either as development within towns or new communities.  There is no such policy.  The government has for a decade completely withdrawn from the field of deciding strategic policy as to what goes were.  There is no equivalent of national urban policy.  There is no equivalent of the Abercrombie plan to determine locations of new communities.  Green Belt cannot be designate outside the local plan route.  It only exists because of local plans.  Similarly zoning, you need a zoning plan in the first place.  Without a plan you don’t solve the underlying problem of not enough land being zoned for urban development and by ruling out the Green Belt you rule out the one mechanism that has worked well in recent years to solve the problem – strategic Green belt Reviews.

Trying to create development corporations without a strategy has been tried and failed.  Look at the Urban Development Corporations designated under the Housing and Planning Act.  They had no powers to do local plans, and the legal advice was they couldnt do urban expansions.  Everyone involved in them knew they were a waste of time and they were swiftly abolished.  Lets say Cummings tries to designate a a development corporation to develop new communities in the CAMKOX Arc.  If there was a national policy, like for HS2, they would not need SEA.  But there isnt so one is required.

The government has totally failed to give local government support in ‘larger than local’ planning.  So it hasnt said where overspill growth from London would go.  Even Nicholas Ridly did that; and it hasn’t given local authorities support to the land uplift and rapid transit projects that would make new communities work.

Yet again the government dusts off half baked and ill thought out non plans drafted by junior no nothing Treasury incompetents.


Big Reforms to Planning System Planned for July Mini-Budget

Daily Mail

plans would be rolled together in a legislative agenda provisionally entitled the ‘Great Recovery Bill’. It will sit alongside a mini-budget, pencilled in for July, which is expected to include tax cuts to fuel consumer spending and business investment….

As the official Covid-19 death toll passed 40,000 today, the Government said they were still aiming to ease a swathes of lockdown restrictions on businesses on June 15, with non-essential retail being allowed to open back up again.

Mr Johnson’s shake-up could include major reforms to the planning system to revive his ‘infrastructure revolution’, which has stalled during the lockdown. Ministers believe new housing, roads and broadband will be central to any recovery.

Plans to create a network of ‘freeports’, where normal tax and customs rules do not apply, are also set to be fast-tracked.

A Government source said: ‘Departments are being asked to identify the things they need to keep services going, but also the changes that would free up the economy and get business moving again once we start to open up.

‘The idea is to then put them all into one big piece of legislation that helps get the recovery going.’…

Ministers also want to make it easier for pubs to reconfigure so they can serve customers outside, and planning restrictions on high street could be simplified so retail unit can more easily change between shops, retail and residential uses.