“Fresh Start’ St Albans you Started 25 Years Ago

St Albans Advertiser

The most failed and slowest plan making authority plans to improce – by going backwards 25 years, making the same mistakes, underestimating growth from adjoining authorities, downplaying the need for Green Belt sites and chasing a doomed to fail JR in Sevenoaks. Why is St Albans competing to retain the championship as most failed worst plan making authority in the country? The inspectors report was clear you needed more development to meet the needs of other authorities.

Councillors are to consider formally withdrawing St Albans’ draft ‘Local Plan’ next week (November 19).

The plan is a document designed to act as the blueprint for future growth and development across the district until 2036, and includes a number of sites that have been earmarked to enable the construction of new homes, to meet demand for 913 new homes a year.

Earlier this year planning inspectors pointed to “serious concerns” and halted their public examination of the document – which needs to have government approval.

The November 19 meeting of St Albans City and District Council’s cabinet will be asked to formally withdraw the local plan.

Speaking in advance of that meeting, portfolio holder for planning Cllr Jamie Day said that withdrawal of the plan would give the council a ‘fresh start’.

“We have no choice but to withdraw the draft local plan given the disappointing response of the government-appointed planning inspectors,” he said.

“At least, we can now embark on a fresh start which gives us an opportunity to better address issues which have become ever more pressing since the draft was first drawn up.

“These include the need to recognise the impact of climate change and the need to ensure any new developments will meet strong sustainability standards.”

Cllr Day highlighted that the draft also focused to an extent on large developments of 500 houses or more, which would have a huge impact on the district.

“We will look to see if we can concentrate more on smaller sites which will take up less of the Green Belt,” he added.

If the cabinet agrees to formally withdraw the draft local plan, a detailed draft timetable of future work would be considered by the council’s planning policy committee in December.

At an earlier meeting, the council’s planning policy committee had highlighted Sevenoaks District Council, which is reported to be seeking judicial review.

There had been calls for St Albans to delay a decision on their own draft Local Plan until the judgement from the Sevenoaks judicial review had been published

Carrie Simmons and the Turn towards ‘Liberal’ ‘Green’ Planning Reform

It is not a trivial thought to think of what impact the rise of Carrie Simmons and the fall of Dominic Cummins would have on the future of the Planning White Paper. After all Simmons was a SPAD to Javid as Housing and Planning minister between 2016 and 2018 and Cummins was influential in the Zeitgeist like tone of the white paper – especially the ‘rip in up and start again’ tone of the forward.

However certain key people stay in position. Number 10s Housing advisor, and planning advisor Jack Airey, and their chief economics advisor, Liam Booth Smith a housing specialist. However any new senior figure taking stock of the PR disaster that was the Planning White Paper will note experience has shown the worst people in the world at designing policy, especially over planning, are alumni of the infamous dumb tank the Policy Exchange. They have got everything wrong without fail for 10 years. If their is to be a genuine fresh start they all have to go.

And with possibly Javid coming in as chief of staff the momentum, if not direction, of planning reform stays in place, though with a more capable housing Secretary in place in the new year there will be a chance to state stock.

The thrust of reform will remain but likely with more of a Green Tinge and gradualist bent, Simmons is on the phone to MPs all the time and they will likely wail and moan about the impact of building more houses on the voting habits of their avocado continuants.