West Kents Conspiracy to not Cooperate on Meeting Housing Need – Once Sevenoaks Fell so Must Tonbridge and Malling

Inspectors Letter

Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) considers that it is unable to meet all of
its own housing needs. It is a neighbouring local authority and forms a
large part of the West Kent Housing Market Area which also includes a
significant part of Tonbridge and Malling Borough. Our letter will focus on
the engagement of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (the Council)
with SDC, in relation to housing and how any unmet needs might be met.
This is a strategic matter for the purposes of S33A…

it appears from the evidence before us that the Council knew for
a number of years, prior to the submission of their plan for examination,
that it was highly unlikely that SDC would be able to meet its housing
requirement in full. Despite this there is no evidence that the Council
engaged in any meaningful discussions with SDC to consider how the
strategic matter of unmet need could be resolved. Instead the Council
has relied on the fact that SDC did not formally ask them for help…

there is no evidence that at any time the Council cooperated or
even considered cooperating with SDC on a joint review of the Green Belt
to understand the comparative quality across the two districts and any
potential to amend Green Belt boundaries to fully or more fully meet
needs. The Council say the reason for this is that the two LPAs were at
different stages of plan making, however the plans were submitted for
examination within months of each other…

Turning to the matter of the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) that
have been submitted5. They were composed and signed after the
submission of both plans and provide no evidence of constructive and
active engagement prior to the submission of the plan and are therefore of
no help in demonstrating the Duty has been met…

On the basis of the evidence currently before us, for the reasons set out
above, it is reasonable for us to conclude, having carefully considered all
the evidence, that the Council has failed to engage constructively, actively
and on an ongoing basis in the preparation of the plan, so far as it relates
to the strategic matter of housing, and that the DtC in Section 33A of the
2004 Act has not been complied with. This cannot be remedied during the
examination of the plan.

Trump can’t live at Mar-a-Lago – it’s Zoned as a Hotel


Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol D. Leonnig report on a strange turn of events for President Donald Trump’s plans to reside in Palm Beach, Florida once his presidential term is over: his future neighbors don’t want him to live it Mar-a-Lago, and they say that an agreement signed by the president in 1993 prevents him from doing so.

“In the demand letter, obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for the Mar-a-Lago neighbors says the town should notify Trump that he cannot use Mar-a-Lago as his residence,” write Roig-Franzia and Leonnig. “Making that move would ‘avoid an embarrassing situation’ if the outgoing president moves to the club and later has to be ordered to leave, according to the letter sent on behalf of the neighbors, the DeMoss family, which runs an international missionary foundation.

The 1993 agreement signed by Trump prohibits club members from staying in the club’s guest suites for more than 21 days total a year, and limits stays to no more than seven days consecutively.

“The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on Jan. 20,” according to the article.

Roig-Franzia and Leonnig note, however, that Palm Beach has been lax in enforcing other parts of the agreement.

Another article by Zack Budryk provides additional coverage of the controversy.

Both articles note that Trump’s disagreements with neighbors of Mar-a-Lago date back to before Trump’s presidency, but complains about traffic jams and other frustrations have continued throughout the past four years.

What Makes Good Planning

We now have a pause till the Spring till when the government announces its response to the Planning White Paper. Hence its a good time to think about what the foundational building blocks of a good planning system should be. A good planning SYSTEM is one which offers the least cost path to a good planning OUTCOME.

It is very easy to make a foundational mistake here.

I remember very much the years following the 2004 Planning Act. A raft of guidance ensued. All of it concerned almost wholly with process. That is the order of things to do to produce a plan. This had the result on an overemphasis on consultation for its own sake (endlessly repeated with limited engagement on genuine strategic options) and gathering of evidence for its own sake.

This is akin to the underpants gnomes view of outcomes.

Where phase 1 is collect evidence and phase 3 is adopt plan. Phase 2 ‘planning’ is a black box.

This is also evident in the new (English – never mentioning what country it is for) Design Guide. Which shows a number of outputs that a good design should have but not how to get there. This might be useful in a purely discretionary system but not in one where outcomes are predictable (such as a zoning one) in that you need to know how to design at various scales. The gap was supposed to be set in the national model design code – which was supposed to be

‘setting out detailed standards for key elements of successful design’

But from presentations it seems it will be – yes you guessed it- a guide to process, analyze your area and produce codes for different areas (what we would call typologies) – yes the underpants gnomes process obsessed approch to planning. This kind of approach is concerned only with process outcomes – i.e. number of houses (widgets) produced. Everything else is a black box. Indeed this was exactly the fatally definition of the purpose of planning the minister gave at the last MHDCLG select committee. But to produce widgets in the best pattern in space you need to understand the principles and methods for optimizing and trading off different forms and land uses in space. A powerpoint saying you have to analyse and then produce zones will be no more helpful than an urban design first year power point. Unless you are just repeating the patterns and forms you like you arnt learning why some work and some don’t and how historic patterns and forms need to be adapted (for example traffic management, accessibility and parking).

Good planning is about optimising patterns and forms in space. You have a limited space and an economically optimum quantum of development. You then need to produce a land use budget that adds up against several criteria including meeting local standards for community facilities and open space as well as surviving testing (at larger scales) traffic modelling. It is the same when zoning changes to an existing area, except you are talking about incremental changes.

In producing an optimal you can use several ‘tricks of the trade’ mainly tried and tested prototype typologies which can be shown to work in certain circumstances. The best codes set out these typologies and set down the circumstances and locations where they can work. They do the hard work for you. For example on one design code developed jointly with world leader DPZ I planned out an area of 7 sq km for 27,000 people in 2 weeks, on two sides of A1, and on the final layout the GIS model showed id by eye balanced the land budget to 3 decimal places (as this was 1 sqm units that was to the nearest mm – equivalent of firing an arrow at a target on the moon and hitting bullseye) Only real planning nerd will understand how this is only possible if the real work is done for you, with typologies and layouts at a cluster scale pre-designed to be optimal (in terms of ‘exaction) roads, open spaces and community facilities. Then simply snapped together like a giant lego kit, adapting to natural features and topography. These prototype typologies (for buildings, roads (ROW cross sections), community facilities and open spaces) require a framework to set within – which is why concepts such as transect (rural to city centre) and fabric (Service centre to purely residential) are so useful in setting out an organising framework. It is trivially easy to produce a design code on reproducing the failed familiar (semi-d on narrow plot widths and excessive plot depths with insufficient space for on street parking). It is much harder to set out typologies for how areas can and should change to produce (missing middle – gentle density) development forms.

A Quick Note on how to fix the Latest Standard Method OANishambles

Base the urban areas on the 20 largest built up areas based on ONS BUA definitions – excluding local authorities with more than 50% of their land area outside the BUA, or the mean completions for the last three years whichever is higher

For London set the OAN for the next three years as the London Plan number. There is no point setting a number higher than a newly adopted plan – that results in planned underprovision.

Use 2018 HH projections but dramatically decrease weight

Decrease weight of affordability factor

Reintroduce population factor but decrease it in weight

Introduce a factor for the 20 largest local authorities with a heavy imbalance between homebased and workplace based population to reduce need to travel (e.g. Cambridge)

Introduce an overcrowding factor to improve accuracy of population factor as evidence of need.

Reduce cap to 50% and announce it will be withdrawn after 10 years by 5% a year.

The above five measures in combination will avoid the disruption of major changes, there will be an uplift but dramatic changes would be mitigated.

Define a baseline ‘constraint number’ for the 25% most ‘constrained’ local authorities, which would be the baseline number subject to agreement of the overspill that would be expected to be dealt with through joint planning. This number would be based on the % of the LPA which is not BUA and not covered by environmental constraints. The number would be half the constrained % and capped at no more than 50% of OAN. So if an LPA was 50% constrained its overspill number would be 25%. Adjoining LPAs would have a legal duty to individually or jointy agree to where this would go (replacing the DTC).