Wildlife Link on Weakening of Habitat Directive Protections in Environment Bill

Wildlife Link

New Clause 21: apples and oranges

New Clause 21 would allow the Secretary of State to “swap” the duty on public authorities to satisfy the requirements of the Nature Directives with a duty to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Bill targets and Environmental Improvement Plans.

It is good if existing Regulations can be strengthened to ensure they can help to meet new targets, such as the Government’s positive promise to halt the decline of biodiversity by 2030 (a State of Nature target). EU-derived regulations should not be fossilised forever, but capable of growing to meet new environmental ambition.

However, those new objectives are simply not a substitute for the objectives of the Nature Directives. They serve an entirely different purpose.

The Environment Bill targets aim to ensure overall national improvement in the Natural Environment. To satisfy the expected Environment Bill requirements, habitats and species in general must be on the rise. By contrast, the Nature Directives are all about protecting particular habitats and species—specific sites, populations and even individual wildlife specimens.

Modern conservation must move beyond the old “lines on maps” approach of protecting single sites in favour of overall ecological restoration—that’s exactly what the Lawton Review was all about—but the two are not mutually exclusive. We still need lines on maps to ensure that the species trends (lines on graphs) are going in the right direction and to protect our most precious wildlife.

The risk of the Government’s approach is that it may be possible to create a convincing case that overall the environment is improving, while proceeding to devastate precious species and habitats—it is net gain on steroids.

The answer, of course, is to ensure that the Regulations are required to do both. A simple amendment to New Clause 21 would require public authorities to secure compliance with the requirements of the Nature Directives and with the requirements of the Environment Act.

Site protection

New Clause 22 is a still wider power to amend Part 6 of the Habitats Regulations, which is the foundation of legal defence for protected sites. These Regulations require appropriate assessment of development plans that would have a significant effect on a wildlife site, ensuring that a damaging project can only go ahead for reasons of overriding public interest.

The justification for this power refers to “future changes to consenting regimes”, which is most likely a reference to the proposals for zonal planning set out in the Planning White Paper. The risk here is that large areas could be earmarked for development, including protected sites, without the site specific searches and safeguards that are currently in place. The Government may point to New Clauses 22(2) and (3) as proof that the power will only be exercised in a positive way, without weakening Habs Regs rules. However, there are a number of weaselly words that enfeeble those safeguards. The Minister need only:

1. “have regard” to the need to enhance biodiversity—a notoriously weak duty;

2. meet levels of protection “provided” by the Regulations—a de facto weakening compared with a duty to match protection “required” by the Regulations, because implementation is often poor; and

3. be “satisfied” that environmental protection is not weakened—leaving the judgement entirely in the hands of the Minister, opening the door to the kind of swap from specifics to generalities described earlier.

The Pincer Movement of Extremes Against Planning Reform

Where was this said

“Let’s talk about the Nimbys, and by that I mean folks who tend to be upper middle-class, tend to be white, tend to be in suburban communities. They often are very clever at finding and building alliances with progressive activists of color who are legitimately concerned about gentrification—and what is typically a left-right pincer can be very challenging for the housing conversation. So I think it’s important to separate what the opposition is…and addressing what is legitimate…but also calling out the opposition that really isn’t based on anything but fear of the unknown, fear of the other, fear of changing the status quo.”

By David Chiu California state senator in favour of a package of zoning reforms against a package of modest zoning reforms passed overwhelmingly by the State senate, including allowing duplexes on land which is currently single family zoned.

This shows the ‘pincer movement’ against progressive zoning reform is the same everywhere, wealthy homeowners seeking to protect housing values caused by housing shortages allied with misguided avocados sold false narratives.

If you read websites like 48 Hills you will see how ridiculous the arguyme nts area such as

‘98% of the housing in California is market, why would anyone want ore of it’

‘This inititaive is funded by slilcon valley, capitalists are evil’ (they struggle to find staff who can afford to live there)

This doesn’t provide affordable housing (err a single unit is too small to require a percentage of affordable housing)

It will displace people of colour (all of the recent research shows lack of housing causes displacement and providing more housing stabilises existing communities and brings prices down, the ‘gentrification causes displacement theory’ is comprehensively debunked)

Drama Free Local Plan Consultation – How it Should be Done

I compare the drama free and totally professional and neutral consultation on the forthcoming Richmondshire local plan, with the winy, blame everyone else, unprofessional, dishonest, deliberately misleading, dodging and prejudging the issues, undermining your officers, winy, double winy, wimpy and sad consultation of Three Rivers, all too typical these days.

Greater Exeter Plan – Dead

Since East Devon failed to agree to consult on draft options for a Greater Exteter Plan it has seemed fatally wounded.

Teignmouth are now publishing their own plan, as is Mid Devon, they together with Exeter are producing a non statutory plan.

Of course the key issue is Exeter wont be able to meet all of their needs in their own area and East Devon is the only sustainable place to put most of the overspill. So very predictably East Devon will fail on DTC.

Of course this shows that without statutory joint strategic planning with statutory joint committees ‘localism’ 1) produces plans years late 2) doesn’t meet need 3) is not local as ‘local only’ plans don’t pass examination 4) is an expensive waste of time.

Now we know localism as seen by Greg Clarke and Eric Pickles as failed exactly as predicted can we please move on.

Going Underground – Why the Conservatives Lost the West of England and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Mayoral Elections

There mistake was the same, delaying surface transit improvements by pursuing impractical, expensive and undeliverable underground metro options.

In Cambridgeshire tunneling proposals delayed well worked up proposals by The Greater Cambridge Partnership to extend the Cambridge Busway.

Around Bristol we have a surface based metro proposal which has been dragging on for nearly 20 years phase one of which will, hold your breath, have one service an hour to Portishead. Alongside this there was diversionary proposals for an under ground system in the City Centre.

6 or 7 years ago the incoming conservative administration in Birmingham delayed proposals to extend tramlink through silly proposals to build an underground. Incoming West Midlands mayor Andy Street extended Metrolink and has advanced proposals to reopen several rail lines and build new stations. The kind of thing that can deliver over 1-2 terms. In West Yorkshire the City Deal which lead to the Mayoralty includes funding for a transit system, 40 years overdue, easily the largest conglomeration in Europe without one.

This illustrates that project management and expertise to deliver realistic public transport improvements are critical, and avoiding options which have a political payoff 30 years after you have left office.

The Low Weald Zero Carbon Planning Problem

Local Planning is hard. Strategic Planning is harder. Kent is a case in point. It has two huge hard environmental constraints, the North Downs and High Weald AONBs, and one huge policy constraints – Green Belt. Squeezing strategic development to its north and south. Aside that the Greensand Ridge, with its picturesque orchards, villages and oast houses is if anything valued by locals every bit as much as the North Downs, and along the coast outside the AONBs there are numerous planning constraints.

Naturally, and given the failure of Kent Country Council over 30 years to want to provide any kind of strategic oversight, authorities with heavy constraints have sought to focus development into the small parts of their districts that are not, e.g. Maidstone, Tonbridge Wells and Shepway. That is if they have planned to meet there need at all which the East Kent Autholrities did not and all failed their DTC.

A particular focus of strategic development has been along the South Eastern Mainline, which runs to Tonbridge then East along the longest streach of straight railway in Europe to Ashford then Dover.

This, originally the route of the South Eastern Railway has an interesting history. Its stations lie away from its villages as the company competed against the first line to Dover via Rochester and Canterbury. As such there has always been a conflict between express services and ‘short hop’ commuter services. Being away from heavy centres of population privatized railway companies have sought to reduce stopping services at places like Marden and Headcorn to make space for hourly express services.

With the construction of HS1 to Ashford there is another ‘mainline’ route. East Sussex County Council and Kent County Council are also working in partnership with Network Rail and HS1 Ltd on a project to deliver a connection between HS1 and the Marshlink line, and provided that this proposal for infrastructure enhancement at Ashford is funded HS services would then be able to operate between St Pancras and Eastbourne via Hastings and Bexhill. A rail link to HS1 will be created by the new Medway Parkway Station, facilitated major Development in the Thanet Local Plan.

What is now the ‘South East Main Line’ between Tonbridge and Ashford for? At least two new settlement scale developments are proposed along it, at Marden and Tudeley (the latter requiring a new station), and major expansion at Paddock Wood. The problem being that with the line being served by heavy axel weight rail there is a limit to how fast trains can slow down and speed up. For ‘short hop’ commuter services you want very light weight trains or tram trains enabling faster acceleration/declaration, shorter headways and hence more frequent services between more closely packed stations.

This is an issue at Tudeley where apparently Network Rail (as was) objected on the basis of insufficient space between Paddock Wood and Tonbridge. The proposal is for a Garden Village of 2,500 home with future space for expansion north of the future ‘station’. I cant see how this would fund a new access road, new schools or new community facilities, which such a pinprick scale of development. It would be nothing but a large housing estate in the open countryside.

Which is why I have long called for a Garden of England Corridor Strategy. If we want to avoid overdevelopment harming North Downs, Weald, Greensand Ridge in Kent AND Surrey, and protect the Green Belt, AND avoiding piling traffic onto the M25 (as in the South Godstone fiasco) we have to focus development on a zero carbon corridor, which MUST have a short hop service pattern with new suitable trains. Changing patterns of post Covid work has freed capacity in central London and supports a more decentralised employment pattern near low carbon work hubs next to railway stations. The oldest international railway line in the world is long overdue a modernisation. This means a ‘string of pearls’ pattern of development, both employment and housing, in compact small towns and villages like you got historically in the Low Weald, such as Headcorn and Tenterden. The Heavy clay soils limited settlement size because of low agricultural activity. This requires a far more strategic approach by the new Great British Railways and a far more positive approach to local plans by Highways England.

If local Greens and Lib Dems really wanted green zero carbon development and to protect precious landscapes they would be fighting for this green development rather than no development, a short term approach that always fails because of either appeal led sprawl or central government tiring of the negative local Nimbyism and overidding local decisions and non-decisions.

MCHLG issues Misleading Response to Misleading Times Article fed by Misleading CPRE ‘research’


The Times today (Tuesday 25 May) reported on inaccurate analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), stating that rural areas will have a legal requirement to meet the new house building targets. They say this will put pressure on councils to accept more development of Green Belt sites and in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

This analysis is deliberately misleading. To compare housing delivery in different parts of the country based on Local Housing Need formula is to misunderstand the nature and purpose of these numbers. That’s not how they work – the numbers mentioned are a starting point for local councils to help them understand how much housing is needed in their area and are not legally binding. Put simply, it is a measure of an area’s housing need, against which councils must then consider their local circumstances and supply pipeline. Councils draw up a local housing target, taking into account factors including land availability and environmental constraints such as Green Belt.

Protecting the Green Belt is a priority and our national planning policy reinforces regenerating previously developed land, known as brownfield sites, and prioritising urban areas. The uplift in local housing needed within our biggest cities and urban centres in England will direct homes to where they are better served by infrastructure, and therefore protect our countryside. It also supports our wider objectives of regenerating brownfield sites, renewal, and levelling up.

Green Belt decisions will remain with councils and communities, ensuring they have influence over development, location and design.

This government is committed to levelling up all around the country. This includes the development of much needed new homes in both the north and the south of England. For example, a number of places outside of the South East have gone over and above to provide much-needed new homes in recent years, including:

  • Bolsover: Current Local Housing Need: 224  | Three year annual average delivery: 278
  • Copeland: Current Local Housing Need: 11 | Three year annual average delivery 134
  • Darlington: Current Local Housing Need: 165 | Three year annual average delivery 414
  • Hartlepool: Current Local Housing Need: 180| Three year annual average delivery: 274
  • Redcar and Cleveland: Current Local Housing Need: 89 | Three year annual average delivery: 486

We have been clear that local plan policies should be informed by up-to-date assessments of the need for open space and sport and recreation facilities, and communities can designate Local Green Space to protect important green areas from development.

The government signed off the London Plan in Feb 2021 which is now set for the next 5 years. The local housing need uplift will, therefore, only be applicable once the next London Plan is being developed in 2026.

The Local Housing Need is simply a measure of need and we recognise that not everywhere will be able to meet their housing need in full – for example, where available land is constrained due to the Green Belt and an area therefore has to plan for fewer new homes. At the same time, there may be areas which want to be more ambitious in planning for more homes, and they should be able to continue this where appropriate.

Local Plans should cover a minimum period of 15 years. However, councils are able to review their plans for housing during this period, and to be clear, plans must be reviewed at least once every five years to take into account changes in circumstances and to ensure policies remain effective.

But the standard method is no longer a measure of local need. It is based on 2014 need redistributed because of a cap and arbitary urban redistribution. Also the Planning White paper said many times the revised method would be binding and not just a starting point, only for the minister to say in the response to the standard method consultation that oh you misunderstand us, its just a starting point. If its just a starting point what is the method to redistribute need that cant be met locally given the proposal to abolish the duty to cooperate.

This is dodging the political question. Does there need to be more housing in the countryside or less. If housing cant be built in some areas where should it be built? Can the MCHLG answer these questions in single paragraphs in terms non planners can understand?

‘Dozer’ Oliver Dowden condemns ‘Socialist Town Planners’ He’s an Ignoramus of History

You usually find those who condemn ‘wokery’ want to remain historically ignorant because they didnt’t want the fantasy ‘sceptered isle’ view of history challenged by critical thought or evidence.


He launches into a passionate soliloquy about the dangers of big institutions being swept up by statue-topplers and history-rewriters.

“What I’m saying is, let’s make sure we have a longer term perspective on all of this. You just have to look at what happened to our urban landscape after the Second World War. More damage was done by the misplaced idealism of socialist planners than by the Luftwaffe.

There is no evidence of any major city plan in the post war period having been drawn up by a socialist planner, apart from Stevenage who was quickly fired for being too left wing and an outspoken woman. A previous generation of planners had many prominent socialists (libertarians) with very different ideas about style (often favouring vernacular and arts and crats styles). But that’s not what he is talking about.

This concept comes from Gavin Stamps book ‘Britain’s Lost Cities’ which is a prominent part of contemporary cultural conservative historiography. I’m not accusing dozer Dowden waking up and reading Stamp. More likely he read a blog on CONHOM from someone who once read a pamphlet by a dumbtank that once attended a lecture from someone who once read the book.

This had a simple argument, post war reconstruction did more damage than the Luftwaffe. A whole chapter often book being given over to Exeter.

This is partially true. You find in every blitzed city far more was knocked down than was blown up. What replaced it was driven far ore by a classical conception of planning than modernist. And modernism, when it did become fashionable had few associations with socialism (look for example at La Corbusier’s authoritarian right wing syndicalism and coporatism). But that is too much history to get in the way of so many bad conservative aesthetic scribblers who want to paint a false ‘asleep’ narrative of triumph of the people over socialism. The facts don’t support the ‘dozers’ narrative.

The facts are, lets use Exeter as a case study, by the time Thomas Sharp, Exeter’s planner, arrived for his site visit Bedford Square, its most famous example of Georgian Town Planning, was bulldozed and he wrote of it as such. In fact the corporation had bulldozed it in the previous weeks. Reports at the time said many houses simply had broken windows. It is difficult to tell because there are no records how deep the damage was. Georgian and early Victorian houses were flimsy structurally behind the front façade. The blast wave from a bomb can weak a whole terrace, sometimes fatally, rippling down a whole terrace, even when frontage appearances of damage are limited.

It appears the motives of the corporation (tory I might add) were financial. They had massive loss of rates income and lobbied furiously central government for relief. They were strongly motivated by getting redevelopment done as quickly as possible

Sharp was not beyond fault, his report strongly downplayed how many buildings in the centre from Medieval facades were Victorian, we know now in all cities how much refacading was done in front of medieval buildings. But Sharpe did not knockdown the medieval street pattern in the area which was not bomb damaged.

There certainly were cases where bad planning did much damage. Think for example of Leicester where a ring road split the old town in two. The fault of its City Planner Konrad Smigielski a man who fought (with a gun) invading communists in his home country.

There really is no evidence that British Post War Town Planning in any way followed a ‘socialist’ ideology. Modernism as an aesthetic was followed by architects of all political persuasions, and the dominant ideology of post war planning was to find a consensus of all political views as a technical exercise.

Three Rivers Local Plan Shows Lib-Dem’s New ‘Party Of Nimbys’ Strategy in South

A land promoter has been promoting a site next to a station and blighted by the M25 for years. Members have been positive. Officers recommend it to meet the new standard method target. As all rural areas are Green Belt you have no alternative but to release Green Belt following a review. How then do you spin it.

You spin it by releasing lots of sites to Green Belt but pretend your protecting it to meet public -pressure before even you have consulted on the site. You do it without any discussion with your officers, and via a smoke filled room group only discussion and motion before a meeting. You question the new standard method knowing you will fail at examination through undershooting by nearly 2,800 without any reserve sites, but it gives you the pretense of pushing back against the government. This is all about the Lib Dems out competing the Green as part of a national Nimby strategy, not about good, defensive, sustainable or zero carbon planning.

Watford Observer

Three Rivers District Council says it will refuse to allow at least two huge pieces of greenbelt land to be used to help meet Government housing targets.

The council is putting together its local plan, which will help shape future development across the district.

Councillors and officers have been tasked with finding space to build around 10,000 new homes over the next 15 years in a district which is more than 70 per cent greenbelt land.

With a list of potential development sites ready to go out to consultation, senior Liberal Democrats say they are “on the side of residents” and are refusing to put forward some sites which have been deemed appropriate to build on.

This includes land between Abbots Langley and Kings Langley, known as the ‘Kings Langley estate’, where more than 2,000 homes have been proposed to be built either side of the M25.

Outlined in red is roughly the land referred to by the council as the Kings Langley Estate where they are appear to be refusing to build as many as 2,000 homes. Credit: Google

Outlined in red is roughly the land referred to by the council as the ‘Kings Langley Estate’ where they are appear to be refusing to build as many as 2,000 homes. Credit: Google

The other piece of land is off Rousebarn Lane, where nearly 800 homes could be built on land between Croxley Green and Chandler’s Cross.

Matthew Bedford, the lead councillor working on the local plan, says the council is also ready to refuse a list of contingency sites being put forward for development.

This includes land next door to Parmiter’s School, further parts of the Kings Langley Estate, land south of Bedmond, Hill Farm in Chorleywood, and land at Heronsgate.

A rough outline of land at Heronsgate, being considered a contingency site for around 1,600 homes that Lib Dems say they will refuse to put forward. Credit: Google

A rough outline of land at Heronsgate, being considered a contingency site for around 1,600 homes that Lib Dems say they will refuse to put forward. Credit: Google

Cllr Bedford said: “We have a responsibility to provide sites for new homes in the area so our young people and elderly downsizers have places they can afford locally.

“But this cannot be at the expense of the quality of life and wellbeing of our existing residents. If residents agree with us, we hope they will respond to the consultation and support our proposal to safeguard key areas next to existing settlements.