Gove Tells Mps – There is no Planned Standalone Planning Bill – Zoning dead


A controversial new planning law which would have allowed uncontrolled building in parts of the country has been scrapped by Michael Gove.

The Levelling Up Secretary told MPs at a private meeting this week that he had decided not to proceed with a major separate piece of planning legislation to put the reforms into law.

Instead, more limited changes to planning rules will be incorporated as part of a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which will be set out in the Queen’s Speech in the spring.

The news is a significant victory for Tory MPs who have been fighting the reforms since they were first mooted by Robert Jenrick, Mr Gove’s predecessor, more than a year ago.

The news came amid calls by backbenchers to get rid of policies that are seen as “un-Conservative”. Last weekend, ministers dropped plans to ban imports of foie gras and fur.

The timing of the news could have a bearing on Thursday’s by-election in Birmingham Erdington where the Tories want to cut into Labour’s 3,601 majority from the 2019 general election.

The planning reforms were seen as a contributing factor to the Tories’ shock defeat at the Chesham and Amersham by-election last June.

The planning overhaul was first set out in a “Planning for the Future” White Paper, normally the precursor to legislation, by Mr Jenrick last February.

Under the “once-in-a-generation” reform, he had proposed replacing the current regime in England, under which local planning officials assess applications case by case, with new rules based on zones.

Councils in England would have been asked to classify land in their areas as either “protected”, for “renewal” or for “growth”, prompting an outcry from Conservative MPs fearful of uncontrolled development.

These growth zones were particularly controversial because once areas were designated local council planning committees or residents would have no right to say what is built in them.

The reforms were then officially “paused and under review” when Mr Gove took over in the housing brief last autumn.

Mr Gove disclosed his decision to drop plans for a separate piece of legislation to enshrine the changes in law at a private meeting of 45 Tory backbenchers on Tuesday.

According to sources, Mr Gove told the meeting: “There is no standalone Planning Bill.” 

Instead, other planning reforms will be folded into a new Levelling Up legislation.

Mr Gove also told the meeting that the “growth zones” are now “definitely not going to happen”.

A second source said that the news was a “partial retreat” adding that it was clear the planning reforms had been “watered down”.

Mr Gove “was indicating that some of the most radical proposals that were in the White Paper will now no longer find their way into the Bill”.

Tory MPs were delighted by the climbdown. One MP said: “This is really encouraging. There are now clear indications from the Government that they are changing course on planning.”

However, they warned that other controversial reforms also had to go, such as the “algorithms” which calculate housing need and can impose large-scale developments on small communities in the South.

The MP said: “We still need assurances that other problematic elements of those proposals will be scrapped too. And we need changes to the current system of housing targets which are creating intolerable pressure for over-development.”

Scaling back the reforms is a risk for Mr Gove, as it raises the possibility that ministers might miss their manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of this decade.

A source close to Mr Gove confirmed the decision, saying: “There will be some sensible measures to tidy up the planning system in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in the next Queen’s Speech.” 

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We continue to keep the planning system under review to ensure it is best equipped to level up the country. Any changes will be announced in due course.”

Gove to Local MP – OxCamArc flushed down toilet


Boris Johnson’s government has shelved a strategic plan to create a British rival to Silicon Valley around Oxford and Cambridge in order to prioritise “levelling up” spending in the north of England. The “Oxford-Cambridge Arc”, a regional project designed to connect the UK’s two leading universities and the manufacturing and logistics centre of Milton Keynes by building east-west transport links, was a key priority of successive Conservative governments, until last year. Individuals with detailed knowledge of the plans across Whitehall, industry and local government have told the Financial Times that the project is no longer considered a priority by ministers.

Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, has indicated privately that the project was on the backburner, prompting anger from local leaders and several major companies in the region. One Tory MP told a meeting of local constituents in Cambridgeshire that, when asked about the scheme, Gove had mimed to him sitting on a lavatory and pulling the chain, adding: “That’s what’s happened to the Arc”.  U

nder a 2017 plan, drawn up by the National Infrastructure Commission, the Arc in its most ambitious form promised to deliver 1mn extra homes and 700,000 jobs while boosting the average annual productivity of workers in the region by £6,000 by 2050. Although a new railway line between Oxford and Cambridge is still going ahead, a new east-west “expressway”, or trunk road, has been dropped and the target for 1mn new homes shelved. The death knell for the Arc was first sounded when Johnson was elected in 2019 on the back of his “levelling-up” agenda, which promised to concentrate delivering economic growth outside London and the South-East. It suffered another blow after the Tories’ shock by-election defeat in nearby Chesham & Amersham last year, prompting Johnson to drop plans to turbocharge housebuilding in Britain. As a result, Gove has taken a strategic decision to deprioritise the plan and leave it in the hands of fragmented local councils instead. A 40-person Whitehall unit in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to deliver the Arc was disbanded “within weeks” of Gove taking up his new role in September last year, according to three Whitehall insiders. The department said it would not comment on staffing matters or whether Gove had indicated he had “flushed” the plan down the toilet. Yet the result of an October 2021 consultation on delivering an overarching planning framework for the Arc remains unpublished, with local authorities informed that central government no longer wishes to drive the project forward.

An internal report by South Cambridgeshire district council this week said that it had become clear the government did “not wish to see the Ox Cam Arc as a project driven by central government” and that it would now be “locally led”. Bridget Smith, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council, expressed frustration at the lack of clarity. “The implication from Gove is that they want us local council leaders to take it forward — but we have no money or power,” she said. The government said it continued “to recognise the importance of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc as a globally renowned hub of innovation” and it would provide more information in due course” on last year’s consultation. But Dave Hodgson, the Lib Dem mayor of Bedford, a town that is central to the Arc plans, said he now believed the project was effectively “dead”. He added: “This is all the result of successive secretaries of state never being clear about what they want, so we just have more and more false dawns.” There are even doubts about the future of the long-delayed Oxford-Cambridge railway link, which in parts would have involved reopening the old “Varsity line” between the two cities that closed in 1967. Steven Broadbent, chair of the East West Main Line Partnership that runs the project, warned in October that the Treasury’s spending review had failed to resolve critical questions about its future. Funding is still needed for the line eastward to Cambridge while there remains “uncertainty” over the delivery of the Aylesbury-Milton Keynes link, he added. The failure to deliver the Arc project in a holistic manner has left investors, industry, local government and local MPs deeply divided. Philip Hammond, the former chancellor, who backed the Arc while in office, said the decision by the Johnson government to step back from the scheme to focus on levelling-up priorities was deeply misguided. “We have to get away from this idea that levelling up for the north means stifling investment in high-growth areas. That is a recipe for making the entire country poorer,” said Hammond. Lord Andrew Adonis, who as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission in 2016 was tasked by then chancellor George Osborne with drawing up plans for the Arc, said the project could be squared with the levelling-up priorities of the Johnson government. “Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes are halfway to the Midlands; it would help to shift the centre of gravity away from London and the South-East,” he said. A group of 17 major companies in the region, including Oxford Properties, Abcam, Brockton Everlast and Kadans Science, wrote to Rishi Sunak this month warning the chancellor that “the current passive approach” to the Arc was deterring inward investment to the UK. Noting that international rivals such as Boston had nearly 6mn sq ft of lab space under construction in 2021 — compared with an average of 300,000 sq ft for Oxford and Cambridge — the letter warned that companies were already choosing to expand in the US not UK because of lack of science facilities. It said the group was “deeply concerned” that the Arc appeared to have been “deprioritised within government” and warned of “significant economic implications for the UK” from failing to deliver the plan. But for local Tory MPs the decision to soft-pedal is a welcome recognition of local opposition to new roads and houses that has fuelled a grassroots political backlash. Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for North East Buckinghamshire, said the project was based on a “flawed thesis” and that it should have focused on improving transport links to satellite towns around Oxford and Cambridge. Steve Baker, the MP for Wycombe, labelled the Arc “a massive exercise in top-down state planning” that was unsurprisingly rejected by people in the region. “You only have to go there to see it is a beautiful place and people are bound to take exception to putting a million new houses into it,” he added. The Conservative-controlled Buckinghamshire council formally withdrew from the Arc in August 2020, rejecting the “top-down” approach to planning from Whitehall. Planning experts said the fate of the Arc demonstrated the deep structural challenges facing the UK as it tried to tackle its long-term productivity crisis. David Valler, professor of planning at Oxford Brookes University, who is publishing a forthcoming paper examining the failure of politicians to sell the Arc to the public, said the project was emblematic of the wider constraints on planning in England. “The Arc is a core expression of strategic planning in England, and a huge test case for the planning system as a whole,” he said. “At the moment we don’t appear to have the apparatus to make it work.”

Monitoring Officer Intervenes on Withdrawl of Basildon Local Plan


Basildon Council’s Monitoring Officer has written to all Basildon Councillors regarding the decision made at Extraordinary Council meeting on 10 February 2022.

I am writing to you following the decision at the Extraordinary Council Meeting held on 10th February 2022 to approve the Emergency Motion which resolved to withdraw the Emerging Basildon Borough Local Plan.

Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 places a duty on myself as the Council’s Monitoring Officer, if at any time it appears to me that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority, has given rise to or is likely or would give rise to a contravention of any enactment or rule of law, or maladministration, to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

As I advised all Members of the Council present at the above meeting, if a decision was made to approve the motion, which it was, then I considered that I would be required to prepare such a report.

I am now writing to confirm that I shall be preparing such a report in consultation with the Chief Executive as Head of Paid Service and the Chief Financial (Section 151) Officer, as required.  I will arrange for a copy of the report to be sent to each member of the authority as soon as practicable after it has been prepared.

Section 5 of the above Act also places a duty on the authority to consider this report at a meeting held not more than twenty-one days after copies of the report are first sent to members.  It also places a duty on the authority to ensure that no step is taken for giving effect to the decision in the motion at any time while the implementation of the proposal or decision is suspended in consequence of the report.

Paul Burkinshaw CMgr FCMI
Director of Corporate Strategy & Governance and Monitoring Officer

Details of the Local Plan and its examination can be found on the council’s website:


Published on 11 February 2022

What might the issue be? Cala 1: R (Cala Homes (South) Ltd) v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2010] EWHC 2866 (Admin) maybe?

Ox Cam Arc – Killed Off by Gove

South Cambs Council report from Chief Executive

Following the creation of the ‘Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUHC) in September 2021, and the appointment of the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP as the new DLUHC Secretary of State, there has been a significant change in the government’s approach to the Ox Cam Arc. Following a
period of uncertainty over the ensuing months, it became clear that the government does not wish to see the Ox Cam Arc as a project driven by central government.

There was no mention of the Ox Cam Arc in the Levelling Up White Paper published on 2 February, and discussions with DLUCH officials have indicated that ministers believe that while they support the continuation of the project, it should be locally led, focusing on things that local leaders believe are priorities. This chimes with much of the local leadership narrative in the Levelling Up White

While the government had officially stated that it had dropped the 1 million housing target for the Arc, in a ministerial statement by the previous Housing Minister, Chris Pincher MP (speaking in a Westminster Hall debate in July 2021), many communities continued to be cynical about this position. Now that the
government will not be taking the project forward centrally, it will be up to local leaders to identify the priorities they wish to support across the Arc (if it does indeed continue as a locally led project).

At the Ox Cam Arc Leaders’ meeting on 28 January 2022, leaders expressed concern about the level of commitment that government may or may not make to the Arc in terms of future funding. While revenue funding has been made available to continue the ongoing operations of the Arc (ie., funding the small
team of officers) there is no long term commitment to this funding, and no commitment at all to capital funding.

Leaders agreed that this level of uncertainty was frustrating, but that there were a number of key opportunities for collaboration which have been developed under the auspices of the Arc (including work on the environment, infrastructure and economy, as well as significant collaboration across the ten universities in the Arc), and that there was benefit in reassessing whether this collaboration had
value if it were to be taken forward at a local level. Leaders have always been unanimous that the 1m housing target was absolutely unacceptable locally.

It was therefore agreed at the Leaders’ meeting on 28 January (which was before the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper) to continue in ‘transition’ for six months, whilst all options are thoroughly considered.

We are still awaiting updates on East West rail and the Spatial Framework.

Clearly the local priority will not be to build more housing. The Treasury will simply not fund the infrastructure. Years of wasted effort all the fault of Central Government in expecting the local authorities to spontaneously produce a joint plan for growth. They should hve known from experience of the Thames Gateways and MKSM that never never works. Remember the Arc was forecast to increase GDP by up to 3%. Gove’s lackadaisical approach has cost the country that amount.

Gove’s Private Assurances to Mps thaat Housing Numbers will come Down by One Third in South East is Crippling Plan Making

A rather weak note in the latest Chief Planner Letter

We will be providing a further update on our approach to changes in the planning system in the Spring. This will provide further detail on how we will take forward measures to create a modernised and effective planning system that empowers communities to support, and local authorities to deliver, the beautiful,
environmentally-friendly development this country needs.
Whilst we understand that many colleagues in local government are looking forward to further detail on the precise details of our changes to planning, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage local authorities to continue work to ensure they have an up-to-date local plan in place in a timely manner.

Note no longer a response to the White Paper – merely an ‘update’, of all of the adjectives used on up to date local plans, ‘encourage’ is the limpest, dampest and weakest ever used, especially in the light of Basildon withdrawing giving the department no chance to intervene and so many ‘pusing’. In many cases local MPs seem to have been involved.

What is happening is uncovered by 2019 Conservative manifesto Co-author Rover Colville on Twitter

If you reduce targets by 1/3rd in South East in many cases you wont need to allocate new sites as sites still unbuilt in the last round of local plans will do. Shifting them tup north as we know wont lead to additional housing as we have found in the urban uplift, it will just lead to les housing being built. This is simply a cycnical temporarymoving of the dial to temporarily, for five years or so, move the dial on housing numbers to prevent new alloctions till after the next election. Much like the temporary shift that ickles abolition of startegic planning did. It will inevitably lead to a policy reversal after the next election. It is cycnical politics by Gove of the worst kind, deliberately instituting ba policy where he has been told it just wont work, he doesnt care he just wants the Nimbys to pipe down.

Basildon Blindsides SoS in Withdrawing Local Plan by means that meant there could be no Holding Direction

The biggest threat to local planning at the moment is the inability to plan locally. Either through plans being withdrawn, redone, or simply paused, seemingly indefinitely, waiting some clarity on policy from government. As stated many times on this blog the biggest problem with local plan making is the fact that so many local councilors dislike and see as politically toxic the whole process. To the extent that the NPPF threat of ‘build what you like where you like’ is becoming less and less of a threat when you don’t have a 5yhls. The backlog of housing sites is so great that local politicians are increasingly unprepared to allocate enough standard method sites in one go.

A prime example of this is Basildon, where last night by way of an emergency motion to a full council meeting the whole plan was withdrawn, two years into an EIP and at the point where final main modification were to be agreed paving the way to adoption. Compare to South Oxfordshire where potential withdrawl was flagged first at Cabinet, enabling the SoS is issue a holding direction.

No chance here, clearly Basildon had watched and learned. Since 2011 there is no longer a requirement to notify in advance the SoS of withdrawl and get permission. So expect now many more local plans to be put in a holding pattern, either by withdrawl or simply inaction to submission.

What a mess, especially as in cases such as Basildon where there has been years of argument and debate and any sound plan is likely to be the same substantially as what is before the inspector now, especially as the most controversial element is to reduce brownfield housing in Basildon Town Centre, despite Basildon losing appeals on these site with regularity.

Would the South Essex Joint Strategic Plan help, yes there are a few cross border sites that would help, but primarily the political imperative is not to plan, by whatever means, and a solution which means slightly better plans for planners is a negative to politicians if it means bigger better sites coming forward t all. The South Essex Joint Strategic Plan, as I have said for three years, is dead as a dodo.

What is worse the new planning SoS looks completely impotent and many many authorities may follow Basildon and withdraw or ‘pause’. The SoS needs to act decisively. Once a local plan is more than five years old (or less of the previous inspector demanded an early review) +5% should be added to the standard method buffer each and every year, replacing every other uplift and the housing delivery test (which because of adhoc last minute changes and lack of predictability has become a farce), once a plan trip 10 years plus put of date the NPPG ‘presumption against’ for Green Belt should disapply – becoming like any other local plan policy capable of being out of date. Affordable housing, transport investment and levelling up funding should only be spent on local authorities that have up to date local plans. SoS show you have some balls and some teeth.

Basildon to vote to Put itself on the same Failed Council Naughty Step as Castlepoint – Leader Proposes to Withdraw Local Plan Tonight at last stage of Examination


to deal with any notice of an emergency motion which the Mayor of the Council may permit in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 14.

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 14(f) the Mayor has agreed an emergency does exist insofar as the below motion is concerned.

To be moved by Councillor Baggott –

‘The Council resolves to withdraw the Emerging Basildon Borough Council local plan (2014-2034), which is unadopted.

The reason for the withdrawal is based upon, in part, to the current Conservative Administration views and beliefs in placing a greater emphasis on protecting the Greenbelt for current and future generations than the previous administration.

The withdrawal will in addition give the Full Council an opportunity to make a new plan, one which will seek to address other concerns, which includes, but not exclusively, the town centre regeneration and the high rise developments.’

An officers report on a last set of mid examination changes at same meeting.

It totally discredits the whole planning system if after many rounds of consultation and examination plans are withdrawn only to have to start whole plan again and just posting the inevitable findings of the inspector. Basildon would be deliberately putting itself in the same ‘failed’ (their chief executives own words)category as neighboring Castlepoint.

The Conservatives took over Basildon in May 2021. They are proposing to reduce brownfield housing by reducing development proposals in Basildon Town Centre.

Regional Directors, Regional Forums – Back to Government Offices for Regions and Regional Assemblies in Levelling up White Paper

Local Government Chronicle

Nine regional levelling up directors will be appointed to improve relations between local and national government as part of the levelling up white paper set to be published tomorrow, LGC has learned.

Senior councillors briefed on the white paper by communities secretary Michael Gove this afternoon were told that new directors for levelling up will be rolled out. The concept is understood to be based on a model adopted by one of the government’s levelling up advisors, Andy Haldane, when he was chief economist of the Bank of England. The regional directors became the point of contact between regional businesses and the bank in London.

One source on the call said the directors would act as the “interface between local and central government and hopefully streamline some of those conversations”. “Presumably that person could access not just [the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities] but all government departments, which needs to happen because levelling up will involve all government departments. It is intended to be a positive step.”

However, there was fear the representatives would not appreciate the sensitivities and complexities of the local government sector; another source briefed about the call criticised the policy as a “typical Whitehall top down response to get their own folk to find out what we think”. They were concerned the directors would be “big Whitehall tzars” as opposed to representatives of local government.

However, the first source said they were “sure that within a short time they will understand local government”. They also said there had been talk of “regional forums” being set up, “so councils in each region could come together and share common issues”.

Tim Oliver (Con), chair of the County Councils Network, said of the concept of regional levelling up directors that the “simple principle of having a voice, a go to within each region, would be helpful for the sector”.

LGC also understands that around nine county deals will be announced tomorrow, which is more than the seven to eight deals that had previously been expected to be taken forward.

The white paper is also expected to make it clear that in areas being considered for county deals, councils that are opposed to it will not have the power to veto the process. There is also speculation that the consent which is required by all local authorities in an area to embark on a bid to reorganise into a combined authority or unitary structure will be scrapped.

At the moment, areas where there is not unanimous consent for local government structural reforms can only embark on these reforms if they first get an invitation to do so by the secretary of state. The government is understood to be minded to make it easier for reorganisation to take place without all councils being on board.

Furthermore, sources confirmed to LGC that the white paper will boost the role of parish councils, with the expectation that more areas of the country will be parished in future.

The levelling up white paper is also expected to contain a pledge that the UK will have a globally competitive city in every region.

Furthermore, three ‘innovation deals’ are expected to be announced, one of which will be led by Greater Manchester CA but this one will be “open for others to collaborate”. The money for these deals will come from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and will pay for innovations in health and also advanced manufacturing. “Before, the money for catapults was distributed nationally – this will now be decentralised”, one source explained.

Government Promises to Reduce Spending on Brownfield Land recovery in London and South East

This will go down well

Press Release

The ‘80/20 rule’ which leads to 80% of government funding for housing supply being directed at ‘maximum affordability areas’ – in practice, London and the South East – will be scrapped, with much of the £1.8 billion brownfield funding instead being diverted to transforming brownfield sites in the North and Midlands. The Metro Mayors will be allocated £120 million of this funding.

Last year the department issued two press releases for the Brownfield Land Recovery Fund, one for the 80% areas, one for the 20%. So you can see the kind of areas that would lose out, London, Essex, Portsmouth, Reading.