Ministers Need to Step in as Castle Point about to scrap local plan despite inspector finding it sound

This is the authority whose own Chief Exec described members as ‘failures’ for now at least eighttimes failing to vote to progress local plan

Southend Echoe

PLANS to build more than 5,000 homes across Castle Point are set to be entirely scrapped.

The council’s new administration, a coalition between The Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) and the People’s Independent Party (PIP), is moving to bin the housing plan which would have seen 5,284 homes to be built by 2033.

The local plan was put on hold following a vote in March, with the intention to develop a new plan, but the new administration now wants to throw it out with no replacement.

Councillor Dave Blackwell, the leader of the council, said: “I don’t believe that the local plan’s numbers coincide to what we need in this borough.

“I am more than happy if members want to withdraw the local pan. Right across the country, councils are doing the same thing,” the CIIP councillor added.

In neighbouring Basildon, councillors voted to axe the borough’s 18,000-home local plan in March.

In the following weeks a plan to build four town centre tower blocks, one up to 23 storeys high, containing 495 new homes were approved at appeal with the Government planning inspector citing the lack of a local plan in his reasoning for giving the scheme the green light.

But Mr Blackwell says the risks of speculative development being given preferential treatment at appeal are worth it.

“I think all local authorities are at that risk of massive development,” he said. “If they do bring planning applications, we will have to fight our case.

“Local authorities have got to start listening to their residents. I don’t know of any resident in favour of building thousands of homes on the green belt.

He added: “To say a small borough like Castle Point needs 5,000 new homes is nonsense. Our infrastructure is creaking now, let alone with that many new houses.”

Mr Blackwell pointed towards Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who in October of last year pledged to protect green belt land from development, signalling an intent to lead through planning reforms.

Castle Point’s Conservative MP Rebecca Harris had also previously described the borough’s local plan as “unsound”. {well squashed on that one by inspector]

“All these people far superior to me are saying we shouldn’t be doing what the planning inspector wants us to do,” Mr Blackwell said.

‘Mushroom Farm Approach’ Row between WECA Mayor and South Gloucestershire leads to fall of SDS plan

South Gloucestershire has previously accused the WMCA of a mushroom farming approach of developing the SDS in darkness and secrecy

Greatest Hits Radio

Regional mayor Dan Norris recently called the Spatial Development Strategy “dead in the water” but South Gloucestershire Council’s leader disagrees

Confusion surrounds the fate of the region’s housing blueprint after a council leader insisted it could still be revived despite being declared dead in the water just days ago.

West of England metro mayor Dan Norris announced last week that the spatial development strategy (SDS) had collapsed.

Labour’s Mr Norris blamed the failure on South Gloucestershire Council Conservative leader Cllr Toby Savage for “walking out” of talks on the masterplan, which sets out broad locations for tens of thousands of new homes, along with jobs, over the next 20 years.

Cllr Savage denied the claims, branding them “false”, and hit back accusing the head of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) of a “desperate tactic to get his secretly developed plan approved”.

With discussions seemingly at an impasse over a proposed 37,000 homes for South Gloucestershire by 2041, Mr Norris wrote to the Government to say agreement could not be reached and all SDS work had ceased to save any more taxpayers’ money.

But at a full council meeting of South Gloucestershire Council on Wednesday night (May 18), Cllr Savage said the document was not defunct just because the metro mayor said so.

Answering a question from Lib Dem group leader Cllr Claire Young at Kingswood civic centre, he said: “There is legal uncertainty about the status of the Weca mayor’s letter to the secretary of state.

“The reason there is that legal uncertainty is that the requirement to produce an SDS forms part of the Weca Devolution Order. The legal underpinning of the combined authority sets out the requirement for an SDS.

“So we are now awaiting the response from the secretary of state on that point, and that should give us a direction of travel and clarity on this issue.

“But as it stands right now there is uncertainty about the status of what the Weca mayor has done.”

He said the leaders of the three councils that make up the combined authority – Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire – had asked to see Mr Norris’s letter to the Government but it had not yet been shared with them.

Tory cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure Cllr Steve Reade told the meeting: “The SDS has not been withdrawn.

“The metro mayor may think he has withdrawn the SDS but he has written to a minister to declare his thoughts.

“It takes far more than a simple letter to withdraw an SDS.”

He said Mr Norris was causing the delay by being unwilling to engage with South Gloucestershire and also B&NES councils.

“I sit on both the transport and housing boards and have repeatedly raised the point with him that we need to be operating as a combined authority,” Cllr Reade said.

Answering a written question by Lib Dem Cllr Adrian Rush, Cllr Reade said: “This administration remains supportive of a regional plan that promotes sustainable new housing, employment and infrastructure growth to meet our local needs and we have been prepared from the start to play a role in developing the SDS.

“This has, however, been ignored by the Weca mayor who has continued to progress it in secret.”

Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development (TRAPP’D) co-chairman Colin Gardner told the meeting he “warmly congratulated Cllr Savage on doing the right thing by putting a stop to a bad plan”.

He said the SDS in its current form would have been a “disaster” for South Gloucestershire.

“Having a bad plan is much worse than not having a plan at all, and the SDS, like the rejected Joint Spatial Plan before it, was simply a bad plan,” Mr Gardner said.

The blueprint was proposing 92,000 new homes for the region – 37,000 in South Gloucestershire, 40,000 in Bristol and 15,000 in B&NES – despite the Government setting a minimum housing target of 110,000.

Cllr Savage previously said he was unwilling to accept such a high number for his district because it was 9,000 more than Whitehall guidance suggested was needed.

When Mr Norris announced last week that the SDS had fallen, he accused the council leader of “gambling with the green belt” by “refusing” to sign up to the joint strategy and take his “fair share” of properties.

The metro mayor warned that the region would be at the mercy of “greedy” property developers who could rely on the “presumption in favour of development”.

Gove Article 300k target is back, calls PINS ‘Distant bureaucrats’


We want 300,000 new homes every year. That ambition remains undimmed.

But we also want to ensure we do much more than just build homes, we want to enhance existing communities and create new places of which we can all be proud.

There has been entirely understandable resistance to new development in many communities for reasons with which I completely sympathise.

Too many new homes have been ugly, shoddily constructed and of poor quality. Identikit creations plonked down without regard to the shape and character of existing communities.

Many new developments have not been accompanied by the investment in infrastructure required alongside.

So schools, GP surgeries and roads have become increasingly under pressure and existing residents’ quality of life suffers.

Local communities who have worked hard to develop plans for new homes in sympathy with existing development have had their decisions overturned by distant bureaucrats, undermining faith in local democratic decision-making.

Precious environmental protections, such as the green belt, have been eroded, and investment in enhancing parks, restoring wildlife and enhancing natural beauty has been sidelined.

And all of this has meant that instead of creating and enhancing neighbourhoods we have seen dormitories planted in the wrong place in the wrong way.

That is why we are taking a wholly new approach to home building.

We are prioritising beauty. I am an unashamed romantic about our country. Beautiful homes in the right setting – whether elegant terraces in major cities, limestone cottages in the Cotswolds, the slate and sandstone houses of Cumbria or handsome brick villas in the Midlands – lift the heart.

So we are giving local communities the ability to prescribe the design of new homes, and I will use my powers to enforce high aesthetic standards on new developments.

Some of our big housebuilders, used to imposing their wishes on communities, may baulk.

But I will take them on, as I have over the building safety crisis. I will support smaller, more local house builders which have been squeezed out of the market in the past few years.

And I will also ensure that more of the profits they make from getting planning permission are shared with local people to invest in their communities. That will mean cash not just for schools, doctors and roads but investment in green space, urban parks, trees and areas set aside for wildlife.

will also ensure democratic control over new development.

We’ll take on developers who landbank, who secure planning permissions but don’t build those homes because they are gaming both the land market and the planning system.

Communities that make and maintain local plans in keeping with local needs and which respect environmental constraints will be protected from speculative development.

The Government will also ensure not just that existing environmental protections remain, but we will enhance nature – greening the greenbelt with space set aside for nature.

And we will ensure the planning system prioritises neighbourhood wishes and sympathetic development by involving local people more intimately in choices about how their communities grow.

These five principles – Beauty, Infrastructure, Democratic control, Environmental enhancement and Neighbourhood protection – are at the heart of our new approach to housing.

And they can ensure that we have the right homes in the right places where people welcome them. Local people will be partners in making the places they love better and more beautiful, not pawns in a speculative game.

Government to Drop Requirement for 5 Year Housing Land Supply (if your plan is less than 5 years old)

In a little publicized document alongside the bill Levelling Up and Regeneration: further information

Alongside the Bill

To incentivise plan production further and ensure that newly produced plans are not undermined, our intention is to remove the requirement for authorities to maintain a rolling five-year supply of deliverable land for housing, where their plan is up to date, i.e., adopted within the past five years. This will curb perceived ‘speculative development’ and ‘planning by appeal’, so long as plans are kept up to date. We will consult on changes to be made to the National Planning Policy Framework.

Times Government Floating Idea of New Towns Again ‘Take your Pain in Concentrated Doses’

James Forsyth Times

The Tories were elected on a manifesto pledge to build 300,000 homes a year, something only achievable if the planning system is simplified. But a Tory backbench revolt and a thumping defeat in the Chesham & Amersham by-election has sent the government into a headlong retreat.

All this has led some in government to conclude it would be better to, in the words of one, “take your pain in more concentrated doses”. The idea goes that ministers should approve the development of a set of new towns (where there are no residents to protest) and use the national infrastructure plan to push them through.

An even more radical solution would be for the government to use the land that it already owns, such as former military bases. It could grant itself planning permission and then directly commission small developers to build the houses. This would help break the stranglehold of the big developers.

Ecotowns anyone? What you get when you abolish strategic plans and even abolish the teams in government preparing anything like a strategic plan.

Slightly enhanced Strategic Plans in Queens Speech

Link here

A few key changes jump out

  1. new beast ‘national development management policies’ duty to have regard to alongside local plan, presumably NPPF etc.
  2. policies maps now statutory part of local plans
  3. a new beast ‘joint strategic plans’ like non statutory strategic plans but statutory, no powers to allocate land, no requirement for general conformity. Not in combined authority areas (as presumably sds like Manchester). But what about the planned Cambridge/S Cambs joint plan – well thats a statutory joint local plan. Also would not cover the West of England model – i.e. statutory strategic policies. Why not simplify and have ONE form of joint strategic plan
  4. SoS can now direct to make joint LOCAL plans (not 2 above) and joint committees a huge step forward
  5. Local plans now statutory, with statutory timetables
  6. Key points of examination procedure rules now in act not regs
  7. Nationally set local plan data requirements
  8. DTC abolished (see notes)
  9. CiL abolished outside London and Wales, no taking affordable housing or other land based S106 requirements out or new fixed levy. .
  10. A new beast supplementary plans – subject to examination
  11. Design codes must be part of local plan – why not supplementary plans??

Nothing to make local plan process quicker – and with statutory design codes will take far longer to prepare.

Gove describes 300k Homes Manifesto target as ‘procrustian bed’

Mail describing Today Interview

In an interview with Mishal Husain on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme Mr Gove was pressed on whether he thought it was right he was ripping up the 300,000 homes target in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto that won Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.  

He said: ‘We’re going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places. Because I don’t want us to be tied to a Procrustean bed. I think it’s critically important that, even as we seek to improve housing supply, we also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of’.

Husain pointed out that this was a pledge. “Are you going to meet it?,” she asked. Gove replied:

Well, we’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.

Ultimately, when you’re building a new dwelling, you’re not simply trying to hit a statistical target. I’m certainly not.

When Husain pointed out that the Tories actually promised to hit a statistical target, Gove replied:

Well, it’s only one of a number of things that we need to do. We are not bound – I am not bound – by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important, but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy.

In Greek mythology

Procrustes, “the stretcher [who hammers out the metal]”), was a rogue smith and bandit attacked people by stretching them or cutting off their legs, so as to force them to fit the size of an iron bed.

The word “Procrustean” is thus used to describe situations where an arbitrary standard is used to measure success, while completely disregarding obvious harm that results from the effort.

So Gove now thinks building housing is harmful and the planning system can achieve nothing but harm?

Morover its a false reading of the aphorism. A correct reading would be chastise refusing schemes in excess of the target 9to fit the bed) or inflating fake undeliverable sites to the size of the target (to fit the bed).

A ‘Good Faith Test’ for Local Plan Housing Targets? @joannaaverley

Times on policy announcements alongside Queens Speech

Ministers will also examine how the planning inspectorate enforces local housing need targets. Areas that are constrained by greenbelt land or areas of natural beauty will no longer be expected to reach “unrealistic” targets if they can produce a plan that is “well evidenced and drawn up in good faith”.

But Ministers have endlessly pointed out there is no national policy to ‘unrealistically’ max out to OAN after all the NPPF states in para. 66

Strategic policy-making authorities should establish a housing requirement figure for their whole area, which shows the extent to which their identified housing need (and any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas) can be met over the plan period.

However a flaw in the NPPF is it never clearly states to what extent it is reasonable to consider what kind of constraint. After all it is contradicted by para 35 soundness test 1

Positively prepared – providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development;

Of course what many LPAs have lobbied for is to be able to ignore inspectors if ‘in good faith’ (how will that ever be judged). Ability to ignore inspectors isnt going to happen but some calrity on the circumstances under which constraints can constrain would be helpful.

The difficulty is wording it so that it doesn’t let LPAs off the hook and push numbers down. The real issue is reasonableness. ‘Good Faith’ is not a word that belongs ever in the NPPF. The issue is whether an LPA has pushed numbers down too low through overegging constraints.

The NPPF needs a simple paragraph stating something like the following:

In considering whether a [local plan target less than OAN + proportional unmet need from other authorities] meets the positively prepared test the local planning authority needs to be able to justify

  1. The extent to which environmental constraints limit development over the plan period including taking into account positive mitigation strategies
  2. The extent to which planning constraints are up to date and compatible with sustainable development
  3. Following consideration of constrained land under tests 1 and 2 the remaining amount and location of developable land within the plan area
  4. The extent to which sites have been objectively assessed and considered deliverable and developable and the extent to which evidence has been positively sought to overcome any constraints
  5. Where these tests are met plans may justifiably undershoot their OAN providing the duty to cooperate is met is seeking to meet shortfalls with partner authorities at a strategic scale.

The last point deals with the familiar tactic (failing JR in Sevenoaks and West Malling) and LPAs jointly agreeing to not work to meet each others needs.

The risk is without such tests LPAs will spend large amounts on disingenuous bullshit evidence (which we are already seeing in some areas) and we will be forced back 15 years to the position where LPAs really didn’t take strategic site promotions seriously.