And not just West London, the Worlds Largest Concentration of Data Centres are Immediately to the West of London. By the way for 90% of ‘data centres’ the primary purpose of the use is not data storage, but transactions, analysis, AI, so why can anyone claim they are b8? The problem of course is the short term nature of regulation of the Electricity Act (like Water) and OFFGEM with 5 year horizons only.
West London faces a de facto ban on new homes for over a decade because the electricity grid has run out of capacity.
Housebuilders have been told it could take until 2035 to get new developments in Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow hooked up to the electricity network because it lacks the capacity to serve them.
Energy companies and regulators are scrambling to fix the problem while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has ordered officials to monitor the situation.
The holdup promises to delay a string of schemes in London, where a typical property costs £526,000.
Builders have raised fears that the issue may not be confined to the capital. The problem is understood to affect some areas in the Thames Valley as well.
In a letter to developers, the Greater London Authority blamed the issues in west London on a string of planned data centres that are set to hoover up huge amounts of power.
The area is a popular location for these centres because it neighbours internet “superhighway” cables that run along the M4 motorway and into the Atlantic ocean — dubbed the “Silicon Corridor”. One data centre can consume the same amount of power as up to 10,000 homes.
This has resulted in some developers being told they cannot connect housing projects to the grid until as late as 2035, the Financial Times reported, with data centres prioritised under a “first come, first serve” system.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), which serves part of the affected area, and the National Grid are looking at upgrading the network but this is expected to take several years.
SSEN insisted there was no “ban” on new developments but the warning that it cannot connect new schemes amounted to a de facto moratorium until the issue can be resolved.
It has sparked concerns that a spate of data centres being built across the South East will gum up local power grids and hamper efforts to tackle the housing crisis. A source at one major housebuilder said his company, one of Britain’s biggest, was already reviewing potential sites amid fears they could face similar problems.
“It is quite worrying,” the source added. “We are concerned this might be a problem in other areas as well.”
A spokesman added: “Where the impact of new build housing is minimal, preventing housing delivery as a solution to these issues is not proportionate.
“If we are to deliver much-needed housing, we would urge the Government to ensure its agencies and utility providers are meeting their responsibilities.”
It is understood that options being looked at by SSEN and the National Grid include negotiating with data centre firms to allow housing developments with smaller power requirements to move ahead in the queue.
They could also encourage more battery storage operators to set up in the area or incentivise homes and businesses to use less power during certain times of the day through so-called smart tariffs.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, has ordered Government officials to monitor the situation, according to a letter seen by the Daily Telegraph. Energy regulator Ofgem is considering changes to grid connection rules to make it easier for housing developments to move forward. These proposals and other measures are expected to be outlined in further detail by the Government next week.
On Thursday Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, also said he was “very concerned” that the network problems were holding up delivery of “thousands of much needed homes”.
“The Mayor’s team is working closely with the network providers responsible, to seek solutions to mitigate the potential delays and unlock the issue,” Mr Khan’s spokesman said.
The Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, insisted the problems in West London were an “isolated circumstance caused by… demand from a localised growth in data centres, far higher than forecast”.
A spokesman added: “Electricity networks are using every tool available, including deploying innovative technologies, to accelerate connections and ensure that future demands are managed as efficiently as possible.
“There is significant collaboration across the industry, the Greater London Authority and with the housing developers themselves to address these challenges, but a long-term approach to investment is needed.
“We’re in dialogue with Ofgem to make changes to their reactive regime and ensure that where new infrastructure is needed network companies can build it once and build it right.”
A spokesman for National Grid ESO (electricity system operator) said: “This is an issue with connection agreements at a local distribution network level.
“The ESO is actively working with all the parties involved to find solutions to make the connections happen.”
He of course should have said ‘exceptional circumstances; for local plans. Please understand a policy first. VSC only applies to planning applications. So where will the other 1 1/2 million houses needed go. Or will will all have to move to non Green Belt land around Rishis house in Richmondshire?
Rishi Sunak’s vow to block housebuilding on the green belt has been labelled a “desperate” bid for Tory members’ votes, with experts warning that the move would significantly worsen the UK’s housing crisis and push up living costs.
With just days until ballots drop in the leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson, and behind Liz Truss in the polls, Sunak said new property development should take place squarely on “brownfield, brownfield, brownfield”.
His pledge to the party’s grassroots was that a blanket rejection would be issued for councils that ask to change green belt boundaries in order to release land for housing.
Sunak’s campaign contrasted the announcement with rival Truss, who in May 2019 as chief secretary to the Treasury suggested 1m homes should be built on the London green belt and around other “growing cities” to help more under-40s buy their first property.
The green belt – covering 12.4% of England, according to the government’s latest figures – was labelled “extremely precious” by the former chancellor, who accused councils of “circumventing the views of residents”.
He claimed more homes could be built while protecting “our most precious landscape” with space for 1m homes across brownfield sites – particularly in north-west England, the West Midlands and Yorkshire.
The Richmond MP, who was reportedly granted planning permission last year to extend his North Yorkshire home on to agricultural land to make space for a pool, gym and tennis court, said “inner-city densification” would also be key to increasing housing stock.
Since 2006, the green belt has shrunk by about 1%, according to analysis by the House of Commons library. Sunak’s team vowed to stop councils appealing to the Planning Inspectorate to declassify patches of green belt land by updating their local plans. He pledged to end this practice by updating the National Planning Policy Framework, and scrapping the possibility of “inappropriate” development on the green belt “in very special circumstances”.
The promise drew ire from Robert Colvile, who helped co-author the December 2019 Conservative manifesto and runs the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank set up by Margaret Thatcher. He said Sunak’s and Truss’s housing plans “pander to the fantasy that we can build all the houses we need on brownfield far away from where any Tory voters might see it”.
The green belt has reduced by only 194 sq km since 2014 and at current rates it would take a millennium to be covered, according to Colvile. He added: “Britain has a housing crisis. It is crippling our economy. It is blighting the lives of a generation. Yet more nimbyism is emphatically not the answer.”
Other libertarian thinktanks condemned the move. The Institute for Economic Affairs said it would “flush aspiration down the drain” and that planning restrictions “significantly push up the cost of living, while making homeownership unattainable, forcing people into lower-paying jobs and increasing commute times and pollution”. The Adam Smith Institute also said building homes where people want to live and work was “vital if we want to turbo-charge growth and reduce the cost of living”.
Giles Wilkes, a former special adviser to Theresa May, called it a “pretty desperate and regressive move”.
The Conservative leader of Swindon council, David Renard, opposed Sunak’s move. He said: “There is a consensus that the country needs to build 300,000 homes per year and that we are currently short of building those numbers.
“Any centrally imposed numbers or locations on each local authority are not welcome as it is for councils to determine what the housing need is in their areas and to decide where best to locate those new homes.”
However, Johnson’s proposed planning reforms that threatened green belt were “clearly a key factor in the loss of Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems” in June 2021, said Martin Tett, Tory leader of Buckinghamshire council, who added that Sunak’s pledge would be “very welcome to local members”.
CPRE, the countryside charity, calculated that more than 250,000 homes are currently proposed to be built on land removed from the green belt – more than four times as many as in 2013 – and said “piece by piece, local authorities are eating into protected countryside, using blunt, numerical targets that fail to deliver affordable and social housing”.
Tom Fyans, its director of campaigns and policy, said: “Applications to change green belt boundaries in order to release land for housing have soared since 2013. This is despite the pressing need to revitalise our countryside so that it can suck up carbon, boost wildlife and provide much-needed space for recreation in nature. We wholeheartedly welcome Sunak’s brownfield-first approach to planning.”
Paul Scully the new planning minister said in a Westminster Hall debate last week that the levelling up Bill contained a duty to consult on local plans – not quote.
The post skeffington, post 1974 Acts did contain a clear up front duty to consult on local plans prior to finalisation.
In 2004 this was replaced by the SCI duty – now opposed to be abolished.
The new bill though overall a simplification and codification of local plan law contained no simple duty.
Rather it contains a duty to have regard to consultations specified in regulations (i.e. statutory consultation only) and in section 15LE that regulations may prescribe:
consultation with, or participation by, the public or any prescribed body or other person in connection with anything done under this Part, including provision imposing requirements for consultation or participation or as to the nature and extent of the consultation or participation that may or must take place;
But the status quo is that regulations prescribe only a limited range of ‘statutory’ consultees’ (known as specific consultation bodies’ – like the Environment Agency and adjoining local authorities, other ‘general consultation bodies’ can be specified by the LPA, their is no requirement to consult all of these at reg 18 stage and only at reg 19 stage. Even at reg 22 submission stage there is no general duty to notify the general public, only those who requested to be notified of submission at previous stages.
So if you are a concerned individual your rights to participation in law on a local plan have arguably regressed over the last 20 years.
You promise you you build something as amazing as Bourneville or Saltire showing the triumph of capitalism [even though 99% of Victorian developments were not built by philanthropists], to encourage you to do so:
There will be no controls on land use
There will be controls on height, form, set backs, layout, materials, elevation or design, BNG or anything red tapy or those woke town planners might insist on
Truss to supercharge Brexit Britain’s growth by slashing red tape in new investment zones
LIZ Truss on Monday will unveil plans for turbocharging economic growth by building a string of new towns across the UK with enterprise at their heart.
In a major policy announcement in her quest to become the next prime minister, the Foreign Secretary will set out her vision for new low-tax, low regulation “Investment Zones” where business can flourish and communities of the future can develop. She will argue that the bold blueprint will unleash Britain’s post-Brexit potential by driving growth and innovation.
It is designed to recreate the Enterprise Zones launched under Margaret Thatcher which led to the redevelopment of Canary Wharf and the transformation of London’s Docklands.
Ms Truss, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Boris Johnson in Downing Street, said on Sunday: “As Prime Minister, I will be laser focused on turbocharging business investment and delivering the economic growth our country desperately needs.
“We can’t carry on allowing Whitehall to pick the winners and losers; like we’ve seen with the current freeport model.
“Instead, by creating these new Investment Zones we will finally prove to businesses that we’re committed to their futures and incentivise them to stimulate the investment that will help deliver for hardworking people.”
As well as following Mrs Thatcher’s dream, Ms Truss’s vision is understood to be inspired by the “new model towns” such as Bournville and Saltaire created by progressive factory owners in the 19th century to provide modern, high-standard homes for their employees.
Her idea of a 21st Century version with enterprise-led high-tech communities sprouting across the UK is designed to show she has a long-term vision for the economy in her tussle with former chancellor Rishi Sunak for the Tory crown.
If she reaches Downing Street, Ms Truss wants her government to work with local communities to identify sites on previously used “brownfield” land ripe for redevelopment.
Her plan is likely to be seen as provocative attempt to outflank Mr Sunak on enterprise policy
She wants to use the “freeport” schemes currently being developed by the Government as a model for the investment zones but wants to go further in sweeping away planning regulations and red tape.
Her supporters on Sunday dubbed the idea “full fat freeports.”
Her plan is likely to be seen as provocative attempt to outflank Mr Sunak on enterprise policy as he has been the leading champion of freeports in the government.
If her plan comes to fruition, the communities of the future could end up being dubbed “Truss towns”.
Under her plan, designated Investment Zones will benefit from:
A low tax burden tailored to incentivise investment and infrastructure construction;
Reduced planning restrictions that permit faster commercial and residential development but do not jeopardise safety;
Regulations that are tailored on a case-by-case basis and designed to maximise the UK’s post-Brexit opportunity to be a global leader in high value industries including artificial intelligence.
Ms Truss wants to see investment zones develop in every region of the UK.
Housing targets have come under fire again. During the Conservative Party’s leadership election, one candidate described them as “Stalinist”, while another complained about “socialist housing”. A third one described them as “an idea that has been tested to destruction over many years, and it’s time to face the fact that they’ve been a failure everywhere” (which, to me at least, sounds a lot like socialism again).
But it is not just conservatives who are hostile to housing targets. If you are, broadly speaking, of a pro-market persuasion, the word “target” will probably make you wince. The candidates have been widely mocked for their use of the terms “Stalinist” and “socialist”, but it is true that quantitative output targets set by the government are usually a feature of socialist economies, not market economies. And while not every target is automatically “Stalinist”, “Soviet” or “socialist”, target-driven approaches are prone to multiple failures. For a start, government targets reflect political priorities, not consumer demand. They distort production, because meeting a target becomes an end in itself: producers comply with the letter, but not the spirit, of a target-led plan. Targets are authoritarian, because they override the autonomy of local actors, and conflict with local priorities. Perhaps most importantly, even in the best case, targets are usually just arbitrary fantasy numbers. We cannot know what consumers truly want and need, until we can observe the choices they make in an open, competitive market.
This is why, even if you are not especially keen on free markets, you probably would not want an equivalent of housing targets in other sectors. Unless you are a full-on socialist, you probably would not want the government to set “beer targets” for the brewing industry.
Nonetheless, in the current housing policy context, I believe that “Stalinist” housing targets are perfectly defensible as a lesser evil, including – or perhaps especially! – from a free-market perspective. Government output targets, whether for housing of anything else, are obviously very far away from a free-market solution. And yet, our current planning system is so uniquely awful that “Stalinism” represents a relative “liberalisation”. Yes, I mean it. Completely unironically.
In fact, if we organised brewing in the same way we organise housing, I would support “beer targets” too.
Let’s imagine that, as a result of some strange historical accident, we had a system in which, every time a brewery wanted to increase its beer production or broaden its product range, it had to obtain “brewing permission” from a local or regional citizens’ committee. Imagine those committees could, for example, refuse brewing permission for a modern-style IPA if they believe that it would not be in keeping with the character of their region. Or they could block an increase in beer output, on the grounds that this would lead to more lorry traffic, and thereby inconvenience residents.
Let’s also assume that the members of those brewing committees are a heavily self-selected group, consisting almost exclusively of people who are insulated from any adverse effects of curtailed beer production. Say, some of them hate beer and beer drinkers anyway, and actively want to reduce supply. Others are traditionalists, who want to preserve the bitters and milds of the 1970s, and believe the best way to do this is by restricting access to alternatives. Others are homebrewing enthusiasts, who are not affected by what goes on on the beer market.
Whatever the motivation – let’s suppose that the committees constantly get in the way of the brewing business. As a result, per capita beer output is much lower than in comparable countries, and beer becomes a luxury good. Most people are deeply unsatisfied with this situation – there is constant talk of a “beer crisis” – but they are not aware of the causes. The political Left blames greedy brewers, the political Right blames excess demand from beer-loving immigrants. The government tries to mitigate the effects through various demand-side measures, such as the low-interest loan programme “Help To Drink” and pint vouchers for key workers. But nobody wants to take on the brewing committees.
As long as it is deemed politically impossible to abolish the brewing committees, anything which at least constrains their power would be a step in the right direction. Beer targets, which force the brewing committees to accept a higher volume of brewing than they otherwise would, could be one (clumsy) way to achieve this.
We could call such targets “Stalinist”. Stalin, after all, believed in state-imposed production targets, and this would be a state-imposed production target. But the analogy does not really work. The whole point of Stalin’s production targets was to force Soviet citizens to produce and consume things they would not voluntarily have chosen to produce and consume. In our example, we have a very different situation: we have plenty of brewers who want to sell beer, and plenty of beer drinkers who want to buy it from them. Thus, we have a huge potential for mutually beneficial transactions. But those potential gains are not being realised, because a bunch of troublemakers get in the way.
In such a situation, the liberal solution is not to give those troublemakers free rein to tyrannise everyone else. If you want to call centrally imposed targets “Stalinist”, you have to acknowledge that our starting position already represents a Stalinism of sorts: the tyranny of a thousand petty-minded local mini-Stalins. If a more benevolent, growth-focused Stalin limits the power of the Luddite, anti-growth Stalins – good! Glory to Comrade Stalin!
I know that the analogy is not perfect, but there can be no doubt that our planning system gives far too much power to NIMBY obstructionists, who use that power to paralyse the country. As a result, housebuilding numbers in the UK are much lower than in neighbouring countries, and housing costs far higher.
Needless to say, in my ideal system, there would be no housing targets. If I had my way, NIMBY obstructionists would be stripped of their power, and housebuilding levels would be primarily determined by consumer demand. In such a market-driven system, housing targets would not just be unnecessary – they would be a completely alien element.
But in the current system, abolishing housing targets would only strengthen the stranglehold of the NIMBYocracy.
Around the turn of the millennium the ONS gave evidence to a parliamentary select committee that around 20% of the component of change of new household formation was due to international in-migration. In 2002 Teresa May gave a speech that it was now 25% and putting pressure on schools and the NHS. According to the ONS (using a new methodology) in 2015 it was 37%. So is international in migration putting increasing pressure on housing need?
Several things firstly net migration to and from the EU is now nearly zero and yet net international migration migration rose. The reason for this is increasing number of international students (who of course pay for their education and healthcare) so is a statistical quirk as only a small proportion of these will get jobs, marry etc and form longterm residents. A more sophisticated measure is needed stripping out students from long term population and basing household formation from long term residents.
Secondly it is a rising proportion simply because this is a constant rising figure against a background in a collapsing household formation of long term residents. Why, because you need houses to form into. The ‘missing million’ of predicted household formation from a decade ago and actual households today is almost exactly correlated by local authority with where houses have not been built according to estimates.
Finally what would happen if you squashed down Badenoch style on current in migration, Asylum seekers aside (about 1/5th of net international in migration) it would mean banning international students and high skilled points style visa holders. So less tax on those potential taxpayers, higher labour costs for health and social care and an aging population with fewer taxpayers, hence higher taxes and government borrowing to pay for health and social care. Systems thinking Bade, Systems thinking, think like an engineer.
Telegraph Exactly the same bonkers arguments as Italian and French Eco-fascists parties. Long since debunked. By the way didn’t we leave the eu and immigration increased, because we needed the skilled labour. As we know building on agricultural land increases agricultural productivity and reduces food prices – as all the evidence shows. Systems thinking is no advantage if your a terrible systems modeller.
We need new homes in the right places. We need them to spread prosperity, give the next generation a stake in the future and allow families to grow. We also need to recognise that pressure on housing comes from increased migration and from families breaking up. Solving these interlinked questions needs honesty and rigour.
On housing, we’ll never get the homes we need where we need them if we insist on ever-higher inflexible top-down housing targets. We need to bring people with us by delivering infrastructure first and insisting new homes are built to a higher standard and look more beautiful. We need to break the stranglehold of the identikit cartel of land banking house builders.
But we need to consider the demand side of housing, not just the supply side. People – rightly – recognise that building more homes while doing nothing to bring immigration down is like running up the down escalator.
We’ll never get to where we need to with that approach, and we won’t persuade people to accept more homes if it is being done due to immigration failures. If we can bring immigration down to a sustainable level, we can then protect green spaces for our children and precious agricultural land.
Ms Truss believes there has been a lack of ambition on housing. She wants to replace centralised targets with tax and regulatory incentives for firms to build new homes, which she considers far more likely to encourage companies to act.
“I want to abolish the top-down Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets; I think that’s the wrong way to generate economic growth,” she says. “The best way to generate economic growth is bottom up by creating those incentives for investment through the tax system, simplifying regulations.”
Ms Truss wants to amend Mr Johnson’s Levelling Up Bill to legislate for new low-tax “investment and building zones”. The centralised targets are a “Labour approach”, she says. “It’s not Conservative.”
A few facts
National targets for Building were equally pursued by labour and conservative governments
The state no longer sets by LPA targets, it rather sets a method for local planning authorities to calculate need
The Government that did set national targets – applied through regional planning conferences – was Margret Thatcher’s (and specifically Nicholas Ridly)
The Levelling Up Bill has nothing to do with housing targets or need- these matters are set in national planning policy
There are already ‘Opportunity Zones’ on statute book, enterprise Zones, SPZs and LDOs. The problem is Treasury Research showed Thacther style Enterprise Zones didn’t work as they simply caused firms to move and a loss of tax revenue – this is accepted by everybody that has studied the issue
Without any discipline of how much to put in local plans how will ‘supply side reform’ work? Abolishing local plans and the Green Belt maybe – that will be popular in the shires.
Similarly a proposal by Lord Young in the 1986 Deregulation Bill to abolish structure plans (and hence targets) was so unpopular in the shires it was swiftly dropped.
Of course all of this was well before Truss entered parliament – has she done any research or background reading at all on this issue or is she driven by pure ideological bile rewriting history (Stalin styly) along the way?
The Grasslands Trust team blog about nature conservation and broader environmental issues, always with a focus on our threatened grassland habitats. The views in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Trust.