The Conservatives’ manifesto target of 300,000 new homes a year still stands, the Housing Secretary has claimed in an about-turn on Liz Truss’s planning policy.
Ms Truss had promised an end to “Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets” and instead wanted to use a mix of tax cuts and deregulation to encourage firms to build more.
But Michael Gove confirmed on Sunday that Rishi Sunak’s Government still intended to hit the promise made by the Tories in 2019.
When asked if 300,000 houses a year by 2025 – up from the current figure of around 240,000 a year – remained the Government’s target, Mr Gove replied: “Yes.”
He told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “No one can deny that it’s going to be made more difficult because of the economic circumstances that we face.
“We need to build more homes – we need to build more homes for people to own, we also need to build more homes for social rent, we need to build more council houses, more housing association homes. We need to build the right homes in the right places.
“But as Rishi said, we need to be straight with people. The cost of materials has increased because of the problems with global supply chains and also a very tight labour market means that the capacity to build those homes at the rate we’d want is constrained.”
Mr Gove urged a “fair way” to allocate housing need that took into account population change, describing some previous calculations as “wrong”.
“What we critically need to do is to make sure that we have local communities consenting to development, and that means that homes need to be more beautiful, it means we need the infrastructure alongside them.
“But it – critically – also means that we need to make sure that the environment is protected as well.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has told Sky News that he is reviewing Liz Truss’s investment zones, saying anything which might undermine the environment is “out”.
In last month’s mini-budget, the-then chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng laid out plans to heavily reduce taxes on businesses and relax planning rules in at least 38 local authorities, dubbed “investment zones”.
The announcement sparked widespread concern from environmental charities and groups that crucial protections which safeguard wildlife, landscapes, and buildings, could be ripped up.
Asked by Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday if the zones – a key part of Ms Truss’s plan for growth – are going ahead, Mr Gove said: “I’m reviewing them.”
Mr Gove added: “We need to make sure that any change that we make is one which of course helps to support economic growth and good jobs for people, but also one of the concerns raised about investment zones was the impact on the environment.
“I’ve been very clear and the prime minister has been very clear that under no circumstances will we weaken environmental protections.”
Ms Truss had said her investment zones would help level up the country by spurring investment in regions outside London.
Mr Gove said he will be looking closely at her proposals alongside the chancellor Jeremy Hunt, prime minister Rishi Sunak and environment secretary Therese Coffey but insisted: “Anything that might in any way undermine environmental protections is out.”
A Government source told the Telegraph ministers were committed to the party’s 2019 manifesto pledge to “protect and restore” the environment, pointing to criticisms of Ms Truss’s plans by the RSPB and the National Trust.
Confirming the whole policy was under review amid the current economic circumstances, they said the economic case for pressing ahead with the policy was “not clear”.
They noted the blueprint for investment zones had failed to rule out developments on land including national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and designated green belt zones.
The source added: “It could potentially lead to over £12billion in lost revenue if the schemes were uncapped – and we’ve all seen what happens with unfunded tax cuts.”
FLAGSHIP plans to create investment zones are set to be kicked into long grass as the Treasury scrambles to plug a £40billion Budget black hole.
Government sources admit the radical proposals are costly and may be for the scrap heap.
The next PM is expected to return to the drawing board on them.
The zones were the centrepiece of Liz Truss’s plans to boost growth.
Businesses were going to be lured to the areas with giant tax breaks and relaxed planning rules.
But No11 insiders admit they come with a hefty price tag.
One Whitehall source said: “They are expensive. I don’t expect them to be announced any time soon.”
“It will be one for the new PM to decide on. They may want to change them to save money.”
New chancellor Jeremy Hunt is scrambling to slash spending and put up taxes to plug the gaping black hole in the public finances.
He was expected to unveil his plans on Halloween.
The conceit that somehow we have a world beating planning system is as nationalistic delusional and discredited as the gammony idea we would thrive outside the EU rathr than be treated as an emerging economy subject to ‘sudden stop‘ currency crises and capital outflow., as we have been. We certainly now have the worst planning system in northern Europe.
Similarly in England whilst most local plan making has slowed to a halt In Malysia and many other tiger economies it proceeds apace.
GEORGE TOWN – The proposed draft of the Penang Island Local Plan has been finally exhibited to the public after the state government came under heavy criticism for the lengthy delay in its unveiling.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said it took time before the draft could be made available for public and ratepayers’ scrutiny as it had to undergo proper due process.
The island had been without a local plan for reference for the past three decades.
The completion of the plan was also part of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) manifesto for the last general election in 2018, Chow said.
The draft of the local plan for Seberang Prai will also be released soon, he added.
Speaking after launching the public display of the draft at the Syed Alatas Mansion in Armenian Street here, Chow said that ratepayers are encouraged to view the draft at both the mansion and at MakerSpace in the Balik Pulau hawker complex from now until December 13.
As part of the process, the public has been encouraged to offer feedback and suggestions to ensure the local plan is fine-tuned to serve the needs of all ratepayers here, he said.
“The views and feedback from the stakeholders in Penang would be an invaluable contribution to ensure that future planning is regulated well,” he said.
The plan was crafted by town planners at Penang Island City Council (MBPP) with input from consultants at AJM Planning and Urban Design Group Sdn Bhd.
Chow said that the local plan will also streamline the state’s development plans in line with the national physical planning master plan and the 2030 state structure plan.
Earlier, Jagdeep urged town planners to bear in mind the effects of climate change when approving future development.
Among the proposed developments on the draft local plan were two additional land reclamations off the coast of Batu Maung and Jelutong.
There were also proposed LRT stations from Komtar to Permatang Damar Laut and new ferry terminals for water taxies at Batu Maung, Bayan Baru, Pulau Tikus, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang.
The state also proposed expansion of green spaces on the island such as expansion of the Botanics Garden, community parks and recreational parks.
If the replacement for the Standard Method is a vacuum or some kind of ‘soft’ target, it will – despite all the talk of incentives and de-regulation – likely lead to a much-reduced level of housing provision.
Why? The current (2018-based) household projections envisage formation of just 164,000 new households each year (baking in trends of household suppression). In plan making, ONS local projections would likely be an influence for most LPAs. Whilst some might seek to exceed their figure, absent clear guidance on addressing market signals, affordable housing need or economic growth, most would see it as a maximum to then be moderated by perceived or actual constraints. If there was not an adequate mechanism for Green Belt review or addressing unmet need in our under-bounded, constrained big cities (Birmingham, London, urban South Hampshire, Leicester [not with a GB], etc) then output would be suppressed. If the ‘tilted balance’ policy (or five year housing land supply requirement) was not applied with force to areas with out of date local plans, we can reasonably expect the national total would fall well below 160K, perhaps down to 140K. …
At the most optimistic, one might see output in a ‘no-target’ world go as high as, say, 185K if there was a major funding and delivery effort to support brownfield regeneration akin to the early 2000s (and a strong market for the particular form of housing it provides), a permissive approach to other forms of housing development that was treated as windfalls and not to be offset against other planned provision, and a strong commitment to plan making.
Reflecting on this uncertain picture, it is worth turning to why housing targets have a role in plan making more generally….
A new approach to housing need must be accompanied by a reinvigoration of the evidential justification for housing supply as part of the solution to the housing crisis. Whether we need a headline national target is moot, but the role – identified by Barker and the NHPAU – of supply in addressing affordability, especially in the least affordable areas, would benefit from a refresh. This also can remind us that most comparable European countries – large and small, crowded or sparsely populated – regularly build many more homes per capita each year and are mostly the better for it. …
The concept of need and targets is only as good as the ability of the system to generate positive plan making; this means plans formulated at the right spatial scale to address strategic planning issues (duty to cooperate issues, constrained urban areas and the like), a streamlining of the plan-making system and its outputs to increase productivity (as suggested by the LURB), digitalisation of the process, better resourcing, and the right mix of carrots and stick for plan making bodies, including a political drive….
It is a false dichotomy to assume that planning focused on boosting supply must be at the expense of wider policy objectives around quality, design, place making, infrastructure delivery and securing net zero carbon, all of which can be part of the framework.
Whats App to MPs from @SamCoatesSky
Third Time Lucky
Resignations, staff rushing to complete tasks under pressure and people working from home are among the reasons a key plan for 14,000 homes has been delayed until next summer.
Residents could now have to wait until at least August 2023 to read the first draft of Uttlesford District Council’s local plan, which sets out how the authority will manage growth.
Now councillors fear the plan could have to be redone after a report said the latest version had not been completed to an acceptable standard.
However, senior officers at a joint meeting of the local plan leadership group and scrutiny commitee on Monday (October 10) disputed the council was starting from scratch and said the delay was not due to a lack of evidence.
High turnovers, staff rushing to meet deadlines and a lack of integration exacerbated by home working were cited as reasons behind its unreadiness in the report. This is the latest of several delays to the plan, which had been expected in November. Adoption is now expected in October 2025.
Councillor Vere Isham (Lib Dem and Green Alliance, Takeley) said at the meeting: “This isn’t just finding one or two figures that have dropped out, we’re back to stage one.
“That’s getting the product on the production line, the boxes ready to wrap it up and send it out to the customer, and suddenly finding that the products are dangerous.”
Officers at the meeting said there have been resignations in the team and in management and that seven people out of a team of nine have been with the council for less than two years, resulting in a lack of continuity.
The report also says there had been “misguided responses to pressure,” including people rushing to complete tasks when the groundwork had not been completed, and their concerns and suggestions being treated as a distraction from completing tasks.
It continues to say a more collaborative approach and more tightly structured work programme, with elements broken down into bitesize tasks, have been adopted.
Additionally, the draft will be published after the May 2023 local elections, a decision which was criticised by opposition leader Melvin Caton (Lib Dem and Green Alliance, Stansted South & Birchanger).
He said: “Are we seriously going to go into the 2023 local elections without giving our residents the slightest inkling of what the thought process of the current administration is on the local plan?”
Director of planning Dean Hermitage said running the consultation during the pre-election period, but decided it had to avoid publishing a contentious public document during this time. The committees voted to recommend the council’s cabinet adopt the new timetable for the local plan when it next meets.
Areas of Weymouth, Portland and Wool have been put forward by Dorset Council as potential investment zones.
The council has submitted three expressions of interest to the Government.
It says it has identified several regeneration sites in Weymouth around the waterside at Weymouth harbour and marina. The proposal is to redevelop disused and under-developed sites to provide homes and jobs, with opportunities for commercial and leisure developments.
The port area of Portland has been submitted, with the council saying it offers opportunities for commercial and business operations, and a residential site in Castletown.
It stressed that the proposed location for an incinerator at Portland Port, currently going through the planning process, is ‘explicitly excluded’ from the expression of interest, adding: “The decision on the incinerator is subject to the independent planning process and will be unaffected by any proposal for an Investment Zone.”
In Wool, a site adjacent to the existing Dorset Innovation Park has been put forward to ‘build on the success there’ by offering ‘further investment and development opportunities’ for key sectors including advanced engineering and manufacturing.
Investment zones come with tax breaks for potential investors and what the Government claims will be ‘simplified, reduced regulation and planning processes. The aim is to attract new investment to create jobs.
It is not yet known when the Government will announce decisions on expressions of interest for investment zones.
Cllr Tony Ferrari, portfolio holder for economic growth, assets and property at Dorset Council, said: “We have submitted three strong expressions of interest for possible Investment Zones. We welcome any opportunity to attract investment, improve infrastructure, and create jobs here in Dorset. The three proposed locations offer great potential for economic development and are suitable for this kind of activity.
“However, I should also say that we have received only limited detail so far from government about how Investment Zones will work. Our expressions of interest do not represent a commitment by government or by Dorset Council. We await further detail from government so we can assess the potential pros and cons of an investment zone before making any formal commitment following council processes.”
We were among authorities invited by the Government to submit a proposal. The Government has said that investment zones would release land for commercial or residential development. Within those sites developments will adhere to liberalised planning regulations and businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives.
Leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We are at a very early stage in the process, but this could be an exciting and welcome initiative that would enable us to work with the Government to deliver benefits for the North Yorkshire economy.
“Following discussions with our district council colleagues, we are submitting an expression of interest. This identifies a number of sites across the county that we feel fit the criteria from Government. We look forward to further negotiations with Government following our submission.”
The sites identified in the expression of interest are:
- Hambleton: Dalton, at Junction 49 on the A1
- Harrogate: Harrogate, at Junction 47 of the A1; Potter Space Ripon, at Junction 50 of the A1; Harrogate Convention Centre
- Richmondshire: the area around A1 Junctions 52 and 53
- Ryedale: Eden Camp East, Malton
- Scarborough: Scarborough Business Park
- Selby: Gascoigne Wood Rail Interchange, Olympia Park, and sites at Eggborough, Kellingley and Sherburn
These are all commercial sites.
Cllr Les said: “The sites we are putting forward for consideration are locations that have already been earmarked for commercial development to support business growth and job creation. The proposed benefits of investment zones could help to make these sites even more attractive to new businesses and accelerate development ambitions.
“We are fully aware of the need to minimise any environmental impacts, so all the sites we are putting forward have been selected in accordance with local planning and conservation policy. None are sensitive or protected sites.”
Proposed sites must meet the Government’s criteria to offer a significant economic opportunity, be ready to deliver quickly and align with the wider local strategy.
Once the Government has received the expressions of interest from invited authorities, further criteria will influence site selection, including consideration of the overall geographic distribution of investment zones, the balance between residential and commercial, and urban and rural sites and the readiness to deliver.
Thanet council will make an expression of interest to have three new investment zones on the isle.
Thanet District Council has been working with Kent County Council, government officials and stakeholders to develop expressions of interest for the Port of Ramsgate, sites across Manston including Manston Airport, MoD site and Mountpark and for Dreamland/Arlington.
In September Kent was named as one of 38 areas earmarked as an investment zone in the now sacked Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget.
One of the aims is for accelerated development, meaning there will be designated development sites for housing and commercial development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.
Businesses in the designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits such as 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, and full stamp duty tax relief on land bought for commercial and residential development. Accelerated development will also mean more land for residential and commercial development,.
According to the government, Investment Zones will be “designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need”.
Kent County Council as the Upper Tier Authority for Thanet will be responsible for submitting an application to central Government, including the expressions of interest from the district councils within the county.
Potential Thanet sites
Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee has approved the in principle expressions of interest at the Thanet sites.
The Port is owned and operated by the council but Manston airport and Dreamland are privately owned.
A decision notice published on TDC’s website says: “If any of the expressions of interest in Thanet are successful, this does not mean that there is approval for an Investment Zone.
“There will be subsequent decision gateways and development phase to put together a delivery plan. The delivery plan is required to ensure that the Investment Zone meets the strategic, delivery and legal expectations set by central government.
“These delivery plans will need to confirm that sites will represent value for money for taxpayers and deliver the growth objectives set out through the Investment Zones programme. At this stage it is not clear how this process will be managed, the timescales linked to this, and what central government’s guidance is for the next process.”
Ramsgate Port is also included for regeneration and development under the £19.8million Levelling Up Fund.
Dreamland has a £4million allocation from the Margate Town Deal fund to be used towards the renovation and reopening the cinema building which has been empty for more than a decade.
The site will be turned into an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated to community use – understood to be the People Dem Collective group which headed up Black Lives Matter demos last year – and charities.
The allocation caused controversy with some questioning why the privately owned business is receiving public funds. The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd in 2020 for £7million – £2.3 million for the Dreamland estate and £4.7million to buy the car park area which was finally handed over this month.
The bulk of Manston airport is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners which currently has an approved development consent order from government to create an air freight hub at the site. RSP paid £16.5 million to buy the airport site from former owners Stone Hill Park in 2019.
The expression of interest decision has been made under ‘urgency procedures’ and is exempted from call-in.
Thanet council says this is because of “ timescales set-out by central government between the announcement about Investment Zones, releasing the guidance and the deadline for submission means that Thanet District Council has been unable to move through the formal decision making process.
“This would normally include a Cabinet Decision and time for call-in from Scrutiny. Following the guidance there was only two weeks in which to develop the expressions of interest before the submission deadline. These are in-principle expressions of interest that will require further development if successful, and therefore will follow due process.”
Thanet Green Party councillor Mike Garner said he is extremely concerned at the investment zone proposals.
He said: “I am extremely concerned that these three areas of Thanet have been nominated as Investment Zones without the council having any clear idea of what that means for those areas.
“ A number of organisations like the RSPB and CPRE have already highlighted that any further weakening of planning regulations is likely to lead to further harm to the environment and can be seen as an attack on nature.
“I agree with them and believe that we should be working harder to deliver the affordable housing and new job opportunities needed within a framework that protects and enhances our environment rather than ceding control of large areas of the district to developers who are looking to make money ‘at any cost’.”
Thanet Labour Party leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “It is right that the council takes opportunities to support regeneration, but the government has rushed this policy out and there is insufficient clarity about what they involve. Cllr Ashbee referred to the benefit of business rates from a reopened airport at council last night – is the council now willing to forfeit them?”
Part of south Devon has asked to be considered for becoming a government-backed investment zone.
South Hams District Council agreed to submit an expression of interest for the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport to become one.
The zones give lower tax rates for businesses, and relaxed planning regulations for new developments.
The aim is to gain economic incentives for the Sherford, Langage and South Yard sites in the Freeport project.
The move was only narrowly agreed by councillors after many said there was too little information to give it the go ahead, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
Investment Zones were announced by the then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in September’s mini-budget and aim to provide designated development sites that will release more land for housing and commercial development, and support accelerated development.
At the South Hams Special Council meeting on Thursday, council leader, Judy Pearce said: “It will deliver the seed capital grant from government of £25m for essential infrastructure.
“It will include £29m of investment from local councils that will be paid back by the business rates that go back into the sites.
“It will support a new £30m innovation centre at Oceansgate.
“It will deliver 3,500 jobs and will enhance available business benefits and incentives over a longer time period.”
Following its recent announcement of plans to create investment zones around the country, the Government invited Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCA) and Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLA) in England to submit expressions of interest in introducing one in their area.
In a statement Shropshire Council’s Cabinet said it had agreed that the council will not be submitting a bid for an investment zone “in this round”.
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for growth and regeneration, said the authority did not believe the current plan for investment zones would work in Shropshire.
Speaking to the Shropshire Star he explained that the decision was based on the understanding that the zones would be more focused on “re-interpretation of the planning process”, rather than “providing infrastructure”.
He said: “Investment zones will be a perfect fit for some areas, particularly where they have large brown field sites.
“But the necessary re-interpretation of planning is something that does not necessarily sit comfortably with Shropshire Council while we are going through the process of establishing a new local plan.
“The investment zones appear, on the information currently available, to be geared more towards enabling development by unlocking difficult planning issues, rather than providing outright the infrastructure.”
In a statement issued by the council earlier today the councillor had said: “We have our own Economic Growth Strategy, backed up by the emerging Local Plan which has been developed alongside the aspirations of the people of Shropshire.
“We believe that now is the right time to focus on this locally-led approach, but we will monitor the national proposals moving forwards so that, should they develop into something that would be the right fit for Shropshire and sit comfortably alongside our local plans, then we will be in a position to take advantage of that opportunity in the future.”