The Vast ‘BojoMojo Brexit-Port’ at Ashford Requires Planning Consent and The Government is Breaching Planning law


Does the current B8 Mojo consent on the edge of ashford cover an inland dryport customs processing faciility. I shopuld declare an interest in that my Day job is designing the largest and most modern land ports in the world.

It needs consent – back to first principles a dryport customs processing facility is neither ‘storage’ [only confiscated goods are stored] or ‘distribution’ there is no intermodal or break between multiple origin and destination. Dry ports are used where there are insufificent space at an international border for customs clearance – so checking and clearance is moved inland. As part of the EU there was no need for customs clearance the UK being part of a customs union.

There really is no precedent here. For so long as the B8 use class has existed there has been no need for customs clearance at the border to the continent, and sea ports have been covered by DOT permissions and then the DCO regime. Where dryports have been developed in the UK they have taken the form of ICDs – intermodal container deports – where TEUs are custom cleared to and from the non EU, and involving break bulk and or ‘distribution’ transferring from vehicles to and from the port to vehicles to and from the original point of origin or destionation. No ‘distribution’ takes place at M{b}ojo it is a classic inland dry port shifting only customs processing from the sea port. It is a sui gneric use requiring planning permission. Commencing the M[B]ojo consent is commencing only the B8 consent. If customs operations commence it wopuld be unlawful.

As the queues comning to and from the port will bring the M2 and Ashford to a gfrinding halt Ashford and Kent CC should let injunctions or emergency stop notices fly.

The government has secretly purchased 11 hectares (27 acres) of land 20 miles from Dover to site a vast new Brexit customs clearance centre for the 10,000 lorries that come through the Kent port from Calais every day.

It will be the first customs post erected in the UK to deal with goods coming from the EU for 27 years.

Work will begin on fencing off the vast 1.2m square foot “Mojo” site on the outskirts of Ashford on Monday. The local council were given only a few hours’ notice that the land was now in public ownership.

After being informed on Friday afternoon, the council leader has been forced to rush out hand-delivered letters to local residents to warn them of the disruption, Paul Bartlett, a Conservative councillor, told the Guardian.Government launches new ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaignRead more

The letter, from Rachel Maclean, MP and parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, will say: “We are writing to inform you that the Department of Transport has purchased the site known as ‘MOJO’ (Church Road, Sevington, Ashford). Preliminary works are scheduled to take place on the western parcel from Monday 13 July 2020. This will include: securing the site with fencing, grass and weed vegetation cutting, extensive survey work, the constructing of a temporary site office, and the constructing of a temporary access to the site from the A2070 link road.

“Plans have not yet been finalised for the use of this site, but is anticipated to form part of the Department’s strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports for the end of the transition period. This is likely to involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls to be carried out by government agencies (eg HM Revenue and Customs). More detailed information will be provided in due course.”

The emergency purchase of the site is expected to be unveiled on Sunday by Michael Gove, who is to tour TV studios publicising the government’s multi-million-pound Get Ready for Brexit campaign. Businesses are bracing themselves for the publication of the first official details of the new border operating model and immigration system on Monday.

The government has been forced to introduce customs controls because of the decision to leave the EU’s single market and the customs union on 1 January.

When the single market came into being in January 1993, trade barriers across the bloc disappeared along with tariffs that many will remember as marking the end of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes. But from 1 January, the UK will revert to a system whereby importers will have to make customs declarations.

Mojo site

The first customs post for goods coming into the UK from the EU will be sited at Ashford. Photograph: Corporate brochure for the Mojo site off the M20 in Kent

There are fears locally in Kent that it could lead to massive congestion and tailbacks on the motorways from both the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel freightway in nearby Folkestone.

Last year contingency plans known as Operation Brock had to be put in place to guard against gridlock in the event that the UK crashed out of the EU with no deal.

Bartlett said it was no surprise that the land was going to be developed as it had been empty for almost 10 years and that HM Revenue & Customs operations would be more welcome locally than the rumoured Amazon warehouse. “It is a huge tick that this creates skilled jobs,” he said.

But he was concerned about the government rushing the new trading environment through. “Boris [Johnson] needs to be careful that these customs and tariff arrangements are finalised and in place in time, because otherwise there could be serious congestion, and we don’t want that.

“There is an enormous amount of trust involved in Boris and his counterparts in Europe to get us where we need to be for 31 December and time is not on our side,” he added.

Multiple government spokespeople declined to comment on plans saying details would be revealed “over the weekend”.

The Opinion Corridor of Plan Making

It’s a Swedish term åsiktskorridor meaning opinion corridor.  The band within political discourse is expected to happen, outside of which discourse is considered deviant.  Its a very useful concept in describing Sweden’s post war desire for consensus building, and I don’t use it pejoratively, as some would, to criticise the lack of oxygen for extreme views in such a society.  I use it normatively to describe the expectation of the parameters for acceptable discourse.  It is particularly useful to describe the parameters of debate used in the UK by the BBC, which can be exploited by those operating outside it, for example by climate change deniers and those with a tangential relationship to the truth, who use publicity to normalise and shift debate towards extreme views (the related concept of the Overton window).

The problem with plan makers and plan objectors is that they now operate in barely overlapping opinion corridors.  Those opposing are branded Nimbys, those promoting are accused of being dinosaurs promoting climate unfriendly policy. If you are the losing side of a plan debate demands for cllr resignation,  This is stifling of genuine debate on matters of profound importance.

The post war plan making system assumed a single opinion corridor.  This was broken by the onset of localism which institutionalized views outside it but with penalties for non delivery.  It was further broken by planning straying from a discourse based on evidence (of housing need).  It became a rule rather than a norm at precisely the point the evidence (past household formation) ceased being a useful predictor.  With plan making divorced from rational evidence it has become a battle of opposing world views with a supposition of bad intent of the opposing side.

Now successful plan making effort can occur without successful maintenance of a wide opinion corridor from beginning to end.   It is not just the promotion of inclusive participation.  That is barely 10% of it.  It is mostly about structuring a discourse on the impact of alternatives.  This rarely takes place.  Sites come through a developer led call for sites process, are chosen through smoke filled room meetings excluding the non ruling group and those impacted feel excluded and feel obligated not just to oppose (within the bounds of the system) but to seek to overturn that system as the only guaranteed means of success.

If the planing system is to remain democratic (as opposed to drifting further towards buying consent with favours) it needs to find ways to nurture and protect an inclusive opinion corridor for genuine realisable alternative visions of sustainable futures.

Chairman National Infra Commission – More Council Homes and Building on Green Belt Needed to Hit 300k Target


A huge expansion of council housing, including using the green belt, will be needed to meet Boris Johnson’s “build, build, build” commitments, a government infrastructure adviser has said.

Sir John Armitt suggested that the government was stuck in the 1980s with “ideological” objections to social housing as he warned that tweaking the planning system was not enough to hit a target of 300,000 homes a year.

He told The Times: “I’ve made this point to housing ministers over the last couple of years on a number of occasions. Clearly they don’t agree. But I am convinced that we will not get to what we need to get to if we rely simply on the private sector.”

Boris – Not Just Brownfield Sites

It is important to read the full text of Boris’ ‘Build, Build, Build’ speech – because the most important passage has not been reported on at all

‘We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites

and other areas that with better transport and other infrastructure could frankly be suitable and right for development

and address that intergenerational injustice

and help young people get on the housing ladder in the way that their parents and grandparents could

and it is to galvanise this whole process that this government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the second world war’

One can imagine the MCHLG and Number 10 advisors taking a red pen to add that line, as rightly brownfield sites, as we know, are not enough.

Government to Support more Unitary Authorities in Devolution White Paper

Written Answer 29th June

Photo of Simon HoareSimon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what process needs to be followed by local authority areas which would like to achieve unitary status.

Photo of Simon HoareSimon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what criteria his Department will use to assess bids to establish a unitary authority; and whether unanimity of affected local authorities is required.

Photo of Simon HoareSimon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what the minimum population size required is to form a unitary authority.

Photo of Simon HoareSimon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what the maximum population size is in which a single unitary authority should operate.

Photo of Simon ClarkeSimon Clarke Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Devolution White Paper to be published this Autumn will set out our transformative plans for economic recovery and renewal, and for levelling up opportunity, prosperity, and well-being across the country. These plans will include restructuring our local institutions to deliver these outcomes, establishing more mayors and more unitary councils the populations of which will depend on local circumstances but as a rule of thumb are expected to be substantially in excess of 300k-400k. Under current legislation it is open to the Secretary of State, subject to consultation and Parliamentary approval, to implement if he thinks fit any unitary proposal submitted by a council in response to an invitation which any council may request. In considering a unitary proposal the Secretary of State expects to have regard to the extent it is likely to support the delivery of the outcomes sought in the White Paper.

Newt Counting Bottom of List of HBF Priorities


The prime minister has been accused of inventing an allegation that wildlife rules are holding back house-building.

In his recent speech on job creation, Boris Johnson said: “Newt-counting delays are a massive drag on the prosperity of this country.”

But environmental groups say the allegation is a political trick with no basis in fact.

And BBC News has been unable to find evidence that wildlife surveys are unduly delaying development.

Downing Street passed our inquiry to the environment department Defra, which has not offered evidence. Nor has Natural England, which is responsible for wildlife protection.

The Local Government Association said it was not aware of any evidence that newt surveys were unnecessarily holding back projects.

And the Home Builders Federation said it has many concerns over planning, but newt surveys were at the bottom of the list.

“The PM’s speech was pure fiction,” Craig Bennett, head of the Wildlife Trusts, which runs conservation projects and education projects, told the BBC.

“It may sound funny referring to newts, but actually it was rather sinister. In the environment movement we know referring to newts is a dog whistle to people on the right of his party who want environmental protections watered down.”

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBoris Johnson thinks newt counts are a drag on construction

There have been complaints about newt-related delays in the past, but the authorities have moved to speed permits for new developments.

Historically, would-be developers would have to wait for a survey to check whether their plans might disturb great crested newts, which are uncommon in Europe.

Now technology is taking over. Natural England, is using a method in which samples of pond water are taken and analysed to detect fragments of newt DNA.

The process is so fast that the organisation is often able to carry out research in advance so developers can get instant information.

A springer spaniel called Freya is also playing a part. She works for Wessex Water, sniffing out newts in ponds. The firm says that, thanks to Freya, it can conclude its surveys in days, not weeks.

What’s more, if great crested newts are discovered, that doesn’t sterilise development on the site.

Under recent rules, the developer can proceed so long as they provide alternative sites in a way that leaves nature better off than before.

Newt rules have been under attack in the past from politicians complaining that the UK has “gold-plated” EU regulations.

But a government review in 2012 said: “The directives are working well, allowing both development of key infrastructure and ensuring that a high level of environmental protections is maintained.”

The head of Natural England, Tony Juniper, told the BBC: “We have to find the best ways of pulling together our environmental ambition at the same time as the economic one. These two things have to be pursued together, not traded off against each other.”

Green groups furious with Mr Johnson are meeting Environment Secretary George Eustice next week to express their concerns about his speech.

I understand he is uncomfortable about the PM’s apparently evidence-free reference to newts

Jenryck Row Causes Boris to Drop Plans to Strip Councils of Planning Powers


Radical planning reforms that would have put extra powers in the hands of Robert Jenrick have been put on hold amid the lobbying controversy surrounding the Housing Secretary.

The Telegraph understands that the Government was studying plans to take responsibility for some major developments away from councils and put Mr Jenrick in charge instead.

Ministers believed the Prime Minister would include the proposals in a white paper on planning expected later this year, and had expected him to reference them in a major speech next week on rebuilding Britain after the coronavirus recession.

However, after days of revelations about Mr Jenrick’s relationship with property developer and Tory donor Richard Desmond, Number 10 said the proposals would not be in the speech and are “not our policy”.

Downing Street denied on Wednesday  night that there was any link between the Desmond controversy and the decision not to take the proposals forward.

Multiple sources told The Telegraph that government planning advisers had advocated a system of development corporations, which would be set up by the Housing Secretary, and which would have the power to take decisions on planning that would normally have been taken by local authorities.

The development corporations would be able to buy land with taxpayers’ money, grant planning permission to build on it, then sell the land to developers at a profit. All money raised would be used for public benefit by building schools, roads or other infrastructure. The development corporation would also have control over what developers could and could not build.

It would have put huge power in the hands of the Housing Secretary because it effectively bypasses local councils.

One senior minister said: “I’m expecting there to be some mention of development corporations in the speech next week. There is a lot of interest in them within Government.”

However, Downing Street sources said the idea was not going to be adopted.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson had studied controversial plans to make it easier for the Government to redesignate green belt land for development.

Jack Airey, Mr Johnson’s housing adviser, has said in the past that green belt rules have been used “to freeze cities and towns in time” and that “we should be prepared to let them grow in a natural way”.

Advocates of the idea have pointed out that London’s green belt includes derelict and unused land equivalent to 500 football pitches, which could be used for 20,000 homes.

Building on green belt land could help Mr Johnson to hit his target of 300,000 new homes a year, but moves to allow building on green belt land have proved unpopular with grassroots Tories in the past and Downing Street said this, too, was now “not policy” and would not be in his speech.

A Downing Street source denied the planning proposals had been considered by Number 10 and said: “These claims are untrue.”

So it seems two proposals have been put on hold, one to enable housing schemes of over 1,000 dwellings to proceed by DCO, the other to expand development corporations.

New Deal for Planning Must Avoid ‘Planning by Cronyism’ to Avoid any Chance of Success

We all await what Cummings has in store as part of the ‘New Deal for Planning’

I will write much more on this next week, including what is necessary as part of a wider package of measures to ‘make zoning work’.  It certainly wont work if presented as simply part of a wave of liberation and removing planning red tape.  Zoning is about reforming not replacing regulation.

A basic pre-requisite however is that ‘planning by cronyism’ must play no part otherwise the reforms will lack any moral or political justification.  The worst thing that could happen is simply to hand consenting powers to developer led development corporations.  Then effectively planning permissions would be seen as capable of being bought and sold depending on the scale of political donations.

Jenrck is a bust.  He will go in the sepember reshuffle.  Im sure th planning white paper and any new deal will wait until a new clean pair of hands is through teh door.  If it isnt then the reforms will have xero legimimacy.

There is nothing wrong with the development corporation as the main deliverer of change.  They have been around since the middle ages and when set iup correctly can be very successful.  The Olympics was a great success, the LDDC a great failure, spending a great deal of money investing in the wrong infrastructure  and then having to replace it at huge expense.    But boards of DCs packjed with developers has everywhere been a conduit for cronyism.  In many regimes they are packed with party palacemen.  They have become a vehicle for rent seeking.  Their power is used to wrench aside existing owners of property and development rights and then reallocate them to cronys.  They are the antithesis of free markets, property rights and competition.  Everything that Sunak says he is for.

A classic case is Cairo – a city I know well, which has been badly planned for 80 years.

The Guardian

Looming above the affluent Zamalek neighbourhood in the centre of Cairo, the Forte Tower has stood as the tallest building in Egypt for the last 30 years – yet it remains unfinished and abandoned. A …t was to be the first part of a “new Manhattan of Egypt”, a cluster of skyscrapers imagined by president Anwar Sadat to rise from Gezira Island in the middle of the Nile, signalling Cairo’s place on the world stage. Following Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the project hit the rocks.

Empty … the unfinished Forte Tower.

“This building sums up the Egyptian way,” says Mohamed Elshahed, author of a new architectural guidebook, Cairo Since 1900. “A developer gets direct permission from the president, then another president comes in with his own circle of businessmen who want a piece of the cake. The original investor says no. The project is abandoned. “

We can see the same pattern in crony led development corporations around the world.

This is what happens when the normal ‘liberal; virtues of democracy and the rule of law get replaced by dictat and decree.  We can already see the pages of the Daily Telegraph calls for the ‘orbanisation‘ of the political system, abolish elected mayors, human rights – they just get in the way.

Be very clear,  This is nothing to do with markets and efficiency,  It is everything to do with rewarding through rent seeking elites and political client groups who can be bought off at the expense of others – the only aim being retention and enlargement of political power.