‘Land for the Many’ – Council Tax Mark II not a ‘Garden Tax’

Land for the Many

We recommend that a Labour government replace the regressive and unpopular council tax with a progressive property tax based on contemporary property values.
Unlike council tax, this tax would be payable by owners, not tenants. This would result in significant administrative savings, lower levels of arrears and less court action.
Unlike council tax, the progressive property tax rate would be based on regularly updated property values

Express

 

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire told The Daily Telegraph the proposals from Mr Corbyn were “deeply damaging”….

“This tax bombshell for families would mean family homes with gardens paying far more and higher taxes on pensioners by abolishing the single person discount.”

But apart from on development land this is not proposing a land tax, which is sometimes criticised as a garden tax.  It is the same structure as the council tax with changes to exemptions, multipliers and as originally intended by Hesiltine regular property revaluations, which Pickles scrapped.  A land tax by contrast take the value of the house on a garden off the valuation, only valuing the land based on what you would get permission for.  You can criticise the banding, exemptions, multipliers and rates.  But you cant criticoise it as a garden tax, indeed many would criticise it as not going far enough towards a land tax.  Brokenshire’s criticisms are strange as it if defending a tax based on old out of date property values, which is indefensible.  That valuation in and of itself does not set the level of tax, that is down to individual local authorities setting tax levels for each band.  A more valid, the only valid, criticism would be on the proportion of the tax base to come from property. But you could just as seriously call it an ensuite loo tax as there prevalence is simply correlated with property prices as are gardens.

It would have been wiser for the report to concentrate on the structure of property taxation not its level, a matter solely under the power of a Chancellor, so we could have a serious debate about the need for regular valuation.

South Oxfordshire Local Plan ‘Set to be Pulled’

Henley Standard

Anna Badcock told Watlington’s annual parish meeting that South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan, which earmarks sites for 28,000 new homes for the period until 2034, was set to be “pulled”.

She said this would mean the town’s neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum last summer, and others across the district which feed into the Local Plan may no longer be valid.

It would also mean that the £215 million Oxfordshire Growth Deal would be lost.

The Local Plan was approved by the previous Conservative administration but the party was ousted in elections earlier this month and the Liberal Democrats now control the council in a coalition with the Greens.

The new leader, Liberal Democrat Sue Cooper, has said she wants to reduce the number of houses and “improve” the plan, which is now with an independent examiner. Councillor Badcock, a Conservative, told the meeting that all members of the council had been called to a meeting on June 3 to discuss the plan with a debate expected on June 20.

She said: “The information we’re getting at the moment is that it is to be pulled. If the plan is pulled then, yes, we’re back at square one.

“I’ve been told that, potentially, if the Local Plan goes, all the neighbourhood plans go as well. We have no neighbourhood plans.”

She said that potentially the council would have to go back to not having a five-year supply of housing land instead of one of three years, which would provide an “open season” for developers.

Councillor Badcock said the money for infrastructure and roads that the Government had agreed to pay under the Growth Deal would be lost if the Local Plan was scrapped.

Almost £2.5 million of this has been allocated for the initial work on the proposed bypasses for both Watlington and Benson. Cllr Badcock said: “So probably bordering on £300 to £400 million coming into Oxfordshire to provide the road infrastructure to ease the burden on rural conurbations will go.

“The implications are quite extraordinary. We certainly won’t have a road around Watlington, that’s almost a given — I hope it isn’t.

“In a month’s time we have no Local Plan, we have no neighbourhood plan, we have no road, we have no chance of a road.”

Gill Bindoff, a member of the parish council’s neighbourhood plan advisory board, interrupted her, saying: “Anna, I don’t think you should give a political speech here.”

Cllr Badcock replied: “It really isn’t a political speech. I feel it is my duty to tell you what will happen because it will move quickly. I am looking to you as the residents of this area to give me your viewpoints.”

She said that if there were small adjustments to the plan the delay would be shorter but if the document was rewritten completely it could be three years. Mrs Bindoff said there was no threat to the neighbourhood plan because the district council had a core strategy and its existing local plan which it used to make decisions on planning applications.

But Councillor Badcock replied that planning officers were not confident that the existing plans would apply if an application went to appeal.

She said: “Maybe the ruling party come back and say, ‘we feel it’s risky to can this Local Plan so we have to make a few minor amendments’ or they may say ‘this doesn’t fit in with our ideology at all and we’re going to take that risk’.”

Parish councillor Tim Horton said the problem was Oxfordshire accepting 100,000 new homes by 2031 under the Growth Deal.

Homes England wants to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield and the site has been included in the current local plan.

Former parish councillor Robert Barber said building there would “utterly destroy” Watlington and the surrounding villages.

Cllr Badcock said the alternative was building on the green belt around Oxford.

Guildford Leader Denies MPs Suggestion Local Plan can be reversed by motion

Guildford Dragon

The new leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has denied that the Local Plan for Guildford can be quickly revised with a “Local Plan revision”, as claimed by Sir Paul Beresford, the Conservative MP for Mole Valley, and that any revision would probably take over three years.

Mole Valley is the parliamentary constituency to the east of Guildford which includes five of the GBC wards.

Sir Paul wrote in a letter sent to a number of councillors in different parties on Monday (May 27) that he had, “sought and received, verbal assurances from the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government that GBC could quickly revise the Plan by adopting a change at a full council meeting”.

But today (May 30) Council Leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “An adopted Local Plan is an important framework for everyone across our borough, to help provide homes, vital supporting infrastructure and community facilities. Particularly when homelessness and other major issues need tackling.

“The council and its officers followed national planning policy and legislation during the development of the Local Plan.”

Referring to Sir Paul’s primary interest in the former Wisley Airfield site, Cllr Reeves continued: “This includes the number of homes needed, and focussing on one site in the Plan does not solve the problems of housing for the whole borough, people still need these homes and somewhere to live.

“It is also important to clarify that the council cannot proceed as the letter suggests. A motion of full council would not have the effect of reversing the adoption of the Local Plan, or of removing elements of the Plan. The Plan (as adopted) has full effect until it is either quashed, revoked, or revised.

“In principle, and law, it is possible to revise a recently adopted plan. However, to facilitate the type of changes suggested in the letter, the process would be a comprehensive one – it would be lengthy (probably over 3 years), and would involve (as the law requires), consultation, and examination (by the Secretary of State).”

Caroline Reeves was the only Lib Dem councillor to vote for adoption of the Plan when it was controversially adopted just seven days before the borough council elections on May 2. Other Lib Dems abstained or voted against.

Campaigners are fundraising for at least one judicial review of the adoption process but have only until June 6 to lodge any applications.

He added: “While this could be great news, it appears to run contrary to other advice about our available options, so we shouldn’t get too carried away.”Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) leader of the second biggest group at GBC received Sir Paul’s claim warily. He said that his party would be seeking a meeting with him and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government “to try to add some substance to the verbal assurances” Sir Paul had been given.

Whether and how the council defends any judicial review may prove divisive. R4GV (Resident for Guildford and Villages spoke out powerfully against the Local Plan and have shown sympathy to those wanting a JR. Some Liberal Democrats may also have reservations about the council spending large amounts of public money defending the Local Plan adoption decision following their party’s unsuccessful attempt to defer the decision.

This evening, Sir Paul Beresford reiterated his claim about the possibility of a Local Plan revision when interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey.

Local MP and MHCLG SPAD conspire to reverse Guildford Local Plan Green Belt Deletions

Guildford Dragon News  – surely some confusion here.  The Council cannot reverse a binding inspectors report and plan adoption – and a local plan revision will take two years and it would be contrary to national policy to put a deleted site back in the GB.

Guildford’s Local Plan can be changed without a judicial review, according to a letter Mole Valley Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford has sent severa  l GBC councillors.

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After criticising the “astonishing way [the Plan] was pushed through an emergency full council meeting during the purdah period just before the local elections”, Sir Paul says he has “sought and received, verbal assurances from the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government that GBC can bring about a reversal of this with a ‘Local Plan revision’ ”.

Sir Paul said this morning (May 28) that he had obtained only verbal advice from MHCLG because of the need to act quickly. He had spoken to a SPAD [Special Adviser] who had referred Sir Paul’s questions to a senior planning official while Sir Paul waited on the phone line.

He added: “GBC officials can check but they should know. If required, I could get it in writing but this will take time because of the Parliamentary recess.”

A copy of the letter understood to have been sent to some of the councillors at GBC. Despite the final paragraph, it seems that some councillors who did not vote for the Plan have not received the letter.

Sir Paul now intends to write to parish council chairs asking for support. He also hopes to encourage residents to write to their councillors urging them to take the action he is suggesting in the letter.

He added that he had sent the letter to those who are responsible and those [councillors] “we think voted against the Plan”. Recipients are believed to include the GBC council leader, Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), the lead councillor for planning, Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow) and the re-elected Planning Committee chair, Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) but several councillors who voted against the Plan have not, so far, received a copy, including Joss Bigmore who spoke passionately against adoption of the Plan in the council debate before he was elected.

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Today Cllr Bigmore, R4GV leader (Christchurch), said: “Obviously we will have to investigate whether what Sir Paul suggests is possible. We will be pushing for a meeting with him and the MHCLG to try to add some substance to the verbal assurances he has received.

“While this could be great news, it appears to run contrary to other advice about our available options, so we shouldn’t get too carried away.

“R4GV will always be cognisant of the Mole Valley [parliamentary constituency] area of Guildford Borough bearing a huge burden of housing development in the Local Plan. But this must always be viewed in the context of the borough’s needs as a whole and not as separate issues.”

Cllr Susan Parker

Susan Parker (GGG, Send) said none of the Guildford Greenbelt Group councillors had received the letter from Sir Paul. “Frankly, I’m shocked at it,” she added. “If a judicial review is successful, land can have green belt status restored fast.  A review can quash elements of the Local Plan, if there are legal errors.

“That can’t happen with revision. Councillors have been advised this could take at least two years, possibly longer, with no change to green belt status. Maybe do revision as well, definitely not instead.

“Sir Paul has written lobbying against judicial review. Why? I don’t think GBC should oppose judicial reviews from the Guildford Local Plan Challenge, Wisley, and Save Hog’s Back.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves, Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government were all invited to comment.

This evening in a press release from Sir Paul headed “Mole Valley MP calls on newly elected Guildford Councillors to right the wrongs in the Local Plan” it is stated: “The Conservatives in the Mole Valley Constituency wards of Guildford Borough Council have spent years fighting against the damaging GBC Local Plan. Of particular concern are the proposals to take small rural villages in these wards out of the Green Belt, thereby allowing for development on what was previously Green Belt land.

“The site at the former Wisley Airfield is also marked for large scale, wholly inappropriate,
development. The campaign against these destructive plans has been led by Sir Paul Beresford, along with Conservative councillors and candidates from the Mole Valley wards of GBC.”

Conservative MP slams standard OAN method

Devon Live

ANNE MARIE MORRIS IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR NEWTON ABBOT AND HAS BEEN SINCE 2010  – She not stating at all what is wrong with it.

Our communities wouldn’t be what they are without the people who live in them. This is why it is crucial that we are able to provide housing that meet and suit the needs of residents through a process that doesn’t leave them feeling disenfranchised.

The type and quantity of housing an area needs are set out in Local Plans. The plans set out local planning policies and identifies how land is used, determining what will be built where.

Unfortunately, the formula that sets the number of houses needed is flawed and the system isn’t strong enough to enforce types of housing needed. Currently, the system enables developers to build ‘executive homes’ by claiming they are unable to afford to build other types of housing. Therefore, we end up with housing that is neither affordable nor suits the housing needs of the local population.

Furthermore, despite being ‘local’ plans, the power over housing building has become more centralised at national level, taking power away from local authorities. Such a move completely ignores the needs and opinions of local communities; the ones who often know best.

Housing needs to add value to the community. Developments need to be appropriate for the communities in which they are being placed. Local Authorities need to have the ability to designate what types of housing are being built, in order to ensure that the housing needs of the local community are met.

There are a number of benefits to ensuring we have the correct housing stock, especially with regard to health and social care. Communities should endeavour to keep elderly residents in their own homes for as long as it is possible to do so. Unfortunately, such a move is impossible if there aren’t the correct types of adapted homes for residents to live in.

One roadblock that often exists when building new housing is the lack of infrastructure in place. Building a development becomes somewhat redundant if there are no road connections or local amenities. When planning permission is granted there needs to be a deal between developer and council on who will build what. Often, the Local Authority can’t afford to put in the infrastructure themselves.

This is largely down to the fact that they cannot borrow (in order to fund the infrastructure) against future receipts they will receive from the development. I believe there is a case for exploring whether they should be able to.

Alternatively, there should be a mechanism in place that requires either the landowner or the developer to put the infrastructure in first, as a condition of planning permission being granted in the first place.

Throughout my time in Parliament, I have been a strong advocate of the introduction of ‘community right of appeal’. This would enable a proper rebalancing of the planning system to be fair and balanced. The idea would be to ensure that between the developer and the community, both sides’ arguments are properly considered and have some power in the process.

There must be weight behind an appeal, and therefore a percentage of the community that feels strongly about an issue. This would require a reasonably high threshold before a planning appeal can be triggered, in order to avoid accusations of ‘nimbyism’.

 

The benefits of this process would be that the community would at last see some fairness; that developers would be encouraged in a proactive way to better engage with communities; that local authorities would have to think long and hard, and not only about the community infrastructure levy, when making their decisions; and that in the future we would create communities rather than blocks of houses.

The Garden Of England Growth Corridor – Garden Communities are Coming, Time for a Strategy

Readers of this blog will have spotted several posts about the growth potential along the South East Coast mainline between Croyden and Ashford.  Back in June 2018

Folkstone and Paddock Wood are of Course on the  original route of South Eastern main line now known as the Redhill-Tonbridge-Ashford line .  Two track and third rail not promising, as well as feeding into Charing Cross, which was deemed too small a site from the day it was planned in the nineteenth century, however it is the straightest railway line in the world and has surprisingly little development along it, with many settlements on one side only as the first line from London to Dover and forced to take a sharp southern line first as the Admiralty objector to tunneling under Greenwich observatory serving settlements was a secondary consideration)  and in towns such as Ashford and Paddock Wood already four track.

My bold solution is to separate fast and stopping services by extending Crossrail II via a 5 mile tunnel from Chessington to Redhill linking to the South East Mainline and diverting all fast services from Charing Cross (you could still catch a slow train to Clapham Junction and change there) – from there it would be limited stop high speed rail all the way to Ashford and the Eurotunnel, also serving a parkway station for the Garden City planned at Otterpool Park (Which I first suggested).   I term this the Garden of England line.

There is some similarity to the HS4 Air proposals

“In a way HS4Air can be regarded as a high-speed railway version of the M25 around London, except that it allows much faster journey times with no congestion and with far less impact on the environment.”

The proposal illustrates the route to be approximately 140km-long between the connections with HS1 at Ashford and HS2 near Denham. Twenty per cent of the line would be tunnelled to avoid impacting the landscape and 40 per cent would re-use the existing straight railway running between Tonbridge and Ashford which would require simple upgrading to operate high-speed trains.

In the past year all of the authorities along the northern arm of the low weald through which the South East Main line flow have drawn up draft local plans.  So far we have no less than three new settlement scale proposals around existing or planned stations – Marden, South Godstone and Tudesley (in the forthcoming Tonbridge Wells Local Plan), as well as major growth at Paddock Wood.

If you look at the constraints mapping of this area you see the issues to the north and south are heavily constrained each LPA has a narrow strip through which a rail line majically flows through.

Its a terrible third rail line however many of the stations were designed with passing loops, it is the straightest section of rail in Europe and could be upgraded.

It seems extraordinary to me that millions is being spend on planning for billions of spending on East West Rail where no new settlements are yet planned, yet here where several are planned there is no study proposed on upgrading investment.  How can these plans be found sound without a study on capacity etc. on the rail lines as there is no point if the trains arrive full at the platforms or there is no capacity at Charing Cross.  A bold approach supported by the DOT is needed.  In my view we need a proper Garden City proposal of sustainable communities of ‘pearls on a string’ similar to my proposal for the Central Section of East West Rail  where the scale and nature of rail investment would create an opportunity to form zero carbon communities.

20 years after the structure plan, Stevenage Local Plan including West of Stevenage Green Belt deletion Adopted

who said local planning was slow

The Comet

The Local Plan for Stevenage – which sets out how the town will be developed through to 2031 – has been adopted, despite concerns Green Belt land will be swallowed up with housing.

Stevenage Borough Council’s executive team has approved adoption of the Local Plan, which sets out proposals for regenerating the town centre, building 7,600 new homes, revamping neighbourhood centres and creating jobs.

But there are concerns the plan includes engulfing large swathes of Green Belt land.

John Spiers, of the Friends of Forster Country – a group formed in 1988 to help preserve the open green space to the north of Stevenage – said: “The Local Plan intends building on virtually all of the remaining Green Belt land in Stevenage.

“New evidence demonstrates that the Stevenage Green Belt can and should be saved.
Stevenage Borough Council has adopted its Local Plan, outlining how the town will be developed to 2031. Picture: SBC.

“The destruction of the Green Belt is not only unprincipled, it is unnecessary.

“Since the plan examination, the Office of National Statistics 2016 data shows Stevenage will need 1,954 fewer houses than shown by the 2014 data on which the plan was based.

“The Local Plan was developed using a robust evidence base and national guidelines and approved by a planning inspector appointed by the government.

“The inspector’s report concluded in order to build the council’s housing target of 7,600 new homes, a limited release of Green Belt land was required to deliver the Stevenage Local Plan.”

The Local Plan was first submitted to central government for consideration in July 2016, but Stevenage’s MP Stephen McPartland requested it was placed on hold in November 2017, arguing it failed to adequately regenerate the town centre.

In January this year, with the holding direction still in place, the borough council mounted a legal challenge and it was lifted.

But SBC says the delay has had a negative impact on delivering about 240 affordable homes to the north of Stevenage and has cost tax payers about £45,000 in legal fees and senior officer time.

Councillor John Gardner, Stevenage Borough Council’s executive member for environment and regeneration, said: “We are delighted after 497 days, the Stevenage Borough Local Plan has finally had its temporary holding direction lifted. It has now been formally adopted and we can move forward with its implementation.

“After years of public consultation and examination we have a robust plan. We are pleased that the government shares our vision of an even better Stevenage, in line with the views of the planning inspector and our residents.

“Our plan sets out a clear vision for the town including new homes, a proposal to make changes and regenerate Stevenage railway station and ways to protect the environment and enhance the biodiversity of Stevenage.”

Mr McPartland was asked to comment, but is yet to respond.

Oxford Growth Board Publishes Plan of Sites to be Removed from Green Belt

Oxford Mail 

Just 1% of the Oxford Green Belt, 2-3% is the norm in the home counties.  Peanuts, and the reason its Peanuts is the GB is so small so a lot of growth is pushed outside teh Green Belt chugging out carbon. The Green Green Councillors have a clear choice, if they want zero Carbon growth they will have to push more of the growth inside the Oxford GB. If you doubt that lets see some modelling to show the real options.   Oxon is noe procuring a new Oxfordshire Strategic Model (OSM) there is now reason why it cant include carbon emissions (like the new version ofn Saturn does), so cllrs will you even look at options the evidence points you towards?  If you don’t the Oxfordshire joint plan is going nowhere.

Oxfordshire Housing and Growth deal at Risk after Local Elections

Oxford Mail

THERE is concern a major deal with Government could be scrapped if a council decides it does not want to take part.

All Oxfordshire councils signed up to the £215m Housing and Growth Deal and it was officially agreed in March 2018.

It provides £150m for infrastructure improvements, including to roads and railways, and £60m for affordable housing.

But there is concern within other authorities after the new coalition led by Liberal Democrats and Greens at South Oxfordshire District Council said they planned to review its Local Plan.

But Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We have got to wait and see what the councils say. It is entirely up to them but having £60m for affordable homes is a major issue to the councils. Losing that would be very upsetting for everyone.

“Everyone needs to be very careful about what they do and the consequences.”

In South Oxfordshire, Lib Dems and Greens are opposed to the plan – although they appear to be against different parts.When the Growth Deal was signed, the Government told the councils that they had to submit their Local Plans to an independent inspector by the start of April. They are outlines of where authorities plan to develop until the mid-2030s.

It is understood the Greens would rather continue the project to build homes at Chalgrove Airfield and stop development on the Green Belt. But senior Lib Dem David Turner is wholly opposed to building on the airfield. He represents Chalgrove on the council.

Leigh Rawlins, SODC’s newly appointed cabinet member for planning, said the council would undertake a review over the Local Plan as part of ‘mature consideration’ following the election.

He said: “Clearly there has been a huge amount of concern about the Local Plan, the process and how it came together across the district.”

The uncertainty has left some residents furious, who are worried that Neighbourhood Plans they helped put together could be delayed or even scrapped as part of the Local Plan.

Justine Wood, who worked on East Hagbourne’s Neighbourhood Plan, said a delay to the Local Plan could mean speculative development.

She said: “There were 1,200 homes planned for East Hagbourne, which would have quadrupled the size of the village (through speculative development). It would have been catastrophic.

“But if they scrap the Local Plan they will get more than the 28,500 they are objecting to and they will have nothing they can do about it.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government cancelled a £68m deal for affordable housing with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

GMCA said it would build 227,200 homes until 2034/5 – but then later committed to just 201,000 homes.

New Administration in South Oxfordshire to Review Local Plan

Oxford Mail

A GROUP will be set up to review South Oxfordshire District Council‘s Local Plan following the authority’s recent overhaul.

The council voted to accept the plan, which would involve building homes on Oxford’s Green Belt and at Chalgrove Airfield, last December.

But at the time, just four councillors were not Conservative members.

On May 2, their party lost control of the council. Later this week, the Liberal Democrats and Greens will take control.

Benson’s Lib Dem councillor Sue Cooper, who is likely to be named council leader later this week, said: “After these dramatic local election results, it’s only right that new councillors from all parties get the chance to look in detail at what is proposed in the Local Plan, so they can make a reasoned decision as to whether changes are necessary and what the consequences might be.”

If the Local Plan is delayed, it will impact on the county’s involvement in the Government’s Housing and Growth Deal.

Benson’s other district councillor, the Green Party’s Andrea Powell, said: “It was clear during the election campaign that over-development in our district is a major issue, but we must also take care to protect our area from the speculative development that happened under the previous council. This is the responsible way to proceed.”

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