Telegraph – Scrap the Green Belt to Increase GDP by 7%

Matthew Lynn

The simple flaw in this argument is that sprawl along the M4 etc. is not a ‘highly productive hub’ the diseconomies of scale – from congestion and increased commuting length – would eat it all up.  If you want to benefit from ‘highly productive’ urban hubs and the economies of urban agglomeration you have to build new ones.

House prices are way too high. The transport system is creaking. The schools are impossible to get into, and if you want to get a doctor’s appointment this side of 2020, good luck. We all know the reasons why people leave London for somewhere with a better quality of life. Only this month, it was reported that numbers quitting the capital had hit fresh records, up by 80pc over the last five years. Not surprisingly, some people are starting to argue we have reached “Peak London”.

But while that might be understandable on a personal level, for the economy it is a disaster. London is by far our greatest asset, with a unique blend of finance, technology, law, culture and politics, which has made it one of the most productive places in the world.

It is a myth that when a worker moves out to Bristol or Winchester he or she is just as productive. In fact, we should be aiming to staunch that outflow. How? By ripping up the green belt so that the population of the city can grow to 12 or 13 million people. Forget reversing Brexit – it is reversing Lexit we should really be focusing on.

There have always been people who decided to move out of London, especially when they start a family. But according to research from Savills, in the last year the number of people getting out of the capital hit 93,000, almost double the level of five years ago. For every age group apart from the 20-somethings there was a net exodus.

The 30-somethings, who should be really hitting their stride in their careers, were the group most likely to leave. Overall, the report predicted the city’s population would still grow, but only because of a healthy birth rate, and new arrivals from overseas. The British are getting out, and, at 8.8 million people, London appears to have reached its limits.

Of course, you can argue that is for the better. Over the years, successive governments have worked at ways of rebalancing the British economy, with a succession of schemes to distribute wealth more evenly across the UK. The massive concentration of money in London can create a country that is dangerously unequal, and fuel resentment outside the capital. If a software firm or publishing house ups sticks and moves its offices and staff to York or Swindon that might level up the score a little, as well as reducing the pressure on public services.

 The trouble is, it is bad for the economy. Over the last three decades, London has developed a unique economic system that has made it one of the most productive places in the world. According to Office for National Statistics calculations, the gross value added (GVA) per person in London is £43,000, compared with £25,000 for the country as a whole. The next closest region was the South East on £27,000.

When you break it down by employee, GVA per capita in London comes in at a massive £70,000, compared to £40,000 for its closest rival, Manchester. On Eurostat figures for regional GDP per capita across the European Union, Inner London West is the richest place in the whole continent, achieving 580pc of the average.

Overall, London accounts for 22pc of the UK’s GDP, even though it only accounts for about 12pc of the population. Even better, it is still growing. Oxford Economics predicted last week that London’s economy would carry on expanding by 2.3pc a year up until 2021, compared with 1.6pc for Paris and 1.5pc for Frankfurt.

Sure, a few bankers will have to move to Frankfurt to comply with EU passporting rules, and a couple of regulatory agencies will have to find a new home after we have finally negotiated our way out.

 And yet, and even through it contains more hardcore “re-moaners” per square mile than anywhere else in Britain, London is actually the region of the country that trades the least with the rest of Europe.
London, despite its fantastic ability to generate wealth, is no bigger now than it was before the Second World War

According to a study by the Regional Studies Journal, the two regions in the UK that trade the least with the EU are Inner London and Outer London – for Central London only 7.2pc of GDP was dependent on trade with the EU, and for the rest of the city it was 7.6pc (the region with the highest score was Cumbria on 13.2pc, in case you were wondering).

Fairly obviously, it doesn’t matter to London very much if we don’t get a good trade deal with Brussels – 93pc of the economy won’t notice the difference. Whatever turbulence the next few years bring, London will keep on forging ahead.

Regional planners work on the assumption that when a worker or a firm moves out of London they are just as productive. But there is not a lot of evidence of that. Indeed, one American study found workers’ output simply declined when they moved out of high-productivity hubs like San Francisco or New York.

It reasoned that planning restrictions limiting the growth of its most energetic cities had cost the American economy about 20pc of lost GDP over the last decade. The same logic surely applies just as strongly in this country.

 London, despite its fantastic ability to generate wealth, is no bigger now that it was before the Second World War. It hit 8.6 million people in 1939 and it is still 8.6 million today after dipping in the Sixties and Seventies. The solution? Let London grow.
No country would decide to put a limit on the size of its most successful companies – we wouldn’t tell The White Company it couldn’t go above 100 shops, and we wouldn’t tell Rio Tinto it couldn’t open any more mines. Nor would any sane country put restrictions on the size of its most successful industries. So it doesn’t make much sense to put a limit on the size of our most successful wealth-creating hub.

In fact, there is a simple fix. We should rip up the green belt that rings the city. There is no point in having lots of farmland along the M4 corridor, along the M11 or on the fringes of Kent and Sussex. Let London expand in size to gobble it up, growing the city to 12 or 13  million people, while also making sure they have decent-sized homes with parks and schools around them. To make sure there was no net impact on the environment, every scrapped acre of protected land could be replaced with another one in a less productive part of the country.

 If London had another 4 million people, and half of them were working at the same productivity levels as the rest of the country, then that would generate £140bn of additional output, and GDP would be slightly more than 7pc higher than it is today. It would be the single move we could make that would have the greatest impact on growth over the next decade – which makes it very odd that we haven’t already decided to do it.

Sherford – Developers blackmail Councils over Design Code with threat to Drip Feed Development

Plymouth Herald

Planners who agreed this week to relax the building code on a new town in Devon have been accused of betraying local people.

Sherford new town, east of Plymouth, is likely to end up as just another housing estate, Ben Bolgar, a director of the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, warned.

South Hams District Council planning committee voted on Wednesday to allow the developers more flexibility.

The decision puts South Hams at odds with Plymouth City Council, which last week rejected the changes in the small fraction of the 5,500-home development which lies within the city boundary.

One of Prince Charles’s charities, the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, was the original masterplanner for Sherford. The site was later bought by a consortium of three volume builders – Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey.

Mr Bolgar said the builders had threatened to slow construction, which would have torpedoed the council’s housing targets.

Julian Brazil, a Liberal Democrat member of the South Hams planning committee, said the council was “caught between a rock and a hard place”.

The committee agreed to replace a strict set of rules known as the “town code” with less rigid guiding principles. The town code covers architectural style, building materials, where people park and how streets are laid out.

Plymouth’s planning committee was concerned that houses would not be built to high enough design standards. City councillors said the changes would create a “zombie town” and “years of planning would be thrown out the window”.

Mr Bolgar said people had been betrayed and let down by the planning system.

During the original consultation, thousands of people objected, but they were brought round by assurances that the houses would be built in a distinctive style with local materials and that the town would be made “walkable”.

The original code ensured that the visual impact of parked cars would be minimised. The new rules include a provision to allow two cars to be parked in front of every house.

“That massively changes the streetscape and also changes people’s behaviour,” Mr Bolgar said.

Mr Bolgar said the original planning permission allowed for a review after 600 houses had been built, but that the consortium had been seeking to dilute standards “even before they opened the first show home”.

“To see this so quickly on a site of this size is unusual.”

He said councils were being put under pressure by developers because of government rules which mean they must hit housing targets or face a planning free-for-all.

“The biggest builders have such a monopoly over the market that they just claim they can’t build quickly enough, and the local planning authority rolls over.”

“When they bought the land all of these conditions were factored into the price.

“This is just the beginning. There is nothing to stop further dilution at every stage. This is the thin end of the wedge.”

He said the changes had been made with such little consultation that most people in neighbouring areas did not even know they were happening. Those who did know, had been led to believe they were minor changes.

“It was done under the radar. These are vast decisions being taken by people without the right kind of experience of big developments.”

Cllr Brazil said his committee had little choice.

Councils are obliged by government to have a five-year land supply policy, setting out where they will deliver a set number of homes.

Failing on the five-year land supply would remove much of a council’s control over housing, Cllr Brazil said.

“Developers would be able to choose where to build and all our policies would go out of the window,” he said.

The Sherford Consortium said: “This project will last some 30 years, from initial planning to completion, and the committee understood the need for flexibility to enable the scheme to evolve over time.

“This will also allow house building and the delivery of facilities at Sherford to progress at a faster rate, without losing any of the design quality.

“This decision will help unlock further investment in the project enabling us to ensure Sherford is a success.

“We will continue to work closely with the local authorities to create this unique new community and deliver against the high expectations that we all have for Sherford.”

South Hams Development Management Committee delegated authority to the lead of planning and planning chairman to conditionally approve a revised town code.

Cllr Robert Steer, the committee chairman, said: “We are committed to high quality housing for Sherford and we considered this application in great detail.

“We found that while this application increases flexibility by removing specific rules, it does not take away the fundamental vision for Sherford.

“It has been a number of years since the development was proposed and the detailed town code drawn up, and the project will continue for another 20 years.

“Over this period, there are going to be changes and a degree of flexibility is needed to move with the times to help deliver homes for local families, in styles and designs that people would like to live in.

“Sherford is in our emerging joint local plan, and is contributing greatly to the housing need of the South Hams.

“The spatial vision and masterplan are not changing. This application replaces the town code with key principles to vary the styles, not quality, of homes at Sherford.


An artist’s impression of Sherford


“On balance, members considered that the application reasonably increases this flexibility for delivering other building designs while not diminishing the overall vision. and therefore moved to delegate authority to conditionally approve this application.”

Alan Cooper, vice-chairman of Newton and Noss Parish Council, who attended the planning meeting, said he was worried by the council apparently caving in to developers’ demands.

“This was a disgraceful decision by the planning committee,” Mr Cooper said.

Kevin Wigens, Plymouth’s chair of planning, said: “Anyone would be nervous about changing the parameters of the original consent. A lot of thought went into those conditions. That’s not to say the developers are going to do anything wrong.”


The Sherford site covers 490 hectares of greenfield land to the southwest of Deep Lane junction of the A38, and to the north west of Elburton within Plymouth.

The site straddles the administrative boundary with South Hams District Council, and is bound by the A38 to the north, and Vinery Lane to the west.

Brixton and the A379 lie approximately 3km to the South.

With the exception of some former nursery glasshouses to the west, and farm buildings, the site is mainly agricultural land.

Development at Sherford started in November 2014 and construction work for some 240 dwellings and infrastructure is now taking place on site.

The masterplan adopted by South Hams and Plymouth councils said that Sherford, when complete, would have up to 5,500 new homes, a high street, four schools, shops, jobs and community facilities.


Unecessary Confusion and Complication Abounds Over Permission in Principle

The English planning world seems in much confusion over the pending introduction of permission in principle, especially as there has been no guidance or proposed amendments to the GPDMO since the concept was introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  We were promised this this summer, we are waiting.

Much of the confusion rests with commentators not reading or speed reading the documents supporting the Act at Bill stage.  A particular myth is that it only applies to units of 10 or less houses; no that only applies to the application route not to the approval through documents (Local plan or brownfield register route).

The second confusion abounds over the bills quite deliberate refusal to extend the principle of outline permissions, and deliberately not make grant of PiP approval of a planning permission.  As this diagram from the guidance makes clear.

Permission in principle + technical details consent = planning permission

Hang on though consider this route implied by the GPDMO

Outline permission+ approval of all reserved matters = full planning permission

Indeed if technical consent was on all fours with reserved matters all we would need was a one liner in a speech from Anchorman and a very simple amendment to the GPDMO and we would be away.  After all the principles of outline and reserved are very well tested in caselaw and well understood.

The government has gotten itself into a pickle by not going down the simple route and introducing unnecessary complication of a parallel consent regime.

The reasons for this can only be speculated on but surely must relate to the history of outline permissions.  There has been concern for a number of years that the concept has drifted away from the original concept of ‘redlining’ the principle of development, with introduction of regulatory minima on indicative layout, scale and point of access which in part arise from caselaw on large scale applications, impact on heritage assets etc.  Also LPAs have the power to request further details if they wish, often abused to make them pretty much pure full applications.

The term ‘permission in principle’ comes from Scotland where it has been the law for a number of years and replaced outline permissions.  Having said that it is the same as outline permissions but with is reserved at the discretion of the LPO.  So they have the ability in suitable cases to grant a pure ‘redline consent’.

In 2001 London proposed to replace outline consents with statements of development principles which would be material on submission.  The development industry successfully resisted these as not being real permissions.

Alongside this we have seen the gradual moves towards the global zoning and subdivision system.  What is the government doing – allowing in effect LPAs to grant themselves the equivalent of outline permission  as a first step on the Zoning and Subdivision route or setting up something new?

In the long term we may need something new but simply boosting outlines would have been the simple and obvious first step.  More radical reform may take years, it would require I think devolving land registry powers to local authorities, having each responsible for a parcel fabric (necessary anyway if we are to have any form of land tax), having registration for a ‘Torrens’ type cadastral system (as used by almost all countries with Z &S systems, and making subdivision development.

What is the government thinking?  One can only speculate,  after all the Housing White Paper didn’t even mention these reforms?  If it wants to go down the ‘pure redline’ route it will gets itself into a mess, the slightest issue over impact on a heritage asset or whether EIA is required will render PiPs subject to JR.

My advice.  KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid.  In the short to medium term make PiP outlines in all but name and TDC reserved matters in all but name, and remove the power in the GPDMO to allow free discretion on further details as it is so abused.  This could all be done within the GPDMO quickly and easily.




Accidently Published Viability Appraisal – Publicly Owned Site Bought for 8 million makes 22 million with no affordable housing

You couldn’t make it up.  Former Hornsey Town Hall Site

Cut and paste the redacted text into a word document.  The breathtaking numbers, even for someone who has read 100s of these are revealed.

Nothing is more an abuse of process than redacting viability appraisals.  Publish them all now – or be whacked with 50% affordable automatically.

BBC – Cheshire East to Review 100s of Planning Applications based on Falsified Air Quality Data

BBC Cheshire 

Hundreds of planning applications are to be reviewed after a council admitted its air pollution data was “falsified” to make it look cleaner.

Cheshire East Council said “deliberate and systematic manipulation” took place from 2012 to 2014.

Cheshire Police is investigating whether any crimes were committed.

The council has apologised and said the falsified figures had caused “serious problems” in assessing applications for new developments.

“Serious” errors in the council’s air quality data readings, from 2012 to 2014, made them appear lower than they really were, an external investigation has revealed.

Falsified data “may have affected” decisions made on planning applications in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach, it concluded.

Emails seen by the BBC last month showed that auditors believed the number and nature of the inaccuracies meant human error was “unlikely” to have been responsible.

Sean Hannaby, the council’s director of planning and sustainable development, said: “We would like to assure everyone that we have done everything we can to rectify these failings.

“There are no immediate health protection measures needed as a result of these errors.”

Air quality and planning applications

Councillors have to decide if a development will:

  • Significantly affect traffic near the proposed site or further afield by increasing congestion
  • Introduce new sources of air pollution such as furnaces or chimneys
  • Expose people to existing sources of pollution by building developments in places with poor air quality
  • Release large amounts of dust during construction

Source: Department for Communities and Local Government

All UK local authorities are obliged to monitor local air quality and submit their findings to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra said the data provided “an overview of pollution in locations where people are likely to be present and reveals historic trends which indicate whether policies to improve air quality are having the desired effect”.

Air pollutants include nitrogen dioxide from exhaust emissions which the government has been ordered to cut.

If a council does not meet national objectives it is obliged to declare an Air Quality Management Area and publish an action plan.

An internal review by Cheshire East Council auditors in 2016 found the air quality data submitted was different to the original data provided by the laboratory that analysed readings from the council’s monitoring equipment.

The falsified data was from testing stations “spread over a wide geographical area, which implies that the manipulation was not motivated by a wish to favour specific sites”, the council’s report summary said.

Cheshire East Council has not commented on any potential disciplinary action.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are aware of this issue and understand the local authority is now considering its response to the investigation.”

SOS Decision – Undersupply in 6 of 10 years not persistent Because of Recession


The Secretary of State has carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis of the buffer at
IR163-166 and carefully considered the Inspector’s conclusion that there are grounds to consider that there is a record of persistent under delivery and that a buffer of 20% is now justified. However, the Secretary of State disagrees with the Inspector’s conclusions. In coming to this conclusion, the Secretary of State has had regard to report into the West Berkshire Housing Site allocations DPD and the DPD Inspector’s conclusions (DPD IR 134) that the housing supply situation is satisfactorily monitored with no reasons to conclude that there is any significant threat to the delivery of housing in West Berkshire.
The Secretary of State also concludes that while there has been an undersupply in 6 ofthe past ten years, this has been in part due to the influence of the recession. As such he finds that a 5% buffer is appropriate.

Developers Plan to Ditch Sherford Design Code Stymied

Plymouth Herald

Alas Devon CC still ruins everything by insiting on Asphalt pavements

The Princes Trust tweeted support for the decision.

Code here

Sherford developers have been blocked from scrapping a strict set of design rules – as councillors said the move would have created a “zombie town” with “years of planning thrown out of the window”.

Housing firms applied to ditch a town code drawn up 13 years ago and replace it with a set of “fundamental principles” allowing greater flexibility over materials and construction methods.

Consortium bosses denied the move would affect the quality of new homes, but members of the planning committee were not convinced.


Cllr Jonny Morris (Lab) said he did not want Sherford to end up like Poundbury in Dorchester, which he described as the sort of place you would see “in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse”.

Cllr Vivien Pengelly (Con): “I am deeply concerned. Instead of having the highest standard of new homes, we will instead have a rather large housing estate that will all be watered down. I’m sorry, I cannot support this application.

“You have to get the residents on board when you’re doing something as big as this. It’s very sad that it has come to this.”

Cllr Nick Kelly (Con) said: “This is simply far too premature to take such a radical act, disregarding all those measures that allowed permission to be granted in the first place.

“We want development, but everybody thinks ‘This is what we’re going to get’, and at the stroke of a pen years of planning and assurances go out of the window.”

Cllr Sam Davey (Lab) said: “The residents were sold Sherford with this particular mechanism. They would view this in a particularly negative light, and I don’t blame them.”


Ruth Davidson’s Call for More Housebuilding


Planning law privileges those who already have property – disadvantaging the young and poor/.

We will need to be particularly bold when we see restrictive practices. Too much profit comes from tax avoidance, land speculation, financialisation and other unproductive economic activity, rather than through innovation and high performance.

Closing loopholes, increasing enforcement and overhauling regulatory frameworks can go some way to addressing the creeping cronyism that is making free market capitalism an unfree and anti-competitive capitalism, but this stick approach should only be one half of the story. Government also has the ability to set the tone and the direction of travel by using its vast array of levers and resource as a carrot, too. It should do so…


Similarly, policies of ‘help to build’ rather than ‘help to buy’ will do more to address the inability of young people to get on the housing ladder. The biggest ally we have in increasing housing supply is beauty – if new houses complement the local environment and avoid the disastrous design choices of the past we can help build sustainable local support for extra construction.

While Thomas Picketty’s claims of capital growing without bounds at the expense of workers has been disproved by – among others – the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, its analysis of net capital share shows that housing is the only area where capital income displacement of labour income is apparent….

In short, the multiple instabilities of insecure employment, opaque career progression, wage stagnation, high rental and commuting costs and growing financial barriers to home ownership clearly explain why Britain’s young adults don’t feel they have a personal stake in a system that doesn’t work for them….

It is not enough for government to facilitate a discussion about where next for Britain, it has to actually lead. The short-term, election cycle nimbyism of prohibitive planning laws needs to cease and there is no room for one-of-the-in-crowd Davos sycophancy either. At home and abroad we need to press the case for fairer markets.

Local Plan Policy Number 1 Our Plan is out of Date and Wont be up to Date till 2022

South Staffordshire in putting forward a site allocations document for submission this week with only 5 years supply

Top of the last for worst plan policy (i.e not to plan) ever.

Policy SAD1: Local Plan Review
Evidence exists of unmet housing needs across the Greater Birmingham
Housing Market Area (GBHMA) – that includes the Black Country and 9
other neighbouring authorities (including South Staffordshire).
Under the Duty to Co-operate (DtC) South Staffordshire Council will work
collaboratively with other authorities in the Functional Economic Market
Area (FEMA) and the Housing Market Area (HMA) to establish, how issues
of strategic significance can be addressed.
In response to evidence of unmet housing needs, South Staffordshire
Council shall carry out an early review of the Local Plan., and In
developing this new local plan shall look carefully atthe Council will
examine the role that ‘Safeguarded Land’ can play in the allocations of
new homes. The reviewed Local Plan will be in place by 2022. and their
delivery by 2031. The Council shall continue to work positively towards a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with all local planning authorities
across the GBHMA. Employment needs will also be assessed through the
review of the Local Plan.