A Zero Algorithm Approach to Setting Housing Need

The government has got itself into a pickle in the new housing needs formula. It barely got itself out of a hole on the ‘OANishambles’ of the last household projections – with these going down. It recognised that the old formula repressed growth of fast growing northern cities but didn’t bother to check the results – the new formula weighed so little the housing stock component it made matters worse not better.

It was inevitable that the ‘cap’ on housing would have to go, but as soon as it did it implied massive growth in many areas to make the figures match the 300,000 plus national target.

Originally it was an objective assessment of need only. Not a plan target. It stated where need came from, plans and strategic plans should reallocate that need based on market conditions, growth infrastructure and constraints. But without strategic plans there was no system for reallocation. Especially from tightly bounded land constrained areas such as London. This raised the prospect of major growth in highly constrained rural areas that would never be candidate growth areas. It was unnecessarily asking for trouble.

The White Paper also implied that from being a starting point it would evolve to take account of constraints to being a defacto centrally directed plan – but without any strategy or vision to move housing around the national map.

The housing minister in reassuring back benchers that in the ‘short term’ this was just the ‘starting point’ implied ‘in the long term we will clobber you’ hardly an effective strategy.

To be fair need has to be unchallengeable. It needs to go back to being an objective measure of need (I termed OAN). Lets keep it simple and unchallengeable. Lets take the ONS 2019 based population projections for 2043 and reallocate it based on 237,000 per annum/per annum population to 2043 per LPA, and simply sum it up. The assumption being one person is one unit of housing need and everyone is treated the same.

Each LPA would then have a legal duty to ensure that need is met, either through there own plan or through taking part in joint planning arrangements with other authortities.

Most new plan will be for large areas – i.e. Buckinghamshire, West Kent East Kent – mirroring reorganized LPAs. There will however be large growth areas that cross than such as the ARC, as well as the age old problem of allocating overspill growth from London, Birmingham, Bristol, even Slough.

Here I have a simple suggestion. Put the decisions to grand committees of MPs sitting on a regional basis, such as for ROSE and the Arc. This would force MPs to act responsibly and take ownership of issues rather than most seeing stopping growth as their local campaign whilst proposing growth goes elsewhere undefined.

Preparation of regional advice on growth locations could be done through regional informal groupings, led by LEPS, Combined authorities and local authorities, as now. But the decision would be made by MPs upon recommendations by the SoS and his or her advisors (EiP panels). The SoS could also sweeten the pill for growth areas through a standard formula based on the redistributed housing numbers.

What we have learned from countries that build more is the need for central, regional and local governments to work in partnership. These proposals would set out clear roles for each level of government. To get plans through on strict statutory timescale the planning and involvement of MPs would have to be years in advance. No more washing of hands after the EiPs have concluded and crying to the SoS for special treatment.

Opposition to New Housing needs Formula Greater than Government Majority – Inews


Downing Street is facing a furious rebellion of up to 70 Tory MPs over plans to overhaul the planning system in a bid to radically boost house building across England.

Senior Conservatives are poised to ambush the Government with a series of backbench debates on planning reform in the coming weeks that will provide dozens of MPs the opportunity to attack the proposals.

The move is to send a signal to No10 over its plans to introduce an algorithm into the heart of the planning system that will determine how many houses should be built in each area in order to meet the Government’s promise to build 300,000 new houses a year.

Johnson warnings

Several analyses of the algorithm have shown it will lead to a major increase in housing in Tory-held shires and suburbs, as well as rural parts of the north, but force a decrease in housing in more Labour dominated urban areas.

Boris Johnson is now facing warnings that the proposals, which are currently at consultation stage, will not get through the Commons as the opposition on the Tory benches is “bigger than his majority”.

Tory MPs are expected to stage a debate on planning reform in the coming weeks to display the level of anger to Downing Street with the aim of forcing a fresh u-turn.

This will then be followed up by a series of debates on local planning in the counties staged by individual MPs to ram the point home.

One Tory backbencher, who described themselves as a government loyalist, said the anger over the plans runs “deeper than No10 realises” and laid the blame at the door of Mr Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

“There are 40 of us regularly meeting about the issue, but easily  70 are opposed to it, including ministers and government whips.”

Downing Street is eager to push through the policy as part of sweeping reforms to the planning system, which it sees as vital to consolidating its control in former Red Wall seats. But MPs fear it could backfire in local elections next year and in the general election in four years time.

“This is being driven by Cummings and No10. [Housing Secretary] Robert Jenrick doesn’t have the political leeway to push back because he is on borrowed time. No10 is determined to push it through because Cummings hates the Conservative Party, he hates Conservative MPs and he hates Conservative members,” the source added.

Change to come

The Prime Minister and Mr Jenrick have been listening to MPs’ concerns, but no changes have yet been forthcoming.

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said he was “optimistic” the plans would be dropped following meetings with the Housing Secretary last week.

“The algorithm is flawed,” Mr Bridgen said. “And I think they are aware of this. If they do not reconsider then the plans will not get through the Commons. The number of MPs concerned by this is bigger than the Government’s majority.”

A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Local housing need proposals provide a guide for councils on how many homes may be needed in their area and councils will still need to consider local circumstances to decide how many homes should be delivered.

“We are consulting on the proposals and will reflect on the feedback.”

This website ‘can reveal’ that Two lazy Mail on Sunday Journalists have read Nathaniel Litchfield and Conservative Home Websites on new Housing Needs Formula @AVMikhailova

The language is ridiculous and cliched as if written by a journobot – ‘leaked’. The real journalism these days is not on thoughtful blogs not ever more lazy newspapers. What is worse they don’t even state their sources to fake the fact they have done no real work.

Mail on Sunday

TCPA Planning White Paper – Democracy is Not the Same as a Right to Hear Every Objector in a Multi-Year long EIP

TCPA Planning White Paper FAQs

The White Paper suggests in paragraph 2.48, under stage 4, that people’s right to be heard in person [for local plans] will be changed. The paper states that inspectors will now have discretion as to what form an objector’s representations might take. Under paragraph 2.53, which is an alternative option to the one set out in paragraph 2.48, the paper goes even further and suggests any form of ‘right to be heard’ might be removed .  The right to be heard at Section 20 of the 2004 Planning Act is the only clear civil right that exists in the planning process for the individual citizen. The right includes the important phrase ‘in person’ in order to allow an individual to appear in front of an inspector and exercise other opportunities to cross examine witnesses.  So, the opportunity to appear at a public inquiry has been replaced with the opportunity for an inspector to have a telephone conversation with you, or ask for further written comments, if they choose to do so. This is not an increase in democratisation. 

Prior to the 2004 Act there was a right to be heard in person only for local plans and CPO, not for structure plans. That was the distinction between public inquiries and Examinations in Public. The 2004 act reforms were intended to introduce EiPs for local plans. Under pressure in parliment Lord Falconer introduced section 20 – its has failed.

There is nothing about representative democracy that implies a right to be heard. Indeed they are designed to reduce and eliminate the right to be heard so that decisions can be made in a reasonable time and debated by a reasonable number of people. If you want a say you right to your MP or belong to a lobby group who lobbies them directly. There are other models of democracy – such as direct democracy where there is a right to be heard. They work well for neighborhood plans and local plans scoping. These do not scale well for major decisions where 1000s of people demand a say. Rather than EiPs opening and closing in a week they can now sometimes last years (though there are many reasons for this).

So all this talk of loss of democracy – lets call a spade a spade – is bullshit. If your model of democracy is representative democracy its more democratisation by ensuring the will of the people on strategic decisions – such as building more housing – are implemented against the attempts to block those decisions by a wealthy minority opposing development and using legal blocking tactics. Planning reform must mean local plan EiPs taking weeks not years. Its a ‘measly right’ as it rarely changes anything and is a weak means of purely negative engagement. That must mean reform so that they become examinations by questioning panels as they were originally designed for. Listening to the dozens of people raising exactly the same point made 1,000s of times in written representations. How is that democracy?

The Shocking Resistance to Progressive Planning Reform by the Traditionalist Environmental Lobby


Hasty planning reform

SIR – As a broad coalition of planning, heritage and environmental organisations, we are united in our vision for what is needed to deliver affordable, good-quality homes, while protecting our precious green spaces, and putting local people at the heart of decision-making.

The planning system needs careful, sensible reform rather than the major, hurried and untested changes set out in the Government’s planning White Paper, which is akin to demolishing the whole house just to mend the roof.

The planning system may not be perfect, but we urge the Government to rethink its White Paper, as it is not the answer to boosting economic growth post-coronavirus. Nine in 10 applications are already approved by councils, and the 10 biggest developers have more than 400,000 plots in their land banks. Hundreds of thousands of homes that could be built are not.

Ministers should invest in an evidence-led planning system that is empowered to meet the Government’s environmental, social and economic objectives.

Clare Blencowe
Chairman, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres

Dominic Dyer
Chief Executive, Badger Trust

Craig Macadam
Conservation Director, Buglife

Anita Konrad
Chief Executive, Campaign for National Parks

Neil Redfern
Executive Director, Council for British Archaeology

Dr James Robinson
Director of Conservation, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Crispin Truman
Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Kate Gordon
Senior Planner, Friends of the Earth

Doug Parr
Policy Director, Greenpeace UK

Lizzie Glithero-West
Chief Executive, Heritage alliance

Kate Ashbrook
General Secretary, Open Space Society

Tanya Curry
Interim CEO, Ramblers

Vicky Wyatt
Director of Campaigns, SumOfUs

Hugh Ellis
Policy Director, Town and Country Planning Association

Kit Stoner
Chief Executive, the Bat Conservation Trust

Tony Gent
Chief Executive Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Ian Harvey
Executive Director, Civic Voice

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive, The Rivers Trust

The problem is not the roof but the foundations. We build half the houses we need to. We have no real plan to restore biodiversity or to plan for carbon neutrality. The current system is unique in the world, other countries using a zoning system do better on all fronts. The system doesn’t work for bugs bats or badgers. Rather it only works for suburbanite Nimbys – those who already have assets, it only works for other environmental assets as long as little as possible gets built. Is that your aim for the planning system, Lets look at your claims.

Nine in 10 applications are already approved by councils

And 9 out of a 10 developers wont apply for planning permission of they are advised they wont get it. If you have too little land zoned the percentage granted is irrelevant

The 10 biggest developers have more than 400,000 plots in their land banks. Hundreds of thousands of homes that could be built are not.

Separate issue that needs fixing, but again irrelevant to the main question, if you build more quickly you need to zone new land more quickly\.

Yes the reform,s are hasty and ill though through. yes all dirigiste planning reforms sweeping all before them (including 1948 by the way), have failed. But there are pathways to pragmatic reform which dont require everything to change at once, including permission in principle in major growth zones and getting simpler local plans approved more quickly. That will require copartnerhsip between central and local government and a long overdue realisation that this requires strategic planning. It is beyond the skillsm resource sand powers of small local authorities to meet the housing and infrastructure gap.

Lets looks at the evidence. What do all of the countries that build more and better have in common – zoning and form based design codes. What do the best large housing areas in the UK have in common – design codes. There the evidence. What do all of the areas that need growth but build too little have in common, lack of strategic plans and excessive influence of purely negative campaign groups such as the CPRE. Where are the countries that have most success in reversing biodiversity loss – the Netherlands and Austria which have comprehensive landscape scale zoning plans for natural restoration. We have 70 years of evidence.

Housing Minister – New Standard Method Numbers Arn’t Set in Stone

Conservative Home

The problem – under the duty to cooperate there was a requirement to meet unmet need from other areas. Without it numbers will be pushed one way only – down – and incorrectly the Green Belt will be seen as an environment constraint not a policy constraint. It will result in a massive reduction in housing numbers. BTW its 337,000 not 300,000.

Christopher Pincher is Minister for Housing, and is MP for Tamworth.

Earlier this month, the government set out its ambition to introduce much needed reforms to bring our planning system into the twenty-first century.

Our aim: to get the country building better-designed, more environmentally-friendly homes and help people onto the housing ladder.

Alongside these longer-term reforms, we are consulting on shorter term interventions in the current system to align it with our housing goals: building 300,000 homes a year and tackling housing affordability.

One of these interventions, the methodology for calculating local housing need within the current system that we are consulting on, has attracted some comment. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the contentious nature of our present planning system and all prior changes to the methodology, but for those who are involved in crucial work of planning for our communities, I want to set out what we are consulting on and why.

In 2018, we introduced a standard, transparent method to determine how many houses were needed in an area. The previous system involved councils employing costly consultants to estimate their housing need – too often with the final numbers being heavily contested. There was uncertainty, there were long delays, and all the while the country was not planning for the homes that are so desperately needed.

This standard method was designed to speed up the system and ensure the planning process focused on how and where homes can best be built.

It has been over two years since that formula was introduced, so we committed earlier in 2020 to review it and consult on the balance between our three objectives:

First, to equip councils with the tools they need to plan for 300,000 homes a year. Everyone wants their children and grandchildren to have somewhere to live – so we have to plan for those homes. We need local communities to be honest about the scale of housing need for which we need to plan.

Second, and in line with our commitment to protecting the Green Belt and to prioritise brownfield development, we want development to be directed to existing urban areas and level up our towns and cities with imaginative urban renewal. This makes sense when you consider that 76 per cent of local housing need is in council areas classified by the Office for National Statistics as urban.

And third, to build homes where people want to live, where the demand for housing is clear, where prices are higher and, in many cases, affordability is getting worse.

We are keen to make sure we get this balance right.

So it is important to stress the standard method is only the first step in the current local plan process – the numbers generated for an area’s housing need will not necessarily be the same as their ultimate targets.

That’s because councils will take into account various constraints in their areas, including protecting their Green Belt and environmentally significant sites. Nor does it dictate where those homes should go. Both are important aspects of the system which rest with local councillors to determine.

It was a Conservative government that got rid of top-down regional planning targets, and introduced a-locally led system, which takes account of local need and local constraints. Localism requires local decision-making – and our system puts councillors at the forefront of those decisions.

Our longer term planning reforms, set out in the Planning for the Future paper, are an opportunity for us to embrace a planning system which puts councillors and communities in the driving seat of designing their neighbourhoods and puts creating beautiful places that communities can be proud of at its heart.

Spectator – MP : ‘If you think A-levels were bad, wait until people get their heads round these reforms.’

James Forsyth The Spectator

The government always knew it would have to expend political capital to get its planning reforms through. Making it easier to build houses was never going to be popular with Tories in leafy areas. The benefit of an 80-seat majority was meant to be the ability to push through difficult but important changes. The problem is, as I say in the magazine this week, that the government has been expending political capital on rather a lot of other things recently.Tory MPs are in a fractious mood, irritated by the number of U-turns

Tory MPs are in a fractious mood, irritated by the number of U-turns, and opposition to planning reform is beginning to build up. One normally mild-mannered former cabinet minister tells me: ‘If you think A-levels were bad, wait until people get their heads round these reforms.’

The government will try and take some of the heat out of the issue by refining the algorithm to determine housing needs, which is currently causing particular irritation among Tory MPs – there is a worry it’ll lead to too much housebuilding in the Tory shires. But the government won’t deny the need to build in areas where affordability is worst.

The recent U-turns have sent out a message that this government responds to pressure. So quite a few Tory MPs will now seek to apply that pressure over planning. The government mustn’t buckle, though. It needs to demonstrate that it will use its majority to enact change. To back down now would send an awful message: that even its most important policies can be dropped. And then the accusations of incompetence might really start to stick.

Rethinking the Trafford Centre/Charrington Moss/Manchester Green Belt Changes In Light of Intu Collapse

The collapse of Intu has left a legacy of large car orientated shopping centres. These include the Trafford Centre sold some years ago by the Peel group. They must be relieved. In a carbon neutral world is there still a role for such dinosaurs? The site could probably be bought for a low value by a development corporation, and represents a real regenerationn opportunity.

The Manchester Metrolink has just been extended from Salford Quays to the Metrocentre. If such centres, like here, Lakeside and Metro Centre have a future it is as new mixed use city centers around car parks redeveloped as high density housing, taking advantage of their tram links and good infrastructure. Quite a few malls in America have been redeveloped in housing led schemes. There are some underused sites nearby and adjoining in Trafford Park which could be included in a masterplan. This also would require a dramatic upgrading of the metrolink service frequency.

The Trafford Centre is around 2 miles from Salford Quays with the Metrolink running along it – Village Way/Park Way. There are some spectacular poor uses of land along it like a giant palette storage site. The most obvious thing to do us to extend the growth corridor which runs from Manchester City Centre to Salford Queys to Trafford Park through rezoning sites along the metrolink for high density housing.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework/Plan proposes a number of deletions of Green Belt. In the North of the metropolis there is at least a plan – to provide the major new employment areas the area lacks unlike the south of the Metropolis where most of the growth has been. I woint argue with that. In the south it has been more scattergun. A few big problem sites, like Charrington Moss and a few heavily promoted sites by major landowners like Peel Estates which have proven highly controversial, some being wetlands/moss like much of the low lying land on the South Eastern edge of the city. To my mind much of this doesn’t make sense as a strategy. It is just making up the numbers not forming a coherent post carbon Manchester.

Charrington Moss was the main dumping ground for Manchester, especially ‘night soil’ by the 1930s it was reclaimed became a very underused industrial park and was eventually bought by Shell, who have now moved out. It is now a planning mess with a very odd Green Belt Boundary reflecting the mess. It is mainly a major developed site in the Green Belt. There has been proposals to develop 6-7,000 houses here plus employment. The risk is however that it would become just the kind of site criticized by Transport for New Homes; entirely car dependent feeding commuters onto the M60. There are too major opportunities however.

Charrington Moss used to have a tram link to Salford Quays. The alignment though has been lost to the spur to the M60. However the most direct connection to Trafford Park would be a new alignment alongside the Manchester Ship canal passing by a new rail station on the Cheshire Linew between Irlam and Flixton. The second opportunity is to create a tram on the former Cheshire line spur south of the site connecting to Timperley, Cheadle and Stockport – a long held local ambition.

With High Density Housing each of these schemes could have over 10,000 units, significantly reducing the Green Belt take in South Manchester.

Responding Rationally to the Planning White Paper – Part One – Democracy and Zoning

It is important to engage the planning white paper in terms of what it says and means, not in terms of what it is imagined it says or what fore the Policy Exchange of some pamphleteering economist said it should say which in many cases has been rejected.

This is important because a frenzied atmosphere has greeted it, particularly on the issue of ‘democracy’. Many groups and bodies are in danger of acting like the sky would fall in. No zoning is not the end of the world. It is the way the whole of the rest of the world plans, and leads to better planning outcomes. It is the way the UK used to plan before 1948, when we grew impatient that plans were slowing down post war reconstruction (I blog about this here). However some degree of alarm is necessary as the government and civil service don t understand how a zoning system can and should work. There are huge gaps in the white paper in terms of required pieces of the zoning toolkit. It is not about ‘less red tape’ it is about smarter regulation, which by itself is simpler, which requires writing not cutting. It is not about quicker plan making, whatever ever system you have requires resourcing, skills and political will at the centre to drive it through. Problems that persist in any system. No it is about one thing better outcomes (including better land value capture and land assembly) which comparative studies have shown are best delivered in a posgressive zoning system which forms part of a wider system where central, strategic and local government co-deliver and partner to act on shared outcomes and visions.

Of course the government as always listened to cronies, axegrinders and ideologically driven dumb-tanks rather than ‘experts’. In true backpedaling fashion it seems like any bill will be driven by the NIMBY reactions of shire backbenchers with reform neutered by adding unrealistic numbers to Labour held areas which could not deliver the three of four times higher numbers required if you abolished planning entirely in these areas and gave permitted development for anything and everything.

Lets be clear. The English planning system has evolved into a system which is good for one thing only. Keeping the English Countryside frozen in aspic and protecting heritage assets/ It is admired around the world for the latter. We invented the tools and techniques to plan proactively, like development corporations (in the middle ages) Garden Cities, New Towns, strategic plans. Then we abolished them all because they were tough for small local authorities to deliver and gave Councillors nothing but pain.

1.16 Local councils should radically and profoundly re-invent the ambition, depth and breadth with which they engage with communities as they consult on Local Plans. Our reforms will democratise the planning process by putting a new emphasis on engagement at the plan-making stage. At the same time, we will streamline the opportunity for consultation at the planning application stage,because this adds delay to the process and allows a small minority of voices, some from the local area and often some not, to shape outcomes.

The first sentence of this is left unexplained and just seems like a counter to the implications of the second and third, which seem to have been interpreted by many as contradictory. We will be democractising the planning process by cutting out consultation and local Councillors on planning applications. Part of the problem is the aggressive, unecessarily confrontational and sloppy way this section has been written but also people imputing something the white paper does not say.

Later it states

2.39 the delegation of detailed planning decisions to planning officers where the principle of development has been established, as detailed matters for consideration should be principally a matter for professional planning judgment.

There is little controversial about this these days. In many local authorities reserved matters are all delegated. For example in Waterbeach in South Cambridgeshire a whole new town reserved matters has been approved under delegated, after previous approval of the masterplan and outline consent. It raised barely an eyebrow,

The white paper doesn’t mention the role of local councillors once. It doesnt mention reducing their democratric role once. It doesnt mention anything about abolishing planning committees etc. etc.

Yet everyone assumes this? If any chief planner or CEO of a organisation finds their white paper response predicated on this they should thrown the response in the bin. The author will have read the cool aid and not the white paper. Rather people will have read the press reports about the Planning Exchange proposing to abolish the role of planning committees, that Jack Airey has moved to number 10 and assumed 2+2=5. There were various press leaks about what the White Paper might say however number 10 made various political calls in finalising the White Paper and much was struck out. For example the widespread increase in development corporations, as the advisory group recommended, did not find its way on. All we have is a reference to the consolidation reforms on development corporations as consulted on earlier (2.38, 5.8-5.9). There role is restricted to ‘exceptionally large sites’ the same role they have had in the whole of the post war period.

Lets look at what it does say:

Most importantly it talks about ‘bringing forward’ democratic decisions about plans to the plan making stage.

There is nothing new or that controversial about this. Partly this is an application of the long held planning principle about ‘front-loading’ key planning decisions. Partly it is an application of the concept, embodied in the ‘permission in principle’ regulations, to large sites included in development plans, which parliament has already voted on and approved and which simply awaits secondary legislation. Alongside the white paper is a more detailed consultation on bringing this in (as an interim measure). One key change though is a return to the pre-2004 Act (section 20) approach to ‘Examinations in Public’ rather than ‘Public Inquiries’ where the panel choose the participants and there is no automatic right to be heard. I have no problem with that. There is no automatic right to be heard on the floor of parliament – you write to an MP or belong to a lobby group, its a matter of scale. We need to get back to EiPs taking days not years.

This should not be controversial. If an adopted plan allocated land for a use it should not be open for planning committees to refuse that use or for objectors to reopen long established principles. Where Councillors have done this, such as Northampton cllrs rejecting Dallington Heath and Torridge Cllrs rejecting all 5 new local plan sites around Bideford (and losing all 5 on appeal) it makes a laughing stock of the local plan system.

So this isn’t the major change to the role of the local Councillor. The main change would only kick in for those sites (likely to be a minority even in a zoning system) where masterplans have been prepared.

At the moment there is two-three stages of regulatory approval (setting aside conditions of minor details)

Local Plan

Outline Consent

Reserved Matters

On very large sites it is impractical to clear all reserved matters on once, particularly on multi developer /multi phase sites. So often there is a key condition (or more likely a s106 clause) requiring a masterplan, with a phasing and parameter plans, for the overall development – which might include only the main connector roads, land uses and main open spaces, with later reserved matters conditions approving designs on individual developer parcels.

This approach, as used on large sites such as Houton (Rugby) and Bicester East deliberately mimics the best practice used on continental zoning and subdivision sites.

In a zoning system the stages are much simpler

  1. Establishment of ‘as of right’ zoning in a plan (called confusingly in the white paper permission in principle – a Scottish term which replaced outline consent)
  2. Subdivision consent of a masterplan
  3. Applications to either the developer and/or the local authority for compliance of a subdivisions design to a design code (where a design code exists).

The process is much simpler and clearer. There is no opportunity to reargue issues established by the upper level ‘as of right’ consent.

The white paper refers briefing to such an approach:

3.18 where plans identify areas for significant development (Growth areas), we will legislate to require that a masterplan and site-specific code are agreed as a condition of the permission in principle which is granted through the plan. This should be in place prior to detailed proposals coming forward, to direct and expedite those detailed matters. These masterplans and codes could be prepared by the local planning authority alongside or subsequent to preparing its plan, at a level of detail commensurate with the size of site and key principles to be established.

Not every allocated site in a zoning plan will require a masterplan and design code. They are typically done only for the most complex sites. The White Paper may be too ambitious here, design guides will suffice for many small zoned sites. In almost all zoning systems however you cannot subdivide and develop a site, whether zoned or not, until you have agreed a subdivision plan with the planning authority. The origins of these predate zoning and were required for local taxation and infrastructure purposes notwithstanding planning. On top of this there may be an additional regulatory control requiring design approval of a schemes design, whether in a masterplan of a growth area or new or redeveloped schemes in an existing developed area. In many cases community review or consultation is required.

In addition to this consultation zoning systems require approval, which may trigger consultation requirements, in six cases.

  • Firstly compliance with zoning requirements (especially where there are special environmental conditions on a zoning)
  • Secondly for design and layouts agreed for subdivision/masterplan consents.
  • Thirdly where a developer proposes to later a previously agreed masterplan or design.
  • Thirdly, where there are form based codes, for compliance of a design to the details of the form based code. This may trigger public consultation, but typically only in the most sensitive areas such as historic areas.
  • Fourthly where a developer proposes something different to the zoning, known as spot zoning.
  • Finally where there is an appeal to a consent refusal (which can be any of the above) ordances may mandate in some cases public hearings.

The white paper does not explain well how a zoning system would work and has an unreaslitic direste all at once approach to its delivery. It will take a generation to put it into place fully.

It is already happening, as shown above, it is proven to work at home and abroad, it makes land value capture (and hence affordable housing and infrastructure) much easier, and many of its goals are hacked on badly to planning law never designed to accommodate them. The concepts of zone, subdivision and design code appear nowhere in uk planning law. They are all hacked on badly.

We need a new simple planning act which would eventually replace the old. I think this should happen in three phases over 12-15 years. Phase one four years new zoning plans, comprehensive but implemented first in growth areas. Phase two years 0-8 putting in place masterplans and design codes for all large sites, with the early delivery large sites first, phase three years 2-12 developing form based codes for development of small new sites and redevelopment of existing sites. This pragmatic phased approach could demostrate widespread support and would focus attention on the biggest nag for buck sites first, whilst ensuring the limited staff with the right skills and experience were not overstreached.

What is the objection to this, Fear of change. Fear that Nimbeys will be undermined in a system that focus consultation on the best places and best ways of saying yes rather than the loudest way to shout no? Planners local authorities, professional institutions and organizations would be much more productive and influential if they applied there attention to how a zoning system should be designed to be radically participative and productive than objecting to things they imaged they saw but arn’t actually there in the white paper. If they dont there responses will only deserve storage in this well known MCHLG filing cabinet.