OPPOSITION councillors will seek to halt proposals to build three new towns in north Essex during a crunch meeting tonight.
The Green and Independent coalition on Braintree Council will put forward a motion to “shelve” the garden communities scheme and instead seek a scaled down Local Plan in an effort to stop speculative developments being added on the towns and villages in the district.
The motion, which was deferred at the last full council meeting in July, calls for the garden communities plan put together by Braintree, Colchester and Tendring Council, to be halted for the time being while a more immediate arrangement can be found.
Green leader James Abbott said: “It is essential that the three North Essex Authorities now shelve the so-called Garden Communities Plan and get on with their Local Plans which for Braintree District detail almost all the housing in the plan period to 2033.
“There is also a need to work up realistic plans to improve transport including rail, other public transport and walking and cycling.
“This would end the on-going planning shambles.”
The North Essex Authorities have continued to pursue their garden communities vision despite being told the proposal was unsound by a housing inspector last year. The scheme would see new settlements built to the west and east of Braintree, and a further one to the east of Colchester in an effort to meet housing targets.
All three councils now say they have the necessary evidence to address the inspector’s concerns and Braintree councillors are likely to vote on whether the think the evidence is sufficient during tonight’s meeting.
The vote will only go ahead if the Green’s motion is rejected by the Conservative led authority, something which senior Tory and council leader Graham Butland believes will happen.
He said: “We as the Conservatives will be opposing the motion put forward by the Greens and Independents because we believe it is just a tactic to frustrate the Local Plan process. They are not in favour of tackling the housing criss.
“They say the garden communities will cause a delay in getting a Local Plan in place but this motion will only make that worse. It won’t help young people desperately looking for new homes.”
He added: “We remain committed to producing a Local Plan and develop sustainable communities.
“It’s vitally important that we get this plan in place. We want a district that will meet its housing needs, one that is properly planned and is not left to the whim of speculative developers.”
The Green Party made great strides in the May elections, with a collapse on the Labour vote, and Tory votes over Brexit they gained 42 seats, a gain leverages by the rise in independent Councillors and loss of overall control in many local authorities, with losses seemingly greater in authorities where anti-greenfield sentiment has been large.
From authorities from South Oxfordshire to Warrington and St Helens we have seen calls from Green Councillors to forestall or even ‘scrap’ local plans, even though in most cases this will lead to more speculative sprawl where there (by definition) will be no 5YHLS.
The script is clear:
1. Declare a climate change emergency
2. Claim that by definition greenfield housing consumes resources and will worsen the emergency
3. Scrap the local plan QED.
I see nothing wrong with being Green, and have been involved with Green activism for decades. However this approach is both naive and dangerous as:
A. There is nothing necessarily resource hogging about new housing, new houses allows its occupants to consume less and it can be designed as net-zero. Houses dont consume resources residents do, which on the whole are living in the are already. If they are forced out and forced to drive in for work you are making the climate emergency worse.
B. There is a massive shortage of greenfield sites in the area of greatest affordability pressure in the South East, however opponents simply wont read or believe the evidence on this as it contradicts there Greenfield=the holyness we must protect doctrine.
C. They promote wholly unfounded and disproved malthusian theories that building on farmland will create food shortages, even though this has happened nowhere in the world. The most productive agriculture in the world is glasshouses in or near rapidly urbanising areas .
D. If there is a shortage then build Green New Settlements linked by public transport. Something which has firmly part of the original Green party platform but now long forgotten.
How has this come about? How have local Green party members become so reactionary promoting policies design to destroy the welfare of lower earning constituents and worsen the climate emergency?
There have always been clashes between reactionary and progressive wings in Green Politics. In Italy and Germany we have seen the formation of eco-fascist parties. In the 90s we saw the split between Deep Green and Social Ecologists. But the main cause I think is the rise of middle class progressives who have grown up on protesting and campaigning for scrapping things. Many of these are now homeowners and /or live near areas which they place a price on in terms of local amenity. As has been observed in the states amongst many NIMBY groups
back in the 1960s and ’70s, NIMBYs were the people fighting highways and oil refineries in their backyards, not [development]. In battling upzoning, some NIMBYs are animated by the fear of a takeover of their neighborhoods by commercial interests.
Also the policies reflect a certain nativity that comes from the freedom to oppose not the responsibility of proposing sites and locations for development. There is always a unicorn paddock of somewhere else where development should go.
As we are in a climate change emergency this requires immeadiate action. Action now to meet our housing needs, reduce energy from the construction and transport sectors and find locations for Zero Carbon developments. As such the worst enemies of the climate change emergency movement are Green Councillors, with there call to delay and as they are searching for unicorn paddocks effectively put of for ever the key choices necessary to achieve zerio carbon development.
Overall at a national level they need to make a manifesto choice, are they to present themselves as the natural party of reactionary Nimbys (as UKIP did at the last election) or are they to push forward realistic proposals to solve the housing crisis and climate change emergency at the same time.
Andy Preston was elected as Mayor of Middlesborough this year on a platform to stop house-building on Greenfield sites.
The officers report to a recent full council meeting was accomodating:
Since the Publication Draft was approved by Council, there have been a number of changes that warrant a fresh look at the emerging Local Plan. These can be summarised as:
=a change in priorities as a consequence of the recent local elections, such as an increased emphasis on urban living;
-additional information becoming available to enable the underpinning
evidence base to be updated; and,
– revisions to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
and the methodology used to calculate required housing numbers.
Taking the decision to revisit the Local Plan would enable the Council to update the evidence on which it is based, and re-engage the community more thoroughly in the process. Whilst this is not a case of taking the Local Plan back to the beginning of the process, or completely changing the scope of the review, it would provide an opportunity to produce a Local Plan that places more emphasis upon:
the role of urban living;
improving access to open space and green areas, protecting those areas which are important to the well being of communities and the creation of new areas;
improving healthy outcomes, ensuring that all people have the opportunity to
enjoy healthy lifestyles;
improving access to education; and,
improving access to jobs.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking at investing public funds in a new part-buy, part-rent scheme.
Leading estate agents, the Romans Leaders Group, have been quick to reveal details of their new shared ownership division. Staff on the social housing magazine, Inside Housing, have said they were told of the Prime Minister’s interest in shared ownership by two sources who know of Johnson’s plans.
How the scheme would work
The staff believe that the new scheme could be designed to reduce demand for rented social housing, and would be part of a concerted effort to concentrate on home ownership. It is unclear currently whether the scheme will replace Help to Buy once it is scrapped in March 2023.
Shared ownership is restricted to people earning less than £80,000 per annum (£90,000 in London) and is usually operated by a social housing provider.
It is not without its critics, however – some part-owners find it impossible to ‘staircase’ or buy progressively more of a property, while others are deterred by additional costs such as monthly service charges or the legal and administrative expense involved in increasing ownership.
There can also be complications when it comes to resale. Nonetheless, the new PM’s interest in shared ownership is well-known. In 2011, Johnson, then mayor of London, promised Sunderland-based housing association Gentoo £40 million to expand their scheme, Genie Home Purchase, into the capital.
The plan would have involved Genie buying properties and offering them mortgage-free to aspiring would-be owners with a 30-year payment plan resulting in full ownership.
But the scheme failed to attract investment in the north-east and was scrapped in 2016. Some landlords in the private sector have even experimented with variations of shared ownership with varying degrees of success.
The Unmortgage scheme
A new scheme, Unmortgage, involves forming partnerships with institutional investors instead of social housing landlords. It’s business model provides a means whereby people can access home ownership through a part-own, part-rent process that pairs buyers with investors.
Under the scheme, renters can purchase as little as 5% of a property without a mortgage, renting the remaining 95% and ‘staircasing’ their way to owning more of the property as and when funds allow. Properties can be either new-build or second-hand.
Unmortgage, which last year raised the largest seed capital in Europe for a fintech, announced a new partnership earlier this month with Allianz Global Investors.
Estate agents Savills has stated it expects demand for shared ownership to increase in excess of 15,000 per annum once Help to Buy is scrapped.
The Leaders Romans Group
Over the weekend, the Leaders Romans Group, with 130 branches, publicised its new shared ownership division. CEO Peter Kavanagh said that it had become increasingly apparent that the company should be investing time and resources precisely in this aspect of home ownership.
Kavanagh went on to say that shared ownership is not something estate agents normally become involved in, and he didn’t think it could be operated and managed through a standard office.
The Romans’ shared ownership team will focus on new-build properties and the company has appointed Adrian Plant as director of shared ownership.
Crawley and Horsham districts have long had their eye on this plot of land.
Homes England has agreed to acquire 160 acres at Ifield Golf Club, in a major step to deliver a new £3bn garden village outside of Crawley, Sussex. It is planning to deliver 3,250 homes in the first phase at the 480-acre Ifield site, and will create a masterplan for a 10,000-home village on a wider 1,483-acre footprint in future phases. Homes England will apply to central government for the site to be recognised as distinct new settlement, with its own community facilities and eligible for state funding. The acquisition builds on the department’s legacy ownership of 320 acres.
Cllr Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) was pressed on the issue during this week’s leader’s forum.
Speaking in relation to the information sent out in the ‘last couple of years’, he says the council has ‘missed an opportunity’ as it has failed to properly ‘talk about’ what kind of homes people in Warrington will need.
He also insists it is ‘really important’ to recognise existing communities and their voices, while labelling the draft as a ‘highly technical document’.
Furthermore, Cllr Bowden highlighted the importance of improving health services, public transport and community facilities over the next two decades.
“We are talking too much about this bit of land and that bit of land,” he added.
“We didn’t provide enough information – this is another example of me saying the council doesn’t always get it right.
“Now, what I’m trying to do is slowly wind some of that stuff back.”
Of course planners will always get it in the neck after consultation on an inevitably complicated issue such as Green Belt. However planners dont always make it easy to wade through the technical, with cross references to Green Belt Review documents, SHLAAs etc. which dont always add up. Part of the reason being the point long made by Future Cities Catapult that local plans and policy maps arnt digital documents that are seamlessly linked together, enabling for example modelling different scenarios of the 5YHLS simply and easily without having to recreate everything from scratch in a spreadsheet.
Indeed many local plans now remind me of the suite of AD&D rulebooks where mastery of the game depended on which book you owned rather than the narrative you took part in.
Its producers learnt, simplifying the rules and introducing a young adventurers handbook.
Are these Basic RPG rule books for young readers?
No. These books do not replace the D&D Player’s Handbook. They’re rules-free illustrated guides to the core concepts of D&D, built so the reader can discover the lore without being overwhelmed by the rules.
Many local plans string together technical issues without setting down the narrative of hard choices that the plan has gone through in simple clear English that is understandable to a non planner. Even planners struggle with the lack of structure of many plans, them not being ‘designed documents’ and only written in word for example and not integrating text and graphics in a way a modern reader expects. I havn’t seen a local plan in the last two years that couldn’t be edited down to half its length. So there might be a lot to learn surrounding the presentation of policy isues concerning
Beholders Green Belt Review
This is happening like Leeds because the standard method means that roughly the highest quartile of affordable authorities have to reduce their SOAN below demographic need, and often ignore the required employment uplift to reduce Green Belt loss. A simple fix to get the 278,000 a year to the governments target of 300,000 would be to only apply the affordability adjustment where it is positive (it was always intended as a boost).
Telegraph and Argus
TWEAKS to the Bradford Local Plan have downgraded the number of homes that need to be built in the district each year.
And it could mean swathes of greenbelt are spared from development.
But the revised figures will still require a huge amount of homes to be built across the district each year.
Bradford Council’s original draft local plan for the coming years had said the district needed to provide 2,476 new homes a year.
But a dramatic change in government policy announced last summer meant the Council had to go back to the drawing board, as it was likely this figure would fall dramatically.
£64 million link road plan to beat congestion in South BradfordToday more details of the revised local plan have been released, which show the district will now only need 1,703 new homes a year.
Last year 1,600 homes were delivered in Bradford – which was a 10 year high.
The reduction will mean fewer Green Belt sites will be needed to deliver the new homes – although a chunk of the required housing will still likely need to be built on green land.
But one site that is likely to be considered for housing is Green Belt land to the East of Holme Wood – referred to by the Council as a “sustainable urban extension.”
The Council has previously said that around 2,000 homes could be built there, and a proposed South East Bradford link road would “unlock” sites for such a development.
Under the original plans, around 11,000 homes would likely need to be built on Green Belt Lane around the district. But Andrew Marshall, Planning and Transport Strategy Manager, said: “There will be a significant reduction in the amount of green belt land that will be required.” He said it could be half the amount previously suggested.
He said the focus will be on developing brownfield sites, with 70 per cent of developments being centred in the city of Bradford.
The remaining 30 per cent will be allocated to towns and villages around the district.
The plan sets out developments in the district until 2037 – and also sets out future employment sites as well as housing.
The documents released today do not reveal which areas will be allocated for housing, but lays out the methods planners will use to pick sites.
The amount of employment land needed in the coming years has also been downgraded. Originally the Council was looking to create 135 hectares of employment sites as part of their efforts to create 1,600 jobs a year. But under the new plan just 60 hectares will be needed.
Mr Marshall said this reduction was down to the gradual changes in the type of employment in the district – with fewer large sites needed to provide the same amount of jobs.
Elsewhere the report details how future developments will respond to climate change concerns – with sustainable travel a bigger part of housing sites.
And developers will be pushed to create better quality green spaces and gardens as part of their sites.
A public consultation on the plans is expected after the summer break.
The full plan is unlikely to have been approved by Central Government until around 2022.
Reminder of NPPF Para 14
where there are no relevant development plan policies, or the
policies which are most important for determining the application are
out-of-date7, granting permission unless:
i. the application of policies in this Framework that protect areas or
assets of particular importance provides a clear reason for
refusing the development proposed (footnote 6); or
ii. any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and
demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the
policies in this Framework taken as a whole
The case Balli
Monkhill Ltd v SoSCLG  EWHC 1993 (Admin).
Next week ill do a flowchart.
1) The presumption in favour of sustainable development in paragraph 11 does not displace s.38(6) of the 2004 Act. A planning application or appeal should be determined in accordance with the relevant policies of the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise;
2) Subject to s.38(6), where a proposal accords with an up-to-date development plan, taken as a whole, then, unless other material considerations indicate otherwise planning permission should be granted without delay (paragraph 11(c));
3) Where a proposal does not accord with an up-to-date development plan, taken as a whole, planning permission should be refused unless material considerations indicate otherwise (see also paragraph 12);
4) Where there are no relevant development plan policies, planning permission should be granted unless either limb (i) or limb (ii) is satisfied;
5) Where there are relevant development plan policies, but the most important for determining the application are out-of-date, planning permission should be granted (subject to section 38(6)) unless either limb (i) or limb (ii) is satisfied;
6) Because paragraph 11(d) states that planning permission should be granted unless the requirements of either alternative is met, it follows that if either limb (i) or limb (ii) is satisfied, the presumption in favour of sustainable development ceases to apply. The application of each limb is essentially a matter of planning judgment for the decision-maker;
7) Where more than one “Footnote 6” policy is engaged, limb (i) is satisfied, and the presumption in favour of sustainable development overcome, where the individual or cumulative application of those policies produces a clear reason for refusal;
8) The object of expressing limbs (i) and (ii) as two alternative means by which the presumption in favour of granting permission is overcome (or disapplied) is that the tilted balance in limb (ii) may not be relied upon to support the grant of permission where a proposal should be refused permission by the application of one or more “Footnote 6” policies. In this way paragraph 11(d) prioritises the application of “Footnote 6” policies for the protection of the relevant “areas or assets of particular importance”;
9) It follows that where limb (i) is engaged, it should generally be applied first before going on to consider whether limb (ii) should be applied;
10) Under limb (i) the test is whether the application of one or more “Footnote 6 policies” provides a clear reason for refusing planning permission. The mere fact that such a policy is engaged is insufficient to satisfy limb (i). Whether or not limb (i) is met depends upon the outcome of applying the relevant “Footnote 6” policies (addressing the issue on paragraph 14 of NPPF 2012 which was left open in R (Watermead Parish Council) v Aylesbury District Council  PTSR 43 at  and subsequently resolved in East Staffordshire at [22(2)];
11) Limb (i) is applied by taking into account only those factors which fall within the ambit of the relevant “Footnote 6” policy. Development plan policies and other policies of the NPPF are not to be taken into account in the application of limb (i) (see Footnote 6). (I note that this is a narrower approach than under the corresponding limb in paragraph 14 of the NPPF 2012 – see eg. Lord Gill in Hopkins at );
12) The application of some “Footnote 6” policies (e.g. Green Belt) requires all relevant planning considerations to be weighed in the balance. In those cases because the outcome of that assessment determines whether planning should be granted or refused, there is no justification for applying limb (ii) in addition to limb (i). The same applies where the application of a legal code for the protection of a particular area or asset determines the outcome of a planning application (see, for example, the Habitats Regulations in relation to European protected sites);
13) In other cases under limb (ii), the relevant “Footnote 6 policy” may not require all relevant considerations to be taken into account. For example, paragraph 196 of the NPPF requires the decision-maker to weigh only “the less than substantial harm” to a heritage asset against the “public benefits” of the proposal. Where the application of such a policy provides a clear reason for refusing planning permission, it is still necessary for the decision-maker to have regard to all other relevant considerations before determining the application or appeal (s. 70(2) of the 1990 Act and s. 38(6) of the 2004 Act). But that exercise must be carried out without applying the tilted balance in limb (ii), because the presumption in favour of granting permission has already been disapplied by the outcome of applying limb (i). That is the consequence of the decision-making structure laid down in paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF;
14) There remains the situation where the application of limb (i) to a policy of the kind referred to in (13) does not provide a clear reason for refusal. The presumption in favour of sustainable development will not so far have been disapplied under limb (i) and it remains necessary to strike an overall planning balance (applying also s.38(6)). Because the presumption in favour of granting planning permission still remains in play, it is relevant, indeed necessary, to apply the alternative means of overcoming that presumption, namely limb (ii). This is one situation where the applicant for permission is entitled to rely upon the “tilted balance”;
15) The other situation where the applicant has the benefit of the “tilted” balance is where no “Footnote 6” policies are engaged and therefore the decision-maker proceeds directly to limb (ii)….
The following practical summary may assist practitioners in the field, so long as it is borne in mind that this does not detract from the more detailed analysis set out above:-
- It is, of course, necessary to apply s.38(6) in any event;
- If the proposal accords with the policies of an up-to-date development plan taken as a whole, then unless other considerations indicate otherwise, planning permission should be granted without delay (paragraph 11(c) of the NPPF);
- If the case does not fall within paragraph 11(c), the next step is to consider whether paragraph 11(d) applies. This requires examining whether there are no relevant development plan policies or whether the most important development plan policies for determining the application are out-of-date;
- If paragraph 11(d) does apply, then the next question is whether one or more “Footnote 6” policies are relevant to the determination of the application or appeal (limb (i));
- If there are no relevant “Footnote 6” policies so that limb (i) does not apply, the decision-taker should proceed to limb (ii) and determine the application by applying the tilted balance (and s.38(6));
- If limb (i) does apply, the decision-taker must consider whether the application of the relevant “Footnote 6” policy (or policies) provides a clear reason to refuse permission for the development
- If it does, then permission should be refused (subject to applying s.38(6) as explained in paragraph 39 (11) to (12) above). Limb (ii) is irrelevant in this situation and must not be applied;
- If it does not, then the decision-taker should proceed to limb (ii) and determine the application by applying the tilted balance (and s.38(6)).
The Prime Minister talks of an agenda to ‘liberalise’ the planning system, however there is no clear ideological push as to what that means. Gone are the day when the IEA put out a pmaplet every year calling for the abolition of the planning system and Green Belt, or the Policy Exchange put out two pamphlets a year suggesting ideas that were swiftly adopted then swiftly abandoned. It is easier to talk of results, how to get the outcomes the government wants, with the least bureaucratic means.
1. Justifying and Hitting 300k
Top of these must be the government’s 300k annum housing target, a target where there may well be a reversal of the (slowing) progress since 2013. The first think the government needs to do is to restore confidence in how the number is derived (even if the result isnt exactly 300k) and more importantly restore confidence in how the target is distributed throughout local authorities through the standard method.
At the moment we have a disjunction between demographic projections and need, as the standard method is based on demographic projections which carry forward current assumptions, which includes households being suppressed because of a lack of housebuilding where they are most needed. The current standard method adds up to 278,000, current development plans add up to 234,000 according to Nat Litch when you include realistic completion rates from the London Plan. However when you consider that many authorities are building far less than planned for in their local plans due to slow delivery rates on strategic sites there currently seems to be no clear pathway to hitting 300k by the mid 2020s.
The government must urgently review the standard method basing growth in households on projected growth in employment and household wealth if this was unconstrained by housing and then distributing it to each strategic planning area or LPA by projected employment growth and realistic assumptions about unconstrained land availability. That means biting the bullet, if London cannot triple its housing completions, which it cant, then that need must go somewhere and if not in the Green Belt the government must decide which authorities outside the GB have to take it.
2. Reproducing High Performance Completions
There are certain countries that have (per capita) much higher completions that England and certain parts of England at certain times that have produced high completions – this isnt rocket science. Masterplanned new communities with master developers, development corporations and multiple points of sale, with high social housing completions and high build to rent are the secret of success. The problem is the shortage of master developer scale strategic sites where the ground work has been done to enable early starts. There is a big shortage of good master developers with sites in local plans and with outline consent. Housing England combined with locally led development corporations can fill the gap, but sites need to be in strategic plans. This has proven immensely difficult politically. The request for Garden Communities (over over 10k nnd ideally over 50k) in places like the Oxford Cambridge Arc has not produced any (public) takers in terms of new sites (as opposed to what was already in development plans. The extent of Green Belt in some areas like Surrey, Herts and South Essex (almost wall to wall) means that authorities have little choice to review Green Belt and typically remove less than 5% of it. Though denying this when challenged successive ministers have allowed this to happen. Political opposition to this has been growing and it makes not a whole lot of difference to the opposition (as in South Oxfordshire) whether a site is just inside or just outside the Green Belt. The public (and certainly the national press) has not the slightest idea where Green Belt boundaries lie only having a vague idea of places like the South Downs (which has never been Green Belt). The fault being the growth of Green Belt under Thatcher so the concept became coterminous with countryside and rather than a tool to contain sprawl development was pushed to lower land value areas where lower densities at greater sprawl were required to be economic. Practically so much of the Green Belt is covered by AONB to the South and North West of London that here development will have to be pushed beyond it to places like the Arc. Only North Kent and South Essex have sites outside of AONB and other constraints of a scale to take strategic scale Garden Communities inside the Green Belt, South Essex has no Choice it has no other land. The key practical issue is transport capacity so these can be developed in Zero Carbon form. This will practically have to be a combination of rail and new Bus Rapid Transit, as Boris says quoiting Peter Hendry there is no transport problem that cant be solved by a single decker bus.
3. Getting a Grip on Strategic Planning
The early years of the coalition government were governed by what you might call the Pickles Fallacy, that strategic planning was slowing housebuilding because it led to opposition to new housing. As we have seen any proposal for new house building leads to opposition and only strategic planning is able to justify large strategic sites meeting needs often of more than one authority and in many cases straddling boundaries. However emergent strategic planning is in a mess. We have a strategic enabling framework for it in the NPPF, however governance for it is a mess (combined authorities, joint committees, ad-hoc arrangements and new unitary authorities), funding is a mess (growth deal areas, and other areas) and we bizarrely have a legacy of two competing forms of plan (SDS and DPD). This all needs simplifying, with statute setting out that decisions on joint plans are taken by majority vote of council leaders, removing the power to withdraw plans at late stages, making plan making and being part of joint plan making where directed a statutory duty. There is a risk that without such reforms strategic plan making will become too politically difficult and complicated for anyone to pursue it.
The government needs to be less timid on driving forward big projects like the Arc, Powerhouse etc. In all cases these are driven by government intervention so there should be no ideological barrier to working with local stakeholders to provide taylored packages to make them work. Government leverage here is critical (i.e. if you want your 37 billion give me 1 million houses, and lets work together with all government departments to unlock the barriers. The barriers in many cases will require knocking heads togthr e.g. giving instructions at cabinet level to the likes of the Highways Agency, Ofwat, Network rail etc. to make certain investments to unlock major sites.
4. Simplifying the Consent Process for Housebuilding
Forget gimmicks such as pd for beds in cowsheds or windowless beds in converted offices. They produced a one off burst in housebuilding but at an appalling cost in terms of quality and in many locations such as London have actually slowed redevelopment by making it harder to assemble comprehensive sites. If you want to see this disaster repeated give PD rights to develop Fulham Favella extra stories on top of existing houses, making London’s roofline as ugly as Kabul’s. A general rule to ministers’ if an ‘easy solution’ to planning problems appears in a Policy Exchange pamphlet 95% chance it wont work (they have form). However even though sites might be allocated in local plans this doesn’t give them planning permission. This is a unique, failed and idiosyncratic feature of the English discretionary planning system. Over the past 7 years or so we have moved in small steps towards the continental zoning and subdivision system – but we still have not rolled out a system for granting permission in principle for sites allocated in development plans, nor have we a proper system for granting ‘masterplanning consent’ to layout and subdivide allocated sites.
5. Building Beautifully
Concern for Beauty was a major concern for many interwar writers on planning who bemoaned the poor quality rubbish produced by most housebuilders. Despite this it was the time when we produced most housing. The biggest barrier is not a lack of concern for quality in planning but a poor quality product of most mass housebuilders. This is particularly the case where timber frame is the norm outside the South East of England, where despite a move to quasi modularisation in timber frame the standard product is in most cases worse than awful. There is a world of difference between (mostly social) builders such as Swan and A2 Dominion who have worked with architects and urban designers to produce modular standard designs as good as anything you see in Europe and the big housebuilders whose standard designes and layouts in many cases never go near an architects or urban designer. Time for the minister to name and shame.
One area of major progress has been standards with a shift away from stripping away standards on matters such as energy consumption and inserting standards into the building regs. This is going well and no need to disrupt it.
7. The Challenge of Zero Carbon Housing
New sites will have to be zero carbon but there is no clear model as to what technology they will use and how you will deal with residual emissions (do you bring in allowable solutions for example combing it with the net positive agenda). This is the area the ministry’s research agenda should be focussed on.
8. Keeping Land Value Capture Simple
The clamour to ‘sort out CIL’ and section 106 is dying down, this is because CIL is operating at a reasonable level for residual impacts on small sites in most parts of the country and where it is not in place in many cases it will never be viable to introduce.
What we lack is a simple mechanism to capture land value on strategic sites where CIL should the zero rated. There government has hinted that the operation of the Pointe Gourde Rule will render the need for reform of the Land Compensation Act (somit operates on existing use value) unecessary. The problem is this requires CPO and cuts landowners off at the knees. It would be much simpler to reform the land compensation laws so that landowners kept 25% of the unearned increment (a legal precedent dating back to the 12th Century) giving an incentive for landowners to hand land over to the developer or local authority early., and for local authorities to bring forward large sites so they have the funding to develop social housing.
Unlocking this uplift is key to broadening options on home ownership, if you dont yuo will just boost land prices and housebuilder profits (like Help to Buy. A good scheme is the ‘Camberra Solution’ where you buy the house but not the land and the state (who has controls the land) charges a low ground rent to cover costs only – you can read about this here. It can halve costs of home ownership.
9. Speeding up Planning
One area where the process is working well is with planning performance agreements, indeed my experience is you only ever get an acceptable level of service (or planning officer at all) where you negotiate a PPA. The Accelerating Planning Green Paper will give an opportunity for process improvements for medium and smaller scaled planning applications.
One priority should be increasing investment in and remuneration of conservation officers. If we value our national heritage it requires a corps of professionally trained officers to manage it. These are dying out as they typically earn less than non specialist officers (as they dont line manage) and courses are closing down. Within 15 years we will have no conservation officers if nothing is done. If this were nurses or teachers the government would intervene.