Key points from Pinchers Speech at yesterdays Westminster Hall Debate
We believe that with the right collaborative support from the ground up, not the top down, by 2050 we could see economic output in the area doubling to over £200 billion a year, with the addition of 1.1 million further jobs. I have always been at pains to express that this is not about house building; it is about economic development of a very large region for jobs, skills and the transport and other infrastructure required to build the hopes and opportunities of the people who live there. It is about housing too, but housing is not the central thrust of what we are trying to achieve….
When I hear talk from the Chamber of 1 million additional homes, points that were made in a report of some five years’ standing, I reply by saying that is not a Government target and it is not a Government policy…keep repeating the point that 1 million homes is not a Government target.
More homes are what we need and require, because in certain parts of the arc space, Cambridge being an example, average house prices are 12 times the average salary of a local resident….A number of colleagues have discussed—again, eloquently—the question of the spatial framework. We will begin a consultation on the spatial framework very, very shortly. In building our approach to that, which began in February, we have taken on board the views of local businesses, local councils and local authority leaders, who, across the political divide, have given us useful input. We want to ensure that we carry the public with us as we undertake this spatial framework vision consultation. The questions that we will ask in that consultation over the next several weeks will be high-level ones: “How do you want your space to be used?”; “What sort of environmental considerations do you have and how do you want them baked into planning?”; “What are the transport issues that you face?”; and “What are the job and the skill opportunities that you want to see for yourself and the place where you live?” The answers that people give us to those questions will feed a set of policy prescriptions that we could then take forward into another consultation, again engaging local people and involving local authorities and local leaders.
Many plans contain the equivalent where they designate ‘SANGS’ or there equivalent, and the need for a national register of sites for biodiversity net gain offsetting from which credit can be bought and registered (so they cant be traded twice) point in the same direction.
Yet planning is poorly set up legally for this. ‘Wildness’ is a land cover not a land use. Operations in pursuit of wildness are not agricultural operations and so don’t benefit from PD rights. Dig a pond for fish to swim – engineering operations requiring consent, for cattle to drink or for aquaculture, you may benefit from PD rights.
Three changes in the planning reform act forthcoming and GPDO could simply enable this. Firstly a general duty to promote biodiversity, secondly the ability to allocate land in local plans for restoration of biodiversity and/or access by the public to natural areas, thirdly to widen the definition of agricultural operation to include actions on an agricultural holding to promote either of the above.
Likely to be the most kept on advice since that given to Castlepoint by Keith Holland, look what happened to them by the way, they almost lost control of their local plan and were branded ‘failures’ as a result by their own chief executive. Planning Resource. As with St Albans, Sevenoaks etc. etc.
Elmbridge residents are asking their councillors to “be braver” and stand by their manifesto promises to protect the green belt.
The borough’s delayed Local Plan, which will set out how places develop over the next 15 years, was due to be discussed at cabinet last Wednesday (July 7), but was put on the back burner “to allow for further collaboration between councillors and officers”.
The council’s current document requires 225 new dwellings a year between 2011-2026, but changes to national policy last year suggest 633 dwellings will be needed each year, leading residents in the borough to fear green belt land may be at risk of development.
“Pretty damn near all of our councillors at the election and the election before campaigned on no green belt release, so they’ve all gone back on their election promises,” said Paul Bartlett at last month’s meeting of Elmbridge Community Assembly, a monthly meeting of residents discussing local issues.
Cllr Karen Randolph
He claimed councillors elected on this pledge were being “kept out of the Local Plan process”, which planning portfolio holder Cllr Karen Randolph, who was not present, has denied.
But, she said: “The officers cannot be bound by what we say in our manifestos.”
Mr Bartlett told the meeting that Cllr Randolph “repeatedly” said in Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents’ Association meetings this year “she does not know what is in the Local Plan and she will have to wait like all the other councillors to see what the officers bring forth”.
“That, to me, tells me there is a fundamental breakdown in what should be a close collaborative relationship,” he said.
“They are being shut out – either they’re not making the effort to get involved with the officers, or the officers aren’t engaging with them; whatever’s happened, that relationship is not working and we’re going to end up with an officer-led Plan presented.”
His comments were supported by Elmbridge resident Tony Charlesworth, who said: “The danger is that they can be manipulated by officers. My worry is that we don’t actually have truly independent councillors.
“The officers it seems to me have an awful lot of sway over these councillors and I worry that there isn’t enough backbone; they maybe want to do the right thing but could be talked out of it and I worry that the system doesn’t prevent that.”
Della Reynolds, who was hosting the meeting, said: “They’re not showing the courage and the leadership.”
Thames Ditton resident Catriona Riddell, a strategic planning expert who advises councils, said: “It’s like Chinese whispers, it comes back into the council and says, if we don’t meet our [housing] needs we’re going to lose control of our Local Plan and that’s how it plays out, and actually that’s not the reality.
“What we need is some brave councillors. We need some brave leadership to say, ‘We hear what you’re saying, professionals, but is there a different way we can do this to make it more acceptable?’”
She added: “The buck stops with the councillors. Whatever the officers recommend, if the members don’t like what they see, that is their job to show some leadership.
“We’ve got a whole load of new councillors at Elmbridge and that may change but at the end of the day it has got to be the council’s plan that is presented to examination and if what Paul [Bartlett] is saying is true then that’s very worrying.
“I’ve never known a situation in the way that Paul’s described and I’ve worked with a lot of councils. It has always been a collaboration.”
Lead councillor for Planning, Karen Randolph (Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents’ Association) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that councillors and officers did work together in a Local Plan working group.
“Mudslinging doesn’t get anybody anywhere,” she said. “What they don’t realise is that conversations have been going on behind the scenes for a number of years, but the process needs to be transparent so there are things that need to be brought out into the open.
“We have asked officers to provide options. We need to know before making up our minds if we don’t develop on green belt what the consequences would be for our urban land, which we value very greatly.
“There’s got to be a recognition that councillors don’t have the expertise or detailed knowledge, that is what we rely on our professional advisors for.”
The draft Local Plan is now expected to go to cabinet in the autumn. It will then have to be examined by a national planning inspector and is hoped to be adopted in autumn 2022.
Watford Borough Council effectively sentenced itself to dozens of sites in the town being built upon over the coming years.
The local plan has been seven years in the making and by earmarking land for residential and employment use, provides the clearest indication of where to expect redevelopment over the next 15 years.
If councillors and officers cannot secure lower housing targets, then the list of sites in the plan are almost certainly primed to be redeveloped, including car parks at supermarkets and retail parks.
This is because although schemes will still need to be considered appropriate and go through the official channels, the council has publicly accepted that development in these locations is acceptable.
There is no doubt that development riles people in Watford. The size of some of the buildings that have been passed in recent years is staggering. When they are built, Watford will no longer be the market town some fondly refer it to.
So the apparent lack of engagement from residents in the local plan consultation is strange. Even the Exchange House development, which was rejected, received just eight objections.
There were just 82 responses to the local plan consultation, and many of these are from landowners, developers, and businesses with interests. There was just a smattering of residents standing up against the housing targets and inevitable tower blocks.
This is despite many articles published by the Observer about sites under threat of development receiving thousands and thousands of views. There is clearly an interest.
Why is a mystery. Was it because of Covid? Were people aware of the consultation? Have residents become disillusioned and think their opinions don’t matter? Or do we have a silent majority in Watford who are not as concerned about housing as the complaints would suggest?
Compare this to Three Rivers district, where there are petitions, concerns about households not receiving leaflets, and many responses to the local plan consultation.
Residents are fighting to protect their surroundings in Three Rivers. Despite all of the groans on social media and in our comments section, it’s difficult to say those living in Watford are doing the same.
MORE than 33,000 homes could be built on 120 sites identified across the “urban area” of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
The options identified for up to the year 2038 by BCP Council still leaves the local authority 9,000 homes short of the housing target set by the Government.
Details on the potential development future are under the spotlight as the first conurbation-wide Local Plan takes a step forward.
Members of BCP Council’s cabinet will discuss the issues and options consultation document at a meeting later this month before residents are asked to give their views on all the key elements that go into forming a Local Plan.
The Local Plan will set out a strategy for how much, where and what type of development will take place across the BCP Council area.
It will provide detailed planning policies and land allocations to guide change and new development, while taking account of climate change targets set by BCP Council and the government.
A draft of the consultation document, which has been published in cabinet papers, says the government standard method sets a housing need of 42,672 homes up to 2038 across the conurbation.ADVERTISING
The local authority is looking into if it can claim exceptional circumstances to have this target lowered.
At present BCP Council has examined all options to see what land is available, which has led to 120 sites in the urban area that could be allocated to provide approximately 33,500 homes.
Identified sites include a wide-range of locations across the BCP Council area, including hotels, car parks and vacant buildings.
Options identified to address the shortfall include allocating urban sites at a higher density, reviewing housing constraints in conservation areas and allocating some smaller open spaces which are surplus to requirements.
One option would be to consider releasing land from the green belt, with this increasing supply by 1,000 to 4,000 homes.
Fifty-five green belt locations have been put forward as suggestions for development to the local authority by private land owners and site promoters. At present these have been excluded from the current land availability assessment. The draft consultation says the council will “need to think about whether the green belt boundaries should be reviewed”.
Another option referenced would be to work with neighbouring authorities, but New Forest District Council has recently concluded its own local plan process and the whole region is facing similar housing pressures.
Alongside setting policies for housing, the Local Plan considers issues around regenerating town centres, economic growth, job creation, transport and tackling climate change.
If signed off by cabinet members on Wednesday, July 28, the consultation will run for at least eight weeks.
With recent legislative changes in Scotland and Ireland England and Wales are now the only countries in the world without modern zoning controls on the statute book.
In Scotland since 2019 we have Masterplan Consent Areas replacing spz etc.
In Ireland we have Planning Schemes, again replacing SPZs etc. The terms planning scheme comes from old English legislation and I adopt it in my suggested planning reform act.
The New Towns Act of 1946 section 3 requires a masterplan and a development order granting consent within its area – 28 new towns were built using this provision, I note with very little opposition (apart initially for Stevenage).
So what is the big deal? Its simply that we have become engrained to slow out of date practices and procedures never designed for town scale planning.
I should add the opposition of the TCPA to zoning is doubly hypocritical and utterly indefensible. They want New Towns designated under the New Towns Act don’t they?
Christopher Pincher in planning said he was ‘open to the idea’ of widening the National Infrastructure Regime to Major Housing schemes.
This is occasionally suggested by those who dont understand how the National Infrastructure Regime under the 2008 Act works. 5 reasons why it sint a good fit.
1. It is highly tailored to Major Infrastructure, not Major Housing
In the noughties there was years of work across Whitehall to deal with the length of time needed to approve national infrastructure like new Power Stations, Pipelines etc. Often these needed multiple approval across different departments as well as seperate CPO. The solution was a special procedure under the 2008 Act to grant for consent for everything through an application to a branch of the Planning Inspectorate. The steps, though not perfect, are more clearly set out than for other planning applications but the whole system design was for infrastructure, to which later commercial development was added. Housing other than associated housing is excluded. Several aspects of the system design make it unsuitable for major housing.
2. The decision is not local plan led – which will be politically explosive
Section 38(6) doesn’t apply – the plan led clause. Many policy areas, such as Green Belt, only exist through local plans. There was good reasons for this. The appropriate policy was national policy and some infrastructure, such as pipelines, have t go where they go through irrespective of local policy. Instead national projects have to be determined by special national policy statements, for example national policy statement on airports. The national regime has been far less successful where NPSs have not been spatially specific, such as ports and strategic rail freight hubs, where you have simply seen multiple competing and conflicting applications for the same need – such as the ridiculous case South of Northampton for two mutually incompatible SFRAs. Much the same happened when John Major made his ‘peeing on the motorway’ speech, a tsunami of motorway services station applications only a few of which could be approved. The same would happen, a stampede of badly conceived applications each aiming to be first. The only way this could work is with a national plan or NPS of where major new sites would go.
3. There is provision under the existing Act for the SoS to direct certain categories of Applications to be made to the SOS directly
So why go through the political pain for amending the law of National projects? Similarly the SoS has existing powers (which need tidying up) to declare development corporations, New Towns etc. which is a much better fit. designed for the outset for major housing and mixed use schemes.
4. It Might be Slower
A lot of paperwork is needed for national infrastructure schemes, designed as they are to consider impacts over large areas and multiple authorities, consultation reports, local impact reports etc. This might actually slow things down.
5. It has been tried in Ireland and failed spectacularly
Ireland introduced a ‘temporary’ measure for major housing sites to be made to its planning board. It bogged whole system down as many sloppy applications were made, not meeting the procedures, and leading to large numbers of judicial reviews. The Irish government has stated the temporary measure will not be made permanent.
Many local authorities who have large numbers of east European Migrants have long suspected this, with NHS and School rolls records widely at variance with mid year population estimates suggesting massive census under enumeration.
The applications for settled status has confirmed this. Around 1.1 million may have left Britain after Brexit, leave supermarket shelves empty, and fruit rotting in fields, but the number of working age was underestimated by around 1.4 million, suggesting at least 2 million underestimated total population. England’s demographic baseline for use the standard method will have to be resent. We will soon have a new census, but now live data from GP rolls collected as part of COVID are now far more accurate, why not use those instead?
Quick answer – they haven’t a f****g clue where it will go, instinctive opposition to a sustainable location being the default position. So they will end up putting their housing at car based sites at Ringmer or Chailey instead, those villages will love that.
ALL five party group leaders on a district council oppose controversial plans by Eton College to build a 3,000-house new town near a national park.
Leaders of Lewes District Council have deemed the 500-acre site East Chiltington, which sits on the edge of the South Downs National Park, as inappropriate for a new town.
Don’t Urbanise the Downs, which was formed in March to fight the scheme and now has nearly 2,000 members from right across Sussex, approached all five party group leaders to get their views on the proposed scheme.
Lewes District Council is currently a hung council, with no one political party having overall control.
Control of the Cabinet is with councillor James MacCleary as leader, as part of a cooperative alliance, consisting of the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, Labour groups and a member from the Independent group.
Conservative group leader Isabelle Linington said: “I’m totally opposed to this development.
“No doubt about it. I think it’s totally inappropriate and shouldn’t even be considered, let alone allowing anything to proceed.”
“Our mantra has always been brown site first; you shouldn’t even consider greenfield sites until you’ve filled all the brownfield sites.
“I’m very worried about it. It would be disastrous if they put a town there.
“It’s just unthinkable that they could destroy all that land.
“Also, it’s a nonsense argument to say that people can enjoy the countryside if they lived there because if they build this town, there wouldn’t be any countryside.”
According to the group, East Chiltington would grow to 16 times its current number of homes and have more than 3,000 additional buildings crammed in to just 20 per cent of the parish if the plans were to go ahead.
It would also result in over 3.5 million more car trips per year from the 6,000 additional new town residents and their approximately 4,200 additional cars.
Zoe Nicholson, Green party leader and deputy leader of the council, added: “I stand horrified with residents about the scale and size of this development in our beautiful countryside, and the impact on the fragile eco-systems in which is it sited.”
James MacCleary, LibDem leader and current Leader of the Council, said: “What I find most frightening about it (the scheme) is the traffic generation and the carbon impact of all those additional vehicles … and linked to that would be the energy demands of the development and the effect that has in terms of the sustainability of the site.
“If there is one thing that must be obvious to everyone, it is the fact that the roads there are in no way fit to support a settlement of even the fraction the size.”
By the way according to Lewes Brownfield register it has less about two years supply of brownfield sites, most of which are already permitted and form part of their housing trajectory; what about the other 18 years of the local plan, plus overspill housing from Wealden, Eastbourne, Brighton and the South Downs National Park?
Countryside developments are often award winning and photos appear of them in national design guides so what is going on?
As someone who used t work in Countryside Partnerships (not a happy time) I can tell you what is going on. In order to expand in North of England Countryside bought first one then two north of england/east midland builders. This is the partnership division based in Warrington.
Three key differences:
- they often get land free from council’s and regeneration bodies, and sometimes RPs, working in partnership (difficult brownfield sites)
- they often work in partnership with buy to let providers and RPs, leading to big up front cash payments and good cash flow
- they use timber frame, and architects and urban designers go nowhere near projects, except for coloring projects for design and access statements, schemes are designed by unqualified architectural technicians usually by pencil with 20 years of cramming in as many standard house types they can on sites.
What this resulted in was a very high rate of return on capital advanced with much less cash locked up in unsold lots. Leading investors to say, do this for everything this is the future, sell your old style division (based in Brentwood), well they are not selling the division, they are disposing of assets (land options) and switching models. The business models are are different as Burtons (the past) and Primark (the future) – the latter just in time, high turnover, high profit, cheap and nasty construction.
The real issue is will on the sites Countryside owns and buys in the South of England will we get the same kind of tat you get in the North.
This will mean large scale redundancies in Countryside south of England Planners, they are selling these sites.
If you don’t believe me compare and contrast:
Company will sell off sites that don’t fit new partnerships housing model
Countryside has announced it is winding down its direct housebuilding arm to focus on place making and regeneration through its partnerships business.
The Essex-based housebuilder told the stock market it has decided to focus all of its resources on its partnerships business, which works with housing associations, public bodies and institutional private rental operators to deliver mixed-tenure regeneration schemes.
Land and developments that do not fit the partnerships strategy, and are not subject to existing commitments, will be sold off.
This means that the housebuilding business, which in the six months to March generated revenue of £265m, will be wound down.
“No additional capital will be deployed in the building of new developments that do not fit the partnerships model”, the company said.
The firm said a new partnerships region will be set up in the home counties utilising suitable sites from the housebuilding business, which will be led by Philip Chapman, the current MD of the firm’s Housebuilding West division. Any sites not suitable for the partnerships model will either be built out or sold.
Countryside said this move will generate £450m of surplus cash by September 2023, which will be returned to shareholders.
The move follows a campaign by activist shareholder Browning West to sell the housebuilding business. This was followed by David Howell’s decision to stand down as chair alongside the announcement of a strategic review of options for the housebuilding arm. John Martin was appointed chairman in April.
The company has not said specifically why it has moved away from selling the housebuilding business in favour of winding it down instead.
However, John Martin, chairman of Countryside, said: ”The strategy will significantly accelerate the development of our Partnerships business, which will be even stronger as a result. The value of the additional recurring earnings that this will generate, along with the £450m proceeds from the disposal of surplus assets, clearly significantly exceeds the value of any of the other strategic options available.”
The housebuilding business had a higher profit margin than the partnerships business last year, at 14.8% compared with 11.6% (see table below). However the partnerships arm had a much higher return on capital employed, at 13% compared with 4.9%. Return on capital employed is calculated by dividing pre-tax profit by employed capital and is a measure of how efficiently capital is being used.