AONB? It means nothing to developers

AONB – RIP NPPF – might as well rip it up.

And in David Cameron’s back yard.

Susie Bond’s blog:

“And now even the AONBs aren’t safe from grasping developers!

Appeal decision at Milton-under-Wychwood

An extraordinary decision following the planning appeal on land at Milton-under-Wychwood in West Oxfordshire has seen the Draconian planning rules turned completely on their head.


Current planning policy, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) identifies that, in the absence of a Local Plan, houses should be built in locations which are sustainable from an environmental, social and economic perspective.

Paragraph 115 of the NPPF clearly stipulates that AONBs should have the ‘highest level of protection’ from development:

115. Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.


West Oxfordshire’s Local Plan

The NPPF came into force in 2012 with councils given a year’s grace to March 2013 to get their Local Plans in place and identify that they had a 5-year supply of land for housing development. West Oxfordshire District Council seems to be woefully far behind in this process and, according to the planning decision, could only demonstrate a 2-year land supply. The figures, of course, did not take into consideration the number of houses in the pipeline.

The site is in David Cameron’s own constituency, at Milton-under-Wychwood in West Oxfordshire, where the appeal has allowed 62 houses in the very heart of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I gather that local residents are understandably livid and have major concerns that 100+ cars will exit the new development directly on to a single track road, through a village with impossible parking facilities. There are no places in the school, the surgery is full, and there is already another approved development for 40 houses in the village. The population of the village is under 1700 and the combined developments will swamp the village with over a hundred new houses. A massive development is currently being built in Chipping Norton, with another one going through the appeal process (and yet another in Burford and another in Charlbury).

Fears over surface water flooding

Worries about flooding from the site are very real, with concerns about houses downhill of the site at high risk of flooding. The planning inspector has recognised this and stipulated that flood mitigation measures must be put in place before a single house is occupied, and given our experience here in Feniton at Wainhomes’ Winchester Park site, I would strongly urge residents to keep a close eye on this one.

Campaigners in Milton-under-Wychwood now have to consider their position and there are very few options open to them. Judicial review is the only route left, but it requires money and a determination to carry on the fight.”

Top designer offers help with new Exmouth seafront ideas

“Wayne Hemingway is willing to visit Exmouth and share his thoughts on the Queens Drive development.

The East Devon District Council project is currently on hold after a shock announcement the site would be re-tendered because of a lack of progress on the part of original developer, Moirai Capital Investments.

Environmental community group Transition Exmouth contacted the noted designer following the decision. …

… As well as having a good record on community involvement, Wayne demonstrates a sensitivity to traditional seaside entertainments and locales which is why he would be the ideal person to involve in the consultation guiding the revised Masterplan for Exmouth.

He added: “Transition Exmouth calls on Cllr. Philip Skinner, Chair of Exmouth Regeneration Board and Chair of Exmouth Coastal Communities Team to demonstrate a willingness to listen to an outside expert and himself issue the invitation to Wayne Hemingway to visit our town.”

Hemingway has indicated that he is willing to visit Exmouth and has suggested a date, requesting only a formal invite.

The council has outline planning permission to develop the Queen’s Drive site to include a cafe and public open space, retail units, a hotel or holiday accommodation, car parking, and indoor and outdoor play facilities.

This includes the water sports centre at the front of the Queen’s Drive site, where the council has forged a partnership with Grenadier Estates for the proposed new £4 million community-owned centre.

This project is hoped to be under way early 2017.”

Ministers for “Local Growth” announced

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark has named local growth ministers for all of England in order to reflect the role of local places in the development of the government’s industrial strategy.

All ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have been tasked with building relationships with a number of local enterprise partnerships in England, as well as with the devolved nations.
The department’s ministers – Nick Hurd, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Jo Johnson, Margot James and Jesse Norman – will be the first point of contact for respective LEPs in England within the department

Ours is Jesse Norman:

Norman was a director of Barclays before leaving the City of London in 1997 to research and teach at University College, London. Prior to that he ran an educational charity in Eastern Europe in the Communist era. Despite his rebellious past Norman was identified by Bruce Anderson, formerly political editor of The Spectator, in January 2013 as a potential future Tory leader.

and from the Conservative Party website:

Jesse Norman was elected as MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire in 2010 and 2015. He has been married to Kate since 1992, has three children and lives in Hereford City.

Jesse was selected as a parliamentary candidate in December 2006. Whilst a candidate, he campaigned very actively on key local issues, fighting against the loss of public services and for a stronger voice for Herefordshire in Whitehall and Westminster. His campaigns have been featured in the Hereford Times, Hereford Journal and Ross Gazette.

Among other things, he acts as county-wide co-ordinator of the Herefordshire Save Our Post Offices campaign, and set up Schools First as a resource to help all those fighting school closures. In 2009 he ran a countywide campaign to support local shops, and published the Directory of Small Shops of Herefordshire. He is a trustee of the Kindle community centre in South Wye in Hereford City, where he has helped to set up a new youth theatre; and of the Friends of St Mary’s Church in Ross-on-Wye.

Jesse is a published author of many books and pamphlets, and has written widely in the national press. His book Compassionate Conservatism has been called the “handbook to Cameronism” by the Sunday Times, while the follow-up Compassionate Economics was described as “the most intelligent political tract of 2009, and the best analysis of the credit crunch” in the Daily Telegraph online.”

“Handbook to Cameronism” … to be found in any remaindered book shop. Hhhmmm. Well, on the bright side, it isn’t Hugo Swire.

“Beyond metro mayors and ‘secret deals’: rethinking devolution in England”

The number of people who realise the devolution emperor had no clothes is growing.

“Beyond metro mayors and ‘secret deals’: rethinking devolution in England

As the guard changes in Westminster and new government seeks to differentiate itself from its predecessor, it is timely to review the state of the devolution debate, argues John Tomaney. Policymakers need to learn from the US experience and reconsider the fixation on mayors. Just as importantly, the problem with ‘secret deals’ must be addressed if devolution is going to have any real democratic credentials.

The Cameron/Osborne approach to devolution had a number of distinctive features. Chief among these was its fixation with the directly elected metro-mayor as the answer to urban governance problem. In the government’s diagnosis this model of governance addresses weaknesses in fragmented systems, improves democratic accountability and bring city- regions together round common economic development strategies. The government claimed:

The experience of London and other major international cities suggests that a directly elected mayor can cut through difficulties [of urban governance]. The government has therefore been clear that devolution of significant powers will rest on cities agreeing to rationalise governance and put in place a mayor to inspire confidence

But there is limited evidence to support these claims about the impact of directly elected mayors on local economic growth and the improvement of local services. Many of the assertions made in the English debate rest on more or less persuasive anecdotes drawn principally from the US experience and the limited experience in London.

The Limits of Metro-Mayors

Strong US mayors, with access to locally tax raised taxes, are seen as leading the renaissance of US cities. For instance, the economic resurgence of New York City is often attributed to the pro-business policies of ‘strong mayors’ such as Michael Bloomberg.

Rather less attention, however, is devoted to counterfactuals. We might look at the case of Detroit, where ‘strong mayors’ have presided over a vicious circle of economic decline and municipal bankruptcy. A high degree of local self-finance, far from ensuring resilience, was arguably a causal factor in the precipitous decline of Detroit. The mayoral system is in crisis there.

In 2013, the sixty-fifth mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison after being convicted of a variety of corruption charges. The city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and the State of Michigan appointed an emergency manager to assume control of the council.

Strong mayors can lead to hubris and overreach and be the antithesis of models of policy-making based on deliberation and increased accountability and scrutiny. Mayors have managed both the rapid recent growth of New York City and the catastrophic decline of Detroit. Isolating the influence of mayors among the many other factors at work in these cases is very difficult.

One thing that can be said with certainty is that the mayors have not presided over an era of a democratic renewal. On the contrary, the US mayoral system has been associated with declining levels of electoral participation in the big cities.

At the time that Robert F Wagner Jnr was elected as mayor of New York City in 1953, voter turnout was over 90 per cent. By the time Bill de Blasio was elected 109th mayor in 2013, voter turnout was less than 30 per cent. Similar rates of decline in voter turnout can be seen in cities such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. These declines in voter turnouts have occurred, moreover, in cities that are endowed with much more extensive local media than is the case in northern English cities.

A key feature of the US mayoral model concerns how it facilitates close relationships between local political and business elites in ways which typically lack transparency and scrutiny and which underpin models of economic development that favour urban property interests. It is this aspect of the US model that seems to have had a particular influence in UK policy debates. For instance, at the 2015 Conservative party conference in Manchester, George Osborne proposed that where elected mayors had been created, they would have the power to add a (capped) infrastructure levy on business rates.

There is considerable uncertainty about how both the devolution of business rates and the infrastructure levy would work in practice, but the government is clear that a levy can only be raised if a majority of ‘business members’ of the boards of Local Enterprise Partnerships agree.

In effect, resources will only be allowed to be spent on infrastructure projects that are approved by a handful of ‘business leaders’. It might fairly be asked why the interests of a small number of appointed businesspeople should trump the mandate of an elected mayor. It might even be argued that this development represents a partial return of the franchise property qualification which was abolished by the Representation of the People Act in 1918.

The problem with secret deals

The new devolution arrangements are not the product of wide public debate in the areas to be affected by them, but instead are the outcomes of ‘secret deals’ (‘City Deals’, ‘Devolution Deals’, etc.) between political and business elites at the national and local levels, exemplified in the case of Manchester.

In essence, these deals are assembled locally from a menu of policies approved by HM Treasury. It stretches the imagination to see this approach as leading to meaningful democratic renewal. On the contrary, the model of devolution currently on offer is one designed to advance a narrowly defined set of business interests with very little democratic scrutiny. Arguably, it is this approach to politics that was rejected in the Brexit referendum.

Underpinning the new policy is a theory of economic development that fosters interurban competition and economic concentration, tolerates and indeed even celebrates high levels of socio-economic inequality, is comfortable with some groups and places being losers and locks-in enduring austerity, most especially in the places that have borne the brunt of public expenditure cuts to date. Innovation and entrepreneurialism in economic development is tolerated only within a highly restricted range of parameters. It is a form of devolution in which ‘business’ exercises a direct and indirect veto over the preferences of citizens. The emerging settlement is akin to the model of ‘post-democracy’, as elaborated by Colin Crouch, whereby formal mechanisms of accountability exist, but their practical role is increasingly limited and embodies the interest of a small elite.

In a country as centralised as the UK, the case for devolution is strong in principle. But as the Cameron/Osborne era is put to rest, this might be an appropriate moment to the reconsider the narrow model that has been offer to date.

Note: This blog draws from the journal article ‘ Limits of Devolution: Localism, Economics and Post-democracy’, published by Political Quarterly.

A (top) policeman’s lot IS a happy one!

“Devon and Cornwall’s top police officer took nearly 10 weeks’ holiday last year and was paid more than £215,000 in basic salary, pension contributions and benefits in kind.

Shaun Sawyer, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, also claimed £26,850 in expenses, according to figures from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Mr Sawyer took 47 of his entitlement of 48 days annual leave, the Western Morning News has discovered. …

… Alison Hernandez, the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is important to have the right people in the right jobs and, to do that, it is important to attract the best candidates.

“In extending Shaun Sawyer’s contract earlier this year my predecessor, Tony Hogg, responded to national concerns that the number of applicants for top positions in the service is declining and felt it beneficial to anchor Mr Sawyer in his role with what is the second largest geographical police force in England and Wales.

“This followed a period of unprecedented change in the way policing is delivered and during which Mr Sawyer proved he is a great asset to Devon and Cornwall Police.

“The people of Devon and Cornwall have seen a significant drop in recorded crime, and he continues to work with myself and my office to look at new ways to keep people safe while getting the best out of the police.”

Mr Sawyer was appointed in February 2013, and that year was paid £157,490. His salary rose to £165,556 in 2015.

Mr Sawyer claimed a subsistence and expenses allowance over the four years of: £8,921, £8,897, £0, and £26,850.

The police spokesman said: “There is no subsistence and expenses allowance for the Chief Constable from 2014 onwards due to changes made in 2014 nationally.

“The figure for the previous years relates to an allowance that chief police officers used to receive as part of their salary – again nationally. They stopped being paid this in 2014 hence the zero in that year.”

He did not explain how Mr Sawyer came to claim £26,850 in 2015/16.

Mr Sawyer’s benefits in kind claim has also varied: £18,323, £8,666, £11,147 and £15,383.

Pension contributions from the taxpayer were: £36,818, £36,807, £37,175, and £34,405.

Although Mr Sawyer is entitled to 48 days holiday, he has never taken the full amount. In 2013/14 he took 35 days; 2014/15 – 26.5; 2015/16 – 47.”