“Help to buy” scheme ends – with £117.2 billion left in the kitty

Question: what happens to the £117.2bn underspend still left in the kitty? That’s an awful lot of affordable social housing. Oh, forgot – this government doesn’t build social housing as the people in it vote Labour, according to George Osborne. Bet it goes to large-scale, high-end developers – again.

“… The programme was announced by Hammond’s predecessor George Osborne in his 2013 Budget to boost the housing market and help people buy a home. At the launch, Osborne said he intended the support to run for three years from its launch in September 2013, and Hammond confirmed it would close to new loans on 31 December.

The programme offers government mortgage guarantees to people who are struggling to raise a deposit. According to figures published today, 86,341 mortgages have been completed with the support of the scheme. Of these, 79% were purchases by first time buyers, while the total value of mortgages supported by the scheme is £12.8bn, less than a tenth of the £130bn worth of mortgages that Osborne initially said the scheme could support. …”


New case law on density in AONBs

“RCJ portrait 146x219The Court of Appeal has handed down a significant decision on the standard of reasons required when granting planning permission. Caroline Daly explains the ruling.

The case of R (CPRE Kent) v. Dover District Council [2016] EWCA Civ 936 concerned the grant of planning permission for what Laws LJ described as development of an “unprecedented” scale (521 residential units, 90 apartment retirement village and hotel) in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe, close to Dover.

The Officer’s Report had recommended refusal of the scheme, making “trenchant criticisms” of the density, layout and design of the scheme. However, the Council’s Planning Team, having taken advice from a consultancy to the effect that a lower density scheme of some 375 dwellings would have a lesser effect on the AONB and continue to be viable, suggested in the Report that a revised proposal be put forward for consideration. The developer argued before the Planning Committee that a reduced density scheme would not be viable.

The Planning Committee approved the application. The reasons given for departing from the recommendation were summarized in brief terms in the Committee Minutes, which referred to the benefits of the scheme, a view that an alternative lower density scheme could jeopardise its viability, and the belief that effective screening could minimize the harm caused to the AONB. The Committee concluded that the advantages did outweigh the harm that would be caused to the AONB.

Laws and Simon LJJ allowed the appeal against Mitting J’s decision ([2015] EWHC 3808 (Admin)) on the basis that the Council’s Planning Committee had failed to give legally adequate reasons for granting permission.

The Court of Appeal summarised the applicable law in relation to the standard of reasons, setting out Lord Brown’s “mainstream” approach in South Bucks v Porter (No 2) [2004] 1 WLR 1953, given in the context of an Inspector’s decision on appeal.

The “mainstream” approach is that the reasons for a decision must enable the reader to understand why the matter was decided as it was and what conclusions were reached on the principal important controversial issues, that reasons need refer only to the main issues in the dispute and not to every material consideration, and that the reasons can be briefly stated, with the “degree of particularity required depending entirely on the nature of the issues falling for decision”.

Laws LJ referred to Lang J’s recent judgment in R (Hawksworth Securities PLC) v Peterborough City Council [2016] EWHC 1870 (Admin), in which she made a distinction between Inspectors’ decisions on appeal and the administrative decisions of local planning authorities. Lang J was of the view that where a local planning authority was granting planning permission, it would be unduly onerous to impose a duty to give detailed reasons “given the volume of applications to be processed”.

The Court considered that Lang J’s approach needed to be “treated with some care” and that “interested parties (and the public) are just as entitled to know why the decision is as it is when it is made by the authority as when it is made by the Secretary of State”. Laws LJ considered that three factors pointed away from Lang J’s approach in this case, namely:

The pressing nature of the AONB policy expressed in NPPF paragraphs 115 and 116;

The fact that the Committee was departing from the Officer’s recommendation, which meant that the Officer’s reasoning ought (if but briefly) to be engaged with; and

The fact that there was a statutory duty to give reasons by virtue of Regulation 24(1)(c)(ii) and (iii) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, which had not been fulfilled by any document.

On the facts, the Court found that the reasons given were inadequate, particularly in relation to the treatment of the Officer’s assessment of the harm that would be inflicted on the AONB by the proposed development.

Laws LJ found that “a statutory statement of reasons made under the EIA Regulations would have been required to grapple with the issue of harm much more closely than what the minutes disclose; and the strictures of NPPF paragraph 116 demand no less.”

The Court of Appeal made it clear that this judgment is not to be seen as anything other than an application of Lord Brown’s statement to the effect that the degree of particularity required of reasons will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Laws LJ emphasised that this was an “unusual” case and said that the judgment should “not be read as imposing in general an onerous duty on local planning authorities to give reasons for the grant of permissions”.

The judgment does not throw open the doors to a stream of challenges based on reasons grounds. However, the Court of Appeal has sounded a cautionary note. From this decision, it is apparent that an extremely cautious approach will be required by a planning committee that chooses to depart from its officers’ recommendations.

In such circumstances, the reasons given for the grant of permission must be carefully drafted and must engage with the recommendations of the officer and explain the reasons for departure from those recommendations.”


French company gets big Hinkley C contracts

French nuclear group Areva (AREVA.PA) said on Thursday it has won contracts worth over 5 billion euros (£4.32 billion) to provide various services at Britain’s $24 billion Hinkley Point nuclear project.

The deal to build Britain’s first new nuclear power station in decades at Hinkley Point was signed behind closed doors in London earlier on Thursday in a private ceremony.

Areva said the subcontracts include among others, a long-term fuel supply agreement, and the delivery of the two nuclear steam supply systems, from design and supply to commissioning.

The company will also provide material for the fuel fabrication, producing uranium and providing conversion and enrichment services at Hinkley Point.


“Greater Exeter” to take over next East Devon Local Plan revision? Will we be top or bottom?



We all know (or do we?) that “Greater Exeter” is now becoming more and more the vehicle of change in East Devon – more than East Devon District Council itself.

What – you DIDN’T KNOW?

Well, hardly surprising as the details (and, as we do know to our cost in East Devon, the devil is in the detail) are being discussed in secret.

Where? “The Greater Exeter Visioning Board”. The usual thing these days – no agendas, no minutes, no records, yet somehow its decisions get rubber-stamped by the EDDC Cabinet – which releases details on a “need to know” basis in which it is deemed that the public and most of East Devon’s District Councillors do not need to know.

This is what is happening in Devon and East Devon these days, folks. Faceless, paperless and secret societies (sorry, working parties, forums, partnerships, whatever) are now where the deals are done – large and small.

You (or they) might say – but we aren’t discussing anything of any great importance. Well, they would say that wouldn’t they. But when everything is secret, there is, of course, only one question to be asked: why?

Just in case you don’t believe Owl, here is a direct quote from the latest papers on the EDDC Scrutiny Committee agenda.

“Undertake a Review of the process for writing the Local Plan in future

There has not been an opportunity due to other workload commitments to consider how a review of this process may be taken forward and with proposals for a joint strategic plan going to members shortly the processes for future plan making may look very different anyway. It is considered that any review should follow decisions about how plan making will be taken forward in future so that any review can consider what can be learnt in the context of informing new processes moving forward whether this be through a Local Plan Review or a Joint Strategic Plan with a more local level plan beneath.”

Click to access 061016-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

Local Plan beneath, Joint Strategic Plan on top – hhhm!

“Working with the willing” in devolution deals

The post below cites former Labour minister John Healey as saying that his government got devolution wrong but this government has got it right by “working with the willing”.

Owl finds this a chilling phrase in politics. Working with those who are willing to do what exactly?

We have never been given the story of how a bunch of businessmen and women with vested interests suddenly found themselves working together as something called the Local Enterprise Partnership. There is no back story, no minutes of meetings where they were chosen (Were they chosen? Who by? When? How?), no paper trail about it all hooked up as a package that slipped into full being.

How come very quickly Cornwall decided to go it alone when its natural partner would have been Devon? How come Somerset decided to pall up with Devon and not Avon and Bristol?

The reason for that at least for that is clear. Devon businesses in the LEP are highly invested in nuclear activities or training for nuclear jobs or building houses around the nuclear sites or servicing the site through parent companies or subsidiaries. Whilst it might have worked better for Somerset to pall up with Bristol and Avon – Somerset was definitely “working with the willing”!

With Hinkley C having French and Chinese construction and personnel, it will be interesting to see whether those two partners are willing to work with each other, let alone Somerset or more remote Devon!

We can’t see the Chinese workers bedding down at the Premier Inn at Exmouth each night or the French workers choosing Honiton over Bristol for their nights out on the town!

Labour owns up to devolution mess when last in government – Tories continue it

“Former Labour minister John Healey has said that devolution under the last Labour government was “hamstrung” by efforts to develop proposals that could apply across the whole country.

The former Treasury and local government minister was speaking at a fringe event hosted by Core Cities UK, London Councils and the Mayor of London’s office at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.

He said the current government had got the approach right by deciding to “work with the willing”.

He stated: “We actually hamstrung ourselves in our period in government when we looked at devolution, because we felt we needed to have a blueprint that was consistent right across the country.

“But eventually it won’t work, it can’t work, in the same way in all parts. We got too hung up on institutional arrangements, geographical footprints. The case we should make needs to concentrate on what we most want to change, be determined to do it and then make the case for the devolution that helps us do us.”

Healey said that his political imperative would be to show how a Labour council and a Labour-led city makes a difference and can reach devolution deals with Whitehall “rather than try to come up with a plan that is all encompassing, which I think is part of the problem that we had for a lot of the time we were in government”.


“Work with the willing” – willing for what we ask here in the Heart of the South West.

Hospital patients being discharged too early with dangerously inadequate social care”

“Patients are too often being discharged from hospital when it is not safe for them to leave due to poor levels of health and social care integration, according to MPs.

A report released today by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, found that a lack of integration, caused by the historic split between health and care, meant that interdependent services were being managed and funded separately. This “political maladministration” was causing suffering for patients and relatives, it said.

The committee was responding to work carried out by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which it said highlighted “harrowing cases that illustrated the human cost of poor discharge”. These cases were not isolated but were persistent problems across the health service.

Poor patient discharge can take the form of delayed transfers of care, where patients are kept in hospital longer than is necessary, and premature or early discharge, where patients are sent home before it is clinically safe to do so, or without appropriate support in place.

Barriers to the implementation of best practice are prevalent at the interface between health and social care, the committee said. Pressures on resourcing and capacity were “leading to unsafe discharge practices”, and it called on health and social care leaders to ensure that person-centred care remained the undisputed priority.

The report found that while excellent guidance was available, good practice was not being applied equally across the system and more data was needed on the scale and impact of the failures.

Responding to the report, parliamentary and health service ombudsman Julie Mellor, highlighted the human cost that could arise when people fell through the cracks, and blamed the underfunding of social care.

She said: “We see too many cases where discharge from hospital has gone horribly wrong, particularly for older, frail people who often don’t have the right support in place at home to cope on their own.

“These shocking failures will continue to happen unless the government tackles the heart of the problem – the chronic underfunding of social care which is pilling excruciating pressure on the NHS, leaving vulnerable patients without a lifeline.”

Committee chair Bernard Jenkin said some hospital staff felt under pressure to discharge people earlier than was appropriate.

“Hospital leadership must reassure their staff that organisational pressures never take priority over person-centred care,” he said.

He stressed that staff needed to feel a level of trust and openness that enabled them to raise concerns about unsafe discharge.

The report referred to the Better Care Fund and the Discharge Programme Board as being “promising”, in bridging the gap between health and social care. But, it cautioned that these plans were far from implemented.

The committee urged the health secretary to establish a set of objectives for the board, with measures and timelines, so progress could be monitored. Also, it advised the government to set out a route map, by March 2017, to demonstrate how arrangements for sustainable funding for integrated care will be implemented.”


NHS bed closure ” consultation” to begin

“Consultation” – Owl really doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

This afternoon NHS Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body gathered for an extraordinary meeting at Exeter’s County Hall, following the announcement to close 72 community hospital beds in its eastern locality.

Details of the proposed consultation were discussed which will reduce the number of community bed units from seven to three.

The Your Future Consultation was approved by the governors signalling the start on the consultation on Friday, October 7.

It will run for 12 weeks and ultimately it will be NEW Devon CCG who decide which beds to close.

The four options being proposed in the consultation are…

A) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Seaton and 16 beds in Exmouth.

B) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Sidmouth and 16 beds in Exmouth.

C) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Seaton and 16 beds in Whipton.

D) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 in Sidmouth and 16 beds in Whipton.

In the options Tiverton hospital will definitely remain open. Honiton and Okehampton have not been included in the options so will close.”



The NHS is not overspent, it is underfunded!

EDDC’s badger expert

Brown has been a freelance badger consultant since 1996 and is largely contracted to undertake badger surveys for the planning, construction and development industries.”


ANIMAL campaigners have won a reprieve for a Bridport wildlife haven after a last ditch appeal to planners.

Retired zoologist Harry Britton and his wife Jill are fighting to save what they claim is an important home for badgers on the town’s New Zealand site where 15 homes are to be built.

Last week developers Hunt and Son asked West Dorset District Council to remove a condition preventing the bulldozers moving in until a protection zone has been establish around the setts once identified there.

They claimed a study by their badger expert Dr Julian Brown in late May had confirmed that the animals no longer live on the land.

But Mr and Mrs Britton, who live at Folly Mill Gardens next to the site, say they have conclusive evidence the badgers are still in residence.

And backed by Bridport Town Council they successfully persuaded the development control committee to halt the building work and order a new independent badger survey of the land.

Chairman Fred Horsington used his casting vote to back the protesters after the committee decision was split 4-4.

The reprieve came after Mr Britton argued that Dr Brown’s findings were flawed.”