Essential reading for a wet weekend: National Model Design Code

The Government is “consulting” on important changes to the NPPF to incorporate ideas in the “Living with Beauty” report (see below) and on its ideas for design codes. If it sounds too good to be true, we all want good design don’t we, it probably is!

This comes from a Civic Voice newsletter which conveniently has links to all the documents. It emphasise to Owl the need for as many as possible to take EDDC’s consultation on the Local Plan – Options and Approaches seriously and respond to it. Closing date 15 March.

National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals

In response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report, the government has launched a consultation to seek views on draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework. The text has been revised to implement policy changes in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission “Living with Beauty” report.

In response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report, the Government has announced:

• It will publish a draft national design code setting out clear parameters of good design and a simple process for local communities to define what buildings in their areas should look like
• Create an Office for Place within the next year which will pioneer design and beauty within the planning system
• Provide £4 million for the community-led housing fund, in addition to extra funding for successful areas under the heritage campaign
• Propose changes to the planning framework to place greater emphasis on beauty and placemaking

A number of other changes to the text of the Framework are also set out and explained in this consultation document, but at the time of sending this update, we do not believe that government is proposing a review of the National Planning Policy Framework in its entirety at this stage. A fuller review of the Framework is likely to be required in due course, depending on the implementation of the government’s proposals for wider reform of the planning system.

In addition to the NPPF consultation, the government has published a new National Model Design Code that outlines the design standards new developments are expected to meet. This provides a checklist that will guide local councils to create their own, unique, local design code.  This consultation is also seeking views on the draft National Model Design Code, which provides detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design.

Key items:

  • The press notice can be found here
  • The consultation can be found here
  • The draft National Model Design Code can be found here

The National Model Design Code guidance notes can be found here

Commenting on a planning application? Here’s some advice

A correspondent, interested in matters involving East Budleigh, sends this note of caution.

If you write a comment on a planning application to EDDC please, in your first sentence, say if your comment is neutral, in support or an objection.

Comments which are obviously objections have not included this and have been classified as “neutral”.

We’re not capable of making the medicines we require any more

But as we get ready to put out the bunting and pat ourselves on the back there is another truth: Britain now has no large-scale facilities manufacturing modern, complex medicines (apart from some producing vaccines).

We may lead the world in R&D, as the Covid vaccine triumph has proved, but when it comes to actually making medicines our standing is woeful. As a result, thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid manufacturing jobs have simply disappeared, along with factories that have now been given over to retail parks and housing estates.

I’ve been looking into this as the closure of another pharmaceutical plant has been announced, by GSK at Ulverston in Cumbria. There’s been a factory on the site since 1948. Eight years ago, the then prime minister, David Cameron and GSK chief Andrew Witty paid a joint visit and announced a £350m expansion with the creation of 1,000 new jobs. Cue much celebration. Forget the expansion. Now GSK, under a different chief, Dame Emma Walmsley, is scrapping the entire facility and pulling out altogether.

The pandemic has brought home to the government our dire weakness in this area. While Oxford scientists were racing to find a vaccine, Downing Street was being made all too aware of shortages in the supply of other medicines and equipment. They were being made elsewhere and other countries were holding back their stocks.

This prompted Johnson to launch an initiative across Whitehall, in May 2020, called “Project Defend” to shift our national security focus to include resilience in supply lines of essential non-foods. The goal is for the UK, post-pandemic, to be no longer dependant on imports of vital goods. As well as healthcare it’s also taking in other sectors, including the technology industry.

The progress of Project Defend, which is being run out of the Foreign Office, is shrouded in mystery – but put it this way, the campaign has not prevented GSK from shutting another base. Ulverston manufactures antibiotics and they have been sold to Sandoz. That company will transfer the making of those products to their location in Austria. This follows the announcement last year of a joint investment between Sandoz and the Austrian government of more than €150m to boost the long-term competitiveness of its antibiotic manufacturing site and to guarantee the long-term supply of antibiotics.

While Austria improves and strengthens, we’re reducing and growing weaker still. We’re not capable any more of making the medicines we require. The medical world is shifting towards monoclonal antibody therapies. To give some idea about their complexity: aspirin has 21 atoms in a molecule; growth hormone has 3,000 atoms; monoclonal antibody 25,000 atoms. The global biopharma market for these modern treatments is more than $300bn (£214bn) and growing at about 7 per cent a year. Where is the UK in this? Nowhere.

According to industry figures, at the last count in late October 2020, there were 1,700 biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in the world. These are the sites capable of producing modern medicines such as the much sought-after monoclonal antibodies. The US has 565, China 220, India 113, Germany 84, Japan 52, France 39, Ireland 23, and the UK nought. That’s right, zero.

This year is the first year when the UK is facing a balance of payments deficit on pharmaceuticals – 10 years ago it was one of the few industries that had a strong surplus. The shortfall is due to the lack of manufacturing – as brilliant and as headline-grabbing as it is, R&D does not help with the balance of payments.

It’s not only the lack of factories. We have now got half the number of people employed in pharmaceuticals than France, and only one-third compared to Germany. We just about compete in numbers employed with Switzerland and Spain. Again, not so long ago we were at the top of the tree and given the lack of investment this picture will only get worse.

Our expertise is being snapped up by foreign companies. A young chemical engineer graduating in the UK today really has no choice but to go overseas for a decent career. The US in particular, is awash with our best talent.

Successive UK governments have stood back and watched this happen. Our industry bodies, too – the record of the CBI in this area is lamentable. It’s a deplorable state of affairs.

Forget HS2 and tunnels across the Irish Sea – we’re talking about vital supplies. Do we really want to be reliant on the US, China, India, Germany and the rest? The pandemic has shown that when crisis hits, countries put the health of their citizens first. Other national and regional governments have made it their business to encourage enormous levels of investment. They are building and preparing; we’re closing and reducing. They will have the products they require; we will be hoping and pleading.

Facilitate free postal deliveries for candidates in May elections?

Can’t have a level playing field so let’s kick the proposal into the long grass.

Time to Change the Guard at Devon County Council – Owl

Daniel Clark 

Debate over whether the Government should facilitate free postal delivery of leaflets for each council election candidate in the May local elections has been ‘stifled’.

Cllr Martin Shaw, East Devon Alliance councillor for Seaton and Colyton, had put forward a motion to Thursday’s Devon County Council full council meeting calling for discussions to be held as to how the elections can be made safer following the decision that they will go ahead as planned.

The regularly scheduled 2021 Devon County Council elections will take place May 6 as per usual, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Shaw had asked the council to discuss and debate his call for the Government to facilitate online registration for postal voting, and a free postal delivery of leaflets for each council election candidate on the day, rather than the usual process of referring it to cabinet before returning back to full council, as by the next council meeting, it would be out of date.

He said: “This is an urgent matter, and the Government only recently decided to hold the election and the rules for it. The next meeting is after the elections so if it is referred to the cabinet so will be out of date.

“We are in a pandemic and voting in person cannot be guaranteed as safe, but the Government is doing nothing to make postal voting easier, and banning leafleting by candidates won’t help the less well-off candidates.

“I would hope you would welcome the opportunity to discuss how to make the elections safer but if you don’t like the wording of the motion, you can amend it or you can vote it down, but don’t stifle debate.”

However, councillors voted 32 votes to 11, with four abstentions, against debating the motion on the day and instead referring it to Cabinet, a decision Cllr Shaw said was ‘disappointing’.

A second motion around elections from Cllr Shaw, calling for councils to be able choose to change their voting system from the first-past-the-post system to the proportional Single Transferable Vote system, which is already used for local elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland, was also referred to the cabinet, but in accordance with the wishes of Cllr Shaw.

The judgment is in – Matt Hancock “acted unlawfully”

One down, a few more to go. 

Worth also following link in penultimate paragraph [in bold] to see the follow up proposals the Good Law Project has made to restore public confidence in health procurement. – Owl 

The High Court has ruled “The Secretary of State acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Transparency Policy” and that “there is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.” We have won the judicial review we brought alongside Debbie Abrahams MP, Caroline Lucas MP, and Layla Moran MP.

In handing down the judgment, Judge Chamberlain brought into sharp focus why this case was so important. “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.

The Judge went on to say that if Government had complied with its legal obligations we “would have been able to scrutinise CANs and contract provisions, ask questions about them and raise any issues with oversight bodies such as the NAO or via MPs in Parliament.”  When Government eschews transparency, it evades accountability. 

Government’s behaviour came under criticism in the judgment. If it had admitted to being in breach of the law when we first raised our concerns, it would have never been necessary to take this judicial review to its conclusion. Instead, they chose a path of obfuscation, racking up over £200,000 of legal costs as a result.  

We shouldn’t be forced to rely on litigation to keep those in power honest, but in this case it’s clear that our challenge pushed Government to comply with its legal obligations. Judge Chamberlain stated that the admission of breach by Government was “secured as a result of this litigation and at a late stage of it” and “I have no doubt that this claim has speeded up compliance”. It begs the question, if we hadn’t brought this legal challenge, what other contract details would have remained hidden from view? 

And whilst Government always sought to dismiss our challenge by claiming we needed to be an ‘economic operator’ to have standing, the judgment states that it is unrealistic that economic operators would have challenged Government’s breach of the law in these circumstances. In other words, if we hadn’t taken this case, there are not many others who could have done so. 

This judgment, which can be found here, is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold Government to account. But there is still a long way to go before the Government’s house is in order. We have now written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care detailing what needs to be done to improve procurement processes and ensure value for British taxpayers.

But for now, we can take a moment to celebrate this win. Thank you, as ever, for all your support.