“If we value rural Britain, we can’t build houses all over it”

“Government housing policy has lost all contact with planning Britain’s countryside. This week the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) is up in arms over house-building in green belts, and over the lack of what it calls affordable housing. These are a distraction. It is planning as such that has collapsed.

The CPRE is concerned that 8,000 houses were built last year on green-belt land, or 24,000 over the past decade, and that hardly any were affordable. This has predictably raised a green light over all green belts, with developers rushing forward with applications for 460,000 new homes now in process. Already, unplanned and sprawling “toy-town” estates are spreading across the home counties, the Fens, the Somerset Levels and the Severn Valley. It has sucked development into the south-east of England, denuded town centres and put ever more pressure on transport corridors. It is the worst sort of “non-planning”.

New green belt housing applications push total to a record 460,000
The issue should not be green-belt building or affordability. All rural land is now in contention. As for affordability – usually 20% off market price – such a subsidy is always short-term, and should never be a loophole for allowing building where it would otherwise be stopped.

New houses in the countryside have intense local impact, yet they form a trivial element in the housing market, of which some 90% involves existing stock. Policy should be aimed at genuinely boosting supply. This means cutting Britain’s shocking underoccupation of existing buildings. It means help with downsizing and subletting. It means not taxing sales, as stamp duty does. It means densifying urban sites and being more flexible on building uses. Modern “green” development is in cities.

Local planning must be restored. The government claims the right to decide how many new people come to Britain. It should grant local people the same right, to control the pace and nature of settlement in their communities. New planning rules deny them that right. They dictate that, should local people fight imposed targets, they will lose any further say in the matter, allowing free rein to development. It is heads we win, tails you lose localism.

Britain’s reputation for town-and-country planning has all but evaporated over the past decade. Each change in planning rules, usually dictated by the building lobby, has drawn ever more of the countryside into speculative play. The solution does not lie in arguing over a few hundred green-belt acres and a few thousand subsidised houses. County land-use planning has to be restored. Landscape considered worthy of long-term preservation – and much of it is still outside national parks – should be “listed” for its scenic and environmental value, like conservation areas in towns. Other land could then be declared a potentially developable land bank.

Listing the landscape would replace the present fighting with proper planning. Everyone would know where they stood. Rural Britain would not, as now, be up for speculative land grab. The old mistakes would not be repeated.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/06/planning-system-uk-landscapes-listing-rural-britain

New planning rules = developer free-for-all again

As Owl understands it (feel free to correct) Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans are now basically ripped up unless developers are BUILDING just about everything for which they have permission (building, not land-banking).

A new “Housing Delivery Test” will apply from November 2018. If DEVELOPERS have not built enough homes using these calculations COUNCILS will be penalised by having planning decisions taken from them and DEVELOPERS WILL BE ALLOWED TO BUILD JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE. Just like the old days when we had no Local Plan. Neighbourhood plans will then also count for nothing.

As the CPRE points out:

“…Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’ as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all local plans becoming out of date within two years. It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.

“Without a local plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. This results in the wrong developments in the wrong places – local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside destroyed for no good reason.”

https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/planning-construction-news/revised-national-planning-policy-framework-provokes-mixed-feelings/43866/

Nice one, Tories!

For the geeks amongst us, the methodology of the “Housing Delivery Test” – (9 pages) which will be implemented from November 2018 – is here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/728523/HDT_Measurement_Rule_Book.pdf

Devon and Somerset – a new Klondike gold rush?

The LEP housing numbers, anticipating 50,000 new households in Devon, are almost certainly driven in part by the heroic assumptions about the local economy, as Owl has pointed out many times.

As we know, the LEP assumption is 4% growth per annum for the next 18 years. Such a sustained economic boom would invoke a ‘Klondike’ style immigration rush into Devon and Somerset, as the economies of all of the rest of the western world failed to compete with us at that level.

East Devon’s current Local Plan is based upon an anticipated annual UK economic growth rate of 3% from 2007, which has turned out to be just over 1%.

This, of course, is why many of our employment sites are dormant (and one of the many reasons why we do not need a new site in Sidford), and all our town centres are struggling – there simply isn’t demand.

Even if economic growth was to average 3% growth from now until the end of the Plan period, which looks incredibly optimistic, we would still have 33% more employment land than we need, according to East Devon’s own numbers.

The LEP’s projections have been laughed at by everyone – especially, Owl gathers, in Whitehall.

But they feed into a whole raft of housing and economic projections, that will ultimately emerge as policy around the region.

What assumption will be used for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) projections, Owl wonders? Now delayed until after the next local council elections in 2019?

Will the GESP team dare to condemn the LEP numbers, or will they adopt them, even when they must know they are nonsense?

What might happen if those without vested interests in the growth of expensive housing in the area were for once denied a say due to conflict of interest?

And where are the signs of the revisions of our Local Plan, based on current realities, that are required every 5 years?

Expansion of Cranbrook not going down well with – Cranbrook

“A total of 138 consultation responses were received from town and parish councils, councillors, specialist bodies, developers and the public. A wide range of issues were raised, including technical concerns about transport issues, such as problems providing vehicle access to some parts of the proposed expansion areas and how rail services can be improved to deliver a half hourly service into Exeter.

It was also noted that some additional land had been put forward by landowners for development through the consultation and this now had to be considered for inclusion in the plan.

… People were mainly concerned about the location and extent of development to the south of the London Road, particularly where this intrudes into Rockbeare parish and the Green wedge that was designated to prevent settlement coalescence (joining up) between Cranbrook and the village.

The community at Rockbeare raised strong concerns with these proposals, which also conflict with the emerging Rockbeare Neighbourhood Plan that has recently been out to consultation. Members were advised that this development was important for bringing the London Road into the town, as well as for creating a sense of place along the road as an entrance to Cranbrook….”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2018/03/councillors-review-report-on-cranbrook-plan-development-plan-document-dpd/

Risk of green wedge between Cranbrook and Rockbeare being swallowed up despite Local Plan rules

“Cllr Rob Longhurst said: “The main thing I would be concerned with is the idea that a green wedge could be disposed of if it doesn’t fit. It was put there for a reason after long debate and I think it is wrong to suddenly discard it as being inconvenient.”

Cllr Mark Williamson said: “It is so clear in the strategy of the Local Plan that it only takes up a single sentence, saying within green wedges, development will not be permitted. There are six green wedges in the Local Plan so if this was allowed then there will be sleepless nights around the district, where the other green wedges are, particularly around Seaton and Colyton.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/concerns-raised-building-green-wedges-1400152

Blackill Engineering Extension – is this an excuse to drive a new industrial site into the heart of the Pebblebed Heaths?

These days most large developers pay for pre-application advice before submitting a planning application. A recent Freedom of Information request has uncovered the advice that was offered to someone (name redacted) seeking such advice on proposed business units at Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury in early October 2017.

Specifically this proposal was for the erection of AN ADDITIONAL industrial building to support the existing business, Blackhill Engineering, being operated form the site together with the erection of FIVE ADDITIONAL industrial buildings for use by other businesses.

In summary the advice given was that this would not comply with the protective policies that cover this sensitive site. A much stronger employment benefit case regarding the expansion of the existing business to justify a departure from these policies would be needed. The five speculative industrial buildings would not justify a policy departure.

On 20 December 2017, within three months of this advice, planning application 17/3022/MOUT was submitted for outline application seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure.

The accompanying justification reads:

“There is considerable and clearly identified need for the existing business at Blackhill Engineering to expand as a result of that business having grown considerably over recent years and with its existing premises now at full capacity. The provision of additional facilities on the application site would allow the company to continue its expansion and so deliver additional economic and employment benefits to the local area…. With the winding down of the existing quarry use of the site, there is a short and fortuitous window of opportunity in which to address BESL’s growth requirements with the reuse of an area of former minerals processing site….It is a crucial part of both local and national employment strategy to protect existing businesses and to encourage their expansion. If approved, the scheme would allow the existing business not to only remain at the site but also to expand. The resulting investment will enable a substantial increase in the provision of highly skilled jobs in the area, increased training opportunities for apprentices and added value to the local economy. Furthermore, the expansion of the Blackhill Engineering will help reinforce the vitality of its parent organisation…”

So, is this application all about the needs of Blackhill Engineering to expand, having already designed flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, worked for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point, which in October seemed to require only one building; or more about Clinton Devon Estates trying to generate rent from a new industrial park? Restoration provides no income.

For those interested here is the detailed pre-application advice, given on an informal basis and without prejudice, in about half the words:

The extant planning permission on the site requires a restoration and aftercare scheme to be implemented following cessation of the quarrying operations. As part of this condition, alternative schemes (subject to planning permission) can be considered but two policies are of particular relevance:

East Devon Local Plan- Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside.

This strategy states that development in the countryside “will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development”. In this instance, there is no local or neighbourhood plan which would permit the proposal and, therefore, it is considered that it would not comply with Strategy 7.

East Devon Local Plan- Policy E5 – Small scale Economic Development in Rural Areas.

This policy states that the expansion of existing businesses designed to provide jobs for local people will be permitted where

1. it involves the conversion of existing buildings. Or

2. if new buildings are involved, it is on previously developed land. Or

3. if on a greenfield site, shall be well related in scale and form and in sustainability terms to the village and surrounding areas.

In this instance, the Local Planning Authority recognise the previously developed nature of the site, however, in the ‘Glossary of Terms’ section of the Local Plan (which echoes those contained in the National Planning Policy Framework) previously developed land specifically excludes land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures.

Accordingly, the land would be considered as greenfield.
In terms of Policy E5, as the site would not be well related in sustainability terms to Woodbury or surrounding areas, the proposal would be contrary to policy.

However, if sufficient justification can be made in terms of the needs of the existing business being operated from the site to expand into an additional building, then the economic benefits may outweigh the environmental harm, of the unsustainable location as a departure from the Local Plan.

For this purpose, an economic benefits statement would need to be submitted as part of an application.

The five speculative units being located in an unsustainable location would not be acceptable.”

EDDC to help unauthorised Greendale businesses to relocate

Owl says: Here is EDDC’s version of the Greendale High Court decision.

With hindsight, EDDC might have been better served by not allowing the unauthorised businesses on to the site in the first place. And if the owners allowed businesses on an unauthorised site, maybe the owners and the businesses should be paying for specialists when those businesses have to move this time, not availing themselves of a free service from EDDC – especially as the rest of us are paying more and more for OUR EDDC services.

EDDC PRESS RELEASE

21 February 2018
Enforcement action taken to remove unauthorised development at Greendale Business Park
Council will work with park owners to find alternative locations for businesses

East Devon District Council has successfully fought a planning appeal by Greendale Business Park against an enforcement notice requiring the park owners to remove an unauthorised extension.

The business park has been extended into the countryside after four fenced compounds were created, concreted over and were used variously for the storage of mobile homes, shipping containers, portakabins and, in the case of one of the compounds, had two permanent buildings on it.

Following the latest High Court hearing, it now means that the owners of Greendale Business Park, FWS Carter and Sons, must comply with the enforcement notice, remove the extension and return the land to countryside within six months of the court’s decision.

Councillor Mike Howe, chairman of the district council’s development management committee, said that the council will work with the park owners to find alternative locations for businesses on the unauthorised site affected by the enforcement notice.

“This case demonstrates that we take unauthorised development very seriously and as a local authority are charged with using our enforcement powers to ensure that development carried out without planning permission is removed.

“We will work hard with the site owners to find alternative locations for the businesses currently operating from this unauthorised area.

“We’re pleased that the courts have now stopped this appeal from proceeding any further and the enforcement notice to get these works removed has now taken effect.”

The works were all carried out without planning permission and a subsequent planning application was refused due to the harm that the extension caused to the countryside and the visual amenity of the area.

Following the refusal of planning permission, the council served an enforcement notice on the owners requiring the uses to cease and the land returned to its former condition including the removal of temporary and permanent buildings, fencing and hard surfacing.

Although the owners appealed against the enforcement notice, a planning inspector ruled in favour of the council and directed the owners to stop using the land in the way it was and return it to its former condition within six months.

The owners subsequently appealed against the decision in the High Court arguing that the planning inspector had made an error in law by concluding that the East Devon Local Plan specifically covered the issue of development at Greendale Business Park.

In responding, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government argued that FWS Carter and Sons had misinterpreted the Local Plan and that their interpretation was “patently wrong”. Ultimately, the court did not grant the owners a further opportunity to proceed with an appeal and they will have to pay all costs arising from the case.”