“CAMPAIGNERS battling the impact of Waverley’s “excessive” housing targets are celebrating a landmark legal decision giving them the green light to appeal.
In a fresh twist threatening to undermine the borough council’s adopted Local Plan, which calculates 11,200 houses must be built by 2032, the Court of Appeal agreed last Thursday it would hear the joint challenge by Surrey Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Protect Our Waverley (POW).
The challenge centres on whether Waverley had to increase its housing target by 1,600 homes in order to accept Woking’s “unmet need”.
If the joint appeal succeeds – due to be heard later this year – it will anger residents forced to accept unpopular housing schemes driven by Waverley’s determination to meet its housing target, such as a controversial scheme for up to 200 houses agreed last week in Milford (see page three).
Last week’s Court of Appeal decision reverses a High Court decision in October 2018 rejecting POW and CPRE’s case that Waverley should not be obliged to take half of Woking’s unmet need.
Celebrating CPRE’s successful appeal against October’s verdict, Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey branch director, said: “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal wish to see the matter of Woking’s so-called unmet need properly addressed, as there are big question marks over it.
“In the housing requirement numbers for both the Waverley and Guildford Local Plans, this issue of Woking’s unmet need, lurks in the background. It will be good to bring this issue out in the appeal court, as it has profound consequences – not just for Waverley and not even just for West Surrey, but also county wide and nation wide.
“Our countryside is at risk from excessive, arbitrary and unsustainabule housebuilding targets, and that is why we needed to challenge the housing calculations.”
POW chairman Bob Lees highlighted that the appeal coincides with Woking Borough Council declaring it now has no unmet need, and new demographic figures released by the Office for National Statistics implying a much reduced need for new housing.
Welcoming last week’s decision, Mr Lees said: “This is great news. It provides Waverley Borough Council with a golden opportunity to significantly reduce the mandatory number of new houses to be built in the borough over the next 14 years.
“POW fought against the housing requirement at the examination of the Local Plan. POW fought again in the High Court. POW will fight in the Court of Appeal. POW is fighting to protect our Waverley against unneeded development of our towns, of our villages and in our beautiful countryside.”
Waverley has set aside a “fighting fund” of £300,000 to defend its Local Plan. Responding, borough council leader and Farnham councillor Julia Potts, said: “This news is obviously extremely disappointing for us, but we will, of course, be vigorously defending our adopted Local Plan; the plan we believe represents the best possible vision for the borough’s future.
“It means we can work in partnership with the borough’s towns and parishes to develop Neighbourhood Plans, so communities can mould new development where they live. It means we can safeguard our borough against inappropriate development.
“It should be remembered that Waverley did not bring this legal action, but we have to defend both the borough and town and parish councils, whose Neighbourhood Plans are now threatened by this action. We all want appropriate plan-led development and we did everything possible at the inspection to defend a lower housing number.
“It is extremely disappointing that a few determined individuals continue to raise these legal challenges, despite the High Court upholding the Local Plan following the hearing in October 2018 and despite it having been approved by a government inspector.
“We are committed to preserving and protecting the adopted Local Plan. It will remain our principal planning document and continue to guide our planning decisions.”
“But not yet in East Devon until July 2019 (see below). It seems East Devon is the only council keeping ALL its plans secret until after the 2 May 2019 district council elections.
Fishy? You bet!
Anyway, here’s what we currently know:
Interesting proposals for changes to Sidmouth Road and Junction 30 of the M5. The Motorway Services and Sowton Park and Ride being developed as a “Mixed Neighbourhood” (see image above).
The Governments require the Greater Exeter Housing target to be 53,200 new homes over the next 20 years. That is for the combined area governed by East Devon, Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Exeter.
Exeter’s housing ambitions
Karime Hassan, chief executive and growth director of Exeter City Council revealed this week a proposal for 12,000 new homes in the City of Exeter over the next 20 years. His vision of “Liveable Exeter”, for delivering a transformational housing programme for Exeter from 2020 to 2040. involves the creation of 8 new neighbourhoods.
Exeter’s published Vision
Red Cow Village (St David’s) – 664 homes in new neighbourhood, including new work space, on both sides of the railway around St David’s Station.
Water Lane (close to Exe Valley Park) – 1,567 homes. A space for expanding leisure attractions near the quay, with low traffic or car-free development with attractive cycle and walking connections.
Marsh Barton – 5,544 homes in a new neighbourhood. It will remain an important employment and retail area, but with the integration of living and working, to make better use of riverside location. Development linked to the new proposed train station. Creation of new types of work space, including light industrial, workshops, office and shared work space.
East Gate (Heavitree Road) – 962 new homes, an enhanced approach to the city centre from the east, reduced traffic on Heavitree Road and a greater provision for public transport, walking and cycling. New places to live close to the city centre will exist alongside existing neighbourhoods.
West Gate (Western Way) – 617 new homes, opening up access to the river and canal from the city centre, a new cultural destination, an expanded and connected park at the heart of the city, a “Green Bridge” promoting active travel across the river.
South Gate (Holloway Street/South Street linked via Topsham Road) – 300 new homes, establishing an improved link between the city centre and the historic quayside, with a greater emphasis on the wall, city gates and Southernhay.
North Gate (North Street) – 308 new homes, a new approach to the city from St David’s, uncovering the medieval city wall.
Sandy Gate (land off Sandygate roundabout) – 1,050 new homes in a new sustainable and well-connected mixed-use neighbourhood, bridging the city and the new and existing neighbourhoods to the east, providing recreational, cultural and entertainment space where Exeter meets the proposed Clyst Valley Park.
Mid Devon’s published ambitions.
Mid Devon’s Local Plan is almost complete with a Planning Inspectors hearing due in the next few weeks to consult on their final draft.
Culm Valley on the South side of the M5 opposite Cullumpton create a new community of up to 5,000, with a new Motorway junction and railway Station.
Junction 27. A landmark project for a leisure and tourism development involving Tim Smit from the Edan Project
Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension will cover 153ha, to the east of Tiverton.
Teignbridge future ambitions.
Teignbridge has just started a review of their Local Plan and therefore their plans are in the infancy.
Brownfield Their preferred option to develop brownfield land for development however, the required number of homes the government require Teignbridge to build, is not possible to meet the housing needs from brownfield land only. Therefore, open countryside will need to be considered for development to meet the housing needs.
Garden village is being considered with the new settlement proposal to be between 1500-10,000 homes.
So – What are East Devon’s Ambitions?
Hard to say.
Although the other 3 Authorities are keeping their residents well informed on their sections of the GESP proposals, East Devon has been an almost total blackout! There has been a Local Plan in place since 2016 with most of new development being built in an area known as the West End. That is an area close to Exeter’s border plus the new Town of Cranbrook.
At East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday 29th January it was hoped that Agenda item 12 would be able to explain more on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan strategy and provide councillors some clarity on the East Devon Local Plan, plus the East Devon Villages Plan only agreed last year which most councillors only learned the previous week, would be jettisoned and replaced with a brand new East Devon Local Plan by 2023.
Local Plan to be replaced
At the meeting last week, the Head of Planning Ed Freeman explained that the present Local Plan was in 2 parts, with the section on Policies would require total re-writing because the Policies would be “substantially superseded” by the emerging GESP Policies. He also explained that the Villages Plan policies, will be merged into the new Local Plan.
Tory Councillor Philip Skinner who along with Tory Councillor Paul Diviani who are the only 2 East Devon`s elected representatives on the GESP “steering group committee” along with 2 elected members from the 3 other Authorities gave only a few hints on some of the latest thoughts for the GESP Strategy for East Devon.
Higher Density Housing for Exeter proposed for GESP
Regarding a question on Housing, he explained that it had been decided by the steering group, that each authority had a certain quota of dwellings proposed and it was not correct that if one Authority was unable to provide the housing numbers, other Authorities were required to build extra dwellings to offset the shortfall. He also explained that Exeter City Council had to return to the drawing board to enable extra dwelling numbers through “much higher density” within the confines of the City.
East Devon will take on most of the Industrial and commercial development for the GESP
Councillor Skinner also told the meeting regarding business development that he aimed to “Get the best for East Devon” and explained that to “Our strength and Exeter’s demise, they do not have the capacity, but we do!” and claimed most of the commercial and industrial development “will be in our patch”
After 2 years of joint secret meetings.
Exeter’s residents know what to expect with “Liveable Exeter”, Teignbridge residents are being told that their local plan is being re-assessed and are having public consultations, and Mid Devon residents have been through their public consultations and an agreed local plan about to be approved.
However, the residents of East Devon only know that their local plan is now being superseded by a new plan with substantial more housing and more industrial, commercial and business development.
All will be revealed in July 2019 after the District Council Elections. Who will you trust to steer East Devon through the next few years of obtaining the most appropriate and suitable Planning Policies. Leave it to the Tory Councillors who have kept everyone in the dark?
Or choose an Independent who are the major opposition for East Devon?
Well, cover me in tar and call me the M5! Owl has been saying this for YEARS. The only question that needs to be asked is: Is this deliberate or unintentional? Either way, it’s a damning indictment of its mendacity and incestuous relationship with developers or a damning indictment of its totally inept ability to govern. Or, of course (and more likely) BOTH!
“The government’s housing planning system is unable to demonstrate it is meeting housing demand effectively, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The government wants 300,000 new homes a year from the mid-2020s onwards.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has a standard method, developed in 2017, for local authorities to assess the number of new homes needed.
The NAO says this has weaknesses.
It says these weaknesses will result in a cut in the number of planned new homes in five of nine regions, while in London, the method will mean that new builds need to double in order to meet what the department thinks is needed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the current formula did not take into account the needs of local communities.
Local authorities – by law – need to have an up-to-date plan for building new homes.
If they are unable to prove that they have a five-year supply of land for housing, developers have greater freedoms to build where they want.
The NAO points out that this risks ill-suited developments, while the LGA says it risks a “free-for-all”.
The NAO says that between 2005-06 and 2017-18, 177,000 new homes per year were built on average, with the number never rising above 224,000.
To meet its ambition for 300,000 homes a year, the department will need to oversee a 69% increase in the average number of new homes built.
The NAO recommends the housing department should regularly monitor the gap between its ambition for 300,000 new homes and what is being planned.
It also says it needs to work with local authorities and other government departments to ensure that infrastructure is delivered more effectively.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand.
“From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well.
“The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”
Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “We remain clear that the government’s housing needs formula does not take into account the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.”
This open letter on permitted development rights was sent to the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 21 January 2019 and published on 28 January 2019.
“Dear Secretary of State,
Re: An open letter on Permitted Development Rights
Latest Shelter research shows that in England today, there are more than 270,000 people without a home. At the heart of the reasons for this is the simple fact that for a generation we have failed to build the homes the country needs.
In addressing this, however, it is important to think not only about the number but also the type of homes we build and where they need to be built. In particular, there is a pressing need to ensure that the homes we build are genuinely affordable. Last year we delivered just 6,463 social rent homes despite having more than 1.2 million households on council house waiting lists. These statistics begin to underline the scale of the crisis we face and the level of ambition we need to resolve it.
As well as increasing the focus on affordability, new housing development should also provide homes that are high quality, well designed, and served by the necessary community infrastructure.
These ambitions are currently in jeopardy, because of national policies that enable developers to avoid making such vital contributions. One of the most significant of these is permitted development rights allowing offices to convert to residential homes without the need for planning permission.
Since 2013, developers have had a national right to convert office space into residential homes, a right they have wholly embraced with nearly seven per cent of new homes provided in this way in the last three years. Unfortunately, because they are exempt from the full local planning process, they come forward with minimal scrutiny and outside of local authority control.
These homes are also delivered without making any contribution towards affordable housing, which other forms of developments are required to do. This means that we are losing out on thousands of affordable homes which would be delivered if these homes went through the planning system.
Separate research by both the LGA and Shelter has shown the scale of this loss. Both organisations have calculated that more than 10,000 affordable homes have potentially been lost in the last three years.
The result of this is that thousands of families remain in temporary accommodation and on council house waiting lists for years, despite levels of housebuilding rising – underlining that we need to think more about what we build as well as how many homes we build.
Permitted development rights have caused extensive problems. Therefore, we consider that the current proposals to allow for demolition of existing buildings and replacement with new residential ones, and for upwards extensions to existing buildings for new homes through a permitted development right, should not be pursued.
We call on the government to instead focus on delivering the affordable, high quality homes that people want and need through the local planning process. This would support the government’s own ambitions to improve the quality of homes and places, as outlined in the terms of reference of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ commission launched in November.
We also consider that there should be an independent review of the wide-ranging impacts of permitted development rights allowing change of use into residential homes.”
18 individuals or organisations – see below for link:
All change on the Planning Front for East Devon.
Ever since David Cameron’s coalition government’s efforts to provide local communities with a say in local planning decisions with the “Localism Act” in 2011 (giving communities the power to draft “Neighbourhood Plans,” designed to provide a degree of self-determination to how local communities could be developed in the future) the powerful developers and landowners lobby has been active to reclaim their powerful grip on developing our communities.
First was the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012 which threw out the old planning regulations and provided a “developer-driven” new planning policy, with just a “nod” to the Localism Act, Neighboured Plans and District wide plans.
The new NPPF introduced a policy that if the District or Neighbourhood Plan was not “up to date” then there would be a presumption of allowing any proposed development from a developer. Therefore, Councils and local communities quickly set about drawing up their Neighbourhood Plans and District Plans to plug the gap created by the new 2012 NPPF policies.
East Devon District Council who had been dragging their feet for years to complete their Local Plan, finally managed to obtain the approval of the Planning Inspectorate in January 2016 to cover the period up to 2031. Lympstone had got its Neighbourhood Plan approved in 2015 and since then over 30 Neighbourhood Plans are either approved or in the process of being drafted by community groups within East Devon.
It was therefore thought that East Devon and its communities had substantial protection from greedy landowners and developers up to 2031 and with the extra protection of the East Devon Villages Plan, approved in July 2018 (which gave further defined policies for larger Villages and some large Business Parks) residents and developers appeared to understand where development would or would not be allowed.
However, in late 2016 Exeter City Council, whose Chief Executive Karime Hassan (previously East Devon’s District Council officer who created and developed the concept of the new town of Cranbrook) proposed a joint “Strategic Plan”, along with neighbouring councils East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon.
The four councils then started a joint over-riding masterplan for Exeter and the surrounding area known as the GESP (the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan).
It was clear that Exeter was almost completely built-out and the infrastructure in roads and transport required for further city centre and commercial growth was urgently required if the continued success known as the “Exeter Growth Point” was to continue. Without a joint plan for infrastructure, the commute into the City would become intolerable and hinder the targeted housebuilding requirements set by the Government for each of the 4 separate councils.
In October 2018 the Government draw up yet another updated version of the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) very much on the lines of the 2012 Policies, but with various tweaks to assist in the over-riding government strategy of encouraging developers to build many more dwellings.
The new 2018 NPPF provided clearer guidance that if an individual Council was unable to provide enough development land for extra dwellings required by the government’s growth targets, neighbouring councils may be allowed to build out extra housing for their partner and other neighbouring authorities.
According to East Devon District Councils Strategic Planning Committees agenda item 12 for discussion on the 29th January 2019:
“Timetable for production of a new East Devon Local Plan”
Within the introduction to the agenda item it states:
“…given changing circumstances and other factors, that a “light touch” review of the currently adopted local plan is unlikely to be a practical option for a new local plan.”
What the changing circumstances and other factors are, is not explained but it is clear from the report it is clearly in relation to GESP.
Because the GESP Strategic Plan policies will over-ride the East Devon Local Plan policies, the report seems to suggests that the “changing circumstances and other factors” relate to the new GESP policies which override the Local Plan, Village Plan and probably most Neighbourhood Plans – affecting a large area of East Devon! So much so that, rather than the GESP plan dovetailing into the 3-year-old approved East Devon Local Plan and 1-year-old Villages Plan with all the years of public consulting, Council debate and literally years of work by the planning team, it will be jettisoned for a brand-new Local Plan to dovetail into the strategies of the GESP plan!
Although the GESP plan has been in preparation for 2 years, no formal discussion or meeting has been held at any Council Chamber at any of the four Councils involved. Meetings have taken place to consider the 700 plus sites throughout the Greater Exeter area submitted for assessment by what is known as the “Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) panel” The Panel is made up of “key stakeholders”, with a recognised interest in the development of land for housing and employment, and housing and economic development sector, including housebuilders, social landlords, local property agents and other related professionals together with local community representatives and other agencies. The membership of these meeting has been confidential and there has there been no publication of their deliberations or recommendations.
To be clear: meetings between two lead councillors from each Authority, plus officers have kept the draft policies and site options totally under lock and key – with none of the meetings been reported or minuted.
However, all is to be revealed AFTER the local council elections in May 2019 – consultation has always been scheduled to begin no earlier than June 2019.
This suggests that the draft policies and site options affecting East Devon will be so radical and so totally at variance to the East Devon Local Plan and Villages Plan that they will all require total re-writing, with a brand-new Local Plan (subsidiary to GESP) and all the costs and uncertainties this will bring.
Why have these Councils been so secretive on the GESP proposed development site considerations for proposed strategies for commercial and housing development for this part of Devon? Could it be that Tory controlled East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon Councils have elections on May 2nd this year (Labour Exeter elects only one-third of its council this year) and a brand new super-growth plan – superseding their Local Plans – will not be considered much of vote-grabber?
Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Owl says: What the councillor neglects to say is that the mess he describes is entirely down to HIS own party!
“Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at King’s College London:
“Local councillors across the country will know the struggle is real in the planning system. Not only does it seem to be irresponsive to the real needs of our local communities that are in need of mixed residential, commercial, office, public buildings and green space. But we see planning applications that pose more negatives than positives being allowed to pass through for ‘the greater good, and the bigger picture’.
One surprising reason for this can be derived from the fact that awarding planning permission in the UK comes down to a Faustian pact. If the devil is in the detail, then the detail is Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Specifically, a clause which formalised “planning gain”, making it in the local authorities’ interests to allow schemes to balloon beyond all reason, in the hope of raking some of the developers’ profits for the public good.
Introduced as a negotiable levy on new development, Section 106 agreements entail a financial contribution to the local authority, intended to be spent on offsetting the effects of the scheme on the local area. The impact of a hundred new homes might be mitigated by money for extra school places, or traffic calming measures. In practice, since council budgets have been reduced, Section 106 has become a primary means of funding essential public services, from social housing to public parks, health centres to highways, schools to play areas. The bigger the scheme, the fatter the bounty for both developers and authorities. Vastly inflated density and a few extra storeys on a tower can be politically justified as being in the public interest, if it means a handful of trees will be planted on the street.
My borough, Enfield, is seeing a surge in young families moving to our borough to escape the surge in housing costs elsewhere in the capital. Predominantly the reasons for the rising demand in our borough are those highlighted by an article in the Evening Standard which mention the ease of accessibility with good motorway connections, good transport links into central London, as well as a the fact that average house prices are modestly rising only 0.4% in our borough, which is something to be reckoned with compared to other parts of London.
But things start to go wrong when planning departments do not take into account, aspects of the local area that make our borough unique. Whether looking at local heritage, the mix of commercial, residential, offices, and the style of new builds, often Enfield Council is quick to bow to the demands by developers and architects for the simple reason of referring to ‘the housing shortage and the need for new homes’. This is a poor state of affairs, and I am worried that the council is moving towards the path of jeopardising local beauty and conservation for the sake of housebuilding. Particularly for a borough such as Enfield which is lucky to have the green-belt it does, this is a real problem for councillors who have to defend their communities.
The issue of planning is also one that concerns the issue of bureaucracy within the council, that sometimes leads to poor decisions and outcomes on certain issues. I remember a local constituent having issues with an application for the property behind her. The Council had, instead of looking at the issue and reopening the planning decision, moved on ‘under delegated powers’ despite major resident objections, to see this build through. This point is echoed by a piece in the Enfield Independent which mentioned that the construction caused ‘considerable cracks in the neighbouring properties of other residents’, and that despite objections being raised within the given time-frame of the regulated pre-planning decision consultation, the planning committee on the council did not even bother to respond to residents’ concerns, and even after ringing, residents could not get in touch with the department.
This goes fundamentally to the heart of what us Councillors try to do, and sometimes can’t do, that is to help our residents most when they need it. Why? Because the failures of planning departments, in this case, mean bureaucracy causes delays, which then causes miss-representation, which then lead to poorly made planning decisions that affect not only the aesthetics of the area, but the general confidence residents have in the council dealing with their concerns in future.
It also raises a bigger question, as to how many similar cases are there, where other developments have gone through without the necessary vigorous scrutiny they need? I agree that we must build for new families and promote a home-owning democracy, but if departments simply rubber stamp applications without giving the power to residents and councillors to scrutinise for the greater good, then what’s the point in even having these departments anyway. We might as well pack up and go home as Councillors, because they are making a major part of our job redundant.
Overall, we have a conundrum of problems. Firstly, local councils are disregarding the necessary mix of residential, commercial and office space for the sake of building homes to fix the housing crisis. This is further worsened by the fact developers can ‘help’ plug the funding pressure of new homes, and contribute towards the funding of some local services, and this makes it increasingly tempting for councils to bow to these demands so that they can increase provision because budgets are tight. And then there is the nitty-gritty issue of local residents who struggle to even express their concerns to local planning departments, and this does not help residents build trust in councils who clearly disregard their concerns.
Local council planning departments such as those in Enfield need a major rethink as to how they approach future planning applications. Otherwise we can expect poor decisions on planning to continue into the future, to the detriment of existing residents.”