“Ombudsman offers practical guidance to planners when recording decisions”

It then neglects to post a link to the guidance on its website ….. anywhere ….. including using the search facility …..

“The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued new guidance for planners when recording the decisions they make.

The Ombudsman receives more than 2,000 complaints and enquiries each year about English local authorities’ planning functions.

Common areas in which the Ombudsman finds fault with the decision-making process include failing to explain properly the reasons for decisions, or overlooking material considerations.

Based on real casework examples, the learning points in the report offer clear, practical steps planners can take to ensure the decisions they make are evidenced and recorded properly.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“Communities can only have confidence in the planning process if councils fully and accurately record the reasons for their decisions, including the information they have taken into account to make them.

“We have created this new guidance to share the learning from our investigations with professionals about this aspect of the planning process, and to help councils improve their procedures, and services for the public, to ensure the decisions they make are as transparent as possible.”

The guidance also includes a number of good practice suggestions, along with links to relevant legislation and resources, including the framework Ombudsman investigators use to publish their own investigation decisions.”

https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2018/sep/ombudsman-offers-practical-guidance-to-planners-when-recording-decisions

“Government £200m brownfields building fund falls flat, as number of new homes declines”

A £200million Government fund to pay for more homes on industrial land has resulted in the opposite effect, with fewer homes built on brownfield areas than before it was set up.

Official Government’s land use change statistics show that the proportion of new homes registered on previously developed land has fallen by 4 percentage points since 2014, when the fund was set up.

Yet over the same period the number of new residential addresses on supposedly heavily protected Green Belt land has increased by the same proportion – 4 per cent.

Separately, over the same period – 2013/14 to 2016/17 – the proportion of new residential addresses on the protected Green Belt land increased from 3 per cent to 4 per cent of all new homes built.

The Government’s record on building on brownfield sites was attacked by Labour which said minister’s commitment to building on brownfield sites was “hot air”.

The £200million fund was announced by Brandon Lewis, the current Tory party chairman and then then-Housing minister, in August 2014 so “councils across the country can now team up with developers and bid for government assistance to build thousands of new homes on previously-developed land”.

Mr Lewis published bidding criteria to create 10 housing zones on brownfield land, each able to deliver up to 2,000 new homes each.

The new zones, which will be outside London, should be large enough to deliver 750 to 2,000 properties and would help councils boost housebuilding on previously-developed land while safeguading the countryside, he said.

However John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said the figures showed that the Government had gone backwards on its pledge to encourage more building on brownfield sites.

He said: “If hot air built homes then Ministers would have fixed our housing crisis. Despite big promises to get building on brownfield land, official Government figures show we’ve gone backwards.

“It’s clear that Ministers are failing to get good value-for-money for taxpayers.

“By giving developers a free rein to do what they want, the Government is failing [to] get homes for local people built where they are needed.”

Matt Thomson, Head of Planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, backed the findings, saying that “promises to build the homes the nation needs while protecting the countryside are not being carried through.

“Our analysis of the government’s new ‘planning rulebook’ suggests that despite a lot of warm words current trends will continue, to the detriment of both town and country.

The government must stick to its guns and end this constant cycle of broken promises.

“They need to rein back greenfield development where suitable brownfield land is available, and discourage growth where it cannot happen without compromising their own policies intended to manage sprawl and protect open land.

Last week the CPRE warned that green belt was disappearing at an “alarming rate” with the equivalent of 5,000 football pitches lost because of a relaxation of planning laws.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Planning consultation – new NPPF weakens public input

“In May, the Government (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) held a consultation on revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework – the headline planning policy document from which all other planning policy stems.

The Institute responded to the consultation, specifically commenting on the very opaque legislation / guidance surrounding the requirements for consultation in planning and development.

Despite growing concern about public disaffection in the planning system, the guidance contained within the original NPPF was very vague: while developers were encouraged to engage and the benefits are described, there was nothing in law to require developers to consult local people before submitting a planning application.

The revised NPPF has now been published and we were disappointed to see that very little has changed in the requirement to consult.

Engagement is still only ‘encouraged’; one of the few changes being that it has been extended from solely statutory, to both statutory and non-statutory consultees.

However, the list of information requirements that local authorities must make of developers has been reduced from ‘proportionate to the nature and scale of development proposals’ to ‘kept to the minimum needed to make decisions’. To view the exact changes between the two documents, click here:

https://3d8qxnz7q9pw2411lsz7k14t-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/The-NPPF-on-Pre-application-engagement-and-front-loading-a-comparison-between-the-original-and-revised-versions-1.pdf

While the legal requirement for developers to consult remains opaque, the notion that community involvement can benefit planning decisions is unequivocal.

Planning is ultimately about people: whether a local authority-run strategic plan or a private sector-led development proposal, change to the built environment impacts on communities. While it is generally believed that those proposing changes should involve local residents as a courtesy, additionally planners and developers have much to benefit from involving local people.

Consultation provides the opportunity to glean information and ideas from a local community. This might include knowledge of local history and which has the potential to enrich a scheme, otherwise unknown social issues which might have delayed the process, and the needs and aspirations of the community which may be met through the new development. With local input, proposals can be enriched and finely tuned to a specific neighbourhood, creating a unique scheme well suited to its location.

The local community, too, can benefit: community involvement can promote social cohesion, strengthen individual groups within it and create a shared legacy.

Following local dialogue at an early stage and having had proposals either challenged or welcomed, a developer has a greater chance of building local support for a proposed scheme. And a well-run consultation can build a trusting and mutually cooperative relationship between the developer and the community, which can minimise the potential for conflict and thereby remove risk in the process.

While tCI is disappointed by the lack of commitment to consultation in the revised NPPF, we are encouraged that policy might ultimately change following the Raynsford Review, a review of the planning system which has been commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association and makes community participation a high priority. To view tCI ‘s contribution to the Review’s Interim Report, click here:

https://www.consultationinstitute.org/tcis-response-to-the-interim-report-of-the-raynsford-review-on-greater-community-involvement-in-planning/

https://www.consultationinstitute.org/the-nppf-and-consultation-or-revised-planning-policy-and-consultation/

“New green belt housing applications push total to a record 460,000”

“Applications to build an additional 35,000 homes on green belt land were submitted last year, taking the total number proposed for construction on protected land to a record 460,000.

New data from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) released on Monday showed that more than 24,000 homes were constructed in the UK’s green belts in the past nine years. Its State of the Green Belt 2018 report reveals that the number of finished homes constructed on the protected areas almost doubled last year to about 8,000.

The government has pledged to protect green belt land but housing campaigners believe much more controlled land could be released to build badly needed affordable new homes.

Most of the construction to date has been on brownfield sites within the green belt, but the data suggests that the vast majority of homes constructed on greenfield green belt land is in higher price brackets unattainable to most buyers. Only 27% of homes built or approved on greenfield land since 2009 fitted the government’s definition of affordable housing. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/06/new-green-belt-housing-applications-push-total-to-a-record-460000

The Times: “The ruinous planning policy MPs don’t want you to know about”

If The Times is worried, everyone should be worried!

“To save you the eye strain, or possibly to sublimate some Freudian desire for self-flagellation, I have waded through all 73 pages of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Slipped out last week under cover of Brexit, the document that will shape the look of England for years to come was duly awarded minimal coverage by the press.

I partly blame its clunky title. If the NPPF were called “Why a ghastly housing estate will soon be built just outside your favourite village” it would get a lot more attention. Still, at least the name of the minister responsible for it — the housing and communities secretary, James Brokenshire — has an ominous ring.

The trouble with having a “national plan” for anything, as Russia found in the 1930s, is that what seem like good ideas to centralised bureaucrats tend to collide with overlooked local realities to produce unforeseen catastrophes. I fear that’s the case with the NPPF, particularly since it covers everything from new housing and the future of town centres to protecting the environment, dealing with floods, promoting sustainable transport, rolling out broadband and preserving historic buildings.

Take its emphasis on “good design”. On paper, that’s admirable. Theoretically it gives local councils the power to reject those soulless estates of identical, boxy homes beloved of the big developers. The aim is to ensure that all new developments excite the eye, please their residents and enhance their environments as much as, say, Ralph Erskine’s celebrated Byker Wall in Newcastle. That would be a fine aspiration if local councils had the experts, time, resources and money to match what any big housing developer can deploy in a planning battle.

Unfortunately, thanks to central government’s ruinous cuts to their budgets, they don’t. Some, such as almost bankrupt Northamptonshire, can hardly run their bin collections let alone turn themselves into architectural watchdogs. For every Byker Wall built in the future, there are still likely to be a hundred soulless “off-the-peg” estates nodded through by councillors too helpless to resist.

And there’s a new threat. From November local authorities will have to comply with a “housing delivery test”. It will penalise those that fail to conjure up an agreed number of new homes in their area. Again the intentions are good: to bridge the enormous gap between the number of new homes given planning permission by councils and the number actually built by the developers. Councils will have to police much more thoroughly the progress of approved building applications — another strain on their scant resources.

The real worry, though, is that councils will panic because they aren’t meeting the set targets and will nod through schemes of scant architectural and social merit, repeating the appalling mistakes made in the 1950s and 1960s. No wonder that the Campaign to Protect Rural England has called the combined effect of the new planning rulebook and the housing delivery test “a speculative developers’ charter” that will result in councils and communities having “little control over the location and type of developments that take place”.

On town centres too, the NPPF seems to be living in a bygone age. The big problem in the next ten years won’t be banning ugly shopfronts or propping up small independent butchers and bookshops, or even halting the march of out-of-town shopping malls. It will be ensuring that there are any shops left, as the relentless shift to online retail gathers pace. As town centres fast become boarded-up wastelands, local authorities need the power (and the money) to make much more imaginative interventions. Yet the NPPF has nothing to say about this.

I find its paragraphs about protecting England’s green belts a bit weaselly too. These sacrosanct meadows are apparently safe from development except where local authorities have “exhausted all other reasonable options”. OK, but who decides what “exhausted” and “reasonable” mean? And there’s another glaring loophole. When it comes to brownfield sites inside green belt areas, it’s apparently a free-for-all.

There’s much that is sensible in the NPPF, of course. If I were an ancient woodland, for instance, I would feel better protected from rape by chainsaw. Nevertheless, my overall impression is that the bureaucrats who penned this well-meaning document imagine that England is still a country of communities safeguarded by strong, efficient local authorities. The sad truth is that government ministers have spent the past eight years paying lip service to “localism” while running down the democratic institutions that preserve it. Brokenshire’s legacy could well be broken shires.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

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

CPRE adds its voice to major criticisms of National Planning Policy Framework

“The Campaign to Protect Rural England has labelled the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) a ‘speculative developers’ charter’, as the government published its new planning rulebook earlier today (24 July).

Despite a promise to ‘build attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed’, CPRE points out that far from fulfilling this promise, the NPPF will continue to favour the delivery of any development, rather than development that meets communities’ needs, respects the environment, and adheres to policies in the NPPF other than those which deal with housing delivery.

CPRE’s key concern is the new ‘housing delivery test’. The NPPF continues to encourage councils to set high targets for housing delivery and this new policy has been produced to enforce this delivery. However, the ‘housing delivery test’ will penalise councils when house builders fail to deliver homes in their areas by removing local control over planning decisions. This in turn will leave them and the countryside open to speculative development.

CPRE have a number of other concerns, including:

a failure to provide an effective brownfield first policy

the continuing failure to support provision of affordable housing in rural areas

the discouragement of neighbourhood planning because of uncertainty over the validity of plans older than two years

continued implicit support for hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas, despite massive public opposition and little evidence of need
Matt Thomson, Head of Planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

‘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.’

Despite heavy criticism of the revised NPPF, CPRE are pleased to see that government has taken some positive actions.

They include:

National Parks and AONBs reinstated as having the ‘highest status of protection’

maintaining Green Belt protections and an improved definition ‘exceptional circumstances’ for releasing land from Green Belts

improved clarity and focus for policies on making better use of land

clearer guidance for viability assessment and that price paid for land should never be a justification for viability revisions

excluding National Parks, AONBs and Green Belts from the Entry Level Exceptions Sites policy

‘Social housing’ being reinstated in the definition of affordable housing.
CPRE will be providing further analysis of the revised NPPF shortly.”

http://www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/sound-bites/item/4923-new-planning-rulebook-heavily-criticised-by-cpre