Civic Voice submission on new planning rules

PRESS RELEASE

“Civic Voice – the authoritative voice of the civic movement – has submitted its final response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework consultation. The response is available here:

http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/uploads/files/Civic_Voice_NPPF_response_FINAL.pdf

Ian Harvey, Executive Director said: “If the report in Planning Magazine over the weekend is true and the Government’s Chief Planner did confirm that the Government has received over 27,000 responses to the draft consultation, we believe that this shows the breadth of feeling across the country about the importance of our planning system.”

Responding to the draft NPPF, Civic Voice is calling for:

1. Given our membership and reach nationwide, we are concerned by the London and South East-centric nature of the NPPF; a greater level of ambition for economic development to is vital to address the viability challenges in some parts of the country.

2. The draft NPPF says much about the importance of design, however, it is our fear that as drafted, high quality design could be seen as a ‘nice to have’ but ‘easy to ignore’ rather than as an essential dimension of good planning.

3. Civic Voice supports the emphasis on early and meaningful engagement with communities within the draft NPPF and we would welcome working with MCHLG to develop the accompanying Planning Practice Guidance on this.

Harvey added: “We agree with the Government that finding a solution to the housing crisis is essential and we really hope that this was not a tokenistic consultation. We must ask, if the Government intends to publish the final document before the end of July, can it realistically be expected to review the thousands of responses comprehensively within a matter of weeks? We look forward to seeing the final document when it is released as it is important that the Government gets this right, because the consequences of getting it wrong will be felt for many years to come.”

Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones finished by saying: “Whilst the Government wants to see the ‘right homes in the right places’, if it doesn’t get this right, it is very likely to end up with the ‘wrong homes in the wrong places. We hope they listen to the voices of communities across England.”

Housing White Paper: “damp squib”

The Government has finally unveiled its plans to fix the ‘broken housing market’ in a white paper spanning 104 pages.

Among lengthy reiterations of existing housing policy schemes including Help to Buy were proposals to stop developers land banking, try to speed up planning approvals and support the delivery of more homes to rent.

But some experts have already dubbed the plans a ‘damp squib’ with little hope of fixing anything.

Secretary of State Sajid Javid told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme before revealing the bill: ‘People want a decent home to buy or a decent home to rent, it’s a choice for them, we should be helping both types of tenancies.’

But Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey called the paper ‘feeble’ and added: ‘We were promised a white paper; we’ve got a white flag.’

He was not alone in his disappointment. Simon Gerrard, past president of the National Association of Estate Agents, summed up how most pundits in the industry felt about this long-awaited paper.

“Today’s announcement shows that the Government is good at producing soundbites, but not realistic solutions. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the market and what is required to fix it.

‘The schemes outlined will be discussed and debated for longer than they are implemented, with nothing new being offered. We need to simplify the system and make it easier to build homes that people want, quickly, and I am disappointed this has not yet been achieved.”

… Jonathan Manns, head of regeneration and director of planning at Colliers International, said: ‘Dig into the (*cough*) detail and, beyond the hollow and misguiding rhetoric, there are odd tweaks to the status quo.
‘Councils, we’re told, should continue to review the targets in their local plans and ensure they’re up-to-date. Hardly ground-breaking but reassuringly familiar.’

The Government is also proposing to cut the time local authorities have to approve planning applications from three years to two.

Will it help? Gerrard doesn’t think so: ‘The introduction of capping the time between obtaining planning permission and starting construction to two years is misguided. It is not the timescale that hinders building across the UK, but the planning system itself.

‘All too often, permission is granted that is simply impossible to implement because local government departments do not communicate effectively with each other.’

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-4196264/How-Housing-White-Paper-plans-affect-you.html

Yet another consultation on our “broken” housing market (yet another opportunity for developers to shaft us?)

Here is the White Paper”:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/590043/Fixing_our_broken_housing_market_-_housing_white_paper.pdf

Here is the consultation document on it:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fixing-our-broken-housing-market-consultation

This consultation closes at

11:45pm on

2 May 2017

[just before local elections …]

You can respond online here:
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QLLWWSS

Another opportunity for the public not to be listened to, another chance for the government and developers to create loopholes.

A first thought: if “small builders” are going to be encouraged to build the cheapest houses, how do they get the economies of scale the big builders get? Well, we could charge no VAT at all on smaller, affordable house building on small sites of say 10 homes or less and LOTS OF VAT on luxury houses on big sites.

What’s that? It’s the sound of the big developer choking on their pate de foie gras whilst trying to phone the Tory party chairman? Surprise, surprise!

Housing market ” broken” says government – duh!

Owl says: funny how it took the government SO long to see the “housing market” is, and always has been, broken under their tenure.

Still, lots of developers have got VERY rich on the back of their mistakes … developers who give LOTS and LOTS of money to the Conservative Party and who basically were given the National Planning Policy Framework to write in their own image.

However, now that there is a real possibility of losing millions of votes from people in dire housing need – the “just about managing” that they must capture and keep if they want to stay in power not just feckless Labour voters – more tinkering at the edges is being offered, rather than real solutions.

What is needed is what happened after WW2: a massive government housebuilding programme – NOT developer-led.

Still, never too late …! Although Brexit now pushing up materials costs due to the devaluation of the pound coupled with a shortage of skilled labour makes this the worst of times for the government to dig itself out of a very big hole.

“England’s housing market is “broken”, ministers have admitted, as they unveil plans to build more affordable homes.

The new housing strategy for England includes forcing councils to plan for their local housing needs and giving them powers to pressure developers to start building on land they own.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said people want a decent home not a “false choice” between renting and owning.

Labour accused the government of “seven years of failure” on housing.
The government says at least 250,000 new homes are needed each year to keep pace with demand and local councils and developers need to “get real” to the scale of the challenge.

Mr Javid will set out the details of the housing White Paper in a statement to MPs.

Measures are expected to include:

Forcing councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand
Expecting developers to avoid “low density” housing where land availability is short
Reducing the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three to two years
Using a £3bn fund to help smaller building firms challenge major developers, including support for off-site construction, where parts of buildings are assembled in a factory
A “lifetime ISA” to help first-time buyers save for a deposit
Maintaining protection for the green belt, which can only be built on “in exceptional circumstances”
So-called starter homes, championed by ex-PM David Cameron, will be aimed at “households that need them most” with combined incomes of less than £80,000 or £90,000 in London.

The government said there would be a change in focus from starter homes – which will be offered to first-time buyers at a discount – to “a wider range of affordable housing”.

Mr Javid will say: “Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.
“With prices continuing to skyrocket, if we don’t act now, a whole generation could be left behind. We need to do better, and that means tackling the failures at every point in the system.

“The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.”

Asked if ministers were abandoning their goal of increasing home ownership – an ambition of most post-war Conservative governments – Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the approach “shouldn’t all be about ownership”.
“It is a false choice. The reality is we need more homes, whether to rent or buy.”

With house prices now eight times average earnings and the number of affordable homes being built at a 24-year low, he said the cost of housing was the “greatest barrier to social progress in Britain today”.

Many councils, he added, had “fudged the numbers” when it came to assessing local housing needs and this had to change.

Ministers have admitted the government is behind schedule in its efforts to build one million new homes in England by 2020.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England welcomed what it said was a focus on addressing current failings rather than “meddling” with the planning system.
“We are pleased that ministers have recognised that weakening the Green Belt is unnecessary,” said chief executive Shaun Spiers. “But with 360,000 houses already proposed for Green Belt land the government needs to do much more to uphold national policy and stop councils releasing it for development.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said: “The measures announced so far in Theresa May’s long-promised housing white paper are feeble beyond belief.

“After seven years of failure and 1,000 housing announcements, the housing crisis is getting worse not better.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38884601

“Planning systems favour developers over communities” survey finds

“Almost three-quarters of local councils believe that the planning system is weighted too heavily in favour of developers at the expense of local democracy, according to a survey.

Commissioned by the National Trust and carried out by the Local Government Information Unit, the survey canvassed 1,200 ward councilors in England on aspects of the planning system.

The results, published today, show that 72% of councillors feel the existing system puts the interests of developers over and above those of councils and communities. Also, half of councillors said planning departments are inadequately funded, and the same amount claimed sites that are not in line with their council’s local plans are being approved for new housing.

The government has pushed for the adoption of local plans throughout England. In a statement to the Commons in 2015, then housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis described local plans as the “cornerstone” of the government’s planning reforms. Produced in consultation with communities, they are designed to offer “certainty on where new homes are to be built”.

The survey findings come as the government puts the final touches to its housing white paper, which is expected to be published later this month. The National Trust and LGIU urged Whitehall to revise the paper to boost confidence in the way the system works.

In a joint statement, the organisations argued that the views of councillors were often ignored in debates around the future of the planning system. “Yet, as local decision-makers, and an important link with local communities, they have an essential role to play in ensuring development is sensitive to the needs of the area,” they said.

Theresa May’s government has responded to pressure over a lack of new housebuilding in the country by announcing a raft of new measures and significant funding to boost construction.

As such, communities secretary Sajid Javid last week invited housing providers to bid for a share of a £7bn fund in what was described as a “dramatic expansion” of the affordable house programme.

The survey also revealed anxieties about loosened planning restrictions, with 58% of councillors believing their council would allocate green belt land for housing in the next five years. There are also concerns about the introduction of permitted development rights for home extensions, office-to-residential use conversions and other changes of use.

Moreover, the National Planning Policy Framework does not appear to be having the positive impact it was intended to have on design quality. Only 18% of councillors say designs have improved, and only 12% believe that loosening planning restrictions has had any positive impact.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, said that five years on from the adoption of the government’s planning reforms, it was worrying that councillors felt it hadn’t delivered the localism that was promised.

He said: “If ministers are serious about local plans being at the heart of the planning system, then they should invest in council planning teams and use the housing white paper to give them the tools to deliver good quality housing in the right places.”

http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2017/01/planning-systems-favour-developers-over-communities-lgiu-survey-finds

Community Voice on Planning Conference report

“Community Voice on Planning (CoVoP) held its first conference in Leeds on Saturday 15th October – with the conference title being “NIMBY – reality or slur”. I attended – not to find out if I am one, but to explore the background as to why e.g. media, so immediately, and regularly, calls on those concerned with current planning matters to defend themselves against being NIMBYs.

The conference had a diverse content, which explored fully the mess that is the current planning system, and the very poor outcomes generated by planning law that is simply not fit for purpose.

An opening letter was read from Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee. This committee has nothing to do with government, but acts as scrutineer of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) re policies, administration and spending. One of their recent calls has been for Gavin Barwell MP (new Housing and Planning Minister) to respond the the DCLG-commissioned Local Planning Expert Group’s recommendations on planning. This includes a statement that Leeds’ and Bradford’s Core Strategy housing targets are more than 500 houses per year over-provisioned.

Andrew Wood from CPRE presented some complex ideas about greenbelt use for housing and seemed to be suggesting a deal-based planning arrangement where housing needs were met by very selective use of greenbelt sites where fully assessed and sustainable use and requirement had been carried out. He developed the idea that greenbelt is one of the last planning policy tools that local authorities have to control patterns of development, but stated the obvious threats to existing greenbelt boundaries.

Jenny Unsworth from Congleton asked the question “Does the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) work?” Through a well presented summary of planning milestones, leading towards the position in her own area, Jenny demonstrated that planning reality in Congleton is the same in Leeds and Bradford – and very much anywhere else in England. Her key point was that the workings of the NPPF and Localism were at opposite ends of the planning spectrum. She also reminded us that excessive and undelivered housing numbers were resulting in 5-year land supply failure, leading to local authority plans being automatically out of date. It therefore followed that planning had become an ad hoc system defined by appeals, rather than a plan-led one, as sought by the NPPF. No surprises to find her answer to the question to be “No”.

Julie Mabberly, Chair of CoVoP, and planning activist in Oxforshire, ridiculed the extraordinary basis for setting housing numbers that is the Objectively Assessed Housing Needs system. She described the system as from the pages of “Alice in Wonderland” and demonstrated through various slides that a finger-in-the-air figure for housing need became inflated (and totally un-achievable) through a series of speculative additions to housing need, that also included double-counting. Her summary was that OBJECTIVE housing needs assessment was anything but that.

Dr Quentin Bradley, from Leeds Beckett University set out the controlling influence of developers, and in particular the significance of land price and hoarding of land, in respect of affordable housing provision. Dr Bradley suggested that the current structure of both the land and housing markets contribute to a shortage of housing being built, and the affordable housing build ratio that comes out of that. He argued that with the present structure in place, building more homes alone will not solve the crisis.

Dr Hugh Ellis from the Town and Country Planning Association set out the significant role planning has played in the formation of the nation’s built housing since the Association’s formation some 120 years ago. In particular Dr Ellis considered the outcomes of the planning of garden cities in comparison to the broken system that is currently in place.

A pleniary session concluded the conference, introduced by WARD chair, Dr. David Ingham. He referred to the stimulation given to the WARD group in respect of the old order, from DCLG, based on the adoption by Bradford of its flawed Core Strategy, some of the policies of which have been written by the very Inspector who declared it sound. Dr Ingham also called for more MP input at Westminster to change planning law, and thanked in particular, Greg Mulholland MP, for his long support to WARD over the last 7 years of campaigning and for his work in Parliament to change planning law.

The panel of 3 MPs, which also included Paul Sherriff MP and Jason McCartney MP, showed their understanding of a broken planning system and their attendance at this conference, with Greg Mulholland, is proof of that.

My view from this remains unchanged, and that is before I went into the conference I was sure the current planning system is not fit for purpose. I came out with more evidence that that is exactly the case. With an appeal-led planning system for the largest housing sites now in place, the NPPF has totally failed to deliver the housing that is needed, or of the right type and in the right places. The result of this is the great threat to the precious greenbelt. If protecting that makes me a NIMBY then I am proud to stand up and be labelled as that.

Martin Hughes, Treasurer of WARD, Chair of Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance”

http://wardyorkshire.org/latest-news/ward-attends-leeds-covop-conference

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.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=28416%3Aa-cautionary-note-on-reasons&catid=63&Itemid=31