“Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat”

“The government has removed a paragraph from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) intended to support the extraction of “unconventional hydrocarbons” following a High Court ruling earlier this year which found that a public consultation on the policy was flawed.

Paragraph 209 (a) of the NPPF had stressed the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, including “unconventional hydrocarbons”.

It stated that such developments benefit the security of national energy supplies and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. It went on to give a commitment that policies will be put in place to facilitate on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, including fracking for shale gas.

The paragraph was added to the NPPF as part of revisions to the document published last year.

But in March, environmental campaign group Talk Fracking successfully challenged the new paragraph at the High Court.

Judge Mr Justice Dove ruled that the public consultation on the new policy was unfair and unlawful and the government had failed to take into account up-to-date scientific evidence on the climate change impacts of such development.

He ruled that the secretary of state “did not consciously consider the fruits of the consultation exercise in circumstances where he had no interest in examining observations or evidence pertaining to the merits of the policy”.

“This had the effect of excluding from the material presented to the minister any detail of the observations or evidence which bore upon the merits of the policy,” he added.

Yesterday, the housing ministry announced that it had removed the paragraph from the NPPF.

This followed a written ministerial statement in May which stressed that, despite paragraph 209 (a) being removed, the remainder of the NPPF policies “and, in particular, Chapter 17 on ‘Facilitating the Sustainable Use of Minerals’ remain unchanged and extant”.

“For the purposes of the National Planning Policy Framework, hydrocarbon development (including unconventional oil and gas) are considered to be a mineral resource,” it added.

In addition, the statement added that the written ministerial statements of 16 September 2015 on ‘Shale Gas and Oil Policy’ and 17 May 2018 on ‘Planning and Energy Policy’ “also remain unchanged and extant”.

It added: “The written ministerial statements sit alongside the National Planning Policy Framework.

“Planning Practice Guidance is also unaffected by the ruling. This suite of policies and guidance remain material considerations in plan making and decision taking for hydrocarbon development and they should be afforded appropriate weighting as determined by the decision maker.”

Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat

“Government housing delivery plan ‘flawed’ “

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.

‘Free-for-all’

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.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47157413

“An open letter on Permitted Development Rights”

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.”

Yours sincerely
18 individuals or organisations – see below for link:

https://www.local.gov.uk/open-letter-permitted-development-rights

Owners of Greendale object to planning conditions!

FWS Carter and Sons, the owners of Greendale Business Park, have asked East Devon District Council to reconsider two planning applications which were approved in Oct by the Development Management Committee. 17/2430/MFUL and 18/0920/FUL both being applications for Agricultural Buildings.

They are asking the Council to remove the suggested legal agreements to secure a non-alienation clause preventing their sale or letting to another party and requiring the buildings to remain in agricultural use.

The legal agreement was suggested by the District Councils Legal representative as an alternative way of ensuring that the buildings are used only for the agricultural and not converted to employment or industrial units in the future.

Councillors were concerned due to the previous history of unauthorised conversions of agricultural buildings to employment units at Hogsbrook Farm by the owners.

Since the application was agreed the owners have held meetings with the Legal Dept at EDDC claiming the legal agreements are “unnecessary and unreasonable”.

FWS Carter and Sons also consider the imposing the legal clause jeopardises the farm’s financing arrangements, restrict succession planning, prevent certain corporate organisations and unduly restricts the business in an uncertain economic climate.

The applicant is reported to have discussed the legal agreement with their bank lender to ascertain their position. The report claims the bank manager who has been a specialist agricultural lender since 1995 cannot recall a Legal 106 Agreement ever having been applied to a farm building before. The lender further noted that a S106 agreement could restrict the bank’s flexibility to enforce against its security and could reduce the value of the security. This would impact the bank’s lending on both the proposed buildings and the land.

There is a long history in relation to Agricultural units at both Greendale Business Park and now at nearby Hogsbrook Farm. There have been over 10 previous applications over a 30-year period by the applicant that due to the agricultural units not being commercially viable and therefore redundant or not being suitable they have applied for a change of use to industrial use. This has resulted in the continual growth from a farm holding to a large Business Park which is in the open countryside.

Previous attempts to curb this practice have failed following a Government Inspector overturning a previous planning refusal even when the agricultural unit had a planning condition attached to the planning approval only 10 years previously that if the agricultural use was no longer needed the unit was required to be removed.

The Planning Report states:

“The planning system has enough protection in terms of the use of the building to ensure that any new use would be assessed against planning policy, regardless of whether a section 106 was in place and it is considered that a non-alienation clause secured through a legal agreement is not now required.”

The report recommends to the Committee to support the applications without the need for a section 106 agreement.

Local Residents are concerned that the recent expansion at Hogsbrook Farm will eventually become a further Industrial Area just like Greendale Business Park did.

Housing minister threatens councils on housing numbers – NOT developers!

The Express headline is:

‘Make their EYES water!’ Housing minister WARNING to councils who FAIL to meet targets

and the article goes on to blame councils for low housing numbers rather than developers who are hoarding hundreds of thousands of planning permissions, trickling out completions to keep house prices artificially high.

Message to Minister: stop shooting own foot, stop shooting councils, start squeezing developers till THEIR pips squeak!

Oh, and that bit about “developers starting on site” within two years. Legally, all they have to do is put in minimal foundations then they can leave the site unbuilt for as long as they want.

“Kit Malthouse MP was speaking to Nick Ferrari on national radio this morning to explain how the Tories are intending to “up the ante” for both developers and council planning teams so as to roll out new housing.

Mr Malthouse cited the introduction of a new scheme, the ‘Housing Delivery Test’, as one way in which the government’s building objectives might be more effectively met.

He said councils “have to hit a certain percentage of the forecast housing in their plan, and if they don’t we essentially take it out of their hands.

“If they drop below 85 percent of delivery they have to use an action plan, but if they drop below 25 percent delivery the government takes it out of their hands and they lose the ability to control a certain amount of housing in their area.”

“We want them to issue two year planning permissions, not three or five years, and if the developer doesn’t start on site within the two years that they’re able to say ‘your site’s out now’.

“You only have to do it once or twice for the development community to realise that we’re serious about this.”

The Minister explained that the Tories would give developers “big tools” to compel them to develop.

He concluded: “We’re putting big pressure on local authorities, big pressure on developers to come together.

“I do feel sometimes a bit like a marriage guidance councillor between the two because they do all shout at each other and point across the table at events that I’m at.”

Ministers say they will build 300,000 new homes a year, considerably up on the current build rate and more than in any year since the 1960s.

But a survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that only 12 percent of members expressed any confidence in that number of new homes being delivered.”

How neighbourhood plans died

Concluding paragraph of the article:

“The new Framework introduces a two-tier hierarchy of policies: strategic and non-strategic. Strategic policies may be contained in either a development plan or a spatial development strategy made by combined authorities and mayoral combined authorities. The National Planning Policy Guidance still states that “A neighbourhood plan attains the same legal status as the Local Plan once it has been approved at a referendum.” [15] but such plans are now in fact doomed to occupy a permanent state of permanent relegation in the second tier of this new planning policy hierarchy.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36521%3Areflections-on-the-revised-nppf&catid=63&Itemid=31

A useful critique on new planning regulations (local councils stay silent on their views)

Why CPRE thinks it is a developers’ charter (again):

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/new-planning-policy-framework-slammed-1892197