New National Planning Policy Framework – effective from TODAY

Very rushed so there must be a great number of controversial changes!

Report to follow.

“Home Builders Federation criticises planning proposals”to

Oh, those poor, poor developers … less profit … that’s all this is about:

Proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework could cause the cost of land to increase and exacerbate the housing crisis, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has warned in a letter to the Government.

The industry body claimed that proposed changes, which would enable councils to base contributions towards affordable housing based on the existing value of land – rather than its projected sale value – would mean they would have to offer lower sums to landowners and therefore be able to build fewer homes.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that proposed changes “will mean that developers know the contributions expected of them and local communities are clear about the infrastructure they will get alongside new homes. We are currently analysing responses to the consultation and will set out next steps in due course.”

Sources: Telegraph p1, Times p1 (pay walls)

“Building free-for-all [in new planning regulations] puts rural West at risk”

Western Morning News article, Saturday 21 April:

“Pristine protected areas of the South West could be at risk from housing developments plans, a conservation charity has warned. Even officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would face developments due to “vague” proposed new planning guidance for local authorities the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says.

The Government argues that the new rules, part of a move to open up land to solve the housing shortage, would still protect the environment.
However Justin Hague of the South Hams CPRE, said “this would be game over” for conservationists.

Some of the south West’s pristine and most beautiful landscapes could have houses built on them under Government plans conservationists have warned.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says even officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would face major development due to the “vague” new planning guidance for local authorities.

The proposals- which are being consulted on until May 10 – would end the fight to preserve the precious areas, said the chairman of the group in one of the most under-pressure parts of the regain.

“Not to sound too dramatic, but for countryside campaigners it would be game over” said Justin Hague, chairman of the South Hams branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. (CPRE)

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) would be handed “on a plate to the developers”

He is urging people to write to their MPs to build opposition to the proposed changes.

The controversy is over sections of the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) which sets out the Government`s Policies on proposed developments and how they are expected to be applied.

Changes are being but forward partly to help solve the housing crisis.
The aim is to “bring forward more land in the right places” for development, the Government says “Protecting and enhancing the natural environment “ is one of the three key objectives , the document states.

However conservationists are concerned by what they say is watering down of the NPPF policies protecting special areas of the countryside and coast which were put in place in 2012.

Their attention focuses on one section of the proposals, Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment.

In the existing document, reference is made to protected areas such as National Parks and AONBs as having the “highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

The wording disappears under the new proposals.

Mr Hague said absolute tests that helped reinforce protection of the special areas would also go if new guidelines were agreed.

“The proposals say major developments will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. But what is “major”? Is that 100 homes? In the South Hams in the AONB 10homes could have a huge impact.

“It massively opens the door for development in AONBs” he said.

“My concern is these proposed changes are buried in a huge document that few people have the time or interest to read.

Mr Hague said he had an “unprecedented” response since he expressed his concerns in newsletter to fellow CPRE members in the South Hams.

“Usually I get three or four responses” he said “This time I had 70!”
Mr Hague said the South Hams faced particular pressure for development because of the desire for second homes.

Developers were struggling to sell homes in less-desirable areas, even with the assistance of the Governments Help to Buy Scheme “

They would be able to sell those houses like hot cakes to second home owners if they were able to build in beautiful areas and on the coast” he said.”

“Stampede to build homes threatens the rights of locals”

Article by Andrew Motion, President, CPRE in today’s Times (pay wall):

In launching the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last month, the communities secretary Sajid Javidpromised “a continued emphasis on development that’s sustainable and led locally”. Was he really talking about the same NPPF that, for the past five years, has forced wholly unsustainable development on communities already struggling with overstretched infrastructure and shrinking green spaces?

Initial analysis of the revisions by the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that there is still not enough emphasis on a plan-led system such as the one that has been a cornerstone of our local democracy since 1947. We are calling for the final version to give a cast-iron guarantee that locally agreed development plans (including neighbourhood plans) should be upheld when deciding planning applications. It is the only way to restore communities’ faith in neighbourhood planning.

Local volunteers spend a great deal of time and effort in promoting good development, assessing housing needs and negotiating sites that respect settlement boundaries and preserve valued green spaces. So it is deeply disheartening that the revised NPPF could allow local authorities to overrule neighbourhood plans, either when local plans are reviewed (every five years) or if not enough homes are delivered elsewhere.

Communities across England are being targeted by parasitic “land promoters” who speculate on their ability to shoehorn large, expensive homes on to greenfield sites. In many cases the financial might of these companies allows them to steamroller councils in the appeals process, where the NPPF’s current “presumption in favour of sustainable development” provides the necessary loophole.

If it’s hard to achieve democratic decisions with respect to housing, the situation threatens to become even worse with fracking. The majority of recent applications have been decisively rejected by local authorities, yet the revised NPPF forces local authorities not only to place great weight on the supposed benefits of fracking for the economy, but also to recognise the benefits for “energy security” and “supporting a low-carbon transition”. This misguided emphasis can only lead to more travesties like January’s approval for oil exploration by West Sussex county council, in the face of 2,739 letters of objection (and 11 in support).

We must have new housing and infrastructure, but it remains vitally important that development benefits those who have to live with it. Now more than ever, we need to put people at the heart of the planning system.”

No overnight fix for housing say “Civic Voice”

Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement. It leads and supports civic societies as a national movement for quality of place, with people actively improving their towns, cities and villages and promote civic pride, speaking up for civic societies and local communities across England.

“Speaking during a meeting for Civic Societies, Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones said “Whilst the Government wants to see `The right homes in the right places` the draft National Planning Policy Framework is so lacking in teeth to ensure that the policies will be delivered, and combined with under-resourced local councils, that we are very likely to end up with the wrong homes in the wrong places.”

Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the APPG [All Party Parliamentary Group] for Civic Societies said, “Does anyone genuinely believe that if you build more houses, house prices will come down?”.

Without knocking developers, who are part of the solution, I have to query whether they are doing all they can to help build the houses? I say to them, to get more affordable housing, we must build real affordable housing in sustainable locations where people want to live in towns and cities. If not, we have to look at other ways of building the homes we need. It is easy to think of headline figures, but we are talking about real people’s lives being impacted by the housing crisis.”

The draft National Planning Policy Framework was published on 6th March with the consultation running to 10th May. Civic Voice and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies held a debate on 13th March to ask the question “Wil the NPPF review lead to the homes, the nation needs, being built? The panel included speakers from Royal Town Planning Institute and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The debate highlighted issues including:

• England has not one housing market, but many. We need to be working towards having a plan-led system so that decisions are made locally as a one policy fits all approach does not work for the whole country. Context matters. We need a solution for Alnwick, Blackpool and London. And everywhere in between.
• To ensure we get plans in place, the planning system needs effective resources, particularly at local authority level, commensurate with the important role it plays. Planning is part of the solution not the problem.
• The panel supported the inquiry being led by Sir Oliver Letwin who has been charged by the Government to investigate why there is a gap between the number of planning permissions granted and the number of homes that are then built on those sites.
• It is pleasing that despite the constant attacks on the Green Belt, the draft NPPF review retains the current green belt policies. It was felt that the test for exceptional circumstances for when Green Belt can be released needs to be clarified.
• Let local authorities charge the planning fees they need to cover the costs they are spending on supporting the delivery of homes. The panel heard the example of one authority that made £500k loss on planning work in the previous year.
• The need to consider the VAT and Tax anomalies within the planning system around VAT or refurbishment. The group discussed ideas of taxation of property and how a Householder Tax could help use change and nudge behaviour.

Craig Mackinlay MP finished by saying, “We all have a role to play in finding the homes for our children and grandchildren. The APPG for Civic Societies will be holding further debates during the consultation period to raise awareness of the issues. We will then collect the findings together and meet with the Minister and share our findings about what the draft means for communities. I call on people to respond with evidence to the draft NPPF consultation and to share your thoughts with Civic Voice.”

The Next APPG for Civic Societies meeting will be on May 8th in Parliament, on the Historic Environment section of the NPPF. Civic Voice members will be sent further information to attend.”

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.”

“Law Society criticises proposed government approach to planning conditions”

“The Law Society has expressed concern that the government’s proposed new approach to planning conditions was “overly prescriptive and risked generating more appeals as a result of refusal or non-determination of planning applications”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s consultation on draft regulations intended to improve the use of planning conditions ran until 27 February.

It invited comments on draft regulations which create an exemption to the requirement in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 that local planning authorities obtain the written agreement of an applicant before imposing a pre-commencement condition on a grant of planning permission.

In its response Chancery Lane’s Planning & Environmental Law Committee said the generation of more appeals was an outcome that “would defeat the object of the exercise”.

The Committee went on to propose alternative approaches to meet the government’s objectives.

The Committee’s response, which can be downloaded here, was as follows:

Q1: Do you agree that the notice should require the local planning authority to give full reasons for the proposed condition and full reasons for making it a pre-commencement condition?
We agree with the requirement to give reasons for proposed conditions but are concerned that the meaning of “full reasons” is undefined (and is not defined in S100ZA of the 1990 Act) and could thus lead to litigation in the same manner as happened with “summary reasons”.
It may be preferable to apply the recently affirmed standard for reasons in the Dover case(1) – “proper, adequate and intelligible”, also per South Bucks(2) many years before.
(1) Dover District Council v CPRE Kent; CPRE Kent v China Gateway International Ltd [2017] UKSC 79
(2) South Buckinghamshire District Council v Porter (No 2) [2004] 1 WLR 1953

Q2: Do you agree with our proposed definition of “substantive response” set out in draft Regulation 2(6)?
A developer veto without reasons is also unlikely to help achieve government’s goals if it increases the number of non-determinations and thus appeals. Furthermore, the Planning Inspectorate may find it unnecessarily difficult to deal promptly with such appeals if the developer’s reasoning for bringing them is not known at the outset.
We suggest that developers should be expected to give “proper, adequate and intelligible” reasons for refusing a condition, just as planning authorities should do for proposing them.

Q3: Do you agree with our proposal not to give local planning authorities discretion to agree with applicants a longer period than 10 working days to respond to the notice?
We propose that planning authorities should have discretion to allow a longer response time where this facilitates an agreed position during the notice period. Given that a longer notice period can benefit an applicant there shouldn’t be negative consequences from the additional “delay”.
If a limitation is sought, the regulations could emulate recent changes in Environmental Impact Assessment by permitting extension by agreement up to a maximum (90 days for EIA).

Q4: Do you have any other comments on the draft regulations?
While commending their brevity and clarity, we have concerns that the regulations as proposed are overly prescriptive and could lead to unnecessary increases in appeals – thus defeating their original object. We hope that our proposed amendments offer constructive solutions and would be happy to assist the Ministry further.”

Do you want to tell the government what you think of the National Planning Policy Framework?

Well, you can – until 10 May 2018:

“… Alongside the National Planning Policy Framework consultation documents, we have published for reference the draft planning practice guidance on viability and the housing delivery test measurement rulebook. We will publish additional draft planning practice guidance for reference later this week. …”

Housing minister who attacked NIMBYs is a NIMBY – or maybe a BANANA!

Sajid Javid has attacked councils and NIMBYs for standing in the way of more housing.

Now, it seems Javid is even worse – a BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone!

“…1) Just months before his re-election in 2015, Javid slammed plans from his local Tory Council, Redditch Borough, to build 2,800 new homes. He said:

“…..I wish to re-emphasise my concern that land within Redditch Borough is fully utilised before any consideration is given to expanding the area’s housing need into Bromsgrove Green Belt as a neighbouring district.”
Ah, the green belt, of course. Javid is a man of principle, let us not forget.

2) In June 2016, Javid slammed his local council’s plans to build 1,300 houses in Perryfields:

“While I understand this land was designated for housing, there is significant concern about the implications such a large-scale development would have on local infrastructure, facilities and environment.”
Aaaah, it all makes sense now: Javid cares about providing sustainable housing. Makes perfect sense:

3) In 2012, Javid backed another campaign against plans to build 175 homes in the Worcestershire village of Hagley. At the time, he said:

“People aren’t against it just for the sake of being against the development, it’s can the local infrastructure cope?”
Hmm, a theme seems to be emerging. Surely Javid was again rallying to defend the green belt, no? Well, no. The council head of planning Ruth Bamford responded to Javid’s NIMBYism by pointing out: “If it didn’t go here it would most likely go on greenbelt because there isn’t much land around Bromsgrove district that can take new housing.”

Slippery Javid just keeps on passing the buck #NIMBYpamby.”