“UK government criticised for ‘shocking’ inaction on insulating draughty homes”

“The government’s failure to take action on insulating draughty homes has been criticised by the statutory body for energy consumers.

As millions of households brace for another round of energy bill rises after British Gas and EDF Energy hiked their prices, Citizens Advice said silence by ministers on energy efficiency plans would mean consumers lost out and insulation installers would go bust.

Zoe Guijarro, policy manager at the consumer group, told the Guardian: “I think it’s hugely damaging because we’ll have a lot of catchup to do. In the meantime we will have lost a lot of installers, who will have gone out of business – a lot of expertise. It’s not a shame – it’s shocking in this day and age, really.”

The government axed its flagship energy efficiency scheme in 2015 and has yet to replace it or signal what might come next. Guijarro said the black hole on policy could lead people to conclude energy efficiency is unimportant, even though experts view it as vital for cutting bills and carbon emissions. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/15/uk-government-inaction-citizens-advice-insulating

“Griff Rhys Jones supports new report and says we must not lose our precious countryside by building low density sprawling estates”

Press Release:

“Civic Voice president Griff Rhys Jones has today added his voice to campaigns by six community groups fighting “garden communities” being imposed on them by the Government.

He has penned a powerful Foreword to a Smart Growth UK report mostly written by community groups around the country who are opposing garden towns and villages. Griff warns that, far from being utopias, these are disordered schemes that ignore local communities and would be located in unsustainable locations.

“We encounter proposals that are not going to answer local needs for housing at all, but will waste precious countryside by building low density sprawling estates and creating expensive houses. Brownfield land in England can accommodate one million houses, So get on with it and use that.” he says.

Griff warns that terms like “housing crisis” and “emergency” are being used to force through development of the countryside which fails to provide the affordable homes we need as a nation.

The report sets out detailed objections by six groups opposing Government-sponsored garden communities and four opposing large greenfield developments marketed as “garden villages” by their promoters.

““Planning” by definition means looking to the future. That must mean the long-term future as well as the next few years. We need to recognize that people who urge care, caution and attention are not dwelling in the past. They are not NIMBYS, says Griff. “They are protecting the future.”

He says the protests, assessments and legitimate concerns in the report make sober reading.”

Report:

http://www.smartgrowthuk.org/resources/downloads/Garden%20Communities%20Report.pdf

“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.”

“The Greater Exeter plan has been delayed”

Owl is STILL having difficulty understanding how the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) fits in with the Devon and Somerset Heart of the South West Strategic plan!!! So many strategies, so many plans, so many people being paid to work out how to invent what might, or more likely might not, turn out to be a wheel – though one of them MIGHT just manage to invent a square one!

“Mid Devon, East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter City Council, in partnership with Devon County Council, are teaming up to create a Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) which focuses on the creation of jobs and housing until 2040.

… A consultation on the issues that the GESP should focus on took place 12 months ago and it was initially hoped that a consultation on a draft plan would begin in January of 2018.

But publication of the draft plan has been delayed and it is now likely that the draft GESP will be published in the summer of 2018.

Explaining the delay, a statement said: “In respect of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP), and since our last Local Development Scheme was approved, there have been a number of factors which have delayed plan production.

“These include the fact that a great many sites were submitted through the Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment ‘call for sites’ and these are being carefully assessed as well as further draft changes to national Government planning policy and a wish to investigate differing ways to ensure we can secure the best forms of development, including the highest quality new housing with supporting facilities, to meet our future needs.”

… The GESP will sit above District-level Local and community Neighbourhood Plans, taking a long-term strategic view to ensure important decisions about development and investment are coordinated. … “

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/greater-exeter-plan-been-delayed-1412993

Insolvent (Tory) council – the blame game begins!

“Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council should be scrapped, according to a government report.

The report, ordered by Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, recommends “a new start” which is “best achieved by the creation of two new unitary councils”.

Council leader Heather Smith resigned following the report’s publication.

Northampton North MP Michael Ellis called the management of the authority a “national scandal”.

He said he was “appalled” by the report, which “makes for chilling reading”.

Conservative councillor Ms Smith criticised “vicious attacks by four local MPs”, adding “you cannot win” if the “machinery of government turns against you”. …

The report said its findings are “very serious” for the council and its residents.

The council “did not respond well, or in many cases even react, to external and internal criticism”, Mr Caller said.
He added individual councillors “appear to have been denied answers” to legitimate questions. …

Mr Caller was also critical of the council’s ‘Next Generation Model,’ which planned to outsource all services and create four new bodies for child protection, care of vulnerable adults, providing health and well-being services, and improving the county.

The report said the model did not have “any documented underpinning” of how it intended to deliver £68m of savings, and “served to obscure and prevent effective” budgetary control.

It does add the council “employs many good, hardworking, dedicated staff”.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-40610349

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.”