Sustainable planning for sustainable development: three aims, five guiding principles, 12 planning principles…

 

It’s good news that most of the old planning framework has been dumped. It was complex, unwieldy, and suited few. I had hoped to enjoy its replacement more than I did on first read through. It 65 pages and 207 clauses is a great improvement on what went before, but it’s not a clear and snappy read.

The five principles of sustainable development that overarch the whole are far from precise. As others have pointed out, this is a hand me down from the last government. It’s not clear how important they might be in any individual case, or how they will be interpreted.  The three aims are unexceptional. The economic aim is to allow all the building we need for a growing economy. The social aim is to make sure we have enough homes and other facilities. The environmental aims are various, including  protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment. The large question is how the possible conflict between protecting the countryside and finding enough land for new homes, offices and factories is to be resolved in case after case.

The government has listened to criticisms of its first draft. Brownfield sites are now usually to  be preferred.  Green belt protection is reaffirmed. Local communities can designate  land as local green space, giving it Green Belt like status within their communities for important smaller areas, as long as they do this through an approved plan.  There are new tighter  rules on traveller sites in another document, following recent controversies.  Car parking ratios are relaxed so new developments in areas where people need to use cars can reflect the reality of car ownership after years of artificial restriction on car parking. Town Centre lovers now learn that new shop development should occur in the centre, or on its edge, with out of town only if all else fails.

The big issue at the heart is how many homes should be built? This  still has  a plan led answer, where Councils have to assess demand for many years ahead, state a figure for the annual need for new homes, and then ensure five years supply of land plus a reserve is continuously available.  Planners find this notoriously difficult. Recent years have seen huge disruption to the plans on the downside, as mortgage money dried up in the Credit Crunch and as housebuilders reined in their activities. England will divide into those places which already have local plans, where the local plan will guide and restrict development as long as the five year supply of land is available, and the rest where the presumption in favour of sustainable development will dominate in decisions.

Existing local plans were of course often drawn up under the past government’s guidance, requiring higher housing targets.  I do not buy into the criticism of the document that it will restrict new planning permissions.  The aim is clearly to expand provision in places where there is demand by appealing to the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the absence of a plan. In the areas with plans, they anyway have quite high housing targets in them reflecting the past government demands.

I do not think housebuilding need to  be held up by a shorttage of land under this regime.  Local communities will need well crafted local plans in order to assert their own views on development, and in order to restrict development to acceptable locations. The issue for the housing makret, at least temporarily, is not land but is prices and mortgages.

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58 Comments

  1. colliemum
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    You write “As others have pointed out, this is a hand me down from the last government. “

    After two years, this government still seems to live on hand-me-downs from the last Labour government. The list is getting longer by the day: planning now, energy and ‘green’ issues, foreign aid, treasury (allegedly) … are there really only two ministers (IDS, Gove) who have been able to stamp Tory policies on their departments?

    Why do you have to explain and defend Labour hand-me-down policies, John?
    Are the Sir Humphrys now totally unaccountable, are they running the country but not you, the MPs?

  2. lifelogic
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Indeed the lack of sensible development funding and finance is the main problem. The years of artificial restrictions on car parking has been absurd just so people drive endlessly round in circles searching for parking or get mugged by the state parking tax collectors.

    They should also get rid of the silly idea that new developments should all have wood burning boilers, pointless PV cells on the roofs and silly toy wind turbines. These do not make them environmental or sustainable they are just silly green wash gimmicks as every one knows and just actually waste time, energy and make the design less environmental.

    • Mark
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Green bling (or green taxes if you don’t spend on the bling) are a deadweight on new properties. Buyers will pay for sensible levels of insulation etc. that make economic sense. Any reasonably canny buyer will place zero value (and perhaps negative value on grounds of lower amenity) on green bling. The tax alternative – something like £30k per property towards subsidising your local windmills – is designed to stop almost all housebuilding, isn’t it? As JR pointed out the other day – tax something and you get less of it.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 30, 2012 at 4:38 am | Permalink

        Indeed

    • Bazman
      Posted March 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      How do the developers get away with no parking or storage facilities for wheelie bins? You see cars parked all over the place and wheelie bins everywhere. To much regulation?

  3. alan jutson
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I cannot make a knowledgable comment on the new planning rules as I have not read them, but clearly if you are to have sustainable housing (enough Houses for everyone) then not only do they have to be affordable, there has surely to be a control link with both net immigration and the birth rate.

    For years the population has grown faster than house building, thus house shortages, no matter if for rent or purchase, has fallen out of step with demand.

    In addition, housing requirement to a degree follows areas where work is available, once you start having to commute for more than an hour to find/go to work, then the attraction to that area drops, thus commercial investment and housing availability is also linked to a degree.

    I hope the new plan is clearer than the old, but why am I not filled with confidence that all of the old frustrations with the system as was, will still remain with the new.

    Time will tell.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      The relaxation on parking restrictions (one per property) is a welcome relief, and should at last, if implemented, make for rather less crowded side roads, and should give more flexibility to visitors, doctors, health workers and the like, when visiting so called future PLANNED Estates.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        I was looking for propeerty years ago and was asked if I would like to see a flat with no parking space by an estate agent. Where would I park the car? Oh! The manager of the local supermarket says you can park there. We’re done.

  4. Caterpillar
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    [I have not read the new planning framework]

    (1).

    “Brownfield sites are now usually to be preferred. Green belt protection is reaffirmed. Local communities can designate land as local green space”

    I think brownfield sites (at least near residential / mixed-use areas) should first be considered as places to turn green to provide community spaces, wildlife resevoirs and runoff areas. Preferring to build on these seems to reduce an opportunity to manage density. My natural inclination would be to allow greenbelt (and green outside town/city perimeters) to become built environment so that brownfield can become green – can developers have an offsetting mechanism?

    (2)

    “how many homes should be built … Planners find this notoriously difficult”, and

    “The issue for the housing market … is not land but is prices and mortgages”

    both seem to allude to a non-working market with price not successfully acting as the coordination mechanism.

    “restrict development to acceptable locations”

    Seems to be part of the explanation c.f. effect of rent control.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Where will you locate the cows and the corn or will we be importing all our food in future?

      • StevenL
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        On the fields the EU/DEFRA pay the farmers/landowenrs not to do anything with?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        What cows?

        • forthurst
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          Bovine cows. It would be easier to bring farmland back into production if it had not already been planted with houses and windmills.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        Forthurst,

        I think the UK is about 2/3rds self-sufficient at the moment, and that is including many imports for out of season products. There is a problem with inefficiencies due to subsidies in various parts of the world (obviously including EU). I generally don’t see a problem in importing.

        If for some reason people believe self-sufficient security is better than free trade then the 2/3rds number above is worth noting in combination with many UK people eating 13000 kJ per day (suitable for activity) when they only need 8500 kJ per day for sedentary. Moreover the UK doesn’t farm completely intensely, nor has the UK yet had to use vertical farms for, so-called, urban sustainability.

        {I do recognise that there can be fertiliser/oil risk}

        • forthurst
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          We live in a world in which financial spivs are trying to control the raw materials of the planet in order to create artificially high prices; this includes agricultural produce.

          I see little point in trying to be self-sufficient in all the food that we buy at present, on which point I agree. However, sacrificing what is a valuable raw material source (our ancestral farmland) and its concomitant self-sufficiency in order to make England a more desirable place for never ending waves of immigrants seems ill-advised.

          Have you any idea how many died of starvation in the last century to the nearest ten million? I do not think there is any cause for complacency over primary food supplies.

  5. norman
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The planning regime is a complete shambles. The nearest city to me, Aberdeen, has been screaming out for years for a bypass as all the heavy oil industry traffic as well as commuters, etc. have to pass through the city centre and the congestion is dreadful. I won’t bore everyone with the details but it’s been a farce up to now, dragging on for years with tens of millions spent so far and nothing to show for it.

    The latest twist is a handful of fanatics who, after having been thrown out of every UK court with derision, are now trying to raise £100,000 so they can drag the thing out for years more in the European court system (quelle surprise). There’s no chance of a result in the end but on and on the saga rumbles.

    There’s also an ongoing fiasco involving Donald Trump who’s trying to invest hundreds of millions in the area and is being frustrated by the system. This in one tiny corner of the country.

    • Susan
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      norman

      That is not a fair assessment of the problems in Aberdeen. Aberdeen grew very quickly with the oil industry before proper infrastrucure was in place to support the growth. Now the roads are so congested that just closing one for repairs or improvements almost brings the traffic to a standstill. The Aberdeen Council handled the finances so badly, despite it being a very rich City, that the money just is not there to improve much of anything. Therefore, what is left is roads which are too narrow for the traffic to take, deep potholes everywhere, too many buses holding up the movement of traffic and a city centre where traffic is held up consistently. Of course the Council has made things worse by poor planning of the bus station, the new shopping precinct and too many traffic lights. As the City is still growing, with more immigrants and workers, there will be a time when no one can move around in a car. Aberdeen was never a suitable sort of City to locate what is called the’ Oil Capital’ its infrastructure was far too old and now there are odd new housing estates all over the place without any kind of structure to them and no proper shops and roads to feed them. People come in from the outer districts because there is no other City near at hand to shop because Aberdeen is so far North and the crowding is unbearable in the City centre. It was of course not the first choice for where the oil industry was to be developed in the first place.

      Everyone knows the City needs a bypass, indeed it was promised years ago. However the objections, are in the main, not as you claim to the bypass, it is where it is to be placed. It would be in the wrong place, which would mean that a majority of the traffic would still go through the centre of Aberdeen and not solve the real problems.

      As to Donald Trump, this mans intentions are not to bring big investment to the City, they are actually to exploit Aberdeen for his own gain. There are issues regarding where the site is to be for his development because it is an important natural area for the City, but they are not the main objections. Anyway Mr. Trump has upset Mr Salmond by suggesting he does not want windmills cluttering up the place, so I suppose Mr. green mad Salmond will not want his investment now anyway.

  6. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    The large question is indeed the resolution of competing issues. I would expect government to set out how this should be done, and if this is not done then there is no coherent plan.

    Aims and principles are important as they provide a conceptual structure. But on their own they are insufficient for well ordered and understood development.

  7. Liz
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    If you have net immigration of 250,000 year on year then it follows that you need a lot more homes and not everyone wants to live in a house built on an ex rubbish dump or factory that made goodness knows what. Those who advocate only building on brownfield sites should ask themselves if they would want such an environment for their children. If you don’t build these homes then you will get unaffordable house prices with young people driven out of the market altogether – which is exactly what has happened. Banks are now reluctant to underwrite these extortionate prices with unaffordable mortgages – although they caused this problem in the first place by doing just that. I am all for protecting the environment but we have to put people first in resolving problems that are entirely of our own making – too much immigration and 100% + mortgages previously given by banks. The banks to their shame are now only granting mortgages to buy to let (short term) investors – making the problem worse

    • A Different Simon
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      “Banks are now reluctant to underwrite these extortionate prices with unaffordable mortgages – although they caused this problem in the first place by doing just that.”

      Quite . The bigger the mortgage , the greater share of the fruits of a persons lifetime labour the financial services industry will take .

      Our politicians , having invested primarily in property , are hardly going to allow the bubble to burst or the shortage be turned into a surplus .

      What is it about Briton’s which persuades them that restricting other Britons access to accomodation is a legitimate way of making money ?

      • StevenL
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s it! It’s like the south-sea bubble all over again, the decision makers are invested up to their eyeballs!

  8. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    No development plan makes sense unless it is set alongside a plan for population. As we live and work in an island, land is not an infinite resource.

    There is no land that is unused. Some may argue that a parcel of land would be better used for a different purpose, but others may argue they like things as they are.

    It is not just a question of housing. Increasing the population means increasing demands on land for transport, schools, recreation, employment and the like. If building is allowed to meet these demands then land is unavailable for other things.

    We all want growth. More and more new build is a way of generating growth. But there must come a point when enough is enough, and I think we are already there.

    • A Different Simon
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      By drawing such a line , the Govt would be providing a service to existing land and housing owners – the service of protecting it’s value .

      It’s not unreasonable for a charge to be levied for this service and used to help those who are inconvenienced by being denied accomodation and privacy .

      I can’t see why the next generation would pay our pensions if we don’t even ensure somewhere to live and have privacy is within their reach .

      The whole bricks and mortar mentality has lead this country to ruin .

      • StevenL
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Your host has previously proposed doing it the other way around – i.e. that compensation is paid to existing landowners for the development of new housing!

        I think I’m with you.

      • Mark
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        I’d be rather less concerned about preserving monetary value (in fact I think we need much lower property prices) and rather more about the preservation of amenity value. Property prices are a matter of opinion that varies with time. Destroy amenity, and it becomes very costly to restore it: you may have to wait generations before decay is replaced by regeneration.

  9. Mactheknife
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    After years of searching for a small plot of land to build a home, it became clear that the planners were absolutely set against any kind of development. Finding available land was extremely difficult and even when I managed to find a plot they used every excuse in the book, from vehicluar access to conservation rules to thwart my attempts.
    Whilst the presumtion is “for” in the new legislation we are still back to the brown field land issue. Unfortunately brown field land is usually in the places you would never want to build a house – so are we any further forward in reality ? Local planners will invoke this rule at every opportunity.
    You say there should now be no shortage of land under the new rules but I fear this will still remain the case and available plots will make self build prohibitively expensive and as difficult as it is for most people now.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Mactheknife

      The only sensible way to search for a plot of land for new self build, is to purchase one with either, outline planning approval, or detailed planning approval, unless its a knock down and rebuild.

      Yes it will be much more expensive than purchasing a speculative plot (without planning), but not as frustrating or time consuming.

      Outline planning will enable you rather more self design input, and should give greater flexibility than a plot with detailed Planning, unless you want to put in a completely new application for the detailed planning plot, and use the approved design as a fall back position.

      We built our own home 31 years ago to my design, after consultation with the Local Authority planners (plot purchased with outline planning permission only).

      We still live in it.

      The problem you have now, is that many self builders do not regard building their own home as a commercial project, and thus are willing to pay far too much for the land in the first place.

      Self build is big business, I think about 20,000 houses a year in the UK, so there is plenty of land about, but often at silly prices.

      Would I do it again ?

      Certainly, but not with land prices as they are at present.

      • Mactheknife
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Alan

        Thanks for your comments. I have been asked for ridiculous sums of money for plots with outline or full planning permission and I have also looked for an exisiting plot for knock down and rebuild. The problem is the scarcity of land vastly inflates house prices and I had hoped that this new relaxation of the legislation would have freed up areas which may border exisiting towns and villages. Alas we’ve gone back down the “brown field” route and to my mind this will constrain any kind of development and continue to inflate land prices.

  10. MickC
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    As ever, the result will be that large developers will get exactly what they want, but individuals who wish to build something will be refused.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Hey – you have forgotten the £250,000 dinner, have you not?

  11. stred
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The new system seems likely to provide the basis for a new profession of ‘sustainability’ definers and statement writers. It is vague enough to make the process as expensive and slow as before. A friend who has worked in housing design all his working life told me that the big developers now employ a team of 20 to do what we used to single handed. This keeps out the smaller upstarts. Land banks do the rest.

    Brownfield sites inevitably have residues of industrial processes as these are in cities where industry has moved out. Lawyers and insurance companies ensure that any risks are negligible and this can be very expensive. However, the land value is very high and has to be reduced to take account of protection work. All this takes a long time.

    One of John Prescott’s clearer moments was when he decided to encourage the maximum use of large urban properties to provide higher density housing in smaller units. This followed the trend for smaller family or single person’s needs. Then, the first think the Coalition did was to reverse this policy. No change here?

  12. English Pensioner
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Is there any requirement for there to be adequate infrastructure to cope with additional development? A major problem seems to be that the utilities are unable to cope with the extra properties and additional school places are required, etc.
    Where I live, the storm drains are now overflowing at lower levels in the town putting properties at risk from flooding because extra properties are being built higher up and the existing drains cannot cope.. Water which previously went into the aquifer to feed streams and provide water supplies now disappears into drains and is lost leading to water shortages. There have been more electricity problems in the past couple of years than in the previous thirty, due, presumably, to overloading of the system.
    Of course none of these concern the developer who is long gone by the time problems start to occur, and the rest of us have to pay to sort them out through increased council tax and utilities bills.

  13. David John Wilson
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Can we assume that as our local MP you will be pushing for the preservation of the green belt between Wokingham and Bracknell? Twenty years ago this was regarded as sacrosanct by both planning authorities.

    Reply: Yes, I have always lobbied the planners to keep this important green gap between settlements. Now there is a new designation they could use in the local plan to do so.

  14. Martyn
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    We are already short of water in large parts of England.
    The last incompetent government wasted at least 10 years in doing nothing to secure future energy sources (and storage) and we are already critcally dependant on importing peak-time demand electricity from France.
    We are short of doctors, nurses, teachers, schools, yet unrestricted immigration is allowed to continue and worsen the situation.
    Our infrastructure is crumbling through decades of neglect and the solution to all of these problems is seen by government to cause the building hundreds of thousands of new houses. Whatever happened to common-sense – first fix the problems and then carry forward the building plans, or is that too simple and approach?

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      When we got loads of Poles who were desperate to improve our country, I was very hopeful. Believe me, the new lot of Eastern Europeans are fine people too but they have been hammered and brought up as Russians with all that implies. (Stalin’s legacy, Communism, MGB etc, Yeltsin, Putin).
      I think the Muslims have a totally different take on capitalism too.

      So I do not think, on the whole, that the new people are going to restore our prosperity now that we have more or less stopped producing our own breed of children.

      They expect the goodies nevertheless…….

    • bob webster
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      We are also increasingly dependent on imported foodstuffs. In 1984 the UK was able to produce 95% of all the indigenous foodstuffs required by a population of 55 million. By 2009 we only produced enough of the same staples to meet 72% of our needs, with the UK population already topping 60 million. Any analysis of the “sustainability” of new housing or other developments, needs to take the issue of food security into account. As agricultural land is lost, food prices will escalate. As the global population and the price of oil increases in the next few years, the cost of importing food will grow rapidly.

  15. Dan
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    John a recent survey showed what I as a young married man already knew. That young people today are deferring their life goals due to high house prices. In short today young professionals are not young by the time they have children, they simply cannot afford a home all the time property prices are being artificially propped up by these fantasy interest rates and an repossession amnesty on those who bought property they could not afford and who fail to make their mortgage payments.

    Mr Redwood, I would really like to know your view and the view of your colleagues. Do you care? Do you and fellow baby boomer MPs think it is a problem that they are having far fewer grandchildren? (or at least those boomers who cannot afford to buy their children a house) Do you think it’s wrong to prop up house prices to keep the young from having a home?

    • Adam5x5
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      This problem is only going to get worse – as the baby boomers get older, the tax demand (pensions, medical) on the working age people will get higher.

      Since they will not have had children of their own til later, the working population will be put under even more financial stress to support the welfare state feckless and the retired, who between them will control the majority of votes and no doubt vote for higher benefits for themselves.

      Pretty soon it will be pointless working. Unless something is done right now, we are heading for a major problem…

  16. Susan
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    This is what happens when the population rise is allowed gets out of hand there will always be constant demand for housing etc. that cannot be met. Strange to think Mr. Salmond in Scotland wants more immigration to increase the population there and England needs much less.

    I am not confident that this planning policy is properly nailed down. Personally I think it will lead to building happening all over England with no real control in place as brownfield sites are more expensive and difficult to develop.

  17. Neil Craig
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    “The big issue at the heart is how many homes should be built? ”

    If it was a matter of government trying to push up the number of houses to be built as it was, at least nominally, post war, then that might be the issue.

    As it is I would say the issue is “Is it the government’s job to limit the number of houses built?” Because that is what all the regulators do & since building is a significant part of the economy of any successful, on the order of 10% in direct value, if the answer is Yes then that means it is the government’s job to prevent the economy growing. Clearly the government & “opposition” do believe that but when did they put it to the people in this “democracy”?

  18. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    ‘Growing economy’

    In what way is it growing ? And is that growth good growth ?

    Aren’t houses a product of work ? Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse ? If there is not enough work then why should there be more houses ?

    I don’t for one minute wish to deny people of space and privacy, but building more houses in a country with already high unemployment (however you categorise it) and so many on the state payroll is getting this issue completely arse about face.

    There are many reasons for high house prices – a relaxation of lending multiples over earnings and self certification of mortgages being the main. Then there is the obvious which I shall refrain from mentioning because I am sick of sounding like a scratched record.

    Whatever you call it it certainly doesn’t seem like ‘planning’ to me, so it’s no wonder that planning laws no longer work.

  19. Mark
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    You’re right we won’t get much in the way of new housing until house prices are affordable – i.e. much lower. Now that the extra gambling tax has been applied to £2m+ properties it’s likely that there will be a sharp reduction in the flow of foreign money into the top of the market which will probably lead to fewer transactions at most price levels (restoration of house gambling duty to lower priced properties will aggravate the effect). But the real need is to sort out the banks and their mortgage books that tie up so much funding that should instead be available to businesses.

    As others have pointed out, the policy remains in a vacuum until we see what is really going to happen with (im)migration. However, it doesn’t begin to address the extensive market distortions caused by heavily subsidised social rents, subsidised mortgages, and landbanking. The consequence is that demand is distorted, and the market fails to operate.

    We have an average occupancy rate of under 3 people per dwelling, unless the population statistics are wrong by a very substantial margin. There is a clear need to replace decayed elements of the housing stock – including some of the slums for the future that have been built only recently. There is a clear need to stop building more slums of the future – tiny properties with inadequate amenities that no-one wants to live in, many of them far from jobs and shops and leisure amenities and schools and health care. Indeed, commuting distances are on a rising trend – which makes no kind of economic sense. We should be seeking to encourage employment close to where people live, which entails providing premises and places to park, fast broadband and making employers recognise the external costs that commuting imposes.

    The suspicion is that this legislation will be used to ram through such uneconomic projects as HS2 and windmills. That should be prevented.

  20. uanime5
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    It would be helpful if house builders had to assess whether the infrastructure was sufficient for additional houses. Requiring planners to ensure there are enough hospitals, schools, road capacity, etc per every thousand house built would ensure that the community could cope with any expansions. At present there’s a lot of new houses being built but not much else.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      unamine5

      Ever heard of 106 agreements, its what Councils now very often demand for funding the infrastructure, in exchange for granting planning approvals.

      Whilst blackmail is the wrong word, I cannot find a correct one.

      ie If you fund the building of a new school in the Borough, then we will grant planning approval on your application.

      but the Council very often spend the money on something some distance away from the site given planning, so in effect it never was required for the site in question, it simply goes into the Councils coffers to be spent where they like.

      In addition sometimes it is demanded that the 106 agreement is finished/fully financed, before work can actually be started on the building site.
      Thus reducing cash flow for the builders concerned.

      • Mark
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Section 106 is not the right way to finance infrastructure. It loads the cost onto new properties rather than spreading it, and considers social housing to be “infrastructure” to be paid for up front by the private sector.

        • alan jutson
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

          Mark

          I absolutely agree.

          I was simply answering Unanime5 post

    • Mactheknife
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      The Liebour government failed to do all of that planning with their own open door immigration policy.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Now Tory policy too, Mac.

    • EleventySix
      Posted March 30, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Unanime5,

      So where goes the £1,000 or so Council Tax for each of those 1,000 houses?

      The capitalised value of that £1,000,000 (at 5%) is £20m. Every year.

      Cart; horse?

      Infrastructure by definition must be financed by future productivity (in the absense of a sovereign savings pool). Building houses doesn’t cost; it pays.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        Can you collect council taxes from houses that haven’t been built? If not then you won’t get any council tax from these houses to build more infrastructure until after they’ve been built and sold. This means that you won’t have the money to start building the supporting infrastructure (school, hospitals, etc) for several years.

        Also the money collected from the Council tax of existing properties goes towards paying for the current services the council provides. A council cannot simply decide one year to build a new school without completely rewriting their budget.

  21. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Simpliofication – good.
    Complexity – expensive, bad, secret, leading to monumental corruption.

    Now the planning rules have been simplified, how about looking at the tangle of taxation?

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Mike

      Do not get carried away too far, one thing at a time.

      Whilst the new legislation has very many fewer pages (which is good), simple, logical and consistant interpretation has yet to be proven.

  22. Adam5x5
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    It would help if the builders were allowed to actually build houses that people want to buy.
    Now they are forced to build to a certain set of criteria to meet PC requirements. Must be green, disabled access, insufficient car parking, etc

    I remember a few years ago that there were plans to make all houses have a downstairs loo so as to help disabled people… (unsure if ever brought in)
    Laudable possible, but given that the majority of people are able bodied is this not overkill? I for one would be put off buying or renting a house where there was only one loo which was downstairs as negotiating the stairs down after having been to the pub and consuming a skinful is not the easiest…

    Get rid of all the unnecessary restirictions and stop trying to distort the markets. All this green cr*p just pushes the cost of building and house prices up.

    The rubbish of helping people who have fallen behind their mortgage repayments so they don’t have their homes repossessed is just more ways of keeping prices artificailly high. Though maybe we could extend this to other areas? I’ve always fancied a top-end lamborghini, so if i take a loan out to buy one but can’t afford it will the govt bail me out??
    Why are houses different? The only result of this policy is to keep first time buyers off the ladder.

    We have problems when the average first time buyer is in their mid 30s…

    • uanime5
      Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      People can get loans to help them keep up their mortgage repayments because the Council will have to rehouse them if they’re made homeless. The Council is under no such obligation to ensure people have a car.

  23. Steven Whitfield
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    The definition of ‘sustainability’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary is
    “Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”

    There is nothing ‘sustainable’ about attempting to meet the demands of an exponentially rising population with finite resources of brown field land and water. And when the brown field land is exhausted 25 or 50 years hence, the green field land will be next to go. Historians will look back on this report and conclude that we must have gone mad.

    The economic aim is to allow all the building we need for a growing economy. The social aim is to make sure we have enough homes and other facilities. JR.

    That sounds laudible John, but do you mean the aim of the policy is to meet current rates of population growth for the next.. 10 , 25 or 50 years ?. Is there a single word of recognition in the report that the only viable solution is to stabilise our population at a level that protects the environment and allows us all to have a decent standard of living ?.

    I’m sure the reports authors have the best of intentions, but many, in vulnerable locations will be alarmed by the relaxation in planning law highlighted by Mr Redwood.

    Reply: Planners will have to respond to the actual numbers in the population. It is up to Immigration policy to sort out the question you pose.

  24. lojolondon
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Apparently everyone, except developers, want brownfield development not greenfield. Developers apparently prefer greenfield because there are few issues, like previous use, making good, problems to be uncovered etc.

    I believe that opening up the process may reduce the cost of building and developing, and this may eventually reduce the value of current property, as a flood of new buildings is approved. Not a bad thing really, we need some balance.

  25. EleventySix
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The government have got themselves into a Pickle over this phrase “Presumption in favour of sustainable development” not so much because of the port manteau word “sustainable” (I prefer ‘sustainababble’) but because the phrase is incomplete and therefore not set in context.

    The full sentence is “(The) Presumption…(is always)… in favour of development unless it would cause demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance.”
    This sentence appeared in a conservative governemnt paper (Planning and Enterprise) in the mid 1980’s amongst other places and was described at the time as being, not so much a government policy as “a principle which has underlain the system since its inception in 1947”.

    One thing that should be immediately obvious is that restoring the ‘principle’ to its original full form makes the use of the S word in the new mantra redundant: if a planning proposal failed the test set out by being ‘unsustainable’ it would be presumed against (though not necessarily refused).

    More importantly, it would be easier to identify the often tiny minority interests’ undue influence on the process of obtaining planning consent, such as the recently reported 10 year delay in starting a housing trust project to the severe detriment of the general public interest.

    Nobody is saying that the minority interests are not in themselves legitimate, but that is not the same as being of ‘acknowledged importance’ as the system weighs all the competing considerations to mediate an outcome.

    In my view the omission of the latter part of the principle is very much part of the problem of delay in due process. If restored, ‘protestors’ would be more aware at the outset that their own views and interests may likely be outweighed by wider general interests. This applies every bit as much to the likes of the CPRE and National Trust (habitual self-interest promoters and distorters of actual policy) as it does to a small cabal of local nimbys.

    Why is the present coalition government so timid about restoring a principle which served well in the past? Why use an incoate word like sustainable (which, as it can mean many different things to different people, actually means nothing at all) in place of a precise English phrase which right up front spells out what’s going to be at issue?

    Conservatives need to regain the confidence to call a spade a spade that they had in, well, spades, in the 1980’s or give up, throw in the towel and just let the interests which are not of importance carry on gaming the system to the detriment of the general public interest. What’s stopping you?

    By the way, as ome of your readers will know, the phrase “Presumption in favour of development.” first appeared in a government paper in 1924.

  26. Steven Whitfield
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    My view is the ambiguous use of the word ‘sustainability ‘ is an attempt to make what is quite an unpleasant and unwanted piece of legislation (who voted for a program of population expansion so large it requires a fundamental change in planning law ?) sound more acceptable.
    Who could argue with a policy proposal that seems to have something as noble as ‘sustainability’ at it’s heart. It’s the same trick that the politically correct classes use to make a whole raft of rather nasty policies sound perfectly reasonable.

    The 65 pages and 207 clauses amount to one thing – a relaxation of planning law and the spoiling of many towns and villages.

    Reply: Planners will have to respond to the actual numbers in the population. It is up to Immigration policy to sort out the question you pose. JR

    Immigration policy is to talk tough and do next to nothing so I am not optomistic this is going to happen John. Until I see any evidence of the net migration numbers coming down substantially to add substance to all the weasel words, I think it’s safe to presume that situation isn’t about to change.

    Surely planners together with Mp’s and water company bosses etc. should have an input into what would be a sensible immigration policy..rather than it being pre-ordained by whitehall mandarins. We desperately need a sustainable immigration policy NOT a ‘sustainable’ planning policy.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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