Cold comfort, to empty pockets

Another hollow statement on a policy intention that will not happen without significant investment in time and resources by every planning authority. This at exactly the same time as councils are dealing with 40%+ funding cuts, an ever increasing demand on services and the still increasing cost of dealing with the Covid pandemic.

Unless each Local Planning Authority invests several, if not tens of thousands of pounds in a local design guide, developers will use the appeal process to thwart every attempt to lift the quality of their developments beyond the normally mediocre and often depressing.

New design standards
Local communities are to be given the power to set design standards for all new developments, under plans announced by the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. Developers will be required to make sure all new properties adhere to the character of the areas where they are being built. Any planning proposal that fails to meet the new criteria will be automatically rejected by councils as part of efforts to eliminate “identikit” housing estates. Councils will be expected to draw up their own individual design codes in consultation with local residents, supported by a new national Office for Place which will advise councils developing their plans.’

Times – Beauty will be in the eye of the council (£)

MPs’ outrage prompts U turn over controversial planning algorithm

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online

So what’s the point of the consultation process, that is now a statutory requirement, if the government is going to plough on ahead with their controversial policies and cause themselves so much grief?


Plans to use a new algorithm to set how many homes need to be built in local areas are being overhauled after a backlash from Tory MPs concerned the reforms would concrete over vast swathes of countryside and fly in the face of the government’s levelling up ambitions, it has been reported.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that the formula used to produce targets for each area is being “rebalanced” to focus on building homes in urban areas after many senior Tories including Theresa May made their opposition felt.

The formula had intended to take account of the gap between house prices and incomes over the past ten years, rather than the one year currently used to calculate housing need. But it was felt by many that the plans would have been a betrayal of the government’s levelling up agenda, as London would have seen 161% more homes required and the south east 57% more while in the north east housebuilding targets would be 28% lower than existing delivery.

The government is now looking at redesigning the formula so it is “fairer”, the Sunday Telegraph claimed.

LGC understands that the chair of the Local Government Association James Jamieson had been raising concerns with the government to get the algorithm changed, while district councillors in many areas had raised objections with their local MPs. However, the planned overhaul does not amount to a commitment by the government to abandon the algorithm altogether and allow councils to determine their own housing targets according to need, as the LGA have called for.

District Councils Network chairman John Fuller (Con) told LGC the housing targets thrown up by the algorithm were “so nonsensical that councillors did not have to work too hard to get MPs to see the folly of the proposals”.

Cllr Fuller told LGC the news was “no surprise” because “in many areas, the targets were to set unachievable ambitions which would have brought the entire planning system into disrepute, whilst delivering fewer homes in the areas that need the most – in urban centres and the North”.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the change to the planned formula is expected to be formally  announced within weeks. Sources told the paper that the shift was designed to help the government to “re-imagine” town and city centres hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and claimed the prime minister and communities secretary Robert Jenrick “have been listening to Conservative colleagues”.

Speaking to LGC last week, Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely (Con) slammed the algorithm as a “suicide note to the Tory shires” that needed “significant evaluation”.

He claimed up to 100 Conservative MPs had voiced their concerns about the plans.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, who was formerly a special adviser to Mrs May, tweeted that it was “very encouraging that ministers are looking at overhauling the housing algorithm with a view to focussing on inner urban regeneration – something I’ve been arguing for”.

As well as facing opposition from backbenchers, LGC has been told the algorithm had been unpopular with some senior ministers who felt unable to vocalise their views in public, including at least one who attends cabinet.

The Planning for the Future white paper has also now been thrown into some doubt, as plans to carve the country into three tiers of development zones, making it harder for residents to oppose individual planning developments are also opposed by some MPs fearful of a public backlash over the consequences.

Mr Seely described the white paper plans as an “assault on democracy” which is “a missed opportunity because we should be focusing on the environment and community led reform”.

Meanwhile, former environment secretary Theresa Villiers told the BBC that the changes to the housing targets methodology were “encouraging”, but “a few tweaks are not enough”.

She said: “We need radical change to the proposal if we’re to ensure that this algorithm doesn’t lead to unacceptable overdevelopment.

“So there’s still a long way to go before the government’s planning reforms will be acceptable to backbench MPs committed to safeguarding the local environment in their constituencies.”

Cllr Fuller said it was “premature to double guess what the government response will be” to the white paper and whether “that can has been kicked down the road”, as the consultation took place after the consultation on the update to methodology for setting housing targets and only closed at the end of last month.

“Hopefully now we can have a proper conversation on how to deliver the government’s manifesto commitment to deliver 300,000 homes a year that puts rooves over people’s heads,” he said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government had not responded to LGC’s request for comment at the time of publication

Race to build worst Quality housing in Europe continues

Planning system reforms
Permitted development rules have led to local authorities and residents being unable to oppose or alter proposals from developers, with no power to insist on adequate room sizes, daylight or influence the look of a building. Contributions from developers towards affordable housing or improving the pavements and landscaping around a property have also been lost under the rules, with the LGA estimating that 13,500 potential affordable homes have been lost in this way. Separately, LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard is due to take part in a debate on Times Radio at 1pm today about the ending of the eviction ban and protection to renters during the pandemic.
Observer – Sunday 27 September 2020

The Progressiveness of ‘As of Right’ Zoning

Thank for this Andrew. It helps sweep away some of the hysteria and replaces it with fact, knowledges and experience. Something desperately needed by us amateurs in respect of these proposals. I have major concerns at the references to comments from, what I assume is Policy Exchange. Such as, the suggestion that excluding the public from the consultation process on new style Local Plans, will help in meeting the 30 month deadline.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

As I have written on here many times in the last few weeks the government only has itself to blame in terms of importance and mistrust for creating a climate of opposition to the planning white paper.

Chief amongst the complaint is that the reforms are ‘anti democratic’ in reducing the chances to ‘object’ to a proposal from two to one.

The irony is that most progressive opinion in the world is that ‘existing’ zoning systems give too much of an opportunity to resist densification through site specific objection and this is excluding groups in terms of race and income.

This illustrates a number of fundmanetal misinderstandings of what zoning is and is not.

  1. Zoning is not Planning Control

The first modern planning controls – such as in Prussia, were controls over street alignments, subdivision, build to lines and infrastructure. Zoning – in terms of control over land use, came…

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How not to Package and Sell Planning Reforms

Curate’s egg, curate’s egg.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Planoraks Blog Interview with Kit Kat

How do you view the media’s reaction to the White Paper so far and (another bonus question!), what’s your answer to those who’ve painted the White Paper as a charter for the next generation of slums

I spent much of launch day shouting at the radio as commentator after commentator said ridiculous things about the proposals – I’m very sad to see the big ideas so mischaracterised, in many cases by people saying that the proposals are the exact opposite of what we’ve put forward; for example, one of the big themes of the critics has been that the proposals would remove the power of councils to decide what to build where, and deny local people the opportunity to object whereas in fact the proposals would give far more power to councillors and to local people and communities not only over what to…

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How to Qualify as a Government Planning ‘Expert’

This seems to be the way the DHCLG views the planning process in this country. It doesn’t really need real experts to involved, it just needs them at the end of the process to do the translation. Their job is to turn the woolly head thinking and anything goes ambitions of others, into words that planners can use to approve applications with. Now having become frustrated with the legal system finding ways to reduce the level of that free for all, DHCLG has decided not bother with the planning process at all.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Membership of the Planning Taskforce

Details of the taskforce of experts who have offered their time and expert advice as we have developed our proposals for reform.Published 6 August 2020 From:Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

Planning For The Future, published today, sets out how we will reform the planning system to realise that vision and make it more efficient, effective and equitable.

Our approach has been informed by discussions with the planning and development sectors, and by research and reports published by leading commentators – including, most recently, reports from the Royal Town Planning Institute, Centre for Cities and Policy Exchange.

As part of this work, we are also extremely grateful to the taskforce of experts who have generously offered their time and expert advice as we have developed our proposals for reform.

The task force is chaired by the Minister of State for Housing, the…

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Well they would wouldn’t they – quality is already a distant memory

Reforms outlined by housing secretary Robert Jenrick have been broadly welcomed by the built environment industry, but they warn that quality must not be compromised.

Writing in the The Telegraph, Jenrick says England’s “outdated and cumbersome” planning system has contributed to a “generational divide” between those who own property and those who don’t.

Later this week, a policy paper will be published comprising “radical and necessary reforms” to the planning system. 

“Our reforms seek a more diverse and competitive housing industry, in which smaller builders can thrive alongside the big players and where planning permissions are turned into homes faster than they are today,” he explains. “Creating a new planning system isn’t a task we undertake lightly, but it is both an overdue and a timely reform.” 

Responding on Twitter, the RTPI said the government appears to have recognised its “tests” and in particular its four tests for zoning.

“As part of these reforms, we’re pleased that government seems to be making a commitment to maintaining local democracy, use of locally agreed design codes, increased focus on strategic planning and clear direction on meeting net-zero carbon targets.

“We are also interested to see an intention to move away from ‘notices on lamp posts’ to a more interactive, accessible online system – by focusing more on digital, planners will be freed up to do more proactive, strategic work, focused on delivery.

“We await the full policy paper due later this week. The RTPI looks forward to leading the discussion on any reform to the planning system in England by convening a series of round tables across its nine English regions to discuss the reforms in detail.”

‘Gross oversimplification’

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at countryside charity CPRE said: “The government’s intended reforms sound like a gross oversimplification of the planning system. First and foremost, our planning process must respond to the needs of communities, both in terms of providing much-needed affordable homes and other vital infrastructure, and green spaces for our health and wellbeing. 

“The planning process as it stands may not be perfect, but instead of deregulating planning, the government must invest in planning. Quality development needs a quality planning system with community participation at its heart.

“The secretary of state has claimed that these planning reforms will still be very much ‘people-focused’ but that flies in the face of what has been outlined today by the government. We eagerly await more details and will be joining forces with a range of other housing, planning and environmental campaigning bodies to push back hard on the deregulation agenda, which has never been the answer to the question of how best to boost economic growth.”

‘So far so good’

Jenrick’s plans to “strip bureaucracy and delay” from the planning system are a case of “so far so good” for Peter Hogg, UK cities director at Arcadis.

“The new approach may make it easier to get a consent, but how will it make the all-important financial viability – without proof of which housebuilders won’t build – more certain? Unless the policy addresses this we will have more planning consents but not more homes.

“Perhaps most of all though, where is the voice of the community in this new approach? Vibrant, sustainable liveable places take root and succeed where interests are balanced and the community is at the heart of shaping and defining a place. It will be important to make sure that ‘permission in principle’ doesn’t equate to ‘ignoring communities’ in fact.”

Acknowledgement of social infrastructure encouraging

Ken Dytor, founder and executive chairman of Urban Catalyst, said: “It’s encouraging that the government has put social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals alongside housing in its plans to speed up development.

“While the housing secretary is right that the uninspiring design of some developments fuels Nimbyism, concerns over additional pressure on existing public services are typically another major driver behind local opposition to new development.

“Similarly encouraging is the drive to harness greater community participation in the planning process by embracing a more 21st century tech-savvy approach. This should hopefully lead to a wider range of voices being heard, resulting in more inclusive, balanced developments.

“However, if the government’s ‘build, build, build’ agenda is to align with its ‘levelling up’ promise, we need to see regionally driven infrastructure linked to housing delivery to kick-start both national and local growth.”

Many measures already possible

Bernadette Hillman, partner in the planning team at London-based law firm, Sharpe Pritchard, commented: “Much of what the government proposes is possible under the current system and we should be building on the existing regime. Permission in principle already exists and there really is no need for major reform: just some technical adjustments and properly resourced local planning departments.

“We’ve seen permissions for millions of homes in the last 10 years not being implemented: we need delivery.

“There’s so much we don’t know yet – the devil will be in the detail, of course, and it will be an interesting few days ahead.”

Can’t be limited to housing

Mike Derbyshire, head of planning at property consultancy Bidwells, one of the key protagonists in the property industry’s Radical Regeneration Manifesto campaign, is on board with reforms.

“Our regeneration think tank has been calling for exactly this to happen – a radical overhaul of an antiquated system that has not evolved alongside modern real estate, communities and social systems; a fairer planning system that is inclusive and that prioritises environmentally friendly practices, and designated areas where planning can be fast-tracked.

“We are pleased to see the government taking action to ensure that, on paper, the right sort of regeneration and development happens. We now need to see how this works in practice; for example, it cannot be limited to housing as mixed-use development is just as important to the success of modern communities and well-designed cultural neighbourhoods are crucial to a more positive and united society. But it is a step in the right direction and one which we will watch unfold with great interest and will to succeed.”

Cannot compromise on quality

Mark Crane, the District Councils Network’s lead member for stronger economies, said:

“Getting the country building desperately needed homes again will be a vital part of the national recovery from coronavirus, and district councils stand shovel-ready to deliver.

“But we cannot compromise on the quality of new homes and places and sideline public consultation, which we fear will be the consequence of the government’s planning reforms.

“District councils and their local communities continue to grant nine in 10 planning permissions, while tens of thousands of homes with planning permission remain unbuilt – the housing delivery system is broken, not the planning system.

“To tackle the housing crisis, councils need to be given the funding to invest in infrastructure and the powers to build homes that are green, high quality, and affordable.”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “The prime minister has said we need to ‘build, build, build’ our way to recovery and a flexible and responsive planning system is essential to deliver this aim. Local small builders have an important role to play in delivering the high-quality homes the country needs but 42 per cent of small builders have difficulty engaging with the planning system. New measures that make the planning system quicker and more affordable are welcome but it is vital that high standards in design and build are not compromised as a result, and that any overhaul doesn’t in fact add further delays.”

3 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Districts declare high street emergency as retail applications plummet

So what exactly is the government willing to take responsibility for? Councils have to do more to deliver the housing people need, councils need to do more to make the houses that are built, better quality and prettier, councils need to do more to promote and sustain the high street.

Let’s not forget that councils need to do all this with less funding from central government, despite being given an ever increasing list of burdens by Whitehall. The Homelessness Act being the latest financial black hole into which cash is pouring like a Las Vegas casino.

The funding deficit is now replaced by, in part, non-domestic rates such as those paid by the high street shops that have been decimated by successive government policy decisions and illogical increases in those rates.

Now in a lovely twist of the knife in local government’s back, we hear ever increasing calls from various parties for councils to do more to reduce the burden of business rates on the high street.

The number of applications by retailers to England’s district councils have nearly halved in the past four years, contributing to the high street crisis.

An analysis by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) reveals that members received 1,258 applications in the year ending June 2019, down from 2,216 since June 2015.

The DCN, which represents 191 district councils, says the figures show that high streets are in a state of “emergency”.

The analysis of government figures for England also shows that planning applications for new housing have slumped to a four-year low.

District councils received 31,073 applications for new homes in 2019 – the lowest since 2015.

DCN says the figures reflect the ongoing economic uncertainty and falling confidence from developers in the housing market.

It is calling on the government to give all districts the long-term funding they need to revive high streets, and to give them flexibility to raise finance locally, for instance, to set business rates relief.

Districts also want the government to guarantee the continuation of the New Homes Bonus to ensure that councils have the funding to deliver services and attract the new investment critical to thriving communities.

“These figures paint a worrying picture about the future of our high streets and town centres, and highlight the uphill battle we face tackling the housing crisis,” said DCN leader for stronger economics Mark Crane.

“There are huge opportunities to reshape places into thriving community, cultural and employment hubs – by investing in new housing, infrastructure, services and events.

“However, district councils, which are responsible for delivering housing and improving high streets, need the funding certainty and powers to transform town centres, to attract investment into infrastructure, and to build new homes.

“While there is a growing amount of energy and schemes invested in tackling these issues from Whitehall, the national complexity and focus on short-term results risks underutilising the ambitions of district councils to deliver change over the long term.”

1 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The Coronimbys – Lets Quarantine them Forever

Forward thinking and longterm planning appears to be a lost skill in this country.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

A new breed has come forth on twitter in recent days.  The coronimbys.  They never really liked human beings anyway, seeing them as a resource consuming, pollution creating blight (except for them of course), with this misanthropy used to resist housing, HS2, new airports, new anything all in a pseudo environmental anti development brand of eco-fascism why denies all hope of human ingenuity to fix, mend and restore the environment.

Oh how they now welcome Covid, it gives them the perfect excuse to say aha we now no longer need the housing.  It has all gone away because of recession.  Hang on I havnt noticed a mortality rate, like the Black Death, of 30% (which byu the way led to the biggest wave of new settlement building in history in the 14th Century as the economy recovered.)   Of course if we can create trillions at teh stroke of a bankers…

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Laudable, but I don’t believe there’s the political will to deliver such schemes now – whatever the Party in power

Copied from Comment – Weds 31 July

George Clarke: We don’t just need more council houses – we need the very best in space and ecological standards

We are building noddy box estates with hardly any green space and no public amenities. It isn’t good enough

The housing system can't be just a numbers game., says George Clarke. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build (Channel 4)

I was brought up on a council estate, but it wasn’t just any old council estate. It was part of one of the most ambitious and innovative housing developments in the country. My estate was in Washington, a place between Sunderland and Newcastle that was given new town status in 1964. Some of the best architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects and highway and infrastructure engineers came together to build an entire town that would completely transform my life. It was and still is a fantastic place to live.

My Mam’s council house, which she still lives in today, was designed to excellent space standards with a decent sized front and back garden. It sat around a pedestrianised square that was safe for us all to play in. I could walk to school without having to cross a road. The landscaping was amazing. Large green spaces became our fields of dreams where we played football for hours until the sun went down.

‘We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot’

There was an incredible mix of house types. Two-storey four-bedroom houses like ours for young families, three-storey six-bedroom houses for extended families, maisonettes and thousands of single-storey bungalows for those who wanted or needed to live on one level. My estate was a fantastic community that didn’t just happen by chance – it was designed from the outset to be a community.

It wasn’t just about great housing and wonderful green spaces. We had every public amenity a community needed. We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot. We hardly left our new town because we didn’t have to. We had absolutely everything we needed, designed in the most humane and caring way. Most importantly, our homes were truly affordable. Families worked and paid their affordable rent to the council. If you paid your rent you had a safe, secure and stable home for life and housing waiting lists were short.

Look where we are now.  After two-thirds of all council housing had been sold off under Right to Buy or handed over to housing associations, only two million are now left under council control from a high of more than six million in 1980. More than one million people are on social housing waiting lists. More than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. The huge demand and massive lack of supply means property prices are the highest they have ever been. Long gone are the days when most of the population could buy a home for 3.5 times an average income. We are in the biggest affordability and housing crisis the country has ever seen and every year it is getting worse.

What we are building often isn’t good enough; noddy box estates with hardly any green space and certainly no public amenities. The Government has completely failed in its responsibility to provide good quality, affordable housing for its people.

In 2017, Theresa May admitted the housing market is “broken”. This broken system is destroying the lives of so many people. Homelessness is rife. As an ambassador for the housing charity Shelter and being close to the housing industry since becoming an architectural apprentice at 16, I’ve seen far too many families being affected by stress, severe depression, anxiety, poor health and even suicide because they don’t have a stable home.

This has to change. Not everyone wants to ‘own’ their home. Millions will never afford to buy their own home anyway. The state needs to build homes for affordable rent for its people again. Homes should be for people and not profit.

Read more

9m² flats, microhomes sold under Help to Buy: how office-to-flat conversions created the rise of ‘rabbit-hutch’ homes

The housing system can’t be just a numbers game. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build. That cultural change needs to happen from 31 July 2019, the 100th Anniversary of the Addison Act, when I launch my campaign to build 100,000 high-quality, low carbon council houses every year for the next 30 years to replace all of the state housing that has been lost.

Twenty first century homes require the very best in space and ecological standards. Why? Because without a stable roof over your head, everything else in life becomes so much harder, and everyone deserves a home.

George Clarke’s Council House Scandal starts on 31 July at 9pm on Channel 4