Seems I could become one of the last planning committee chairman under this government’s plans

Housing bill amendments branded ‘privatisation of planning’
5 JANUARY, 2016 BY DAVID PAINE

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
Concerns have been raised that the government is privatising the planning service after it tabled a number of major last-minute changes to the Housing and Planning Bill.

Amendments put forward by the government this morning include plans to let developers choose who processes planning applications.

Also planned are changes to let local authorities set their own planning fees, a new section 106 dispute resolution process, and giving ministers the power to force councils to sell off land.

MPs are due to debate the bill, and 100 pages of proposed amendments, in the House of Commons this afternoon.

New clauses proposed by communities secretary Greg Clark will allow planning applications to be processed by an approved “designated person” if an applicant “so chooses”. While local authorities will still be responsible for the final decision on any planning application, regulations will in due course outline the circumstances under which an external recommendation by a “designated person” will be “binding” on a local authority.
Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town & Country Planning Association, called the amendments “extremely controversial”.

“It raises the prospect whereby the advice of a private consultant on a planning application could be more or less binding on a planning committee,” Mr Ellis told LGC. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that what’s happening here is a fundamental assault on the public interest objectives of planning.”

A part of the amendments will force local planning authorities to share relevant information, such as the planning history of the land to which an application relates, with the designated person as well as the communities secretary.

Mr Ellis called the amendments “very worrying” and added: “People have talked about the privatisation of planning services and I think that’s probably what this is.”

He added: “I do wonder if people, particularly local councillors, who haven’t got their heads stuck in the Housing and Planning Bill will wake up to a particularly nasty shock over what this legislation has resulted in overall.”

Another government-proposed amendment will let councils locally set planning fees. The District Councils Network has repeatedly called for that, and in a briefing document on the latest amendments the Local Government Association voiced its support.

However, the proposed wording of the legislation gives the communities secretary the power to “prevent the charging of fees that he or she considers excessive”.

Plans to amend the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 and give the communities secretary the power to direct councils, and other public authorities, to dispose of the land they hold were condemned by the LGA.

“Councils are best able to manage locally their assets to meet the needs of communities and are on track to bring forward significant levels of development on their land up to 2020,” it said. “Local authorities should retain the flexibility to manage their own assets.”

Another proposed new clause would give the communities secretary the power to impose “restrictions or conditions on the enforceability” of how many affordable homes, including ‘starter homes’, local authorities want built on a site.

The LGA said that should be for councils to “determine locally”.

The LGA also expressed concern over government plans to introduce a new dispute resolution procedure in relation to section 106 negotiations. The amendments will allow for an appointed individual to oversee disputes.

“Strengthening requirements for the upfront negotiation of S106 agreements would be a more effective means of avoiding delays than offering an alternative route for resolution,” the LGA said.

Localism was always a con game

20140327-180522.jpg

Localism was nothing more than a sound bite, created for the benefit of the media. It was also designed to con an increasingly unhappy and non-voting public, in to thinking that things were going to change for the better, when it came to local decision making.

There can be little doubt that the public have now realised that they’ve been conned, but worryingly, they don’t actually seem to care that much. Using local elections, as a way of sending a message to the government of the day, is something of a tradition in this country and may well indicate the true feelings of the majority of people when it come to local government in general and their local councils in particular.

Perhaps it’s time for political parties to bow out of any further involvement in local government. Why not require all councils to run elections without any party political logos or emblems on the ballot papers, as in the case of parish councils?

Once elected, councillors would be required to form alliances in order to form an administration. Without party politics in the mix, the public would be required to focus on the performance of the people in charge and not the political party they belong to. This isn’t a plea for proportional representation by the way, as I don’t support that, given it’s continued linkage with Party based politics.

Those who chose to form alliances and work together,min order to get each other elected and subsequently form an administration, would still be elected on their own merit and the reputation they had gained with the local electorate, not just the fact that they belonged to a particular political party, that a particular element of the electorate supports come what may. It may be something of an exaggeration, but it is suggested that some dyed in the wool voters, would vote for a gate post as long as it had their Party’s emblem on it!

An added bonus from such a system, would be the dismantling of the political party associations. These tend to be made up of those who have to be in them by default, because they are standing for election under that particular party emblem. This requirement gives some prospective parliamentary candidates a standing workforce (in theory at least), that other, non-party political candidates, don’t enjoy. Breaking the link between MPs and local government, would probably be good for the democratic process in more way than we can imagine!

Now to the point of this post and an LGC comment that partially echoes a previous posting of mine.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online

Why Labour should not support council tax referendums
Don’t sacrifice localism on the altar of spending restraint
20 March 2014 | By Nick Golding

So who doesn’t expect Ukip to be the big winner of the local government elections, which are being held on the same day as their European counterparts?

One of the main reasons that a party set up to oppose the European Union will win seats on numerous councils is that the electorate is indifferent to voting for candidates representing regular parties who may have local policies but lack the ability to implement them.

Central government imposes cuts on councils without regard to local need and councillors have seen their powers over issues such as planning and education whittled away to the point of impotence. With representative democracy looking this unhealthy, one can understand someone’s rationale for using the local elections to make a bold statement about an issue largely unrelated to local politics or indeed not voting at all.

So the question arises of how local democracy can be reinvigorated. It is clearly an issue shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn has given much contemplation.

In his LGC interview this week, Mr Benn proposes the extension of city deals to counties, ensuring power is devolved in more places, making it more worthwhile to vote in them. The same is true of his promise that councils will get a significant role in commissioning back-to-work schemes.

However, Mr Benn says Labour is likely to retain council tax referendums, forcing locally elected politicians to navigate a prohibitively expensive and risky hurdle if they seek to safeguard services by raising bills above an arbitrary limit imposed from afar by a minister. To date no council has successfully pursued this path.

Mr Benn says the impetus to keep bills low brought about by the referendum policy will help people suffering due to the “cost of living crisis”. While it is true that council tax bills cost people dear, so too do service cuts that have had their worst impact on society’s most vulnerable. And so do opportunities to drive growth that are missed because councils lack the resources to lead on projects to create jobs.

Eric Pickles regards the council tax referendum as a device to secure democracy. Well, if that is true, will the government commit to holding polls every time a decision is required on the expenditure it controls? More likely, ministers will argue their government is the democratic representative of the people, entrusted to make tough decisions on their behalf. The same argument applies to local government.

Councillors should take decisions on local public expenditure, facing grief at the ballot box if they prove unpopular. Referendums only muddy the waters of local democracy, introducing a semblance of people power which hinders representative democracy. The fact that they are only applicable to a minute portion of public expenditure – one of the few slithers of spending not centrally controlled – makes them a democratic illusion.

The council tax referendum is a bellwether issue when it comes to local democracy. In this case Labour has sacrificed localism on the altar of spending restraint.

Nick Golding, editor, LGC

Letter to Local Government First magazine – Localism and planning

Dear sir,
 
I was both interested and concerned to see First, Issue 542, peppered with complaints regarding the relationship between the planning system and Localism, some even calling for the abolition of PINS because, apparently, they don’t get it.
 
The Localism Act has introduced much confusion for the public when it comes to influencing the planning process.  Comments made by members of the public on recent contentious planning applications in my own area, clearly indicate a belief that the Localism Act increases the public’s ability to prevent development from going ahead if enough of them shout loudly enough.
 
This mis-interpretation of the Localism Act’s intentions is, in turn, increasing pressure on councillors to be more outspoken and forceful when speaking at committee.  This pressure is increased further by the Localism Act’s guidance to councillors that advises that they can somehow express an opinion and even campaign on a planning issue, without being accused of pre-determination!  I wonder if any high powered planning barrister would be prepared to defend a decision made by a committee populated by such campaigning members?
 
Whilst I very much sympathise with the councillors who made these comments and understand their wish to represent fully their electorates’ views, I’m afraid it is they, not PINS who don’t get it.  
 
There is a clear need for the government to restate its intentions when it comes to how the Localism Act can be used to influence the planning system – through the process that makes the policy, not the one that determines individual applications. 

 

My best regards, 
 
Councillor Roger Gambba-Jones, 
Planning Committee Chairman, 
South Holland DC, Lincolnshire

Attack! Attack! Attack!

In the interests of transparency and because I doubt very much that the local newspaper will print such a personal attack on an individual, I thought readers might be interested to see what those of us who are no better than volunteer scout masters, sometimes have to contend with.

09 May 2013
Re- The Proposed Incinerator development at Wingland/ Sutton Bridge

Mr Gambba – Jones,

I listened to the deliberations at the meeting held 17th April with dis-belief at your dismissive attitude to the objections of the proposed development; frankly it stank of nepotism, corruption, ignorance of facts and public opinions and, it seemed to be just a money making opportunity for certain individuals, plus the promoters and SHDC. But I came away hoping that you and your committee would see sense and ultimately reject the proposal. How wrong can one be?

As Chairman of SHDC’s planning committee, you are ultimately responsible for results and repercussions of the decisions of your committee, but it appears that you are being guided and/or manipulated by certain people and the promoters of the project, all of whom appear to have personal gain as their objective.

How you can be so mis-guided by recently re-elected councillors who have lots to say about this project, but no conviction to vote either one way or the other, but just to leave all their options open for themselves defies belief, they are hypocrites in their own right and as such should be ignored.

At last nights meeting you again ignored the feelings and objections of the electorate (who ultimately pay your salary) and others, of how this development would affect the wellbeing of residents of Wingland, Sutton Bridge and beyond by bulldozing this approval through, all it seems for the price of land which I am led to believe SHDC currently owns.

The big question is; how commercially viable is this project without government subsidies? It would appear that it is not commercially viable and as such will in time become a “white elephant” all at the expense of the tax payer and to the detriment of local residents. Probably leaving an enormous bill that SHDC will have to pick up.

Sleep well Mr Gambba-Jones in the knowledge that your actions are making some members of your electorate very ill, they live in fear of health issues and devaluation of their properties and, that because of your decision making, you are probably at this time one of the most mistrusted and disliked people in South Lincolnshire. It is probably best that you resign your position.

I don’t expect a reply because if I were you, I would not know where to begin!

Jim Stalley – resident Sutton Bridge

c.c. Lincolnshire Free Press

Lopsided story in Telegraph regarding gipsy and traveller sites?

Daily Telegraph Saturday 2nd March. Green belt at risk as gipsy camp rules are enforced.

If this story is a distortion, is the Telegraph becoming a broadsheet tabloid rag?

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“This story is completely false. This Government has increased planning protection for the Green Belt and open countryside through National planning guidance and given greater weight to the protection of local amenities and the local environment.

We’ve also increased councils’ powers to tackle unauthorised sites and provided additional funding to councils to provide new authorised pitches which have community support.”

As always, only time will tell, but by then of course, it will be too late.

Planning minister dipping his fingers in to the infrastructure pot

<em>Yet another short-term, short-sighted proposal from the Minster of Planning Chaos. This government has a lamentable track record of top slicing local government funding – robbing Peter to pay Paul. They now appear to have turned their sights on to privately sourced funds, as a way of bribing communities in to accepting development.

Developers only have so much funding to put into such pots. Taking 25% of any CIL that might be in place, simply means that the funds that should be accumulated to the benefit of the community as a whole will, under these proposals, be partly dispersed amongst pockets of the community, potentially to the long term detriment of all.

New plans to encourage communities to build more homes will be unveiled today by planning minister Nick Boles.
Mr Boles is expected to announce a community infrastructure levy, which will replace Section 106 agreements and raise around £1bn a year from property developers.
Communities that draw up neighbourhood developments and secure the consent of people through a referendum will get up to 25% of the money raised through the levy. The money will be paid directly to town or parish councils.
Neighbourhoods with no development plan will still receive 15% of the levy from developments in their area.
‘The Government is determined to persuade communities to accept more house building by giving them a tangible share of the benefits it brings,’ said Mr Boles.
‘By undertaking a neighbourhood plan that makes space for new development, communities can secure revenues to make the community more attractive for everyone.’
The National Housing Federation’s head of homes and land, Rachel Fisher, said: ‘New developments should take into account the needs of local people, so we welcome the commitment to giving 25% of community infrastructure levy (CIL) money to neighbourhood groups. But it’s crucial that this does not come at the cost of delivering affordable homes.’

Do as I say, not as I do for Eric Pickles

On the same day that David Cameron, once again, announces moves to speed up the planning system, because it is allegedly the cause of the UK’s lack of growth, Eric Pickles puts his not inconsiderable foot in it, with the following decision.

Controversial plans for an waste-to-energy plant in the constituency of Conservative Party co-chairman Grant Shapps have been put on hold for an extended period while communities secretary Eric Pickles decides whether to call them in.

I wonder what sort of timescale Dave has given his mate Eric for sorting this out? End of the week should do, given the need for growth don’t you think?