Saturday 29 March 2014

Greenfield vs Brownfield: part two

The issue of 'greenfield' or 'brownfield' was considered by this blog six months ago:
Futures Forum: Greenfield vs Brownfield

The issue will not go away, with the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Trust raising serious concerns about how the National Planning Policy Framework is, literally, working out on the ground locally.

In East Devon, the pressures are considerable. For example: the District Council processes double the number of planning applications compared to other district councils:
Futures Forum: East Devon District Council proposes "to ... implement steps to reduce the length of planning committee meetings."

More and more new developments are being granted within the District - made easier by the absence of a local plan:
http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/implications_for_rest_of_east_devon_as_planning_committee_approves_350_houses outside local plan
“You have given permission for 1,200 homes” DMC Chair told | East Devon Alliance

Villages such as Feniton and Gittisham are threatened with large-scale greenfield developments - and even if the planning committee turns them down, the developers are likely to appeal:
BBC News - Hundreds join Feniton protest against homes
House builder admits to land banking in the South West | Susie Bond

A report from the CPRE is very critical of the NPPF:

Towns and villages "under siege" from developers

By Western Morning News | Posted: March 23, 2014
Comments (1)

Towns and villages across the Westcountry are “under siege” by developers, according to landscape campaigners who found that two-thirds of council decisions to block major schemes are being overturned on appeal.

The Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and undermining local democracy, the Campaign to Protect 
Rural England (CPRE) has claimed in a new report published today. (Mon)

The research has discovered that recent reforms are forcing local councils to accept large developments against their will, citing the example of Feniton, in Devon, which is currently awaiting the result of a planning “super enquiry” held last month. The village faces multiple plans to build 285 homes in a community of just 1,796 residents, an increase of 38% and the second highest growth in the country in a table compiled by the CPRE.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, said: “This report provides firm evidence from across England that the Government’s planning reforms are not achieving their stated aims. Far from community control of local development, we are seeing councils under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets.”

The report - Community Control or Countryside Chaos - analyses the effect of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) two years after it scaled back thousands of pages of policy to around 50, adding a presumption in favour of allowing schemes which are considered sustainable.

The new guidance also increased the importance of local authorities having a local plan in place setting out housing targets, something which around a 100 councils have so far failed to do.

The planning authority for Feniton case, East Devon District Council, is among those without an approved local plan. This absence gives developers a stronger case in their battle to overturn local desires, expressed in the draft plan as a 5% rise in housing.

The council’s development management committee is next month to hear fresh plans for 470 homes in Gittisham, which if refused are expected to be subject to further appeal.

Susie Bond, independent councillor for Feniton, said it would be “perverse” for a planning inspector to allow a 38% rise when 5% was set to be enshrined in the local plan. “This is where democracy has fallen out of the picture completely as without a local plan in place it is the land owners and developers deciding where houses should go,” she added. “That’s not democracy by any stretch of the imagination and these are decisions that cannot be overturned – I can’t believe this is what the Government intended.”

The CPRE says there are plans for over 700,000 houses in the countryside, including 200,000 for the Green Belt. Sites earmarked for housing are being left undeveloped while councils are under increasing pressure to allocate more and more land for future development, it claims. This pressure, campaigners claim, has significantly slowed the rate at which local plans are being adopted, meaning councils are powerless to decide what land should be developed in the best interests of local communities.

Researchers analysed 58 planning appeal decisions covering proposals for ten or more houses between April 2013 and February 2014 and found 39 (67%) were granted. The latest Government figures to March 2013 show an increase in the proportion of “major” appeals granted to 46%, from 31.7% in 2008/9.

Mr Spiers added: “Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet targets.. Where they lack an up to date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers.”

Towns and villages "under siege" from developers | Western Morning News
Feniton cited in major planning study | Susie Bond

Planning changes 'causing frustration and anger at the local level'

24 March 2014 by Susie Sell, 4 comments

Report says NPPF is 'unnecessarily damaging the countryside'

Report says NPPF is 'unnecessarily damaging the countryside'

The government's changes to the planning system are forcing local authorities across the country to accept major developments against their will, countryside lobby group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said. In a report on the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside, CPRE said the changes are "unnecessarily damaging the countryside" and undermining local democracy.

The report, Community Control or Countryside Chaos?, said planning for housing was causing most concern and that NPPF policy on how local authorities should demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites "have not been sufficiently clear".

"This is causing frustration and anger at the local level and not delivering the government’s aspirations for ‘localism’," it said. "This is largely because pressure from developers, legal action, and/or decisions by planning inspectors are restricting how local authorities can demonstrate land available for housing."

The report said in the past year at least 39 out of 58 major housing developments had been granted at appeal by the secretary of state or inspectors. It said the threat of appeal meant local authorities have felt they have had "no choice but to grant applications for major development".

CPRE said the rate at which local plans are being adopted has slowed, which has meant councils are "powerless to decide what land should be developed in the best interests of local communities".

It said that 34 per cent of local authorities are unlikely to have an up-to-date, finalised local plan in place before the general election.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said councils are under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets, and called on the government to rethink its planning policies. He said: "Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet them. Where they lack an up to date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers. But tragically the result is not more housing, and certainly not more affordable housing – just more aggro and less green space.’

CPRE called on the government to amend the NPPF so that there is not an automatic presumption in favour of granting planning permission where the local authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year land supply. It should also put a greater burden of proof on developers to show, when applying for planning permission, that proposed schemes are socially and environmentally sustainable, CPRE said.

Other recommendations include:

> Amend the NPPF to stress that brownfield land should be developed before greenfield.

> Revise footnote 11 of the NPPF so that land that already has planning permission is clearly considered as being part of the five year land supply.

> Drop the requirement in the NPPF to allocate an additional 20 per cent ‘buffer’ of ‘deliverable’ housing sites.

> Issue further guidance on the NPPF stating that development in and around villages should be properly considered through either the local plan or neighbourhood planning process.

> Give greater scope for planning applications to be refused on grounds of ‘prematurity’, in order to allow suitable time and space for local authorities and neighbourhoods to develop robust plans for the future of their area.

But planning minister Nick Boles has labelled the report "inaccurate, exaggerated and based on a spurious analysis of the facts".

Planning changes 'causing frustration and anger at the local level' | Planning Resource

The National Trust issued this statement earlier in the month - with a cautious welcome that central government was reconsidering its policies on allowing building on greenfield sites:

Our response to National Planning Guidance

Green Belt protected land

Latest update 06.03.2014 14:50

In response to the changes to the National Planning Practice Guidance issued this morning, Ingrid Samuel, our historic environment director said:

'We are pleased that the Government has acted on our concerns about Green Belt protection, and has altered the guidance to place greater emphasis on a brownfield first approach to development.

'Within this it is also important that local councils retain the tools they need to shape the provision of affordable housing in their communities, and the resources to provide local infrastructure. We will need to look at the detail of the guidance to make a full assessment of its impact.

'We will also be looking to ensure that National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and our historic environment are protected from over development, and that this new guidance encourages communities to make the most of new powers to protect locally important green space.'

Our response to National Planning Guidance - National Trust

However, the National Trust remains deeply perturbed:

'War in the countryside' as planning reforms shred Conservative support, says National Trust boss Simon Jenkins

By Western Daily Press | Posted: March 29, 2014

The view from the George Inn at Norton St Philip, Somerset, where residents are fighting plans that will almost double the village's population

Swathes of the Cotswolds, Severn Vale and other parts of rural Gloucestershire are “at war” over planning reforms, the chairman of the National Trust has said.

And the same is true across the rest of the south of England, where green belt protections are proving worthless as developers ignore brownfield sites and leave the North to a future akin to that of Detroit, Sir Simon Jenkins says in an interview in the Telegraph today.

Long a fierce opponent of development in the countryside, Sir Simon’s latest outburst has been prompted by a visit to the Thames Valley, Cotswolds and Severn Valley where, he says, planning minister Nick Boles is proving to be Ukip’s most powerful weapon.

“You go to Shrivenham, Tetbury, Buckingham, Stow-on-the-Wold, go up the Severn Valley, go to the Cotswolds; all these places — many of them in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty — are at war,” he said.

'War in the countryside' as planning reforms shred Conservative support, says National Trust boss Simon Jenkins | Western Daily Press

Sir Simon Jenkins: 'We are creating Detroits in the north while we are eating up the countryside'

The chairman of the National Trust says the Coalition’s planning policy has left villages throughout the nation traumatised

By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent 28 Mar 2014

The great and the good who run the National Trust, the organisation in charge of protecting the country’s finest buildings and landscapes, are not meant to get cross. But Sir Simon Jenkins is furious and — it seems — has been for a large part of his six years as chairman.

The reason for Sir Simon’s wrath is planning regulations and specifically the Coalition’s decision to rewrite them for England in the midst of the recession with a new bias in favour of “sustainable development”...

“People are seriously angry. They feel that the Government has betrayed something they love and they feel confident that what they love is loved by most English people and the evidence supports that view. And there is no necessity for this massive development. The idea that we need 250,000 new homes and therefore they must be in the countryside is a daft statement.”

This week’s meeting of the Trust’s ruling council, which he attended, was again dominated by planning concerns.

Protections for the green belt around towns and cities to control sprawl, trumpeted by the Prime Minister and others when the reforms were laid out, are proving to be virtually worthless.

“We shouldn’t have to fight for the green belt in 2014. At the present moment 150,000 applications are in for the green belt. This should be absolutely inconceivable,” he says. “The green belt is no longer sacrosanct — that is the fact. A sensible planning regime would consider how you would best protect greenfield land around the cities.

“At the moment there is absolutely no trust that the Government is serious about protecting the green belt.” Villages are left “traumatised” by councils which are “fighting, fighting, fighting with local communities” to push through large-scale developments as they try to meet the new five-year housing targets required under the planning changes.

Sir Simon is himself traumatised by what he finds on his regular tours across England. “You have got to go to Sicily to find some of the planning decisions now being taken in Britain,” he says.

His big complaint is that the Government has swallowed developers’ arguments that they should be allowed to build on greenfield areas instead of the scorched brown earth left by former industrial sites in towns and cities.

He says: “You can drive through the West Midlands, north of Manchester, South Yorkshire. You see acre upon acre upon acre of brownfield sites undeveloped — while the developers are pressing endlessly to build in the countryside outside. It is stupid.”

The real tragedy is that allowing builders to develop pristine greenfield land around towns and cities means some urban areas are “left to die”, as has happened in Detroit, the once-mighty home of America’s motor car industry. Sir Simon says: “These mill towns of the north, which I still think many of them are very attractive places, require a lot of public investment, jobs and other development. But they are the sane places for people to live.

“It doesn’t make sense to put people in the Durham, Cheshire and Lancashire countryside, and simply leaving these cities to die. It happened in America and is giving America huge problems — we are creating Detroits in the north while we are eating up the countryside...

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) “was written by developers”, many of whom are large donors to the Conservative party. This was like putting the poachers in charge of the prison,” he says. “The housebuilders are a very powerful lobby. Many of them support the Conservative party. I have got no problem about this — it has always been thus. But I have never known a Government so susceptible to that particularly form of lobbying.” ...

“[Chancellor] George Osborne and Nick Boles wanted to do what the developers wanted and they thought that developers were jobs and growth — it was as naive as that. We are still picking up the pieces.” Sir Simon says the tax system could be altered to redress the balance and encourage developers to build on brownfield sites. He questions why builders have to pay 20 per cent VAT when they convert factories into flats, but newbuild sites are VAT-free. He says: “I am absolutely in no doubt that developed Britain could house all the new people apparently needing housing quite easily if the tax breaks, the planning and the will was there. There is no need to build on the countryside.”


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