Friday, 17 January 2014

The NPPF under pressure: building houses on green space

Demand for farmland has been increasing dramatically: 
Farmland for sale falls by a massive 67% – as prices rise | Western Morning News

But this is not because more people want to take up farming. Rather, it seems that agents are suggesting farmers make their land available for something more profitable:

There is a lot of pressure nationwide on greenbelt and green spaces generally:
Local Government Lawyer - Council faces High Court challenge over adoption of Local Plan
Do developers care about the “green belt”? Of course not | Sidmouth Independent News

More than half of councils in England that preside over greenbelt land are preparing to offer some of it to developers, while perfectly suitable brownfield sites are being overlooked, a new study was warned.
A Local Government Information Unit survey, commissioned by the National Trust, found that 51% of 59 councils with greenbelt land within their authority said they were now likely, or very likely, to allocate it for development projects in the next five years. However, more than half of the 147 councils that responded to the survey said that they had brownfield sites available that could help meet housing supply targets, but that these hadn’t been considered viable.
In August, figures from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) showed that planned development on greenbelt land had already increased 84% since 2012.
These findings come 18 months after the introduction of the government’s much-criticised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The coalition said the reform of its planning policy would encourage localism and reduce bureaucracy, but critics predicted it would leave swathes of the countryside unprotected.  
The prime minister and communities secretary Eric Pickles have always made clear their desire to protect the greenbelt but this is not what the NPPF appears to be delivering on the ground”, said Ingrid Samuel, historic environment director at the National Trust. “We are calling on the government to amend its new guidance to ensure the planning system delivers on the government’s promise to deliver a ‘brownfield first’ policy, and to reaffirm its commitment to protect valued green spaces from development.”
In 2012, greenbelt areas covered roughly 13% of England. Greenbelt land is designated to prevent the unrestricted sprawl of urban areas and safeguard the countryside, while encouraging developers to regenerate derelict land.
English councils preparing to give greenbelt land to developers - Blue and Green Tomorrow
Planning policy could put green belts at risk - National Trust
Green belt: half of local councils plan to build on rural build, National Trust warns - Telegraph
Councils preparing to allocate greenbelt land for development, study shows | Politics | The Guardian

Former advisers and ministers are voicing increased concern:
Support our planning reforms or quit policy board, Number 10 tells Nadhim Zahawi - Telegraph
Futures Forum: "A former minister said that communities trying to resist building in the countryside are 'under siege'."

Noises in Parliament are growing louder:
Parliamentary pressure builds, against so-called ‘Developers’ Charter’ | Save Our Sidmouth
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 08 Jan 2014 (pt 0001) 

Pressures are mounting on local authorities 'not cooperating' with neighbouring authorities:
Planning inspector Paul Crysell this week wrote to West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council about the examination of their emerging local plan. As well as doubts over whether the plan met the area’s ‘objectively-assessed housing need’, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Crysell also voiced concerns about whether the plan met the Localism Act’s duty to cooperate. This requires authorities to work with neighbours on cross-border strategic issues like housing need on a continuous basis.
Inspector's concerns over joint Dorset plan prompts council ire | Planning Resource
Buckinghamshire council's local plan fails on duty to cooperate | Planning Resource
Mid Sussex local plan fails on duty to cooperate | Planning Resource

There is growing and justified alarm in Exeter about the planning “free for all” taking place over the city boundary in East Devon and Teignbridge. This is being felt particularly acutely in Pinhoe and Alphington, where developers have put in proposals for thousands of new homes on East Devon and Teignbridge land just over the Exeter boundary. 
Under the coalition Government’s controversial new planning laws local authorities are supposed to draw up local plans as frameworks for development in their areas. Labour Exeter submitted its plan in July 2010 and it was formally approved nearly two years ago in February 2012. But Tory run East Devon and Teignbridge dragged their feet. They finally submitted their local plans in August and June last year respectively, but neither has yet had its plan approved by the Inspector. 
A cynic might say what’s happening is rather convenient for East Devon and Teignbridge. All this new housing gets plonked on Exeter’s doorstep. East Devon and Teignbridge get all the new council tax income, while we in Exeter get all the new pressure on our roads, schools and other infrastructure and public services.
Ben Bradshaw: It’s time to end this planning free for all on the edge of Exeter | Exeter Express and Echo
What the Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw thinks of East Devon’s planning free-for-all | Sidmouth Independent News

Futures Forum: "Planning Minister Nick Boles said there was 'no excuse' for a local authority not putting a local plan in place."
Futures Forum: Save Our Green Spaces: "protecting green spaces in the south west from development"... videos and stories about the green belt

In East Devon the pressures have been mounting with no Local Plan yet in place:
Futures Forum: "It has not been demonstrated that development in the highly protected AONB landscape is essential."
Housing questions raised at Sidmouth Vision meeting - News - Sidmouth Herald

And the Inspector will be considering the District Council's plan next month:
Futures Forum: If you would like to speak at the Examination of the District Council's Local Plan ...

But different Inspectors are using different approaches:
Harriett Baldwin MP said she was concerned after the planning inspector had ruled out all seven different methodologies for identifying future housing numbers, local councils were being forced to play a game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey in the dark’ to work out the figure he would accept. 
"My first question to the minister is, is this delay in the time it is taking from submitting the plan to having it found sound because of a shortage, nationally, of planning inspectors?," she asked. 
"My second question to the minister is, is this delay since the NPPF became active actually a deliberate strategy? Does the minister believe it is encouraging more home building? Or are areas with adopted local plans actually showing higher rates of home-building?”
MP quizzes Minister over housing issues | Evesham Observer
Inspector reviews most appropriate housing land supply methods | Planning Resource

Meanwhile, the Minister for Local Govt has reminded local authorities of their duty:
"I can't comment on specific individual applications but it's important that inspectors adhere to the NPPF and it is also important for councils to submit a robust plan."
Video: Local Government Minister Eric Pickles MP visits Mendip Hub in Shepton Mallet | Shepton Mallet Journal

And East Devon has some particular areas which will interest the Inspector...
There are questions about the new 'eco-town' of Cranbrook:
... most people are registered with doctors in the Exeter area... 
“Crambrook” – from a contributor | Sidmouth Independent News
Cranbrook: good news or bad news – it depends on who is spinning! | Sidmouth Independent News
Community survey finds Cranbrook is a good place to live | Exeter Express and Echo

Fention is proving a focal point for the NPPF:
Futures Forum: March in Fention - protest against overdevelopment - Saturday 11th January - 11am
Futures Forum: Feniton "has been central to the greatest storm yet to burst over the way the Government’s flawed planning policies are allowing builders to 'lay siege' to rural England."
Campaigners blame the NPPF and its presumption in favour of development - with no upper limit placed on what constitutes reasonable growth for a community.
SOS take part in mass march through Feniton - News - Sidmouth Herald
“The NPPF is not taking enough consideration over the local infrastructure..”
MP joins Devon protest against 'open season' planning rules Neil Parish East Devon NPPF Feniton | Western Morning News
Hundreds of East Devon residents protest against Government's planning rules | Exeter Express and Echo
“National government has pushed the NPPF through too quickly..”
Tory MP tells 'super inquiry' to dismiss village planning appeals | Western Morning News

National CPRE Chief Executive, Shaun Spiers has added his voice in support of  Feniton.  And Dr Margaret Hall of the East Devon CPRE ,  has also given a spirited defence for the Inquiry this week, based on her research which shows that the Local Plan’s proposed number of houses has been calculated on overestimated population figures.
Campaign to Protect Rural England backs fight for Feniton | Sidmouth Independent News
Feniton fight gains more national support today, from CPRE | East Devon Alliance

Ultimately, then, it is the National Planning Policy Framework which is being questioned...
Two years ago when it was introduced, the Prime Minister was very clear about the limitations of the NPPF:
Hands Off Our Land: Housing estates will not be 'plonked' next to villages, pledges David Cameron - Telegraph
What a difference two years can make! And remember this in May 2015 when we vote for Parliamentary MPs | Sidmouth Independent News

But warnings were made at the time:
Planning reforms: councils risk free-for-all - Telegraph

To reiterate: this will be an important issue at the next elections:
The beauty of the English countryside is a Conservative issue - Telegraph
Futures Forum: "Housing supply is poised to become a battleground before the next general election"... The popularity or non-popularity of building more housing

But the bizarre turns of party politics means that whilst the Conservative majority at both Devon County and East Devon District Councils have ruled against reducing housing numbers:
Futures Forum: Housing: "it would be impossible to build to meet demand because there is a never-ending queue of people who want to move to Devon."
Futures Forum: Allocating housing numbers in East Devon

... the Conservative minority in West Cornwall have just voted against a substantial increase, when the
Liberal Democrat portfolio holder for environment, heritage and planning, argued the case for the higher figure. "We need an adopted plan, we don't want to rely on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as the primary policy for planning decisions; 47,500 will give us a fighting chance to gain control over our own planning policies," she said. 
Vote means 6,000 new homes can be built in West Cornwall | This is Cornwall

No comments: