I don’t usually clutter up this site with cases that I am dealing with. However, the future of the best preserved physical remains in the UK from the Cold War could and should be of general interest. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) (Karen.Partridge@communities.gov.uk) is currently deciding whether the Council can issue the planning permission (ref. 18/00825/HYBRID) that it has resolved to grant for the masterplan for the redevelopment of the former Cold War airbase at Upper Heyford in north Oxfordshire, or whether this is a matter of more than local importance that justifies the ‘calling-in’ of the application for ministerial determination (after a public inquiry).
Friday, November 27, 2020
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Initial reactions to the White Paper were posted in an earlier blog - together with the hyperlink and the deadline of 29 October. The MHCLG Select committee has opened an inquiry into the White Paper https://committees.parliament.uk/work/634/the-future-of-the-planning-system-in-england/ with a closing date of 30th October. Rather than post DanthePlan's comments on the White Paper submitted to MHCLG I thought that readers could be encouraged to submit evidence to the select committee. This is on the assumption that the Government might take more notice of what a cross party committee had to say about the proposals to change the planning system than individuals finding fault with the 'provocation' issued by the Cummings/Jenrick/Airey cabal. The select committee is set up with the responsibility to collect and assess evidence while the authors of the White Paper are ideologically constrained to stick to their guns.
There are too many things wrong with the White Paper to summarise in the blog and some arguments can be adopted or adapted from DanthePlan's Select Committee evidence.
The one issue that justifies special mention is that of embodied or construction carbon as it is currently at a level about 30 times that which would be compatible with official carbon budgets, and the MHCLG has refused to answer enquiries about where this is being dealt with in the White Paper (esp as almost all the images of exemplary design/beauty show developments of with high levels of construction carbon). These would represent the carbon emitted in the next decade when significant reductions are most needed.
My MP has asked Ministers to visit the development at Southmoor Oxon https://www.greencoreconstruction.co.uk/portfolio/springfield-meadows-southmoor/ where construction is claimed to be carbon negative in buiulding (use of timber and lime render) and operation. It can be done, although possibly not at scale or by the volume builders - hence the need for residential sub-divisions that could be scaled up through custom-splitting (see earlier blog posts).
Thursday, September 17, 2020
I don't want this blog post to divert attention from the invitation to join a planning workshop (see previous post) or the need to respond to the Planning for the Future consultation https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future. I should say that the Ministry have failed to reply to my request for information about where 'embodied' or construction' carbon is being addressed? This is greater than operational carbon and is emitted in the next decade (rather than the next 60years) during which it will be most important to reduce emissions.
So "wild back better" is the reposte to "build back better" that is the slogan banded about by the PM and his government. If "build" applies to communities and (social) businesses well and good. But the PM clearly has high speed rail, roads, runways and millions of new houses on his mind. HS2 will be in carbon deficit (construction carbon exceeding theoretical saving compared with competing air and road travel along the route) for a hundred years. The construction carbon in an expansion of Heathrow would overshoot carbon budgets when any concrete and cement should be reserved for building hospitals and houses.
HS2 is being particularly damaging to ancient woodlands and other natural features/landscapes. Similarly with airport expansions and the £27billion road building programme. David Attenborough was on TV this week describing the scale of the devastation to the biosphere but the Government ploughs on. There has been a growing awareness of the concept of re-wilding (or just 'wilding' as Isabella Tree prefers) and "wild back better" is a slogan that describes this movement. WBB mimicks the Government's rallying cry but, in a word, points to what should be the priority for the sake of the planet and our survival.
Don't forget to respond to Planning for the Future, and say if you want to join a planning workshop email@example.com
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
For the last ten years I have been running planning classes and workshops to examine the concept of land use planning and the way in which it is being practiced in England. I am thinking of running this on line and this blog post is to see whether there is any interest from 'followers' and other readers in meeting regularly on Zoom to share knowledge and experience of the planning system(s)?
I am thinking of 1hr long sessions on a weekly basis (probably on a Sunday evening) during which I would introduce a topic that would have been mailed out in advance, followed by Q&A. I normally hold a 'media watch' for people to describe and discuss what they have seen in the media in the last week. There could also be presentations from the 'class' to try out concepts and ideas. I am not proposing any assessments but there could be scope for articles or collective action when responding to consultations.
If 20 people send an 'expression of interest' to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why they would like to join and where they live (and whether Sunday evening would rule them out), I will set up a Zoom account and send an email with starting instructions. If more than 20 express an interest I could hold a waiting list or run another class.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
The Government has published a White Paper 'Planning for the Future’ (genuine consultations used to be Green Papers?) at the link https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future. Responses have to be made by 29 October 2020.
The proposals follow closely the thoughts of Jack Airey who has moved from Policy Exchange to No10 to help Dominic Cummings to disrupt and change the land use planning system as it was devised in 1947 and tweaked several times over the last 70 years. A similar move of personnel (Alex Morton) from Policy Exchange took place about 20 years ago with no lasting impact on the planning system other than ill thought out proposals burning up resources preventing it from functioning efficiently, thus exposing it to accusations of failure and in 'need' of further ill thought out change.
Between now and October there will be further Blogs on what impact the proposed changes are likely to have on the urban and rural environments, the climate, homelessness and biodiversity. However, there are some basic points that suggest that the proposals are unlikely to further the causes of social justice, or enable a green recovery.
We live in a richly textured and complex country the settlement of which has taken place over thousands of years. It is simplistic to think that lines can be drawn on a map carving the country up into three categories (effectively green, red and amber) that could accurately reflect the real needs either of these different areas or the country as a whole.
If the Government had the first inkling of systems theory it would know that the principle of ‘requisite variety’ says “that in order to deal properly with the diversity of problems the world throws at you, you need to have a repertoire of responses which is (at least) as nuanced as the problems you face.” The current planning system is complex but no more so than the range of problems it is expected to manage. Reducing town and/or country into zones would lose the principle of dealing with individual cases on their merits. The Paper says that the zoning would be subject to public involvement but with only three options and no experience of zoning it will not be possible for lay people or experts to make informed choices on where to draw the lines.
Another reason why the proposals are misguided can be seen in the expectations of what a changed planning system could achieve. Neither Policy Exchange nor No 10 appear to understand that being the fourth most unequal country in the world makes it very difficult to level-up as per the election promises by handing the job over to the urban development industry. Zonal planning would be an energy sapping distraction from what the planning system should be enabled to achieve in terms of housing, transport, climate and ecology.
It does not help that the Government has the unshakeable belief that 300,000 new houses have to be built every year to meet housing needs instead of a composing a strategy to re-distribute the existing surplus of housing space (ie 28million often under-occupied dwellings for 27m households). 1 million new dwellings in the next 5 years is a lot of construction carbon and the MHCLG has been asked where reference to this issue might be found in the consultation paper.
And, finally, the planning system could and should be revitalized, starting with the omission from the 1948 Act, which is control over agriculture and forestry.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
1.It is the Government, not Homes England, that is responsible for
developing policy on net zero in housing, though the agency will work
closely with them to deliver against this; and
2.Local planning policy will set out local expectations for net zero,
affordable housing etc., and again the agency will work closely with the
local authority to deliver against this.