Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ten top tips

There might be time to squeeze one more post before 2016 as work is being carried out the latest consultation on further changes to the planning system and I am inclined to share my responses just in case others want to join in. However, I sometimes wonder whether it is worth recapping on past posts and listing some of the main points that need repeating.

1. Co-housing needs to be established in new and existing residential areas.  This is not just for those who are already looking to live in this neighbourly way but as a response to the need for more caring environments that are conducive to looking after each other rather than being stuck in the limbo between an isolated home, care home and hospital.

2.Co-housing again: this time as a response to the unsustainable level of under-occupation of the existing housing stock and on new developments replicating the existing housing mix rather than the average household size of 2.4 and falling.  There would be more than enough larger houses to meet that need relinquished by those choosing to downsize.  Planners should be supporting the sub-division of many of these larger houses to produce more smaller dwellings. All new larger houses should be designed to be easily and cheaply subdivided.

3. Housing land supply figures should be adjusted to account for the new dwellings being almost all two bedroomed terraces (although there could be a demand for some larger gardens and plenty of allotments.

4. Village farms or community supported agriculture should be  a feature in all local and neighbourhod plans.  Access to affordable land and associated housing should be promoted through using houses from all peripheral developments and land owned adjacent to the development site.  There was no such thing as 'affordable housing' until a judge decided that a house that could be afforded by somebody on local wages was materially different to one that was not. The same case can be made for agricultural land.

5.Self and custom building by individuals and associations of individuals should be promoted starting with the registers required by the Housing and Planning Act (that should include those wanting to be involved in agriculture/horticulture). Pressure will mount to grant permissions if the registered interest exceeds the supply of serviced plots.

6. Developers should be required to set up and fund car clubs open to new and existing residents aimed at making all new developments car neutral and avoiding a net increase in car use.

7.The national speed limit should be reduced to 55mph and 20mph in urban areas.

8. A million climate jobs should be created to put the country on target to reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2050. The bulk of this reduction should take place in the early years starting as close to 10% per year as is possible - many in the business of improving the energy efficiency of the 80% of existing dwellings with Energy Performance Certificates of D or below.

9. Planning should be more supportive of on-shore wind and there should be incentives (including off-setting or allowable solutions) to utilise all existing roofs with suitable aspects for PV installations.

10.Please use all the opportunities offered by the system to argue for all the changes that would make new development 'sustainable' (ie consume both its own smoke and some of that emitted by existing development).  In the context of extreme weather conditions (including recent flooding), one readily available hook to hang an argument in responding to an application or local/neighbourhood plan consultation is Section 10 of the National Planning Policy Framework published in 2012 of which the Government is so proud,  titled "Meeting the challenge (nb singular) of climate change, flooding and coastal change.".  There follows advice about,'...radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions... and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy...this is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.'.  This is all consistent with the 'presumption' in the NPPF in favour of sustainable development.

Details of all the above have been set out in previous posts.  All have social and environmental upsides and little or no economic downsides.  Despite obsessive Government tinkering only a proposed step change in self/custom-building seems to have attracted the Government's attention, partly because the volume builders do not have the capacity to meet housing needs (those to be assessed in accordance with a model based on building almost all small dwellings).  There would also be a need for 'planning' (and to the DfT for reducing speed limits) to be returned from the Treasury to the Communities Department.

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