Tuesday, July 23, 2019

DfT offsetting consultation

The DfT have launched a consultation ‘Carbon offsetting in transport: a call for evidence closing on 26 September 2019.https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/carbon-offsetting-in-transport-a-call-for-evidence
There are a number of points that seem to be particularly relevant starting with the need for travel to be carbon negative long before 2050.  Net zero carbon will only stop the carbon in the atmosphere from going up (plateauing at between 450 and 500ppm), when it actually has to come down to 300ppm. Travel is rarely a basic need like housing, sustenance (food and water) and heating so should experience the most severe cuts in emissions.  The military will continue to be carbon intensive unless wars turn cyber.  The next point is how much easier it would be to regulate the operators of aircraft, ships, trains and coaches than the consumer/traveller.  In either case all business travel should be carbon negative.  Offsetting should only be a short term expedient until carbon negative travel becomes commonplace and must cover the carbon embedded in the related infrastructure; runways, railways, ports and roads.  The DfT is looking for evidence of behaviour changes and it is likely that a combination of price signals and sticks will be needed.  The price signal will be the cost of a ticket increased by the cost to the operators of making the mode carbon negative. The stigma could be a colour of a ticket and/or baggage label (red for excess of the zero carbon target, amber in excess of the 300ppm target and green for on target). The DfT is interested in conveying information to the consumer/traveller and this should be in simple terms, like having carbon counters (412ppm set above 300ppm) in airports, sea ports, railways and variable message signalling on M ways.  The parts of carbon per million will soon be a well known metric as will the alarming gap between imminent catastrophe and safety. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

A green light for self and custom builders

To my knowledge  the appeal decision letter at
is the first to grapple with the challenge posed by the  Housing and Planning Act 2015 as amended.
This is very important and could have been predicted when the legislation was passed.
However, when the Government appreciates the consequences it might either seek
to repeal the act or possibly/preferably 'go with the flow' and celebrate the DIY approach to
meeting the pent up demand.

The Government are keen to see the level of self and custom building
to grow from a measly 8% per annum to something that compares with
examples in other countries (eg <50% in Austria).  It is also aware
that the current housebuilding industry does not have the capacity to
build the 300,000 dwellings deemed necessary (the evidence of need is actually
contestable, and new building at that scale cannot be achieved within
carbon budgets without a sea-change in building techniques/materials).
So, to incentivise self/custom building, there is legislation in place
(the Housing and Planning Act 2015 as amended) that requires planning
authorities to maintain a register of those who would like to build in
the area, and to provide sufficient service plots to reflect the level
of demand on the register. The law also requires the supply of plots to be
permitted at a rate such that  those on the register should not have to wait
more than three years for an opportunity to arise. As the first tranche of
self/custom builders joined the register in October 2016  the first
tests of whether planning authorities have fulfilled their duty will
now emerge.

This appeal decision shows that planning authorities cannot rely on any permission
that is not specifically limited by condition or obligation to
self/custom builders. Landscape considerations are taken into account
but the decision shows that the lack of serviced plots to meet the
registered demand can be a material consideration to override the
local plan policies. I would expect planning authorities to respond to
this decision by reserving significant areas of the larger sites being
allocated and permitted for self/custom building or even allocating
sites specifically for this purpose.  Meanwhile, the absence of an
adequate supply is an invitation for self/custom builders (especially
those already on the registers) to find suitable sites and make
applications based on the fact that the planning authority is failing
in its duty.  This decision might also encourage more people to
register as the prospects of finding  serviced plots will increase
through both the more proactive approach taken by councils and other successful
applications and appeals.

There is also the interesting view taken on viability, indicating that in the area in question, self-building does not create sufficient surplus value to pay for affordable housing.  Given that this should have been deducted from the land value, it might be better to argue that self/custom building is a form of affordable housing (as a fact or material consideration, even if not accepted by the NPPF).