Tag Archives: planning

Reform of the Planning System

As Co-Chair of the DCLG Parliamentary Policy Committee I am pleased that Motion F5 ‘Reform of Planning’ will be before Conference on Saturday 8th March. The members of our committee are very clear that a pledge for 300,000 homes per year to be built (Federal Conference motion September 2012) requires planning permission for 300,000 homes per year!

Do Liberal Democrats have the political will to address our housing crisis?  Do we only have that will as long as the homes are not in our own backyards?  We present our motion for debate with the belief that the answer to the first question …

Posted in Conference | 17 Comments

Opinion: Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Does anyone think the planning system is working? I don’t and neither do many communities and local councils. Ministers certainly don’t think so. Buried in the National Infrastructure Plan published on Tuesday are proposals for more planning reform (pdf). They are bad proposals.

One plan is to set up a specialist court to deal with planning disputes. That’s a good idea, but as with so much legislation under this government, the detail undermines the principle (for example, the Lobbying and Antisocial Behaviour bills). What the government is really aiming for here …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 21 Comments

Opinion: It’s time to say Yes to Homes

Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis. There are 1.8m households on waiting lists for affordable homes, totalling over 4.5m people. Millions of young people are priced out of the housing market, unlikely to ever be able to afford to buy their own home. Poor quality, overcrowded accommodation impacts significantly on the health and well-being of its residents. It is undoubtedly one of the great social crises of my generation.

Yet for all the statistics, case studies and figures there are two that really stand out – 98,280 and 240,000. The first is the number of new homes built last …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

The Independent View: Planning out Poverty

Planning out of PovertyPlanning has become increasingly disconnected from peoples’ lives because it no longer deals with many of the issues people care about. At the same time much of the political and media debate about the future of planning has become a largely sterile discussion of the merits of continued deregulation. Everyone should have a right, irrespective of earnings, to a decent home

Planning has played a transformational role in improving the quality of life of all of our communities. It has a critical responsibility, along with wider public interventions, to tackle entrenched poverty. Planning has the potential to enhance our wellbeing by ensuring access to high quality environments and economic opportunities and to give communities a voice in their future.

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | 2 Comments

They shoot planning ministers don’t they?

Pickles and Quelch BolesThe planning minister wants to be shot. I’m not making this up. At the Conservative Conference he was asked about Tory proposals for further planning reform after the next election (£). The minister replied: “I’m going to answer it very simply. If I’m still planning minister after the next election, I want you to shoot me.”

Of course, planning minister Nick Boles has form in this territory. Back in May, he said that “if anyone comes to me with an idea for new planning legislation I am going to shoot them” (£). Putting aside the fact that new planning guidance and permitted development rights are gushing out of his department like an overflowing sewer, he’s obviously a man used to swaggering around Whitehall with a gun in his pocket.

But then, as I have noted before, Nick Boles is Mr Quelch from Billy Bunter reincarnated.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

“Mr Sprawl” Miliband abandons localism – but will he deliver good housing?

Ravilous Labour New TownsSomething big needs saying about housing. I guess Ed Miliband thinks he has achieved it. Maybe, but when I read his speech it struck me as bluster and a recipe for chaos, peppered with some rather cute ideas.

We need new homes. We also need good planning. The success or failure of new towns, urban extensions and housing estates depends on location, fortune, ambition and leadership. But above all those towns that work are a triumph of planning.

For every housing scheme that has been an outstanding success, another has failed. For every booming new town like Milton Keynes or Welwyn Garden City, there is a Cumbernauld or Corby.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

“Yes to New Homes” – time to cure the housing deficit disease

Housing completions by tenureWe used to be good at housebuilding. As the economy recovered after the Second World War, house building in England grew to reach a peak of around 352,000 in 1968. That level of housebuilding seems inconceivable now.

The ugly truth is that we have not been building enough houses to cope with our growing population and shrinking household sizes since the late 1970s. We need something like 250,000 new homes a year, yet we are barely building more than 100,000.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 32 Comments

Planning Consultation

Houses being builtPlanning policy is a crucial issue for Liberal Democrats. We believe in supporting and strengthening local communities – and the development of the built environment locally, and residential, business and other opportunities on offer, is critical to that. We believe that the revised National Planning Policy Framework has defined the broad parameters of the planning process, but we have further aspirations for our planning system to deliver strategic vision both nationally and locally.

The Liberal Democrats Communities & Local Government Parliamentary Committee – chaired by myself and Lord (Graham) …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Time to take the politics out of housing

We need an Office of Housing Responsibility to take politics out of housing.

Planning minister, Nick Boles said on 17 July 2013.

Every government member will be able to campaign with pride on the Localism Act at the next election in 2015, because by 2015 it will have delivered.

Nick Boles is wrong. Localism won’t have been delivered by 2015. And it never will be until there is agreement on how to solve the housing crisis.

Localism is not being delivered because local plans are not being completed. Too many plans are being held up with by a four-way ping pong between councils, communities, …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

The Independent View: CentreForum’s three headliners for an alternative Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech today looks set to be a relatively sedate affair. As Stephen Tall observes, “the Coalition is now pretty much intellectually dead” when it comes to its legislative agenda. Enthusiasm for pushing new ideas has been replaced with a business like determination to deliver what is already underway.

The content of the Queen’s Speech is nonetheless important. It will shape what happens over the course of the next parliamentary session, and will therefore influence the outcome of the General Election. If CentreForum had the privilege of writing the Speech, we would focus on three headline issues in particular: …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: Planning in Rochdale descends into farce

I know many current and former councillors would agree with me that being on a municipal planning committee is a thankless task. Explaining the quasi-judicial element of the role to residents can be a nightmare. Every council contains councillors of different shapes, sizes and abilities. That is why the role of a planning officer is critical – to help you through complex planning law. We may not agree with their advice but we need concrete planning reasons on which to base our decisions. Or do we?

The recent BBC programme The Planners certainly brought back memories for me about my time …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… Report back on planning changes

Terraced housingI thought it was about time that I report back on the work I’ve been doing on planning since we debated it at Conference in September last year.

I’m pleased to be able to say that we’ve made some real progress. Particularly on the Section 106 ‘holiday’ announcement made in the September 6 growth and housing announcement, I’ve been able to deliver everything my local government colleagues asked:

Firstly, where a developer wants to renegotiate the affordable housing element of a Section 106 agreement to unblock a development, we wanted to make sure that there’s an objective test in place to check whether it’s necessary.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments

Opinion: Making a Pickle of the politics of planning

Eric Pickles is a great populist and masterful at landing a political punch. During Monday’s debate on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, he was being pressed by Hilary Benn. Will he, Benn demanded, name a lagging planning authority that might be brought into special measures under the bill? “I am very happy to name the worst, which is Hackney,” Pickles told MPs with evident glee.

Poor Labour controlled Hackney, named and shamed as the worst planning authority in England. Except it isn’t – by far. The furious mayor of …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 16 Comments

Opinion: Regional planning – it mattered not one jot

It is a general rule of life that the longer a document is, the less it matters. I have just read all 1,374 pages of the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the revocation of the South East Plan, published last week. Does this document matter? Not one jot, except for one important lesson, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Everything regional is out of favour at the moment. Quite rightly, too. When I lived in Oxfordshire I did not feel that I belonged to “the South East”. Now I live in Shropshire, I do not for a moment

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

Eric Pickles: are you a cigar-chomping Commie?

Dear Eric

You always give a fine performance. Yesterday you told us with passion how you became a Conservative. It was a nice story, but does your claim to have a developed a “burning dislike of oppressive state bureaucracy” match the reality?

Do you remember localism? You did not mention it yesterday. The great localism project, you might recall, was launched on the twin platforms of the Big Society and Open Source Planning. The Big Society has slipped through the cracks of the political stage, but you enshrined localism in the Localism Act 2011.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Planning rules

Those of you who have worked your way through the conference agenda and Conference Extra will by now have reached the emergency motions (page 28, since you ask) and will notice that there are four in the ballot: banks are awful, Julian Assange is awful, teacher qualifications are under threat and ‘what have you done with our planning system?’

I paraphrase unfairly, of course. All tastes are clearly catered for and you can make your own mind up about which to vote for if you are at conference.

The planning one (which I have something to do with) is a mild rebuke to government and unusual because ALDC, its sponsor, rarely uses its rights to propose motions. Its mild tone perhaps masks the considerable anger at grass roots level: on 6 September the Government made various announcements about relaxing planning rules, claiming that these will help kickstart the economy. In summary these are

Posted in Conference, Local government, News and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

Opinion: Good news on affordable housing, but spare me the house builders’ crocodile tears – their share prices have doubled

Winning an extra £300m from the Treasury for affordable housing and tackling empty homes is good news by any standard (well done, Andrew Stunell, and thanks for all you did at DCLG). Moving forward on the £10 billion government guarantees for infrastructure spending is positive too. And if the Montague Review to encourage private renting is implemented, that’s proof patience can be rewarded…. I spent ten years on the London Assembly calling for both Labour and Conservative mayors to act. Back in June I had put housing at the heart of a four-point plan for a sustainable recovery. So it is great to see this issue come to the fore.

But forgive me for not believing the crocodile tears from developers about how they can’t afford to start work on ‘commercially unviable’ sites. The Times just revealed they’ve been quietly squirreling away land banks big enough for a quarter of a million homes. Not unviable, so much as slightly less massively profitable. Just look at their share prices. They’ve doubled over the last year even before the boost this announcement gave them (Taylor Wimpey up from 30p to 54p; Barratt up from 76p to 150p; Persimmon up from 425p to 700p). Yes, doubled. Not bumping along the bottom, like the rest of the economy.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: Understanding the housing policy buzz

It has been widely suggested that a government-engineered housebuilding boom may end the recession and bring electoral success to the Tories or LibDems in 2015 (depending on who gets the credit for it). Experts have been scrambling to answer the question of why there is such a shortage of housing, what the obstacles to housebuilding really are.

The Coalition government has so far focused on schemes to help first time buyers and provide housebuilders with finance. These approaches tend to assume that the major obstacle to expanded housebuilding is lack of loan finance due to a banking system still in …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 79 Comments

Annette Brooke MP writes… A much improved national planning policy Framework

Back in October 2011, I submitted a response to the National Planning Policy Framework consultation on behalf of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Policy Committee on DCLG issues which I co-chair with Lord Graham Tope. The response was robust, so much so that The Telegraph claimed it as a huge Lib Dem rebellion. But, I believe that the committee was right to submit its concerns in an honest and straightforward way. Our role within the coalition must be to offer constructive criticism when we feel it is necessary! And I am very glad that we did. The document which was published …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Opinon: Planning for a brighter future

Yesterday, I set out the indictment of our current land-use planning system, which has created a housing crisis, is stifling our economy and leading to damaging environmental outcomes. That’s fairly widely acknowledged. It is far less simple to propose an alternative, but below I hope to outline some possible principles as mechanisms for a better planning system that empowers individuals and communities rather than bureaucrats and politicians.

The first thing we need to do is to restore the principle that those who suffer the secondary effects of development are compensated. The original Town and Country Planning Act (1947) did contain provision …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Opinion: the ongoing disaster of British land-use planning

Britain’s planning system is generally defended on environmental grounds. Yet far from keepingBritain“green and pleasant”, the Town and Country Planning Acts have led to the creation of dormitory towns, required the building of extensive infrastructure, and have increased urban density at the expense of urban green space.

In a new report released by the Adam Smith Institute, I argue that we need to do away with the old, top-down planning system. In this first article, I will lay out the indictment of the system. Tomorrow, I will make some proposals for how we can liberate the land and empower individuals …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 24 Comments

Southwark Lib Dems, Ministry of Sound, Oakmayne, and the BBC: the story continues…

A couple of weeks ago I reported here on the controversy surrounding a planning application in Southwark, objected to by the Ministry of Sound, a donor to the local Lib Dems.

The BBC’s coverage of the story felt partial, fixated on alleging ‘no smoke without fire’ political sleaze, failing to question whether they were being played by property developers looking to overturn a decision they didn’t like.

The Corporation has now returned to the story: Lib Dems warned over Ministry of Sound donations. (Ironically the article’s by Ed Davey. I assume not that one.)

This is the over-hyped headline …

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That’s the way to do it! How Liberal Democrats made the running on the Localism Bill

Annette Brooke MP and Lord (Graham) Tope are the Lib Dem Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Policy Committee on Communities and Local Government, and led the Lib Dem response to the Localism Bill. Here they outline what they, working with colleagues in the party and many beyond, helped achieve.

Last night the Localism Bill completed its final stage in Parliament and is set to become law when it achieves Royal Assent next week.

As Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Policy Committee on Communities and Local Government, it has been our job over the last ten months to lead on the Bill for the party. We’ve helped shepherd it through both Houses of Parliament, and have led a Lib Dem team that in many ways has made the running on the Bill.

We’ve had strong engagement with Coalition ministers, who engaged with us constructively, particularly Greg Clark, Baroness Hanham and our very own Andrew Stunell, who was very helpful and willing to work together with us to improve the Bill considerably.

Colleagues in local government were also a constant source of help and good ideas, which never ceased to better inform our Bill team as the process went on.

Where we started from: “a good bill in theory, with several flaws in practice”

When it was first introduced, I think many Liberal Democrats would agree that it was a good bill in theory, with several flaws in practice.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: How to change everything forever in six months

A little-noticed policy of the Coalition is that of throwing out the entire planning system and replacing it with about fifty pages of pro-development planning policies. This is called the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and is intended to be the entire amount of national planning policy governing development. When implemented it will change your community forever.

Given what it seeks to do, fifty pages is a tiny amount – by contrast, the current Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 1, which deals merely with Sustainable Development, is itself twenty-five pages long. And there are twenty-five of these PPS’s, reaching about …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 20 Comments

Chris White writes: New Year challenges for localists

Andrew Stunell told Lib Dem Voice in December: ‘The Localism Bill presents a lot of positive news for local government.’

I don’t demur from that but there is much we need to challenge in this Bill.

Take for instance the much vaunted General Power of Competence. If you open Volume 1 of the Bill (yes, it is that long) you will find that the Secretary of State ‘may by order make provision preventing local authorities from doing, in exercise of the general power, anything which is specified, or is of a description specified, in the order.’

Basically the Secretary of State can, …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Beware of Tesco towns

The Government’s chief design adviser has warned against the danger of supermarket led developments in town centres. Mixed-use developments involving the building of housing, schools and parks linked to supermarkets are often badly conceived and may not thrive in the long term, said the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in its report published this week.

While developers are keen to sign up a key anchor tenant such as Tesco, Sainsbury or Homebase to lease their retail and commercial spaces, this may not be what residents or local communities want or need. A formula that works for an out-of-town …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Parliament to scrutinise government’s planning reforms

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has announced that it will be holding  two separate inquiries into aspects of the government’s local planning regime. One inquiry will examine the decision to abolish regional spatial strategies (RSS) and the other will review the coalition’s localism agenda. The abolition of the regional spatial strategies was one of the main measures featured in the coalition government’s Localism Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The inquiry into the abolition of regional spatial strategies will focus primarily on the implications for house building, in particular the implications of the abolition of regional house building …

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