The rhetoric on Brownfield promotion is just political cover for a big Greenfield push

The views of Andrew Lainton;

Yesterday in Sunday Times Article and in of all places Facebook it was revealed the productivity plan would be produced Budget week and include a new round of planning reforms to accelerate planning reform and to simplify plan making – including sanctions to ensure plans get made where they have been slow.

We dont know the details however:

  • We know Osborne is like a dog with a bone with planning reforms and will keep coming back for more even when fought off or when the last round of reform was counterproductive.  Greg Clarke is a new SoS and less able to resist than Pickles.

  • This is in part a cover for cuts of 30% plus in the DLG budget.  Therefore some reform is necessary for a planning system to cope with far fewer planning and inspectors.

  • The return post election of the Bone type language of only 10% being urbanised (10% of what not England – only if you include Scotland and Wales and land between high and low water mark – and exclude all parks within urban boundaries – do you get 10%) suggests a big push towards further land release.  The rhetoric on Brownfield promotion is just political cover for a big Greenfield push – they know the figures being talked about are just two years supply and many brownfield sites are extremely difficult which will take a decade or more to get off the ground.

  • With fewer planners you need much less of a discretionary system and much more PD and much more of a zoning and subdivision type system as we have in other countries.  This is a serious point, compare per capita the number of planner in France say and the rate of development.  This may mean a shift towards the long speculated ‘establishing the principle of development once’ type system where zoning grants outline consent.  This will have been put into Greg Clarkes briefing post election as DCLG have long talked about it

  • It is likely to mean much shorter plans – little more than zoning documents – with a peremptory approval process, drawn up in default by the SoS in a special measures like regime where they are late.  I doubty this would be handed to PINS – they cant be judge and Jury – rather a NP type panel of consultants reporting to the SoS is more likley.  Of course this wont necessarily be quicker if the SoS dodges difficult decisions and it all gets bogged down in the courts as a result.  When I see Greg Clarke Allocating a 20 pitch site for travellers in Brentwood Local Plan I will believe it.

  • Shortcuts to permissions like Housing Zones Granting permissions (through LDOs) are already in the works.  These rather fail to grasp the point that before a developer can start work you need a masterplan approved, the land assessmbled and infrastructure laid.  An outline permission without these are as uselful as a hole in the head – indeed it is likely to make land Assembly and infrastructure provision much harder to achieve as it will inflate land values.  We can expect a few years of niave experimentation and yet more thrashing around between further rounds of reform and backtracking before this one is settled.

  • What is really holding up plans though is disagreements over numbers, both Objectively Assessed Need and where it goes under the duty to Cooperate.  This is where planning is least productive with 10s of 1000s of manhours spend arguing around every issue and to little effect.  There is no sign however of government wishing to tackle the strategic issues of how housing numbers are set and allocated.  Again when I see Greg Clarke approving a local plan with a GArden CIty of 250,000 London Overspil (MK Scale) then I will believe the government is serious on this point.


2 responses to “The rhetoric on Brownfield promotion is just political cover for a big Greenfield push

  1. Steve Sawkins

    Editor:_ Just some Observations.

    The lack of a clear direction from Government thus-far has caused total disarray among those in governance at Castle Point Council.
    The NPPF unfortunately, has something within its make up for everyone, from which to gleam some deliverance out of its delimiting paragraphs.

    It has been said that a section of our leading Cabinet Councillors are keen to push through the draft new local plan before Christmas. There are some concerns of others that this will not be too popular with their residents if the plan is not significantly changed. The Council Officers of course realise that some of the evidence supporting the plan in its present form is out of date, and that the financial burden of rectifying this is unsustainable.

    To change the plan without further consultation will be seen to be non compliant with the NPPF principles and quickly identified as a failing by developers agents. This again has huge additional financial implications.

    Resorting to inappropriate development sites purely on the basis of the Adopted outdated 1998 plan, even though safety issues are clearly identified, will be challengable from all levels.

    It is to be hoped that others may be encouraged to make known their observations, as it is difficult to do other wise when there is a lack of transparency.

    • Steve
      Thanks for sharing your observations with us.
      We are entering a period of scheduled development Appeal Hearings for Jotmans and Glebelands proposals, these being ahead of the Local Authority holiday period of little activity during August, leaving little time for decision making.
      Also to be borne in mind is that the Secretary of State will require a period of consideration ahead of his decision making on these Appeals.
      When the next twist or tweak in the Local Plan process is scheduled is known to but a few.
      What is reasonable to assume is that the consideration and consequence of these issues will take us into late 2015 / early 2016.
      I have a feeling that some candidates will already be taking up stances and positions to promote their chances of election / re-election.
      This Local Plan process has many influences.

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