Planning reform often resembles the Emperor’s new clothes. Will the review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) be any different? The review’s launch has been billed as a ‘housing revolution’ but what does the consultation draft really say, and what’s our agenda for it?
It appears to strengthen local authorities’ ability to refuse planning applications that conflict with an up-to-date development plan. A new legal requirement for plans to be reviewed every five year may help to answer the vexed question of how ‘up-to-date’ is defined.
The review gives new weight to completed neighbourhood plans, but with some worrying caveats. Firstly, a neighbourhood plan which is in its late stages, but not yet in force, might carry less weight than it does now. Secondly, if a local authority is struggling to maintain a supply of housing sites or deliver its planned rate of housebuilding, there is scope to override a neighbourhood plan. So a community that had successfully grasped the nettle of finding enough housing sites for its neighbourhood plan could face off-plan applications just because other parts of the district are not delivering.
There is an interesting new provision for strategic plans to be prepared individually or jointly by local authorities, or by an elected Mayor or combined authority. This might open the door to local authorities producing joint plans (perhaps akin to former structure plans), even if the devolution arrangements are stalling (as in Yorkshire). It might be a bigger reform than it seems at first glance. We have consistently called for more joint working across local authority boundaries, so this may be good news if it is done well.
We will be judging the revised NPPF against our core concerns.
- Will it improve protection of the countryside, designated landscapes and Green Belt?
- Will it enable local authorities to get serious about affordable housing, and prevent developers wriggling out of their obligations?
- Does it really put brownfield sites before greenfield?
- And does it give communities meaningful powers over how their area develops?
We’ll be studying this and reaching our conclusions in the next month or so.
To view the consultation document, click here www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/685288/NPPF_Consultation.pdf
A Dogwood Production by Graham Harvey
“A really lovely story, beautifully told.” London Theatre April 2017
Graham Harvey, for twenty years the Agricultural Story Editor of The Archers and writer of more than 600 episodes, brings to the stage the true tale of an unlikely Cotswold hero and an enduring romance.
Set in the Oxfordshire countryside at the end of World War Two, rich in tradition and full of vivid, memorable characters. But this is no nostalgic, bucolic ramble.
This is Elizabeth’s story...
What inspires a young Somerset land girl to set off in search of a best selling author in the darkest days of war? The story moves between the 1940s and the current day, reflecting that the love of the countryside, the need to protect it and issues of national identity, are timeless. “When peace is won, we fight for the land we love”…
Graham Harvey will be taking part in an after-show conversation – included in the ticket price -where he will discuss the issues in the play…and all things Ambridge!
Elizabeth is played by Rebecca Bailey and the show is directed by James Le Lacheur, who has recently spent a year in London’s West End in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The show features new live music composed and performed by Alastair Collingwood, who has written scores for numerous theatre shows, including Betty in London’s West End, directed by Kathy Burke, and Cora with Dana Gillespie, which also toured the USA. His TV credits include the title music for French and Saunders (BBC1), Rhona (BBC 2), Vanessa’s Real Lives (ITV 1) and How Clean Is Your House? (Channel 4), amongst many others.
Includes after show discussion with Graham Harvey
Approximate running time: 85 minutes plus interval
Anticipated duration of after-show discussion: 20 minutes
Interval: 15 minutes
Interval between production and discussion: 15 minutes
£12 per ticket. Bar available.
Buy your tickets here:
For directions to the venue, visit www.medwaycentre.co.uk
For more information about the production, visit www.nofinerlife.co.uk
What the papers say
“Bailey’s performance is a mini masterpiece as she slips effortlessly between age and encounter, with warmth, wonderment, and magnificent spiky humour.” Chichester Observer, September 2017
“Made magical by Alastair Collingwood’s musical scores.” Mid Sussex Times, September 2017
- The Medway Community Centre, New Street, Bakewell, DE45 1DY
Councils find sites for more than five times the number of homes predicted by Government
An analysis of Brownfield Land Registers, published on 12 February, confirms that there is enough space on brownfield land to build at least one million new homes, with more than two-thirds of these homes deliverable within the next five years. Many of these sites are in areas with a high need for housing.
This means that three of the next five years’ worth of Government housing targets could be met through building homes on brownfield land that has already been identified, easing pressures on councils to continue releasing greenfield land unnecessarily and preventing the unnecessary loss of countryside.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which carried out the analysis, found that the 17,656 sites identified by local planning authorities, covering over 31,133 hectares of land, would provide enough land for a minimum of 1,052,124 homes – this could rise to over 1.1 million once all registers are published, confirming CPRE’s previous estimates.
Most brownfield land is within urban areas that already have infrastructure, and where there is a higher demand for housing. The areas of England identified as having the highest number of potential “deliverable” homes include London, the North West and the South East with the new registers giving minimum housing estimates of 267,859, 160,785 and 132,263 respectively.
Rebecca Pullinger, Planning Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said:
“It’s fantastic news that local authorities have identified so many sites on brownfield land that are ready and waiting to be developed – and shown how wide of the mark the Government’s estimates of brownfield capacity have been. Contrary to what the Government, and other commentators have said, brownfield sites are also available in areas with high housing pressure. Indeed, our analysis is conservative with its estimates of potential number of homes that could be built – the figure could much higher if density is increased and if more registers looked at small sites.
The Government needs to get on with amending its guidance to make sure that councils identified all the available brownfield sites in their areas. They then need to improve incentives to build on these sites and ensure that they follow through on their commitment that all that new-builds should be on brownfield first.”
The registers have found sites for well over 400,000 homes that have not yet come forward for planning permission despite the urgent need to move sites towards development. More than one third of these sites are on publicly owned land. As public authority developments should give a significant opportunity to provide affordable homes, this presents an opportunity for homes built on brownfield land to help towards local need.
Further results from the analysis show that there is brownfield capacity wherever there is threat to the Green Belt. In a number of areas that have an extremely high number of sites in the Green Belt proposed for development, particularly in the North West, local authorities have identified enough suitable brownfield land to satisfy up to 12 years’ worth of housing need.
In order to make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE calls on the Government to take the opportunity presented by the upcoming review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to introduce a brownfield first approach to land release and granting planning permissions for development. Local authorities must be empowered to refuse planning permission for greenfield sites where there are suitable alternatives on brownfield land.
Councillors voted 9-1 against fracking in Eckington.
More news to follow shortly...
Ahead of the Rotherham Borough Council planning committee hearing this Thursday, we have joined with Friends of the Earth and local community groups Harthill Against Fracking and Eckington Against Fracking to call on Rotherham planners to reject the application by chemicals giant INEOS to conduct exploratory drills for shale gas near the village of Harthill in South Yorkshire.
This is the first application for exploratory drilling by INEOS to be considered by a local planning committee in England. The company has ambitious plans to drill numerous fracking wells across the Midlands and North of England. INEOS has also applied to conduct test drills near Eckington (Derbyshire) and Woodsetts (also in Rotherham) - both within 10 miles of the Harthill site and due to be considered by local planners shortly.
INEOS has also recently applied to the Planning Inspectorate for the Eckington and Harthill applications to be decided by a government appointed planning inspector because it believes “no local decisions have been made in a reasonable time period”. Thursday’s decision by Rotherham MBC will be an important consideration for the planning inspector in the planning inquiry in as early as May this year. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council officers have recommended that Councillors reject the planning application on Thursday.
Deborah Gibson, campaigner with Harthill Against Fracking said: “Harthill is full of people who love its location, its calm, and its history, from the Iron-age settlement, Roman settlement, the Domesday Book, to the present. There is a mix of emotions amongst local people, of anger, fear and helplessness but also hope that the RMBC Planning committee will refuse INEOS permission. This is a completely unnecessary and unacceptable industrial development and we are worried about the impact of extra traffic poses to farms, businesses and livelihoods and the safety of children should it go ahead.”
Richard Dyer, campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “We know that we have to leave the majority of fossil fuel resources in the ground if we are to prevent dangerous climate change, so it makes absolutely no sense to investigate the potential for fracking, England should follow the lead of all of our neighbouring countries, by saying no to this risky technology and commit to a clean energy future”
Dave Kesteven, campaigner with Eckington Against Fracking, said: “Eckington along with Woodsetts is also facing the threat of an INEOS exploratory drill, we have the prospect of 3 drilling rigs within 10 miles. We are all in this together and we stand strong with the community of Harthill. We don't need fracking. We won't have fracking. Standing together we will beat Ineos and win”
Our director, Andy Tickle said: “The drill site would be in some of Rotherham’s best countryside and would have significant impacts on landscape and tranquillity. It is unnecessary industrialisation of the South Yorkshire countryside and it must be stopped.”
Harthill Against Fracking, Friends of the Earth and CPRE are speaking at the planning hearing at Rotherham Town Hall on Thursday 25 January. Local campaigners will be present outside the hearing and available for broadcast interviews and photo opportunities. The hearing begins at 1pm and a decision is expected the same day.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Friends of the Earth press office: 020 7566 1649
- INEOS owns 1.2billion Acres of PEDL (Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences) www.ineos.com/news/shared-news/ineos-adds-to-shale-gas-licence-portfolio/ and announced in 2014 that it wants to be the biggest player in UK fracking industry: www.ineos.com/businesses/ineos-shale/news/ineos-moves-to-become-biggest-player-in-the-uk-shale-gas-industry/
- The INEOS ‘non determination’ press release is downloadable from the Derbyshire County Council website: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/environment/planning/planning_policy/minerals_waste_development_framework/shale_gas/fracking-bramleymoor-lane/default.asp
- About Friends of the Earth: For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. For further information visit www.friendsoftheearth.uk
We were pleased to read about the Government’s commitment to improving the environment in its 25-year plan. But the Government needs to follow up its vision with actions to make sure we use resources better, from plastics to land, if its vision is to be delivered.
Belinda Gordon, Head of Government and Rural Affairs at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “The introduction of a 25-year Environment Plan is a fantastic commitment to long-term investment in the health, protection and enhancement of our countryside. We are delighted to see the Government taking measures to improve our National Parks, Green Belts and wider landscapes.
“However, despite the Government’s best intentions, we are concerned that the plan does not adequately address the growing development pressures on England’s countryside. England’s land is a finite resource – it is vital that we ensure we have a planning system that ensures the best use of land, while protecting our landscape and the wider natural environment. We look forward to working with the Government to make sure our planning system delivers what our communities and environment need.”
The proposed actions to reduce single-use plastics are very welcome, particularly the commitment to investigate further which economic incentives work best in reducing their use. But CPRE is keen to see the Government take action on the issue of single-use drinks containers, with a Deposit Return System (DRS) for aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles as a solution to litter and boosting recycling rates.
Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “It’s positive the Government has chosen to respond to the plastic plague that is already putting our countryside, cities and oceans at risk of irreversible harm. Whilst I hope we will hear good news on deposit return systems soon, the charge on plastic bags has shown that we easily adapt to financial incentives and the prospect of further charges or taxes that could eliminate products like plastic straws and stirrers is further good news. And promoting innovation amongst producers will be critical to ensuring we eliminate unnecessary single-use items, as well as making sure that they are taking financial responsibility for the impact these products have.”
- Here's some extra info on the full plan: www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan
- CPRE also supported a wider press release by Wildlife and Countryside: www.wcl.org.uk/environment-charities-welcome-25-year-environment-plan-but-environment-act-needs-to-secure-its-success.asp
We are very concerned about fracking company Ineos’ recent attempts to remove local decision-making powers from councils in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Ineos, who applied earlier this year to drill exploratory wells near Eckington in NE Derbyshire and Harthill in Rotherham, have now asked the government to intervene on the grounds that the local councils have taken too long to decide.
These are complex cases where both councils must fully evaluate the likely impacts. To do this takes both time and care and the councils have had to ask Ineos to provide further environmental information. We think it both unfair and unreasonable for Ineos to now bypass that process. This disregard for local democracy is unacceptable.
Both drilling applications and the new appeals have ignited fury in local communities and with local politicians such as Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley and Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis. For the past year, CPRE South Yorkshire and Friends of the Earth’s regional staff have been supporting affected communities with planning and advocacy advice.
CPRE South Yorkshire is fully committed to helping local communities fight fracking and will work to ensure strong arguments are put to the forthcoming planning inquiries so that Ineos’ bully-boy tactics don’t succeed.
Our CPRE colleagues in Kent have won a momentous victory at the Supreme Court this week, upholding the Appeal Court’s quashing of planning permission for development in the Kent Downs AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty) near Dover. Of course, AONB status signifies national recognition of some of our finest countryside so we should not ever have to fight such cases, but where we do, it is inspiring and fortifying to see sense prevail.
"Huge congratulations are due to the expert volunteers and staff of CPRE Kent who worked so hard to achieve this outcome, which I’m sure will encourage all of us across the country." Crispin Truman, CPRE CEO
"Sometimes we really can save the countryside! A planning permission for over 600 houses, none of which would have been affordable and all of which were located in the Kent Downs AONB, was quashed at the Appeal Court, and today that decision has been confirmed by the Supreme Court.
This has been a 6-year step-by-step fight to stop entirely the wrong development in the wrong place. CPRE Kent continues to work with Dover groups to support the local plan and affordable and brownfield development."
Christine Drury, Chair of CPRE Kent
Visit the CPRE website for more information: www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news-releases/item/4724-cpre-kent-legal-victory-saves-priceless-landscape-at-dover
Our research shows that more green belt and green field sites are being lost but without addressing the desperate need for more well-designed, well-located and affordable homes. At the same time, greedy developers are trying to renege on the provision of affordable housing. So, making more land available to house builders does not increase the number of homes being built, nor does it produce the homes that are most needed. This is a national scandal which unnecessarily threatens beautiful, local countryside.
We have our work cut out. Every time we help local communities fight to save precious green belt and green field sites, we must search through hundreds of documents; analyse local planning policies; liaise with the community; draft our objections and research alternatives; liaise with the community; make objections and attend long running public inquiries.
All this costs time and money. Major house builders have the finances and legal back-up to appeal any decision against them. We have very little except our unyielding determination to stop the green belt suffering death by a thousand cuts. It was our organisation that took the leading role in creating Sheffield’s green belt; eighty years on, we are the only local charity fighting to save it.
What we’re fighting for. We support a ‘brownfield first’ approach which avoids unnecessary use of greenfield sites by first re-modelling the huge areas of wasted urban space which blight our towns and cities to provide attractive and sustainable places to live and work.
Please help! We will not silently mourn the loss of our green belts and the wild open spaces of our childhoods. Instead we will fight to protect them, one green field and one planning application at a time. Help save the local countryside you love by donating to our appeal today.
Please support out Green Belt Appeal - click here to donate.
The number of planning applications being approved on greenfield sites in the Green Belt has nearly doubled since 2012 (when the National Planning Policy Framework came into force).
CPRE research has found that, despite Government commitments to enforce their own policies on Green Belt protection, the number of houses now planned for the Green Belt is over 425,000, an increase of 50% on 2016.
Depressingly, at a time when more than 1.8 million households in England are waiting for a ‘social’ home, nearly three-quarters of the housing proposed on land to be released from the Green Belt will be unaffordable for most people living in the local area.
In fact CPRE’s research showed that since 2009 only 16% of houses built on Green Belt outside of local plans were classed as affordable.
We are deeply concerned about the Chancellor’s proposed release of Green Belt land for major housing development in the upcoming Autumn Budget.
Destroying our Green Belt will not alleviate the problem and countryside will be lost needlessly. It is a false belief that releasing Green Belt land will tackle the housing crisis, as the crisis is one of affordability, not simply land availability.
That's why we're asking local MPs to support our action and join us in calling on the Government to tackle the affordable housing crisis in the upcoming Autumn Budget.
We would like to see the budget include much more effective measures such as stopping the use of viability assessments by developers to undercut their affordable housing requirements plus a mixture of ‘carrot and stick’ to speed up build out rates. Developers’ existing commitments must be met before further land is released. Brownfield sites continue to offer investment possibilities.
Please get involved, stand up for the countryside and write to your local MP - click here for a standard letter to email direct to your MP.
Click here to find your MP in South Yorkshire.
Click here to find your MP in Derbyshire.