Wolborough & Langford Bridge

Abbotskerswell Parish Council to proceed to a full judicial review hearing

If you want to know about the Wolborough Development, here is a library of information and links.

Wolbough View FEB18

Last Friday (9.10.20) the High Court considered the application by Abbotskerswell Parish Council (APC) challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to grant outline planning consent for the Wolborough Barton development. At the hearing Mr Justice Dove granted permission for Abbotskerswell Parish Council to proceed to a full judicial review hearing. This means we will have the opportunity to argue in detail why it was not lawful for the Secretary of State to grant the planning consent. We are allowed to make these arguments on three grounds, one concerning the climate change impact of the development and two concerning the impact of the development on bats. For those interested in the legal detail, the grounds are:

  • a) that the Secretary of State erred in law by breaching his environmental impact assessment obligations in granting planning consent without relevant environmental information before him; in particular, the lack of any assessment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change impact;

  • b) that he erred in law by failing to address the lack of biodiversity information for the proposal; and

  • c) that he breached habitats legislation and, in particular, if the expected mitigations of the proposals effects on protected species are “uncertain” at the time of an appropriate assessment, then they could not be taken into account.

The case has been designated as a significant planning matter, which means the final hearing will be fixed for the earliest opportunity; this is likely to be before Christmas. We will provide further information on dates as soon as this becomes available.

Update 14 August 2020; on the 24th July Teignbridge District Council granted phased outline planning permission for the Langford Bridge development 19/00238/MAJ. Abbotskerswell PC is taking action, more information will follow

Update 5 June 2020; The Secretary of State for Housing has given permission for planning permission to be granted following the appeal against the failure of TDC to grant permission for the building of the 1210 homes (plus a hotel, a school, a road, employment area and so on)  at Wolborough. This is application 17/01542/MAJ. Abbotskerswell PC are reviewing the decision in order to determine the next action.

Update 22 Apr 2020; Abbotskerswell Parish Council submitted a letter to Teignbridge DC in conjunction with the Council for the Protection of the Rural Environment requesting them to suspend the timetable for consultation until such time as there is more certainty as to the outcome of the current situation with the Covid-19 crisis.

Update 6 Apr 2020; The Teignbridge Local Plan is out for consultation. It still includes NA3 – the two developments comprising 1700 homes between Abbotskerswell and Newton Abbot plus the link road. See this link for more information

Update 31 Mar 2020; The latest news is that the second appeal by the land owner and developers has been dropped. See this link for more information.

WHAT’S THE STORY?

A long time ago – as far back as 2012 – Teignbridge District Council wrote a plan to increase housing and this was challenged all the way to the High Court by two communities who felt that they would be badly affected by one part of the development in their area; Wolborough Residents Association and Abbotskerswell Parish Council. Teignbridge won the day but the fight has continued to the extent that a pressure group called Newton Says No raised a fighting fund via Crowdfunding, got 6100 signatures and put three district councillors into TDC as Independents in May 2019. 

CURRENT SITUATION

There are two separate developments which comprise what Teignbridge call NA3. The first is the big one at Wolborough for 1210 homes 17/01542/MAJ, a link road, school, hotel and other community facilities.

Wolborough Barton

The second is at Langford Bridge Farm at the bottom of Priory Lane for another 450 homes and other community facilities and the end of the link road.This one has the reference 19/00238/MAJ.

Langford Bridge

There have been several applications related to the Wolborough development. The first was not decided on by Teignbridge DC and is subject to an appeal and an enquiry taking place in May and June 2019. The second was almost a mirror image of the first but the result of the enquiry on the first will determine whether TDC make a decision. 

In the meantime we set out below some of the questions that have been posed to Abbotskerswell Parish Councillors, following a series of articles that we have posted on this website.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES FOR TEIGNBRIDGE?

Teignbridge maintain that they need to build lots of houses, but the numbers are contested by Abbotskerswell Parish Council who is working with Wolborough Residents Association to oppose the specific plans and to lobby regarding the review of the Local Plan which is currrently underway. The government confirmed in August 2020 that TDC must build a minimum of 750 homes per year.

The National Planning Framework sets out the requirements that maintain that developers can build whatever they wish so long as they meet the test of sustainability – there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The tests are that there should be an economic objective, a social objective and an environmental objective. 

Many councils, including Teignbridge have put together a Local Plan that sets out their vision for the future. Teignbridge, in their plan, estimate that the population of Teignbridge is expected to increase by 13.3% or 17,500 residents between 2019 and 2039. Housing occupancy is also reducing with smaller family units.

The numbers required have changed somewhat over the last few years, but Abbotskerswell Parish Council has been consistently challenging these numbers since 2012;

Now the Office for National Statistics acknowledges that the numbers on which Teignbridge has based its numbers were overestimated, but there is a great deal at stake here for Teignbridge DC who need the money that comes with new homes. It is counting on a one off gain of around £10m from building these homes at Wolborough and Langford Bridge.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES FOR THE COMMUNITY?

The proposed developments effectively create a new community, nearly three times the size of Abbotskerswell which as around 640 homes. The Wolborough development is only separated from the Parish by the length of one football field. It would totally overwhelm Wolborough and enlarge the population of Newton Abbot by 7%. It overshadows the lovely nature reserve at Decoy and threatens the currently barely coping biodiversity of the SSSI at Decoy Fen. Concerns about increased traffic, reduced air quality, interruption to the threatened Greater Horseshoe Bat flyways and destruction of the cirl bunting habitat are but a few of the worries that the local community have.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Inspector who has been appointed to hear the enquiry will take further evidence and consider her response late this year, or early next year.  

WHAT IS THE PARISH COUNCIL IS DOING?

Here is a list of previous articles;

Langford Bridge – more homes and a road to nowhere May 2019

Save our hills – Crowdfunding Campaign March 2019

Wolborough Planning Committee February 2019

Wolborough development (NA3) what can we do? October 2018

Your protest counts – Wolborough Barton Proposals July 2018

NA3 Wolborough Development Latest July 2018

Hidden Treasures in Devon’s Landscape at Risk February 2018

NA3 Wolborough Objection September 2017

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Guide to planning consultation

Planning for the Future

This is the Friends of the Earth guide to help groups respond to the government consultation on Planning for the Future. 

The consultation ends at 11:45 pm on the 29th October 2020

  1. About the consultation
  2. How to respond
  3. Suggested responses

Many MPs are voicing serious concerns about the government’s proposed planning reforms , citing the erosion of democracy and sprawl in the countryside.

This campaign won’t be over anytime soon, but our immediate priority is the government’s current consultation which closes on 29 October.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Use our template below to respond to the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation before 29 October
  • Take our online action  asking MPs to defend our planning system from harmful reforms. And share it widely with your contacts and through social media.
  • Friends of the Earth with other green groups will shortly be writing to every local councillor in England asking them to sign a public letter opposing the reforms. It would be great if you could re-enforce this by contacting your local councillors to ask them to sign this letter. We’ll update you with further guidance very soon, so watch this space.
About the consultation

The government is proposing sweeping reforms to our planning system in England. These are outlined in the Planning for the Future open consultation  published on 6 August. 

If implemented, these reforms would dramatically curtail opportunities for you to have your say in whether planning proposals go ahead or not and restrict your local council’s powers to take planning decisions. 

Taken as a whole these proposals would disempower communities and councils alike, making it much harder to implement Climate Action Plans for councils . We therefore strongly encourage you to respond.  

Please take a look at the full document before responding .

How to respond

You can take part in the consultation for 12 weeks from 6 August 2020.

To respond, you have two options:

DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE

Please note: where asked, you should submit a response as your personal views, not on behalf of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We will submit a formal organisational response from our Head of Planning.  

Suggested responses

Below are suggested responses that are in line with Friends of the Earth’s current thinking, but you should feel free to make any additions or changes you would like, using your own experience.  

Please remember to take out anything marked in italics before submitting your response. 

Pillar 1: planning for development
  • Q1. What three words do you associate most with the planning system in England? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience.  

  • Q2. Do you get involved with planning decisions in your local area? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience.  

  • Q2 (a) If no, why not? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience.  

  • Q3. Our proposals will make it much easier to access plans and contribute your views to planning decisions. How would you like to find out about plans and planning proposals in the future? 

It is hard to see how these proposals will make it easier for people to contribute their views to planning decisions since the reforms propose to omit or curtail a key stage of the planning process, namely when a planning application is submitted, subject to public consultation and decided by the local planning authority. Only ‘protected areas’ would appear to retain a  planning system along these lines.  

  • Q4. What are your top three priorities for planning in your local area?  

We encourage you to answer this question drawing on your own personal experience, however Friends of the Earth’s main priorities are: 

1. The environment, biodiversity and action on climate change 

2. Protection of green space 

3. Other: Democratic, accountable, transparent decision making (Communities have a right to participate in plans and decisions on planning proposals.The planning system is there to serve the public interest, not favour one sector, such as a landowner or developer over another.)

  • Q5. Do you agree that Local Plans should be simplified in line with our proposals? 

No. To deliver new homes and other development while meeting broader objectives, such as for healthy, resilient communities, the UK net zero carbon 2050 target and protection of green space, wildlife and the natural environment, Local Plan policies must be sufficiently detailed and tailored to local circumstances, challenges and opportunities.

Categorising land in the manner the consultation paper proposes and conferring a ‘permission in principle’ or ‘presumption in favour of development’ within growth and renewal areas risks leaving only ‘protected areas’ with a properly functioning system of planning and development control. This is no basis for a green and fair recovery.  

Zoning systems rely on detailed ordinances to work, may not be suited to the UK, and are not necessarily simpler than our present system. Moreover, such a system would take a long time to implement, as it would require a completely different regulatory regime to the one we have now.  

Paragraph 2.10 refers to community-led housing developments in growth areas, however the planning system should aim to facilitate community-led development more widely, not just in areas envisaged for growth and not just for housing.  

It is essential to continue to allow local authorities at least the same level of  flexibility to set development management policies as under the current Local Plans system. They should not be restricted in this as the consultation paper proposes. This in turn should be supported by a strengthened NPPF which empowers, rather than restricts, planning authorities and communities to manage development in their area in line with local aspirations and needs and in a way which responds effectively to the climate and ecological crises. 

  • Q6. Do you agree with our proposals for streamlining the development management content of Local Plans, and setting out general development management policies nationally? 

No. These proposals are deeply worrying as they would take away control from local communities and the councils who serve them. Local Plan policies must be sufficiently detailed and tailored to local circumstances, challenges and opportunities if we are to meet wider aspirations and objectives, such as on climate change, the natural environment, green space, local economy and affordable housing. 

The White Paper proposals for paring down the development management function and stripping planning authorities of their ability to decide development proposals (or placing restrictions on this) outside protected areas will mean local people and elected councillors who serve them will have less say over what development can or cannot go ahead. This is anti-democratic. 

Paragraph 2.15 of the consultation paper states that “We want to move to a position where all development management policies and code requirements, at national, local and neighbourhood level, are written in a machine-readable format so that wherever feasible, they can be used by digital services to automatically screen developments and help identify where they align with policies and/or code.” Automatic screening is no substitute for human judgment for many planning matters which require careful consideration and appraisal and we would be concerned were such an approach to lead to the approval of schemes without the scrutiny they warrant or conversely, miss opportunities for sustainable development from say a community led scheme whose proponents may be less familiar with procedures. 

  • Q7(a) Do you agree with our proposals to replace existing legal and policy tests for Local Plans with a consolidated test of “sustainable development”, which would include consideration of environmental impact? 

No. There is insufficient information contained within the consultation paper to answer this question. However, the consultation paper proposal for “a single statutory ‘sustainable development’ test to ensure plans strike the right balance between environmental, social and economic objectives” (paragraph 2.7), appears to miss the point that sustainable development is about integrating environmental, economic and social objectives, not trading them off against one another. A statutory sustainable development test aimed at ensuring this approach happens in practice would be welcome. However, this would not in our view negate the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment of plans (or similar procedure). 

With regard to the proposal to abolish the Sustainability Appraisal system and develop a simplified process for assessing the environmental impact of plans, it is essential that this fulfils the requirements of UK and international law and treaties. Local Plans and, where appropriate, Neighbourhood Plans should continue to be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment, as now. National planning policy should undergo Strategic Environmental Assessment or a similar exercise, to ensure environmental effects are appraised and alternatives considered and subject to public consultation. 

  • Q7.(b) How could strategic, cross-boundary issues be best planned for in the absence of a formal Duty to Cooperate? 

Through a locally accountable, democratic, strategic planning tier. Currently this is only available in those parts of the country where an elected mayor and/or combined authority has planning powers or authorities choose to work together strategically. 

  • Q8. (a) Do you agree that a standard method for establishing housing requirements (that takes into account constraints) should be introduced? 

No. Planning for housing is best done locally, in light of local needs and aspirations and different places’ capacity to accommodate development. Areas with the greatest affordability constraints, where house prices are most expensive compared with incomes, are not necessarily the most sustainable locations to develop, yet under the proposed approach would plan for more homes than otherwise. Conversely, places with fewer ‘affordability’ issues may benefit from inward investment and development but be neglected under such a method.   

The housing method must provide clarity over the type of homes required for different groups drawing on local evidence (for example on the need for affordable and accessible housing). The system must place greater onus on developers to contribute fairly towards meeting housing needs by removing current ‘viability’ and other loopholes. 

I object to the housing delivery test as this unfairly penalises local authorities who cannot force developers to build on land which has planning permission. I am also concerned that the so-called presumption in favour of sustainable development in practice works more like a presumption in favour of development. Both these aspects of the planning system should be reformed so that they work to the wider public benefit, rather than the development industry, or removed entirely.  

  • Q8.(b) Do you agree that affordability and the extent of existing urban areas are appropriate indicators of the quantity of development to be accommodated? 

No. The capacity of places to accommodate sustainable development should be the primary objective.  

Simply building more homes won’t make them more ‘affordable’ as developers are unlikely to flood the market to a level that would make house prices fall.  

The quantity of development planned for should be based upon an assessment of local need and places’ capacity to accommodate development in a sustainable manner.

  • Q9(a). Do you agree that there should be automatic permission in principle for areas for substantial development (Growth areas) with faster routes for detailed consent? 

No. There should be no automatic permission granted, especially not for ‘substantial development’. This requires more scrutiny of proposals, not less, so an automatic permission makes no sense.   

Development proposals should continue to be decided by way of a planning application. The planning application process provides for public, democratic scrutiny. This is a prerequisite for robust, fair planning outcomes. Under an automatic permission in principle this stage would be omitted and therefore the procedure for approval would be less fair, and potentially less rigorous. 

With regard to the aspiration to achieve “faster routes for detailed consent” experience suggests any such process would still require consulting statutory consultees, assimilating policy and application information and negotiation especially for the substantial development the reforms propose for growth areas. Therefore, it is doubtful whether a noticeably streamlined system is achievable in practice without compromising the quality of developments coming forward and the community voice in planning.  

  • Q9(b). Do you agree with our proposals above for the consent arrangements for Renewal and Protected areas? 

No. The planning application process provides for public, democratic scrutiny. This is a prerequisite for robust, transparent and fair planning outcomes and should be retained. For renewal areas, a presumption in favour of development would apply and therefore it is not clear that provision for the same level of public, democratic scrutiny by way of a planning application as we have now would continue.

It is vital that this stage be retained and enhanced to ensure at least the level of scrutiny and public participation in decisions remains as under present arrangements. Without these safeguards, the procedures for approval under the reforms risk being less fair, and less rigorous. 

  • Q9(c). Do you think there is a case for allowing new settlements to be brought forward under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime? 

No. New settlements should be seen as a last resort after all other options, such as redevelopment and urban extensions have been considered  and exhausted first.   

Planning should remain in the hands of democratically elected authorities.  

  • Q10. Do you agree with our proposals to make decision-making faster and more certain? 

No. With regard to planning applications, the system must provide for sufficient information about the proposal to be forthcoming to enable a robust appraisal by the planning authority of the proposed scheme and associated impacts. The amount of information required to assess a scheme will depend on its size and complexity and impacts so it is important that in any move to standardise documents these are taken into account. Imposing an arbitrary word limit on planning documents assumes this will address all issues, whereas for larger schemes such detail is needed due to complexity and impacts of such proposals.   

Of particular concern, is the consultation paper’s suggestion that detailed planning decisions be delegated to planning officers where the principle of development has been established. While it is important that planning and other specialists have oversight of / advise on detailed matters, they should inform, not decide applications (other than minor non contentious ones). Public participation and democratic scrutiny are integral to our current system and necessary in order for decisions to be fair, transparent and robust. Under the reformed system as proposed the democratic scrutiny and public participation that occurs in relation to specific planning proposals — a key plank of our current system —stand to be lost. This cannot be right. 

With regard to the proposal for greater digitalisation of the application process to make it easier for applicants, it is important that any automation of the process be restricted to routine, simple elements. Computers are no substitute for human judgment, professional or otherwise, public participation and deliberation by way of a planning committee.    

There is a need for better presentation of planning documents online so that these are easily searchable and findable by professional and laypersons alike. 

With regard to planning conditions and suggestion that conditions be set nationally, the system must also provide for local conditions tailored to local circumstances. 

I object to the proposal that applicants will be entitled to an automatic rebate of their planning application fee if they are successful at appeal. This is unfair as it will deter cash-strapped local authorities from refusing to grant permission for an application they consider to be poor. Reaching a planning decision is not always black and white and will depend on the weight to be given to different factors. Such a rebate should only be required where a council’s planning decision is deemed unreasonable by an Inspector on material planning grounds.   

  • Q11. Do you agree with our proposals for digitised, web-based Local Plans? 

Greater use of digital technologies is needed, however face-to-face communication, in person events and access to hard copy documentation also matter. In person events provide for  a level of engagement and discussion that may not be achievable through digital technologies. Both types of communication are needed. 

I disagree with the simplified role envisaged for Local Plans, and Neighbourhood Plans. These should continue to set out detailed policies tailored to the circumstances and opportunities of the local area. 

  • Q12. Do you agree with our proposals for a 30 – month statutory timescale for the production of Local Plans? 

Not sure. It is important that all areas have and maintain up-to-date Local Plans to guide decisions on new development. This should be achievable in a period of two and a half to three years, subject to planning departments and the Planning Inspectorate having the necessary resources to work to this swifter timescale. 

I am concerned that, under ‘alternative options’ the possibility of removing the ‘right to be heard’ is mentioned. Maintaining the right to be heard is essential if communities are to retain a meaningful influence and role in plan-making. This right enables individuals and groups to engage in person alongside other stakeholders and provides for thorough public scrutiny of policies, evidence and proposals. The deliberation and discussion that occurs at examinations in public helps foster consensus and ultimately leads to better thought out plans and policies.

  • Q13. (a) Do you agree that Neighbourhood Plans should be retained in the reformed planning system? 

Yes. Neighbourhood Plans have a role to play in setting local policies tailored to the needs of their neighbourhood and can foster community ownership of and engagement with planning.   

The role of Neighbourhood Plans should continue as now or be enhanced, not restricted in the manner the reforms propose. 

  • Q13. (b) How can the neighbourhood planning process be developed to meet our objectives, such as in the use of digital tools and reflecting community preferences about design? 

By empowering communities to draw up Neighbourhood Plan policies that require development to be zero carbon, nature friendly and meet requirements for affordable housing, workspaces, community facilities and other land use needs, in particular community led schemes and initiatives. The design preferences of the community should be reflected in the Neighbourhood Plan where communities would like this, but so should these broader planning considerations which should continue to be integral to the Neighbourhood Plan process rather than omitted or constrained along the lines the consultation paper proposes.  

  • Q14. Do you agree there should be a stronger emphasis on the build out of developments? And if so, what further measures would you support? 

Yes. Measures to address excessive landbanking are needed. Developers should be required to implement the planning permissions they already have and measures identified to achieve faster build out of developments where needed. Providing for a greater variety of building types and developers as the consultation paper proposes (Proposal 10) may help, however other measures are needed too. 

Pillar 2: planning for beautiful and sustainable places
  • Q15. What do you think about new development that has happened recently in your area? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience. However we have provided an example answer below.

Other: Unsustainable. 

Very little new development is truly sustainable, as in zero carbon, nature friendly with sufficient affordable housing and affordable workspace, accessible green space and served primarily by public transport, walking and cycling. New housing developments are often delivered on the outskirts of towns/cities, served by private cars, with limited provision of new green space, integration with public rights of way, cycle paths etc. This has to stop if we are serious about tackling the climate and ecological emergency and planning for a green, fair recovery. 

  • Q16. Sustainability is at the heart of our proposals. What is your priority for sustainability in your area? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience. However we have provided an example answer below.

Other : All of the above.

All these things matter if we are to develop in a sustainable way. It makes no sense to exclude any one of them. 

  • Q17. Do you agree with our proposals for improving the production and use of design guides and codes? 

Greater use of design guides and codes could potentially play a helpful role, depending on what these contain and the extent to which development follows the guidelines set out. Such guides and codes should have sustainable design, energy efficiency and sustainable transport embedded within them, including maximum parking standards, cycle storage, charging points, et al.  

Codes may have some potential to help secure better designed development, but need to be seen within the broader context of planning impacts and wider objectives such as the climate and ecological crises and need for a fair, green recovery. For example, allowing major new housing development on greenfield sites on the edge of out towns and cities makes a transition to more sustainable transport modes harder to achieve; as reliance on the private car is embedded as a necessity from the outset. This in turn leads to houses with no front gardens but parking spaces, leaving little or no room for trees, nature or greenery.  

  • Q18. Do you agree that we should establish a new body to support design coding and building better places, and that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making? 

Not sure. With regard to setting up a new body to support design coding, without further information on the nature of such a body and powers they are to be given, it is hard to answer this question.  

It would be helpful for local authorities to have a chief planning officer, given the crucial role of planning in managing development and land use in the public interest (as far as the system allows). Design and place-making are fundamental to good planning outcomes. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on planning for zero carbon, resilient development and ensuring we have a planning system enabled and resourced at a local level to deliver this. 

  • Q19. Do you agree with our proposal to consider how design might be given greater emphasis in the strategic objectives for Homes England? 

Yes. Measures to embed design quality and environmental standards in Homes England’s activities and programmes of work would be welcome.  

  • Q20. Do you agree with our proposals for implementing a fast-track for beauty? 

No. While good design matters, many factors determine whether a development is sustainable in terms of impact on the environment and host community. A fast track process would not be subject to the level of scrutiny required to fully assess the impacts of a proposal. 

A ‘beautiful’ development is not necessarily a sustainable one, and that should be a minimum requisite (to include zero-carbon, nature friendly), along with compliance with Local Plan policies, for any ‘fast track’ process.  ideally community led or with community consensus. 

Pillar 3: planning for infrastructure and connected places
  • Q21. When new development happens in your area, what is your priority for what comes with it? 

We suggest that you answer this question drawing on your own personal experience. However we have provided an example answer below.  

Other: All of the above.

All these things matter and should be taken into account in plans and proposals: they should not be seen as an either/or.   

We need more affordable homes, better access to green space, and protection and enhancement of existing green space, sustainable infrastructure with priority given to making provision for walking, cycling and public transport, local shops and employment space as well as space for leisure, recreation and community uses. 

New development should be well designed as a matter of course, achieving high standards of energy and water efficiency, zero-carbon, with good access to nearby green space and local facilities.   

  • Q22. (a) Should the Government replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations with a new consolidated Infrastructure Levy, which is charged as a fixed proportion of development value above a set threshold? 

No. I am  concerned that the proposals, as drafted, may lead to a reduction in the amount of affordable housing developers provide.   

  • Q22. (b) Should the Infrastructure Levy rates be set nationally at a single rate, set nationally at an area-specific rate, or set locally? 

No comment. 

  • Q22. (c) Should the Infrastructure Levy aim to capture the same amount of value overall, or more value, to support greater investment in infrastructure, affordable housing and local communities? 

More value.

The overall aim should be to secure a greater proportion of the uplift in land value in order to support greater investment in sustainable infrastructure, affordable housing and local community facilities.

  • Q22. (d) Should we allow local authorities to borrow against the Infrastructure Levy, to support infrastructure delivery in their area? 

No comment.

  • Q23. Do you agree that the scope of the reformed Infrastructure Levy should capture changes of use through permitted development rights? 

Yes. It is unfair that development delivered as a result of exercising permitted development rights is able to sidestep local policy requirements, development impacts and community needs for private gain.   

Evidence from academics, sector representatives and the government  commissioned research highlights the poor planning outcomes of homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights. Shortcomings include poor design; failing to meet basic space standards; poor residential amenity; lack of affordable housing contributions; impact on business; and lack of infrastructure. The best way to ensure the level of scrutiny required to address these unacceptable impacts on our environment, health and wellbeing is to require a planning application and scrap Permitted Development Rights other than for very minor development. 

  • Q24. (a) Do you agree that we should aim to secure at least the same amount of affordable housing under the Infrastructure Levy, and as much on-site affordable provision, as at present? 

We need to plan for the delivery of more affordable homes than we do at present. This requires developers to provide more by way of planning obligations and higher levels of direct public investment.    

Loopholes whereby developers are able to avoid providing affordable housing or reduce the amount they provide on spurious grounds of ‘viability’ or as a result of exercising permitted development rights must be closed.  

Provision of affordable housing should be made a mandatory requirement that developers and landowners factor in from the outset when devising schemes and remain committed to on delivery. 

The government should look at increasing overall affordable housing requirements through planning obligations. Therefore it makes no sense to reduce requirements for small and medium size housebuilders, as government is proposing (see separate consultation regarding ‘Changes to the Current Planning System’ closing 1 October).   

  • Q24. (b) Should affordable housing be secured as in-kind payment towards the Infrastructure Levy, or as a ‘right to purchase’ at discounted rates for local authorities? 

Affordable housing should be provided on site, with the aim of delivering mixed tenure communities where possible.

  • Q24. (c) If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, should we mitigate against local authority overpayment risk? 

No comment.

  • Q24. (d) If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, are there additional steps that would need to be taken to support affordable housing quality? 

No comment.

  • Q25. Should local authorities have fewer restrictions over how they spend the Infrastructure Levy? 

No comment.

  • Q25. (a) If ‘yes’, should an affordable housing ‘ring-fence’ be developed? 

Yes. An affordable housing ring-fence should be developed to in order to ensure monies received are allocated to delivery of affordable housing. 

  • Q26. Do you have any views on the potential impact of the proposals raised in this consultation on people with protected characteristics as defined in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010? 

Yes. We are concerned that these reforms, were they to go ahead, would disproportionately affect vulnerable groups.  This would be the result of a planning system that is poorly designed to cater for their needs, which restricts councils in setting local policy and where a key stage of the planning process, whereby communities and councils have their say whether development can go ahead and if so, in what form, is to be omitted.

For more information, email:     friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS thank the Friends of the Earth for producing this excellent guide.

Today in Parliament!

An ‘online’ meeting with Anthony Mangnell, MP for the South Hams, organised by Totnes Councillor Georgina Allen, gave a number of Local Councillors and community groups the opportunity to present their serious concerns about the impact of the Government’s proposed dismantling of the local planning system, which are spelled out in their White Paper consultation Planning for the Future . The meeting came just before the Commons debated the proposals for the first time.

The South Hams District Council’s very critical response to the White Paper’s associated consultation ‘Changes to the Existing Planning System’ was also discussed.

The SHDC have noted that: “The algorithm (for calculating the area’s housing need) as a whole is not fit for purpose, is volatile on a yearly basis and
undermines rather than underpins the plan-led system due to the flawed
outputs it generates. It bears no relationship with actual need arising in places
and ignores sustainable distribution patterns.”

The deep concern about the new proposals is shared by Councils from Cornwall to Kent and all points north! East Devon District Council have made it clear that “This is quite a contrast to the position of the Conservative/Liberal democrat coalition Government when in 2010 Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles stated: “Communities will no longer have to endure the previous government’s failed Soviet tractor style top-down planning targets – they were a terrible, expensive, time-consuming way to impose house building and worst of all threatened the destruction of the green belt.” See pages: 35 – 73 for their proposed submission to the ‘Planning for the Future’ submission

Richard Daws, Newton Says No campaigner and District Councillor for the neighbouring ward of Ambrook in Teignbridge noted that the current planning system was already failing residents by ignoring their reasoned views. He observed that the Government’s proposals doubled down on this, with unsustainable increases in housing targets and a further reduction of community involvement in planning decisions, which would likely create a political ‘wind of change’. He pointed out that the Conservatives had celebrated the falling of the ‘Red Wall’ at the last General Election but, if they proceeded on the basis of the planning white paper as presented, they would likely see the ‘Blue Wall’ falling down in rural constituencies around the country in future elections! 

 Bob Seely MP opening the Parliamentary debate (8th October) said: “The 10 largest developers control 70% of supply. They withhold land to inflate value; while 80% of residential permissions are granted, half remain unbuilt and 900,000 permissions are outstanding. If just 10% of those were finished every year, the Government would be close to or on target. That raises two critical questions. First, is the problem with the system, or with the building firms that are abusing it, maybe because of the foolish laws being put in place? Secondly, do we need to scrap the current system and potentially face the law of unintended consequences, or do we need to reform it?”

He also said: “I think the Minister and I can both agree that the market is failing first-time buyers. The answer is not greenfield sprawl or unachievable targets, but a new generation of community-based, affordable housing, accompanied by creative rent-to-buy schemes accessible to first-time buyers in existing communities, whether in city, suburb or countryside.”

“We cannot keep ramming in housing without damaging our stewardship of the world. We must think long term, and not just until the next election.” Speaking about or protected countryside he also noted: “Our beauty has an economic as well as a moral value. Visitors spend half a billion pounds a year on the Island (his constituency) , and the greater the urban sprawl in the name of random algorithmic targets, the greater the damage to our economy, our quality of life and the intrinsic worth of our landscape and natural beauty. I fear that long-term overdevelopment in some parts of Britain is now destroying the things we love.”

The full Hansard record of the debate is here

History shows that as a country we have only ever delivered the scale of house building, now being sought, through massive public sector investment in house building such as that which occurred in the post war period It is only through similar investment and enabling local authorities to deliver high quality affordable housing that can meet the needs of the South Hams, that the housing crisis will truly be addressed.

The Local Government Association estimate that every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy and that each new social home would generate a saving of £780 per year in Housing Benefit.

See the House of Lords briefing paper on social housing

Local planning ‘resources’ have been cut by 20% over the past decade and, it’s our experience that the long talked about crisis in housing is not caused by the  identified faults in the existing planning system – as is suggested in the Prime Minister’s introduction to the White Paper, but has been caused mainly by the failure of central government to implement the findings of its own housing reviews – as was the case, for example,  with the Letwin final ‘Build Out’ report  

If you are concerned about any of the issues raised in this post, you still have time to submit a response to the Planning for the Future  consultation which closes at 11:45 October 29th.

For more information, email:     friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

‘No Community Wants This’

Plans for a Sussex new town anger local Tories

“Local opponents say the project – which could ultimately create a town of around 10,000 people – threatens rare wildlife, an increase in car congestion and risks becoming a dormitory [for London commuters].”

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com

Plans for a new town in rural Sussex backed by one of the Conservative party’s biggest donors and close allies of Prince Charles, are exposing a split in the Tory party over how to rapidly accelerate housebuilding.

Kingswood, a scheme for 2,850 homes, is being proposed on open fields at Adversane near Horsham which have been assembled by hedge fund billionaire Sir Michael Hintze who has given £4.6m to the Conservatives. Its design is partly inspired by Poundbury, the ersatz Georgian town in Dorset created by Prince Charles, and Sir Michael Peat, the Prince of Wales’s former private secretary is a director of the development company.

But it is being opposed by local Conservative MP Andrew Griffith, who said it is “the wrong type of development in the wrong place” and local Tory councillors who have warned: “No community wants this on their doorstep.” It looks set to be a test case for the government’s controversial new planning strategy announced last month which is set to relax national planning rules and set significantly higher local housebuilding targets in areas including Horsham.

John Halsall, the Tory leader of Wokingham borough council in Berkshire, which is also facing central government demands to build significantly more homes warned of a high political cost telling the Guardian: “You won’t have a Tory left in the south or south-east of England.”

Some of the land is owned by Eton College, the alma mater of the prime minister, Boris Johnson. The largest parcel which would be built over is a farm purchased by Hintze for £10m from Mike Stock, the songwriter behind a string of 1980s hits by Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley and Bananarama.

Local opponents say the project – which could ultimately create a town of around 10,000 people – threatens rare wildlife, an increase in car congestion and risks becoming a dormitory for London commuters.

“There is an enormous amount of antipathy to this scheme,” said Julian Trumper, a local resident organising opposition. “Horsham has already taken enough of Sussex’s requirement to build housing and this potential growth is unsustainable. Infrastructure and road and rail links are insufficient. The displacement to wildlife and established ecosystems by building a new town in open countryside is incalculable.”

The website says the project “focuses on building a community for people of all ages and providing a platform for economic opportunity and sustainable growth” and will champion the principle of “beauty” in town planning identified by Sir Roger Scruton in his report to the government on planning and architecture.

It promises a “socially inclusive, mixed-income development” with “community at the heart of our plans”.

But the row over whether it should go ahead exposes a growing schism in Conservative ranks over two proposed reforms to accelerate housebuilding.

The first is a new planning system that will make it easier and quicker for developers to build on greenfield sites, which Conservative councillors have complained undermines local democratic involvement by proposing zones where detailed planning consents would not be required.

The second is new inflated house building targets which backbench Conservative MPs and council leaders have criticised as too high and ignoring local needs. The new target for Horsham would see the area required to deliver 1,715 new homes a year, more than double the current target of 800.

The high status of Kingswood’s backers – with close links to the top of government and the monarchy – has also sparked fears that local influence could be further undermined, with opponents citing the planning scandal earlier this year in which it emerged that the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, backed a project by party donor Richard Desmond against the advice of officials.

“After what we saw with Jenrick and Desmond, we have the impression that the property developers are doing all this with barely any local democracy at all,” said Trumper.

The developers and landowners declined to comment to the Guardian, but a spokesperson for Horsham district council said: “Any site that is allocated in the next step of the local plan process will be subject to full public scrutiny at a public examination conducted by an independent planning inspector. Each site will be assessed to determine whether it is suitable, achievable and available, in a public arena.”

The local Conservative MP, Andrew Griffith, said: “We are building on greenfield, we’re not using brownfield land. This is the wrong type of development in the wrong place. The identity of the landowner is not important. I am giving voice to constituent concerns.”

He told a Commons debate earlier this month: “So many of my constituents from Adversane to West Grinstead, Barnham to Wineham, and in villages of every letter of the alphabet in between, are having their lives blighted by the prospect of inappropriate and unsustainable development”.

Philip Circus, a Conservative member of Horsham council in whose ward the development is proposed, added: “I am not interested that people are connected with royalty or people that donate to the Conservative party. It cuts no ice with me. We don’t feel any compulsion to doff our caps to anyone other than the residents. This is a rural community which in infrastructure terms does not look like an area for a major housing development.”

The Kingswood masterplan has been submitted for inclusion in Horsham district council’s local plan, which is currently out to public consultation. It features traditional terraces of houses which seek to avoid the identikit housing of many modern housing estates and promises schools, a town centre, woodlands and allotments. The director of the development company, Dominic Richards, was formerly a director at the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community – the heir to the throne’s architecture and planning charity which promotes traditional urbanism.

Many thanks for this Post to:

For more information, email:     friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

SHDC and WDBC Respond

South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council have very robustly rejected most of the Government’s ‘Changes to the Current Planning System‘ proposals.

The Councils’ full response is available here. This is the ‘smaller’ of the government’s two important planning consultations, and if this reply is anything to go by, then they are certainly in for a very hard ride!

We would like to thank the Local Authority Officers who helped prepare the consultation response papers for the Members of the Councils’ to consider. It is time the Government recognised that the 20% reduction in local ‘Planning resources’ over the past years has to be reversed if our towns and countryside are to be protected and enhanced. Formulas, algorithms, pattern books, by-passing local democracy and handing control of our environment to a few national house builders is just not going to work!

The Councils’ responses to the more far reaching and very controversial Planning for the Future consultation are due by the end of the month. Councillor Georgina Allen recently remarked that the Government’s proposals: “Would build a by-pass around local democracy”. It looks like the local community in the South Hams is fighting back!

Here are a few extracts from their Changes to the Current Planning System‘ consultation reply.

The algorithm

“The effect of this blunt tool is likely to result in an unplanned-led planning system of piecemeal development prioritised on green field development in inappropriate, unsustainable locations, in advance of brownfield development within main cities and towns. This does not sit well with the Government’s climate change emergency declaration / objectives and the objectives to prioritise brownfield development and protect areas of greenspace value.”

Affordability

“The affordability crisis should be addressed by a planning system that requires developers to deliver substantially higher levels of affordable housing than the current levels, or to contribute substantially higher levels of money for the provision of affordable housing from registered providers and local authorities. In addition, the Government must create a system that holds to account house builders to build the consents that have been granted and the sites that have been allocated expediently.”

Housing the nation

“The responsibility to house the nation and address the affordability crisis has been handed to private sector house builders, therefore they must be incentivised to do so. House builders must also face a delivery test, and also face financial consequences for failing to deliver the sites that have been allocated and granted consent.”

“The government should consider national policy requiring and ensuring house builders deliver higher levels of affordable housing in locations with the highest affordability ratios, rather than merely inflating housing numbers in these locations with no mechanisms / incentives or penalties for developers to ensure delivery takes place.”

“The effect of over-inflated, undeliverable housing numbers as a result of this element of the algorithm has the opposite effect, i.e. to reduce affordable housing provision within schemes in decision making, due to failed housing delivery tests or lack of a 5 year land supply.”

“This has been the case since the introduction of the NPPF in 2012, and also appears to be the case elsewhere in this consultation where the government proposes an interim removal of affordable housing obligations for sites below 40 or 50 units – in response to potential viability issues associated with the effects of COVID 19 and the downturn in the economy. The affordability crisis is not best addressed by the loss and reduction of affordable housing provision. This seems to be a very counterintuitive outcome to improve affordability and access to housing.”

“Research from Lichfield’s clearly shows that greater levels of affordable housing within developments substantially increase delivery rates. The government should therefore be ensuring that the planning system secures greater levels of affordable housing within developments above current levels, not lower levels to meet the government’s aspirations for higher housing delivery figures”

More social housing

“First Homes will only meet a small proportion of identified housing requirements and not enough social rented homes are being delivered nationally. As a country, we need to build at least 90,000 new social rented homes each year. A new planning system must recognise its role in delivering the truly affordable homes people need.”

Here is the Councils’ full response to the government’s Changes to the Current Planning System consultation.

‘Planning for the Future’
If we want a better future then the Government must plan to reverse the cuts!

Here is the FOSH ‘Changes to the Existing Planning System’ consultation response

Here is the South Hams Society’s response

For more information, email:     friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Gerston Point – Latest

GERSTON POINT – THE HEADLINES

The government proposes to strengthen the Local Authority’s enforcement powers and sanctions against intentional unauthorised development, consider higher fines and look at ways of supporting enforcement activity.

(See Planning for the Future )

NOT A REGULAR ROOST – MORE A ‘BED AND BREAKFAST’ SHORT STAY

Back in September 2019, South Hams District Council decided that the large garage, tennis court and skateboard bowl, built without planning permission at Gerston Point, in the highly protected South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, should be demolished. It still has not happened!

 In March the building’s owners submitted an assessment to the Council that suggested the unauthorised garage might have become an important regular roost for very rare Grey Long-eared Bats. That helped to put the demolition on hold.

But now a new report, by a second ecologist engaged by the owners, casts doubt on the suggestions made in the first report! After analysing some of the bat droppings from the garage, the second ecologist found that they are not rarities at all, but were ‘produced’ by the Common Long-Eared bat.  And, far from being an established regular roost, the relative scarcity of bat droppings indicated that the ‘common’ visitors had probably only used the building as a bed and breakfast stopover!   

The original assessment had pointed out that before it could be confirmed that the garage was a regular roost, an expert survey to count the bats would have to be done during this summer. The summer has come and gone but despite the second ecologist’s visit, that “necessary” survey still has not been done, so no one knows for certain if any bats are currently using the ‘stopover’. 

Only 20 or so bat droppings (from 2019) were identified in the original assessment report. The normal size of a colony of Brown Long-eared bats is between 10 to 20 bats and can be up to 50. The latest expert bat survey notes that, like the first report, only around twenty droppings were found in the ‘unauthorised’ garage. 

So, with no bats counted, just 20 droppings and no “important” permanent rare bat roost, what’s stopping the Council from enforcing the law?

Gerston Point in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Costal Protection Zone

Where have all the droppings gone – long time passing

So, you might now be wondering why the illegal building is still standing. Well, the first appraisal , found that it was:  “evident from the examination of some surfaces in this storage area, that brown or grey long-eared bats used that part of the building as a roost during summer and autumn of 2019“. So, the engines on the bulldozers were turned off! 

The original appraisal report also noted that: “Tests could be carried out to determine which species are using the building to roost” and added:  “It will be necessary to carry out emergence surveys during the late spring to early summer of 2020, to confirm the status of mezzanine storage area as a bat roost. If bats return to roost, it would be unlawful to disturb them.”

The appraisal prematurely and misleadingly claimed:  “It has been demonstrated clearly that the outbuilding provides an established bat roost.” and indeed went further and described the “shed” as an “important roost”.  

Back in May, we publicly raised our concerns about some of these ‘inconsistencies’ with the Applicants Agent and the appraisal’s author , but ‘silence was their stern reply!’  Then, on the 2nd July 2020 – some 14 months on from the “summer and autumn of 2019” when the bats had, apparently, visited the “shed”, a new ‘Bat Survey’ was undertaken by an experienced ecologist.

That second survey found: “the presence of a moderate number of droppings (about 20)” on the upper level of the building. Some of the droppings were removed for DNA analysis, which later confirmed that the building had “been used for roosting by “by a small number” of bats, and: “probably as an ‘occasional/transitional’ roost.” for Common Long-Eared Brown bats.

So hardly the “important” and “established” roost claimed in the original appraisal report.

Nevertheless, one bat is one bat! And all bats are protected. But while the first report may have overstated the case, and misleadingly claimed there were “overwhelming” strong ecological and habitat factors that would constrain any proposed removal of the accommodation provided by the outbuilding. The assessment report also clearly indicated that, so long as appropriate “alternative provision” was made for roosting bats, then the building could be demolished.

Having, misleadingly described it as an “important” and “established” roost, the first report had also made it clear that: “It will be necessary to carry out emergence surveys during the late spring to early summer of 2020, to confirm the status of mezzanine storage area as a bat roost.”  Having engaged a second ecologist and revisited the site in June, the question has to be asked, why was the “necessary” emergence survey and counting not undertaken as proposed?  

Common long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)

Sure, the DNA tests on the droppings have established that the samples examined came from the “occasional” long-eared visitor to the building. But remember, the photographs (in the planning file) taken in February 2020 of the previous seasons’ droppings, only show about 20 bat droppings.  In other words, no more droppings were found on the second survey than were deposited in the “summer and autumn of 2019”

It is clear, in the images submitted for the Applicant, that ‘overwhelmingly’ it is birds that are the regular overnight visitors to the “shed”. That, in itself, reduces the buildings attractiveness to bats. That fact just might explain why no significant additional droppings were found during the second survey than were apparently ‘deposited’ in 2019 and photographed during the first ‘assessment’ visit to the building. 

As any provision for an alternative roosting area would need to be approved by Natural England and the South Hams District Council, it also would be necessary to demonstrate that bats were using the alternative roost – before the existing “occasional” roost could be removed. So, why was that counting survey not carried out during this summer?

Earlier this year the Leader of South Hams District Council remarked: “It’s a question of whether the offer of 1,000 trees is enough to offset the damage being done by what is a big shed, almost a warehouse, in the back garden where they must have known it wouldn’t be allowed.”

 In short, it is indisputable that harm has been caused to the highly protected area; and that extraordinary mitigation measures have been proposed to ‘compensate’ for, and hide, the harm caused by the unauthorised development.

 We also point out that if the Applicants wished to provide the landscape enhancements, tree planting, and the other improvements, such as alternative bat roosts at Gerston Point, they certainly could, irrespective of the decision the Local Authority finally takes about the Retrospective Planning Application.

Many in the South Hams community are very concerned about the signals being sent out to those, who might be willing to ignore local, national planning procedures and law, if the South Hams District Council planning enforcement regime appears unable to control unauthorised and harmful development in our highly protected areas.

Simply the long delay in resolving this outstanding and notorious contravention of planning law is seriously undermining public confidence in the Local Authority and the planning system – all at a time when the government promises to increase the protection in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It really is ‘a long time passing’ – and the Council surely must complete the enforcement procedures without any more unreasonable delay.

common long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) ‘on the wing’

Previous Gerston Point Posts

The BBC report

The South Hams District Council Planning File – Gerston Point

The first ecology appraisal

The first ecology appraisal – photographs

The ‘second’ Bat Survey

The ‘open letter’ to Dr Beale

West Alvington Parish Council – objection

    Planning Application Ref: 0848/20/FUL 
Applicant Name: Mr & Mrs S Thomas 
Description: Retrospective application for change of use of land to domestic use with carport and storage building with proposed additional landscape and ecological enhancements (resubmission of 0042/19/FUL) 
Address: Gerston Point Gerston Farm West Alvington TQ7 3BA 
Officer Name: Cheryl Stansbury 
Agent Name: Mr Mark Evans Mark Evans Planning Limited Cedar House Membland Newton Ferrers PL8 1HP 01752 872162  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-evans-25a8ba62/ 
  

For more information, email:     friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com

Or write to: FOSH, Rathlyn, Grenville Rd, Salcombe, TQ8 8BJ

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

FOSH Consultation Response

The Changes to the current planning System‘ consultation closes at 11:45 1st October. Many of the ‘technical’ questions the Government has posed in the ‘Open Consultation’ are for the Local Authority to answer. However there is scope to make our views on the key issues known – and that is what the FOSH have done.

The 4 main Government proposals are:

  • changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need
  • securing of First Homes through developer contributions in the short term until the transition to a new system
  • supporting small and medium-sized builders by temporarily lifting the small sites threshold below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing
  • extending the current Permission in Principle to major development

The Planning for the Future’ Consultation, which ends October 29th, is even more far reaching. Councillor Georgina Allen summed up the Government’s very controversial proposals when she remarked recently:

The Friends of South Hams are working with a number of community and interest groups to prepare a detailed consultation response. In the meantime, here is the FOSH response to ‘Changes to the Current Planning System

Changes to the current planning system consultation
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government,
3rd Floor, South East Fry Building,
2 Marsham Street,
LONDON
SW1P 4DF

TechnicalPlanningConsultation@communities.gov.uk

29th September 2020

Friends of South Hams Representation.

A key part of this consultation is to seek engagement from a wide range of people on the proposed changes to the current planning system.

The ’Friends of South Hams’ are a community group who campaign effectively to protect the South Hams and its countryside, in particular the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and to ensure that development is appropriate, in the right place, so that it benefits the local community and visitors

The range of proposals contained in the ‘Changes to the Existing Planning System’ consultation is aimed at significantly increasing the number of homes that would be built in the South Hams.

We note that no evidence has been presented by the Government that a higher level of housebuilding will have the intended outcome of reducing average house prices in in our area, still less that there will be any benefit for existing residents trying to step onto or climb the housing ladder.

The two current consultations have nothing substantial to say in relation to the national climate emergency or impact on creating a greener environment.

We do not believe that the Government’s recently announced commitment to ‘protect’ 400,000 hectares of English countryside, to support the recovery of nature, will have a significant effect on the already highly protected South Hams and that the threat to the area from the higher housebuilding numbers is increased by the proposed changes to the existing planning system.

Inappropriate development

We argue, that there is little justification for the proposed increase in the housebuilding requirement and we also believe that the risks of inappropriate development will increase.

 Reducing the supply of affordable homes

There are also a range of other proposals in the consultation document which would affect the provision ‘First Homes’. We believe the proposals to change the threshold for developer contributions by temporarily lifting the small sites threshold below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing, from 10 to up to 40 or 50 units to support SME builders is likely to significantly reduce the supply of affordable homes in our area, where the majority of sites are under the proposed threshold.

Harming the environment

We believe that the activities that are detailed here (i.e. increasing the number of homes that the council would be required to provide for in the Local Plan) would have a significant negative impact on our environment. At the moment there are no details in the consultation document in terms of how this would be addressed.

 Need for affordable rented housing

The overwhelming need in rural areas is for affordable rented housing. Requiring 25% of affordable housing contributions to be First Homes will squeeze out affordable rented housing. Given the high house prices and relatively low rural incomes, the national price and income caps will make First Homes unaffordable to many South Hams rural residents.

Revised standard methodology

The revised standard methodology and the removal of the existing ‘cap’ would, we believe, increase the housing requirement for the South Hams from the current estimate of 324 to 760 dwellings, an increase of 137% in the number of houses which need to be built annually in the district.

Not compatible

Given the constraints on development arising from the protected areas, such as the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we do not see how this proposed level of development could be compatible with the Local Authorities’ existing sustainability, bio-diversity and environmental objectives.

Widely held views

We also believe that our view is shared by a number Parish and Town Councils, and local planning authorities in Devon and other parts of the South West of England which would also see substantial increases in the number of privately owned homes that they would need to provide in their Local Plan, due to the increased emphasis in the current proposals on the affordability factor.

We therefore object to the use of the revised formula simply to increase the number of privately owned homes in the South Hams.

Steep property ladder

Whilst the discount for First Homes would be a good financial incentive and allow a greater number of people onto the first rung of the housing property ladder, there is little detail in the proposals as to how the subsequent sale of a property will ensure that the home remains affordable in the future. We believe that the schemes will create wide gap between what is affordable as the ‘first rung on the property ladder’ and that of the second rung property – for which no discount is available. If house prices were stabilised (by increasing supply) then moving on from the First Home may be as difficult as joining the market in the first place.

No explanation

The government has not explained clearly in the consultation how the proposed changes would be specifically benefit SME builders.

Unaffordable housing

We also believe that the change in the threshold for the provision of affordable housing is inconsistent with the government’s concerns to promote affordability. The proposal seems to be inconsistent with the justification for a revision to the standard methodology to address the issue of affordability. Our Local Authority would be prevented from asking developers to provide affordable housing for sites that fall under a new threshold.

We therefore object to the proposals in this consultation document to increase the threshold from 10 homes to 40 or 50 at which contributions for affordable housing can be obtained.

Permission in Principle

It is proposed to extend the current ‘Permission in Principle’ (PIP) arrangements to major development so landowners and developers would have a fast route to secure the principle of development for housing, without having to present detailed plans first.

We are concerned that extending the scope of PIPs to housing developments up to 150 homes i.e. below the current Environmental Impact Assessment threshold, that the community would only be able to comment on the principle of development and would only have limited information about the planning proposal and very limited consultation time to respond.

We therefore strongly object to the proposals for an expanded role of PIPs.

Opportunity missed

We are deeply concerned that the government’s current proposals fail to address the provision of social housing. It is our view that simply building more market price homes isn’t enough to help many of those who are faced with the housing crisis, because this is only likely to influence prices over the long-term. We do not believe that simply aiming to reduce house prices by increasing the supply in some places will solve the current crisis.  We suggest that to make homes more affordable we have to build more affordable homes.

Economic impact of social housing

For every £100 million invested in affordable housing supply via both public and private finance generates £210 million of economic output in the wider economy and sustains 1,270 jobs.1.

For decades housing built and managed by councils and housing associations was a source of pride, security and a start in life. Labour and Conservative Governments saw this as essential in meeting people’s housing needs and aspirations.

We highly recommend that the government considers enabling Local Authorities to re-engage in developing social hosing for rent. 

       Summary:

  • Question 6. We object to the use of the revised formula simply to increase the number of privately owned homes in the South Hams
  • Question 15. We object to the proposals in this consultation document to increase the threshold from 10 homes to 40 or 50 at which contributions for affordable housing can be obtained
  • Question 24. We strongly object to the proposals for an expanded role of PIPs.
  • We highly recommend that the government considers enabling Local Authorities to re-engage in developing social hosing for rent

Ian Bryan

29th September 2020

For and on behalf of the ‘Friends of South Hams’

Email:  friendsofthesouthhams@gmail.com     

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1.https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1218609/Economic_impact_of_housing_investment.pdf/_nocache

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FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The People Say No!

THE PEOPLE SAY NO’ Council responses to the Government’s ‘Changes to the Existing Planning System’ consultation (submission date 1st October} are starting to appear online. There seems to be general opposition to most of the proposals – which is quite unusual.

The Winchester response gives a flavour. It includes: “No evidence has been presented by the government that a higher level of housebuilding will have the intended outcome of reducing average house prices in district’s like Winchester, still less that there will be any benefit for existing residents trying to step onto or climb the housing ladder. Therefore there seems little justification for this greatly increased requirement when the risks of inappropriate development are taken into account. Indeed the proposal to raise the small site threshold will self-evidently reduce the availability of affordable housing.”

And from a Parish Council (Hayton):

“The proposal to raise the site threshold that will trigger affordable housing contributions to 40 dwellings until the economy recovers from Covid-19. This change would mean that in approximately 70% of parishes of less than 3k population, no affordable housing contributions would be required on sites of fewer than 40-50 dwellings. Given that most development sites in rural areas are less than 10 dwellings this would mean that no affordable housing would be delivered in these communities.”

The consultation period ends on 1st October.

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Green waste fly-tipping

The Environment Agency and its partners are concerned about a seasonal trend of green waste fly-tipped in the South Hams and urge people not to be tricked by doorstep conmen into taking away green waste.

Households in the South Hams and West Devon are being asked to quiz people knocking on their doors and offering to take their rubbish away.

Waste carriers, like other licensed trades, are required to register and operate in line with a set of rules that protect the environment and their customers. These rules include disposing of waste in the right place, storing it safely and keeping accurate records of transfer and disposal.

If these traders don’t have a waste carriers’ licence, there is no guarantee rubbish will go to an authorised site. Instead, it could end up dumped on the side of the road or burned in a field, causing environmental damage. And the person who hired the unregistered trader could face a criminal charge.

Kevin Baker of the Environment Agency said: “We want people to take three steps to check whether the collector has a waste carriers’ license from the Environment Agency: ask where the rubbish will end up, don’t pay cash and insist on a receipt, then record the details of the vehicle used to take the rubbish away.

“If people suspect criminal activity, they should report it on our hotline 0800 807060 or anonymously through CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111 and give as much detail as possible. Let’s work together to stamp out waste crime and protect on our beautiful countryside.”

Alex Roddis from Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: “Unfortunately there are those who will not hesitate to try and take advantage of consumers, particularly the vulnerable or elderly. Often they will call unannounced and use high pressure sales tactics.

“In many cases they will overcharge or perform sub-standard work. In the case of an unlicensed waste carrier, the consumer could additionally be held liable for having the waste disposed of illegally.

“If you are looking for a tradesman to do work for you we recommend getting a range of quotes, and checking their references and credentials, including whether they are members of a legitimate trader approval scheme, such as Buy With Confidence.”

Cllr Keith Baldry, South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said: “It is so very important that you check the credentials of those offering services carefully in all trade areas. People who knock on your door offering to do your garden maintenance or to help dispose of your rubbish, or even the ‘man with the van’ on your local Facebook page should all have a valid Waste Carriers’ Licence.

“If they don’t, you have absolutely no guarantee that they will dispose of your waste responsibly and the risk is they could fly tip it. 

“If we can’t find the waste offenders to hold them to account, you could personally be fined up to £200 plus clean-up costs instead. We urge you, to take a few minutes to check that anyone you’ve hired to help, does have the appropriate paperwork.”

Cllr Caroline Mott, Lead Member for Environment at West Devon Borough Council, said: “To avoid fly tips within the Borough we need to work together with the Environment Agency and other statutory partners to do our bit to protect our landscape and wildlife.

“These awful fly tips blot our landscape and residents need to ensure that their waste doesn’t fall into the wrong hands of contractors who are out to make quick money.  It’s our responsibility to check how legitimate waste collectors are, by either checking the Environment Agency’s website or by checking Waste Carriers’ Licences on the doorstep, to make sure waste is properly disposed of.”

All householders have a duty of care to ensure their waste is disposed of legally. Failing to meet the duty of care means that people could be held responsible if their waste is fly-tipped or otherwise illegally disposed of. If this happens and they have not met their duty of care, they could be fined up to £400. Before hiring someone to remove waste, householders should check their credentials online here.

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Environmental Impact Assessment


Friends of the Earth Guide


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a key feature of the planning system for larger and environmentally riskier types of development, such as large housing applications or opencast coal mines. It is an assessment which is meant to help us understand the potential environmental impacts of development proposals. Unfortunately, both the process and outcome of EIA can be complex and confusing, leaving local communities unsure how a development might affect them or how to get involved.

This guide is intended as a broad introduction to EIA. The material is drawn from regulations, official guidance and case law and is designed to help you understand what EIA is, in what circumstances it should happen and how to interact with the process. It is accompanied by a separate case law annex.


The guide is not intended to provide guidance on how to prepare an EIA nor is it legal advice. For example, it does not explain how to prepare an ecological survey or landscape and visual impact assessment. The overall theme of this guide is to encourage you to engage in the EIA process. We should not assume council planning experts always know best since, by ignoring local knowledge, decisions could have disastrous consequences for people living near development sites.

Examples of Schedule 1 projects (where EIA is always needed) include:
• major power plants
• chemical works
• long distance railway lines
• waste disposal incineration
• major road schemes (motorways)
• major wastewater treatment works.


Examples of Schedule 2 Projects
(where EIA may be needed) can include:
• quarries and opencast mines
• deep drilling
• surface industrial installations (including hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
• urban development projects (housing and shopping centres)
• some intensive agricultural purposes
• surface storage of fossil fuel
• foundries and forges
• coke ovens
• chemical production
• manufacture of dairy products
• brewing
• installations for the slaughter of animals
• rubber production
• wastewater treatment plants
• holiday villages
• golf courses
• large scale/groups of wind turbines.

Here is the full Friends of the Earth Guide

FOSH © 2021
FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.