WARD has very kindly donated £300 to Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance (YGA), to support its fundraising.
YGA has been set up specifically to raise funds to challenge the “exceptional circumstances” claimed by local authorities like Leeds and Bradford to use greenbelt to fulfill housing targets. This is contrary to National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012 paragraph 83.
YGA came into being directly from WARD’s work in defending greenspace and greenbelt, and the new group is very grateful for WARD’s support.
Martin Hughes, Chair, Yorkshire Greenspace Allliance
Community Voice on Planning (CoVoP) held its first conference in Leeds on Saturday 15th October – with the conference title being “NIMBY – reality or slur”. I attended – not to find out if I am one, but to explore the background as to why e.g. media, so immediately, and regularly, calls on those concerned with current planning matters to defend themselves against being NIMBYs.
The conference had a diverse content, which explored fully the mess that is the current planning system, and the very poor outcomes generated by planning law that is simply not fit for purpose. An opening letter was read from Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee. This committee has nothing to do with government, but acts as scrutineer of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) re policies, administration and spending. One of their recent calls has been for Gavin Barwell MP (new Housing and Planning Minister) to respond the the DCLG-commissioned Local Planning Expert Group’s recommendations on planning. This includes a statement that Leeds’ and Bradford’s Core Strategy housing targets are more than 500 houses per year over-provisioned.
Andrew Wood from CPRE presented some complex ideas about greenbelt use for housing and seemed to be suggesting a deal-based planning arrangement where housing needs were met by very selective use of greenbelt sites where fully assessed and sustainable use and requirement had been carried out. He developed the idea that greenbelt is one of the last planning policy tools that local authorities have to control patterns of development, but stated the obvious threats to existing greenbelt boundaries.
Jenny Unsworth from Congleton asked the question “Does the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) work?” Through a well presented summary of planning milestones, leading towards the position in her own area, Jenny demonstrated that planning reality in Congleton is the same in Leeds and Bradford – and very much anywhere else in England. Her key point was that the workings of the NPPF and Localism were at opposite ends of the planning spectrum. She also reminded us that excessive and undelivered housing numbers were resulting in 5-year land supply failure, leading to local authority plans being automatically out of date. It therefore followed that planning had become an ad hoc system defined by appeals, rather than a plan-led one, as sought by the NPPF. No surprises to find her answer to the question to be “No”.
Julie Mabberly, Chair of CoVoP, and planning activist in Oxforshire, ridiculed the extraordinary basis for setting housing numbers that is the Objectively Assessed Housing Needs system. She described the system as from the pages of “Alice in Wonderland” and demonstrated through various slides that a finger-in-the-air figure for housing need became inflated (and totally un-achievable) through a series of speculative additions to housing need, that also included double-counting. Her summary was that OBJECTIVE housing needs assessment was anything but that.
Dr Quentin Bradley, from Leeds Beckett University set out the controlling influence of developers, and in particular the significance of land price and hoarding of land, in respect of affordable housing provision. Dr Bradley suggested that the current structure of both the land and housing markets contribute to a shortage of housing being built, and the affordable housing build ratio that comes out of that. He argued that with the present structure in place, building more homes alone will not solve the crisis.
Dr Hugh Ellis from the Town and Country Planning Association set out the significant role planning has played in the formation of the nation’s built housing since the Association’s formation some 120 years ago. In particular Dr Ellis considered the outcomes of the planning of garden cities in comparison to the broken system that is currently in place.
A pleniary session concluded the conference, introduced by WARD chair, Dr. David Ingham. He referred to the stimulation given to the WARD group in respect of the hold order, from DCLG, placed on the adoption by Bradford of its flawed Core Strategy, some of the policies of which have been written by the very Inspector who declared it sound. Dr Ingham also called for more MP input at Westminster to change planning law, and thanked in particular, Greg Mulholland MP, for his long support to WARD over the last 7 years of campaigning and for his work in Parliament to change planning law.
The panel of 3 MPs, which also included Paul Sherriff MP and Jason McCartney MP, showed their understanding of a broken planning system and their attendance at this conference, with Greg Mulholland, is proof of that.
My view from this remains unchanged, and that is before I went into the conference I was sure the current planning system is not fit for purpose. I came out with more evidence that that is exactly the case. With an appeal-led planning system for the largest housing sites now in place, the NPPF has totally failed to deliver the housing that is needed, or of the right type and in the right places. The result of this is the great threat to the precious greenbelt. If protecting that makes me a NIMBY then I am proud to stand up and be labelled as that.
Martin Hughes, Treasurer of WARD, Chair of Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance
These are my own views and my own summary of the conference.
Bradford’s Core Strategy (CS), often referred to as “the local plan”, was determined to be “sound” on 22/08/2016 by the Inspector, on the basis of adding policy text written by that Inspector. The legality of that is questioned. In the meantime the Planning Minister has placed a hold notice on Bradford council to stop them from adopting the plan after interjection from Philip Davies MP. One of the MP’s points concerns the use of greenbelt to fulfill Bradford’s housing target. WARD has also written to Secretary of State Javid at the Department of Communities and Local Government to draw the Inspector’s action to the Secretary of State’s notice.
I am sure WARD supports the hold notice and WARD should reinforce with the Secretary of State its point about the legality of Inspector Pratt making the Bradford CS sound on the basis of writing parts of it himself.
The Hunston appeal case summary (source below) below indicates that an inspector “should not seek to carry out some of the local plan process as part of determining the appeal”.
Should WARD contest that in respect of determining the soundness of a CS (a much more significant planning issue than an appeal) the inspector should not seek to carry out some of the local plan process as part of determining the soundness of the local plan?
Hunston Properties Limited • KEY POINT OF DECISION: INSPECTOR NOT ENTITLED TO USE HOUSING SUPPLY FIGURE FROM A REVOKED PLAN • Inspector dismissed appeal against refusal of development in the Green Belt • Inspector took into account housing figures in the East of England Plan; Court of Appeal held that she was not entitled to do so • The needs assessment should be gleaned from the Local Plan • An inspector on a s.78 appeal should not seek to carry out some sort of local plan process as part of determining the appeal • It is legitimate for a Local Plan to have less than the assessed housing need, if it would not be possible to supply that need because of conflict with other policies, such as those for Green Belt or AONB
http://www.landmarkchambers.co.uk/userfiles/documents/resources/Sasha%20White%20QC%20NPPF%20and%20Localism%20081014.pdf – Page 12
There is new vigour amongst community groups concerning planning matters.
The news that Horsforth’s Strawberry Fields (HG2-41 in Site Allocations Plan (SAP) proposals) was to be increased in size came as a shock, especially as 1952 respondents in the SAP consultation objected to the inclusion of the site for housing in Horsforth.
This, and the use of other significant greenbelt sites across Leeds, prompted the formation of the new Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance (YGA), as it is crystal clear that Leeds is not listening, and that legal challenge has to be made at the Leeds SAP hearing during 2017. This will be held in front of a government inspector. There will be more on this as the YGA group develops its campaign.
Meanwhile (on August 22nd 2016) Inspector Pratt of the Bristol Planning Inspectorate published his findings concerning the soundness of the Bradford (BMDC) Core Strategy. Simply put, he found the plan to be sound, BUT with changes to policy wording that he wrote himself.
Does this not therefore imply that the plan as it stands (as Bradford MDC have not yet agreed the alterations) is unsound?
What is questionable about Pratt’s report is that in many critical sections, like Policy SC7 Greenbelt, Pratt has added policy text to justify the use of greenbelt “in order to meet its (Bradford’s) development needs for housing in full and in order to support long term economic success of the district.” These are, in the same policy text, “the exceptional circumstances (that) exist which justify and require a change to the greenbelt”. Repeatedly the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has stated that fulfilling a local authority housing target is not to be used as an exceptional circumstance – so Pratt’s revised policy is contrary to that.
So, is Bradford’s Core Strategy unsound without these changes and additions to policy?
How can an Inspector declare his own work sound, and thereby determine Bradford’s CS on the basis of his work rather than that of BMDC?
Has Pratt not exceeded his authority in doing this?
Has Pratt created evidence without which the plan would have been unsound?
WARD will be writing to the minister to draw his attention to the issue of legality of an Inspector writing policy for BMDC, to make a Bradford’s Core Strategy sound.
For about 6 years Wharfedale and Airedale Review Development (WARD) has been working to control the influx of housing that Leeds needs to satisfy demand. There has never been a moment when WARD has not agreed new housing is needed, but it has always contested just how many houses, and the impact of the number planned on greenbelt and greenspaces.
In May 2016 WARD and a number of other community groups, with Greg Mulholland MP and Stuart Andrew MP, went to see the top 4 executives responsible for forward planning in Leeds. We hoped to meet Judith Blake (Leader of Council) but she declined to attend. We saw Tim Riordan (Chief Executive), Tim Hill (Director of Planning) and Cllr. Richard Lewis (Executive Member for Communities – which includes planning).
WARD and the others begged (really!) LCC to reconsider the overall housing number for Leeds, but this request was flatly refused and our pleas were directed to the inspector who will determine if the Site Allocations Plan (SAP) supporting the Leeds Core Strategy is sound. The hearing for this is likely to be during late 2017.
More recently, as an example, Horsforth’s large SAP site, Strawberry Fields (HG2 – 41), was increased in size to accommodate the building of 777 houses and a major school, based on a single SAP consultation response from English Heritage. Two other responses were rejected and over 1980 other responses against the site, which is in the greenbelt, were rejected. Proof, if needed, that LCC is not interested in listening to the community. At the meeting detailed above, Tim Riordan used phrases (written down verbatim) in connection with the overall housing target – “playing the cards we have been dealt”, “sharing your (the community group’s) frustrations”, “aspirations on housing are those of the government”, and “we think we are going in the right direction”.
WARD considers that there is no further benefit in talking to LCC as they continue to direct us to the SAP inspector. So that is what it has been decided to do – but outside of WARD, by setting up a single-purpose group – Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance (YGA).
YGA is a growing alliance of community groups concerned with Leeds-wide future housing planning, especially the use of greenbelt to fulfil housing targets. Having been directed to the inspector hearing on the soundness of the Leeds SAP, that is where we are going to have to go. To do so, we need the advice and attendance at the SAP hearing of a planning barrister.
To control the large cost of doing this, YGA will target one main issue of the soundness of the Leeds SAP (and later the Bradford SAP) and that is the legality of the use of greenbelt to fulfil housing target. National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) is the summary of planning law and section 9, paragraphs 79 onwards indicate that “greenbelt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances” (NPPF, paragraph 83). The Department of Communities and Local Government has repeatedly confirmed that local authorities use of greenbelt to fulfil housing targets is not an exceptional circumstance.
YGA’s target is therefore to raise funds to challenge legally Leeds’s SAP with the inspector at the forthcoming hearing. We need the funds to: –
• Help us, through publicity, to raise the funds to mount the legal challenge
• To take advice from a planning barrister
• To have the barrister attend the hearing and make the legal challenge.
YGA believes that at least £10,000 will be required to do this and later more to do the same for Bradford. Bradford’s Core Strategy has just been through inspection, and essentially has been found sound, with some changes, but relies on the same use of greenbelt to fulfil their housing target. As Bradford and Leeds are so closely linked, what happens in Bradford will affect Leeds and vice versa.
YGA feels that the loss of greenbelt is something that all can understand and are generally against. Once a greenspace has been built on it is lost as a greenspace forever. The Alliance will major on this aspect in its publicity so that a simple message emerges that will encourage as many as possible to contribute to funds.
Chairman, Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance and Treasurer of WARD
Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance (YGA) was set up some years ago to support the protection of green spaces. It has been dormant for sometime, but has just been reinvigorated in a revised form to specifically raise funds for legal representation, initially at the forthcoming 2017 Leeds Site Allocation Plan hearings. The Alliance will also later consider the same for Bradford.
I am very honoured to have been elected as its chairman for the forthcoming year. Supporting me is a great team with much local planning experience. I am looking forward to the forthcoming challenges.
The Alliance will have a new constitution and an active committee drawn from planning concerned community groups that are geographically represented around Leeds and Bradford.
The main aim of the Alliance will be to focus on the LCC use of green belt to fulfill the excessive housing target it has imposed on us. It is felt that everyone understands and supports the need for green belt protection, especially where a less aggressive housing number can be fulfilled from existing brownfield sites.
We will be coming to the community with our hands out for cash, but will provide lots of information and engagement as to why you should donate!
Martin Hughes, Chairman. Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance