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Will Tough talk on the election trail actually be turned into action right now?

July 6, 2010 by  

Today the Secretary of State announced the revocation of Regional Strategies with immediate effect.

In its Press Release on 17 June, Rochford District Council declared that it needed legal revocation and Government guidance in order that it could take action on pre-election promises on the Core Strategy – now it has both !!

What were the promises?

“Following its adoption [The Rochford Core Strategy] and when our electorate returns a Conservative Government to Power next spring, we shall be able to carry out our own housing needs study, it is then that we shall be able to adjust the housing allocations, as I promised so many months ago, to satisfy the needs of our community – not a penny more nor a penny less.”

Surely there can be no more excuses now?

Did “adjust” infer “reduction”  in the minds of residents?  Probably, YES .

Is that what residents are expecting? YES.

Or could “adjust”  mean something else? Mmm.

The prediction of The Rochford Independent is that the “political reduction” will be as follows;

-10.9%
East of England Regional Assembly
23,900 local authority option one figure
26,830 current RSS figure

[Source http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6508627]

The difference represents an attempt by the now defunct EERA to impose housing targets of 250 dwellings per year in the development time line from 2025 to 2031 which the Council had already rejected !

In other words NO CHANGE !! If this is what the promises actually mean then is that what you thought would happen? Or did you expect a reduction immediately?

Here are some extracts from the Government advice that was given yesterday to local planning authorities.

These are thought to be particularly relevant to the Rochford District but they are not thought to mean much in view of the above analysis and the further analysis in this article.

Local planning authorities should continue to develop LDF core strategies and other DPDs, reflecting local people’s aspirations and decisions on important issues such as climate change, housing and economic development.

These local plans will guide development in their areas and provide certainty for investors and communities.

Local authorities may wish to review their plans following the revocation of Regional Strategies.

We recommend reviews should be undertaken as quickly as possible.

Authorities may decide to review and/or revise their emerging policies in the light of the revocation of Regional Strategies. Where authorities decide to do this they will need to ensure they meet the requirements for soundness under the current legislation.

The examination process will continue to assess the soundness of plans, and Inspectors will test evidence put forward by local authorities and others who make representations.

Local planning authorities will be responsible for establishing the right level of local housing provision in their area, and identifying a long term supply of housing land without the burden of regional housing targets.

Some authorities may decide to retain their existing housing targets that were set out in the revoked Regional Strategies.

Others may decide to review their housing targets.

We would expect that those authorities should quickly signal their intention to undertake an early review so that communities and land owners know where they stand.

It is important for the planning process to be transparent, and for people to be able to understand why decisions have been taken. Local authorities should continue to collect and use reliable information to justify their housing supply policies and defend them during the LDF examination process.

Local planning authorities should continue to use their plans to identify sufficient sites and broad areas for development to deliver their housing ambitions for at least 15 years from the date the plan is adopted. Authorities should also have a five year land supply of deliverable sites. This too will need to reflect any changes to the overall local housing ambition.

The Government is committed to the protection of the Green Belt and the revocation of Regional Strategies will prevent top-down pressure to reduce the Green Belt protection. Local planning authorities should continue to apply policies in PPS2.

Surely there can be no more excuses now?

Let us just take a look at another of the promises………………………………from the leaflet in Hawkwell.

“Conservatives do not believe in Labour’s “top down” housing targets, which produce additional pressure to build houses in local areas, often regardless of whether those areas can really accommodate them.”

“The Conservatives believe that these targets, which were not decided by local people, should be abolished and that locally elected councillors, chosen by the people of their own District or Borough, should decide instead how many houses an area can cope with, and where they should go.”

Did residents think that this meant a reduction in housing numbers? Probably, Yes.

But where does this promise say “reduction” ?  Is that what residents are expecting? YES

So why might there be no reduction in housing development and loss of green belt? What are the issues?

The Government has instructed Council’s to place a zero council tax rise in their 2011/2012 Budgets. As the Rochford Independent has already reported this will in all likelihood mean a loss of income of £300,000 in the first year and cumulatively £1.5m over 5 years.

The only viable alternative is to cut services or to recoup this over each year off lost cash flow with income from another source.

Hey presto, here is what Eric Pickles will do to plug that gap.

“Imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of
building. The coalition agreement makes a clear commitment to providing local authorities with real
incentives to build new homes.””those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions. Because we are committed to housing growth, introducing these incentives will be a priority and we aim to do so early in the spending review period.”

Other issues could revolve around what are referred to as Option one numbers.

Eric Pickles says “Authorities may base revised housing targets on the level of provision submitted to the original Regional Spatial Strategy examination (Option 1 targets), supplemented by more recent information as appropriate.”

All local planning authorities were required to project the number of homes they believe are needed to meet their requirements by 2026. Known as option one numbers, these figures were submitted by local councils themselves to regional development agencies, with both parties negotiating over the number of homes to be included in the regional spatial strategy.

As I understand the position the figures put forward under Option one by RDC are those which were in the RSS and are in the Core Strategy.

So no help there perhaps.

And the Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMA) and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAA) for Rochford District could be just put forward as local housing needs assessments which have already been produced and only relatively recently.

Representations to The Planning Inspector examining the Core Strategy by both residents groups and developers are united in saying that  much, much more work needs to be done to justify the Locations chosen.

At least that could mean that there will be the chance for residents to be to be consulted on the price THEY are prepared to pay in terms of reduced budget at RDC in return for less loss of green belt?

The Rochford Core Strategy needs to be reviewed in significant areas and hopefully the Government Planning Inspector will concur and see this as an opportunity to also declare it officially UNSOUND so a fundamental review can be undertaken.

These are the outstanding decisons where you can judge whether your interpretation of election promises have been delivered.

  1. Residents of Rochford (326) and Hawkwell (330) wait for Mr. Pickles decision on the two Appeals at the end of July/beginning of August.
  2. Ashingdon waits for the Council’s Decision on the Brays Lane Planning Application (150) on 19 August.
  3. The whole of Rochford District wishes the Planning Inspector to declare the Rochford Core Strategy to be UNSOUND and to be sent back to the Council for a major revision.
  4. The Council to decide to do what it promised  “to carry out a housing needs study for Rochford District and adjust the housing allocations proposed in the Core Strategy to satisfy the minimum needs of our community”. [reduction in housing numbers?]
  5. Residents of Rochford also wait for the Council’s Decision on the Hall Road Planing Application (600) due in February 2011 under an agreement between the Council and the Applicant (PPA).

The Rochford Independent will let you know what happens over the Summer and Autumn in respect of the first four decisions and if the promises that were made to you are delivered.

You might like to read some recent articles that explain much more of the background and other issues that affect these decisions.

A Review of the Implications of the Abolition of the RSS on Rochford District

What Councils can do to revise an emerging Core Strategy

Will the Rochford Core Strategy remain unchanged?

And finally, here is what Eric Pickles had to say about Abolition of the RSS;

Parliamentary Statement by Secretary of State, DCLG, Eric Pickles

Revoking Regional Strategies

Today I am making the first step to deliver our commitment in the coalition agreement to “rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils”, by revoking Regional Strategies.

Regional Strategies added unnecessary bureaucracy to the planning system. They were a failure. They were expensive and time-consuming. They alienated people, pitting them against development instead of encouraging people to build in their local area.

The revocation of Regional Strategies will make local spatial plans, drawn up in conformity with national policy, the basis for local planning decisions. The new planning system will be clear, efficient and will put greater power in the hands of local people, rather than regional bodies.

Imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of building. The coalition agreement makes a clear commitment to providing local authorities with real incentives to build new homes. I can confirm that this will ensure that those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions. Because we are committed to housing growth, introducing these incentives will be a priority and we aim to do so early in the spending review period.

We will consult on the detail of this later this year. These incentives will encourage local authorities and communities to increase their aspirations for housing and economic growth, and to deliver sustainable development in a way that allows them to control the way in which their villages, towns and cities change. Our revisions to the planning system will also support renewable energy and a low carbon economy.

The abolition of Regional Strategies will provide a clear signal of the importance attached to the development and application of local spatial plans, in the form of Local Development Framework Core Strategies and other Development Plan Documents. Future reform in this area will make it easier for local councils, working with their communities, to agree and amend local plans in a way that maximises the involvement of neighbourhoods.

The abolition of Regional Strategies will require legislation in the “Localism Bill” which we are introducing this session. However, given the clear coalition commitment, it is important to avoid a period of uncertainty over planning policy, until the legislation is enacted. So I am revoking Regional Strategies today in order to give clarity to builders, developers and planners.

Regional Strategies are being revoked under s79(6) of the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and will thus no longer form part of the development plan for the purposes of s38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Revoking, and then abolishing, Regional Strategies will mean that the planning system is simpler, more efficient and easier for people to understand. It will be firmly rooted in the local community. And it will encourage the investment, economic growth and housing that Britain needs. We will be providing advice for local planning authorities today and a copy has been placed in the house library.

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