Planning For The Future – Have your say!

THE LATEST PLANNING REFORMS PROPOSED FOR ENGLAND ARE VERY CONCERNING

In recent times, Westminster has moved to exert ever-greater control over the planning system though incremental changes to National Policy and Guidance. Local decision-making has been squeezed, so that people have gradually had less and less say in what gets built in their neighbourhoods.

The latest proposals – promoted as the solution to England’s housing shortage – are much more radical, and are deeply worrying.

Organisations such as CPRE, Wildlife Trusts, the Town and Country Planning Association, and Transport for New Homes have raised well-founded concerns.

Even senior Conservative MPs have expressed doubts in the recent Commons’ debate:

“What is on the table risks eroding local democracy, reducing affordable housing and encroaching on our beautiful countryside” Jeremy Hunt

They say of the government’s approach – all this strategy will accomplish is to further undermine public confidence in the planning system Theresa May

Labour MPs have said “It’s a developer’s charter” and “This White Paper removes local democracy, silences residents’ voices and threatens investment in amenities and the local environment.”


YOU CAN HELP STOP THESE PROPOSALS BECOMING LAW.

The Government is consulting until 11:45pm on 29 October 2020. The full set of documents on “Planning for the Future” are here.

You can respond through an online form on that webpage, or what we recommend is that you send an email to:

planningforthefuture@communities.gov.uk

It’s important that as many people as possible respond, so please make the time to send in at least a short comment.

We’ve provided two different suggested emails for you to copy and paste (and edit). Scroll down to see them. To make your email more effective, please consider adding some personal comments on why this matters to you.

And include your name and postal address in the email.


THE BASICS

A good starting point is this 9 minute video from CPRE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6g6EORy4Rs


GREEN PARTY ANALYSIS

Developed by the National Green Party Association of Green Councillors, September 2020

Summary

We agree the planning system is over-complex, out of date and in need of reform, not providing many people with the homes they need and failing to value the climate, biodiversity or creating better communities. 

However this white paper takes the wrong approach and indeed makes the wrong assumptions about what is actually wrong with the system, failing to look properly at the evidence and to understand the reasons for failed delivery of housing. It is a missed opportunity to address climate change, rebuild ecosystems and to bring forward proven solutions to the housing crisis including investment in local authority house building and a right to green space. It seeks simple answers without understanding the complexity of the problems. It is not based on the evidence available. It should not have been presented as a White Paper as it is nowhere near ready for legislation – it is entirely lacking in the detail in key areas.

We are opposed to this over-centralised approach which will damage local democracy and take away local control. This in turn can damage the reputation and confidence of the standing of property developers and the planning system in the local community. The failures including around infrastructure provision will have a detrimental effect on good neighbourhoods.

This white paper is part of a centralising approach which reduces the power of local government, undermines democracy and which fails to recognise the importance of local communities and local areas who should be at the heart of effective placemaking.

Continues here (9 pages)


SHORT TEMPLATE EMAIL

Dear Sir,

Planning White Paper consultation response

Whilst I recognise the need to build more houses in England, the proposals in the “Planning for the Future” White Paper are flawed:

They fail to address our climate, ecological and health emergencies.

The current proposal for housing to be ‘carbon net zero-ready by 2050’ is completely inadequate.

The bias is towards permitting new developments at the expense of nature.

A right to access to nature for all should be at the heart of these planning reforms.

Nothing is proposed to ensure that development takes place only in sustainable places with a commitment to a major shift from car journeys to sustainable modes of transport. Building in the wrong location leads to more traffic, car-based living, more isolation and less walking or cycling. We shouldn’t be forcing people to live car-dependent lifestyles in the future.

The single ‘sustainability test’ devised by central government is not satisfactory; it must take account of local circumstances.

The new infrastructure levy as proposed could be diverted into non-infrastructure spending unrelated to development and even ‘council tax reduction’.

A proper definition of affordable housing is not provided; the levels of affordable housing targeted are no greater than currently, when affordable rented housing in particular must be increased.

The simplistic ‘zoning’ arrangement, dividing England into just three categories fails to capture the physical, social and environmental aspects of the country and is wrong.

Yours etc


LONGER TEMPLATE EMAIL

Dear Sir,

Planning White Paper consultation response

I agree the planning system is over-complex and in need of reform and doesn’t provide many people with the homes they need, and it fails to value the climate, biodiversity or to create better communities. But the proposals in the White Paper ignore the real barriers to house building – the need for a land value tax, penalties for land-banking, and the resourcing of planning authorities to invest in good quality council housing.

Please also note the following specific comments:

1. The white paper fails to address the failure of the house building industry to bring forward developments which have been given permission but which developers are failing to build out, instead ‘land banking’. 

2. The intention to zone land into Growth/ Renewal/Protected categories tips the balance of the planning system further in favour of large-scale development and land-buying industries. The zones are too broad and do not accommodate local characteristics. The designation of Growth and Renewal areas must be co-designed with local residents. Growth zones must first past environmental assessments / sustainability tests. The zoning system must recognise the importance of open countryside and other undeveloped land as distinct from designated land such as AONB, National Parks etc. Additional categories of land use are needed to allow local areas to set local targets, for example: renewable energy generation, food production, rewilding and nature, and nature-based carbon sequestration.

3. The proposals are in conflict with government policies to reduce carbon emissions, promote more active travel and less isolated lifestyles, and regenerate town centres. There is undue emphasis in the White Paper on accelerating the construction of homes in the countryside away from major urban areas. By pushing new homes so far away from jobs and services, in places where public transport is very limited and walking and cycling are not viable, the reforms are likely to encourage more car-based sprawl. It should be a requirement that all new homes should be designed suitably for working from home.

4. There is a fundamental failure to prioritise carbon reduction. Alongside the 10% net gain in biodiversity, there should be an equivalent commitment to carbon reduction.  Every development should not only be carbon neutral but should be generating more power than it uses. The current proposal for housing to be ‘carbon net zero-ready by 2050’ is simply not good enough.

5. I welcome the commitment to biodiversity net gain, but we need to go much further. Policy must address our biodiversity emergency and the catastrophic species loss in which land use – and loss – plays a crucial role. The metrics for biodiversity net gain need to ensure we fully recognise the importance of not losing a particular species or a long-established habitat such as ancient woodlands or wetlands when allocating areas for development.

6. Affordable housing spend needs greater prioritisation – while the white paper aims to provide at least as much affordable housing as under the current system it should be much more ambitious – particularly as regards affordable rented housing. A serious approach to affordable housing would also extend to withdrawing the right to buy legislation.

7. Infrastructure spending must be ring-fenced to ensure the necessary infrastructure is provided to fully support development, especially infrastructure for low carbon living and increased biodiversity – including electricity grid capacity, climate change adaptation, public transport, local shops and green spaces. Infrastructure levy money must not be used for other types of spend, unrelated to development or for ‘council tax reduction’. The new levy should not only be based on the type of housing but on the carbon and environmental credentials of a building and site, effectively offering a discount to those developers who build to the highest environmental standards.

8. The proposals have little to say about employment space. A joined up approach, looking beyond just housing, should consider the sustainability of future economies – with progressive design looking for example at ‘15 minute neighbourhoods’

9. The future role of local authority planning officers and committees is unclear. I welcome the idea of streamlining decision making if it helps bring forward more homes more quickly. Under the current system, both scrutiny and professional advice often result in the design of a development being improved during the planning process. It would be a backward step if this were lost.

Yours etc

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Ellie Chowns – Hereford Times “Talking Point” September 2020

We need to talk about climate & nature

If there’s one thing that (nearly) everyone agrees on, it’s this: the big issues shouldn’t be party political footballs. Instead, we need to find common ground.  Whether we’re talking about social care, the NHS, or environmental protection, we need to listen to everyone and work out solutions that we can all support.

That’s what a ‘citizens assembly’ is designed to do.  It’s made up of a truly representative cross-section of ordinary people of all ages & backgrounds, who come together to debate the evidence and say what they think needs to happen.  Campaigners have been asking for such assemblies to help us work out how to tackle the climate crisis, and the UK one (Climate Assembly UK) has just published (on 10th September) its report on ‘the path to net zero’.

The report sets out lots of great ideas about how we can cut emissions.  And it’s really interesting to see how much public support there is now for ideas that used to be considered radical just a few years ago.  Very large majorities now support policies like banning sales of the most polluting vehicles (86%), bringing public transport back under government control (75%), and taxing flights based on how frequently and how far people fly (80%).  It’s clear that there is a broad public consensus in favour of strong action to get us to net zero quickly and (crucially) fairly.

This is good news for us all – and most especially for our children.

Last year Herefordshire Council unanimously agreed the goal of being a zero carbon county by 2030. We’ve also recognised the ecological emergency that faces us – a crisis that can be seen close to home in the pollution that’s currently damaging our precious Wye and Lugg rivers.  So: how can we tackle these crises together? That’s the big question that we all need to hold in mind whenever we make decisions.

While Covid-19 has dominated our lives for the past 6 months, the climate crisis hasn’t gone away – and we’ve kept on working to tackle it. I’m proud that the council has been working with a diverse range of stakeholders – from campaigners to farmers, teachers to businesspeople – to kickstart an ‘Action Plan 2030’ to help us achieve our twin goals of zero carbon and abundant nature.  This autumn we’re going to be consulting widely on this, all across the county – aiming to involve as many people as possible in this vital conversation about our future.  We’ll be sharing info on Herefordshire’s current climate and nature footprint; highlighting inspiring ideas that have worked elsewhere; and inviting everyone in the county to help jointly make a plan for Herefordshire as a whole to tackle the climate and nature crises, together. Keep an eye out for more info in the coming weeks, and please do get involved & make your voice heard!

The very concerning state of Herefordshire’s rivers

Herefordshire Green Party, including our seven councillors, are hugely concerned to protect our precious river ecosystems from phosphate pollution from the increasing numbers of intensive stock rearing units being approved in the countryside. This has had a particularly grievous impact for Herefordshire, the majority of which is in the catchment of the iconic River Wye, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under European legislation.

On 6th June, Greens on the Planning Committee voted against such an application at Bage Court Farm at Dorstone. However the application was passed by a majority of members. This has led local campaigners, believing there were flaws in the advice given by officers, to challenge the decision through the High Court. In particular, campaigners wish to test whether a full Habitat Regulations Assessment should have been conducted.

For many years, Green councillor Felicity Norman has campaigned for a stronger regulatory system amid evidence of ecosystem collapse along the rivers Lugg and Wye. That both rivers should deteriorate so sharply, despite a Nutrient Management Plan tasked with protecting the River Wye SAC, is extremely worrying.

Green councillors are pushing for stronger local policy on intensive farming consistent with our declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency. We have formally requested urgent development of a supplementary planning document (SPD) on this issue to give much greater weight to environmental protection. We are also strongly urging other regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency to use their existing powers to control watercourse pollution.

As Greens, we are frustrated by the limitations of national planning policy and the exercise of local control over development. Better alignment of our local planning policies to the needs of society and the environment is one of our key priorities. We are doing everything we can – alongside our coalition partners as well as committed colleagues from other political groups – to achieve that. We are working our socks off to translate this intention into concrete changes to policy and practice. We know that protecting our environment makes good economic sense and will enable communities in our county to thrive. We really value the support and activism of local residents as we strive for a better, fairer, greener Herefordshire.

Congratulations Julia & Nat – success in Green Party England & Wales internal elections August 2020

We’re delighted that two local members have won in the recent internal elections.

Julia Lagoutte was elected Publications Co-Ordinator beating two other candidates. The Co-Ordinator role is defined as:

To support the development of publications during local and nation elections, ensuring Green Party publications accord with the house style, electoral law and other legal requirements.

To work closely with the External Communications, Internal Communications and Campaigns Coordinators to ensure integration between media and publications approaches.

The Publications Coordinator is the GPEx representative to the Green World Editorial Board and is the lead for supporting the use of Green World as a communication tool for the party.

Committee Responsibilities: The Publications Coordinator is a member of Campaigns and Communications Committee, Digital Committee, Members’ Website Development Committee, and the Party Branding & Logo Committee.

Natalia Waring is joining four other elected members on the Policy Development Committee, which:

Ensures that motions brought to conference are the best they can be.

Does not make policy – Green Party policy is made through motions to Conference, and this Committee aims to help members to bring forward the best motions they can, especially by liaising with Policy Working Groups and through the new Accreditation process.

Molly Scott Cato talk – European Green Deal

Herefordshire for Europe Webinar Thursday 1st October at 1800

Herefordshire for Europe‘s webinar on 1 October will cover the proposed European Green Deal – how the European Union is addressing the pressing issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

Molly Scott Cato and Emilien Gasc will each speak for 15 minutes with time for questions and general discussion.

Molly Scott Cato is a British Green politician, academic, environmental and community activist, and green economist. She served as a Member of the European Parliament for the South West England from 2014 to 2020. She is Professor of Green Economics in the Business School. at the University of Roehampton.

Emilien Gasc was a Policy officer in the European Commission’s Secretariat General working on issues of resource efficiency in areas such as air quality, plastics strategy and environmental action programmes. He is now responsible for environmental matters in the EU Delegation in London.

Please consider signing up to receive Herefordshire for Europe’s emails – here

Access the Zoom webinar at 1800 on 1 October using this link

Special Occasion – Natalie Bennett to ‘visit’ Herefordshire

21 September 7-8.30pm: Natalie Bennett will speak to Herefordshire Green Parties prior to their Annual General Meetings

Hear directly from Natalie about what’s happening in the House of Lords and what we can do about the Agriculture Bill, the changes to the planning system and other issues.

All welcome – please sign up for the Zoom meeting and submit your questions for Natalie here:

Then members can stay for our AGMs 8.30-9.15pm. Our AGMs are a crucial part of how we function as local parties : it’s your chance to find out what’s going on behind the scenes and to get involved. Check your email for the AGM papers coming out very soon.

Hereford’s Stronger Town bid – have your say

Hereford is one of 100 places invited by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to be part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, a scheme that seeks to support economic growth in towns and cities around the UK. Hereford is in line to secure up to £25m for regeneration projects in the city.

An independent Towns Fund board, backed by Herefordshire Council, has now been established to lead this work locally. The new group, known as the #StrongerHereford board, will connect with local people to create an ambitious vision. They will be asking residents, local businesses, colleges, schools, and many others to help them identify major projects that would bring about economic and social improvements.

In the meantime residents can submit ideas online here

This is a great opportunity to make Hereford a greener place – so please put your ideas forward without delay!

A-Level Fiasco

Herefordshire Greens are calling for the government to make it as easy and as rapid as possible for A-level students to appeal their results.

Councillor Felicity Norman, cabinet member for children and families said, “Although it is clear that many of our young people are pleased with their results, many others have been devastated to find that they have not achieved the grades they expected. The system used appears to have unfairly penalised already disadvantaged young people, while boosting the chances of those who are already privileged. Almost 40% have been downgraded by Ofqual. This cannot be right. We should trust the grades predicted by teachers who are most likely to have known their students’ capabilities.

Schools and colleges, pupils and teachers have already had an incredibly difficult summer, and face uncertainties in the future, without this flawed approach to replacing the exams they expected to sit. Government should now find ways of restoring the confidence and future opportunities of thousands of young people in Herefordshire and across the country”.

Herefordshire Council’s climate emergency plan

An update from Green Councillor Ellie Chowns, cabinet member for environment, economy and skills, on the progress Herefordshire Council is making to develop a plan to address the climate and ecological emergency:

“I’m delighted that the 2020 Climate Challenge project has kicked off properly now, with the first set of meetings held for both council and county groups. The 2020 County Team is up and running and have had two meetings. There’s already a really good group dynamic and great range of backgrounds, experience, ages. Sub-groups/areas of interest are already forming around communications/social media, youth and education and buildings. The group are busy sharing ideas, articles, information on projects elsewhere. The 2020 Council Team have met and are recording their personal carbon footprints using an online calculator. They’re meeting again on 4th August to start looking at the Council’s carbon footprint.

We held a very informative all-councillor briefing on environmental building standards on 21st July – following up on this is a high priority for me, and it was great to see how much enthusiasm there was for this from members across the whole council. I believe we need an SPD on environmental building standards, and I would also like to see us adopt a policy on our own buildings.

A revised governance report format has now been put in place, meaning that every decision report now has to explicitly consider the climate and ecological impacts of the decision. This will help ensure that all our decision-making takes into account the need to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

I have asked officers from all my three portfolio areas (environment economy and skills) to work together to develop an ambitious energy efficiency retrofit programme to improve the quality of the housing stock, reduce emissions, and reduce fuel poverty.

Work has also started on developing a biodiversity strategy for the council (including a Tree Strategy, as per the decision of Council last week).  I’m really pleased that there is such strong support for measures to plant and protect trees and increase biodiversity more generally.

There’s been lots of work going on regarding phosphate levels in the Lugg and Wye Catchment .  I’d particularly like to pay tribute to Elissa Swinglehurst’s determined work on this topic with the Nutrient Management Board. A decision report is due to come forward very soon containing measures that we hope will unlock the moratorium, including construction of integrated wetlands and commissioning of a phosphate calculator for ‘offsetting’.  Ultimately though it is becoming increasingly clear that unsustainable agricultural practices are a central part of this problem, and this is something that needs concerted action from regulatory agencies, as well as improved policy from national government. I hope we will be able to hold an all-members briefing on this topic soon.”

It’s Election Time!

The House of Lords, Executive & Policy Development Committee Elections 2020 are now underway for Green Party England & Wales. Voting closes 10pm on 31 August 2020.

Only members can vote – you should have received an email with instructions by now. Let us know if you haven’t.

Two local members are standing:

Natalia Waring for the Policy Development Committee:

Policy Development Committee

The Policy Development Committee (PDC) comprises five members who help to ensure that motions brought to conference are the best they can be by liaising with Policy Working Groups and through the new Accreditation process. The PDC also advise on the interpretation of existing policy, and have limited powers to make minor changes to Policies for a Sustainable Society.

Julia Lagoutte for

Publications Co-ordinator

The Publications Co-ordinator ensures a strategic approach to Green Party publications which accords with the party’s broader strategy and is primarily responsible for the following aspects of all Green Party publications, both print and online.

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