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Planning Permission to be relaxed (again)
Well this seems very worrying!

Quote: Nick Boles, the planning minister, attended a meeting with some of the country’s biggest property developers hours after George Osborne’s speech on Wednesday in which he told them he was prepared for an acrimonious battle with countryside campaigners.

The Telegraph has obtained a recording of the meeting in which Mr Boles discloses that he is poised to axe the planning permission requirement for many developments. He indicates that the main purpose of a £15.5 billion government package to support homebuyers is to create a building boom.

The planning minister said he “couldn’t care who owns the bloody things”.

In the Budget, the Chancellor announced that the Government would offer five-year interest-free loans worth up to 20 per cent of the value of new homes costing less than £600,000. It will also offer £12 billion of guarantees covering mortgages worth more than £120 billion. The schemes are intended to help 644,000 people buy homes over the next three years.

Within three hours of the announcement, Mr Boles spoke at a reception with senior figures from the property industry hosted by Savills in the heart of Mayfair, central London. He spelt out to the 150-strong audience that further deregulation of the planning system would be introduced, just weeks after the controversial new system of relaxed rules is introduced.

“Our simple view is that the fundamental idea of the planning system is that property owners should be able to do some things if they want to without asking anyone,” he said. “That’s what, you know, property rights mean.

“There are things that have impact that is substantial on the community, on neighbours, that then they need to go through a process, and what we want to do is we want to expand the number of things you can do without having to ask for planning permission.”

Mr Boles said that the Government had already proposed allowing home owners to build larger extensions and to make it easier to convert commercial properties for residential use. Planners have warned that this could damage city centres as business districts.
“I think we will be looking for more such liberalisations which don’t, never the less, fundamentally change the planning system and which in fact should relieve local authorities of some workload,” Mr Boles said.
The minister continued: “I will just simply read you a line [from the Budget] to give you a hint of what may be to come. 'The Government will consult on allowing further flexibilities between use classes to support change of use from certain agricultural and retail uses to residential use to increase responsiveness within the planning system.’ I believe that that might end up being quite significant.”
Mr Boles also said he was “determined to implement” plans to make it easier to turn commercial premises into residential homes and appeared to identify a date when the changes would be announced. “I’m going to say it now in public because then you can embarrass me if we don’t deliver it and my officials are going to all be writhing in their seats. The 30th of May.”
The comments come just days before planning rules, which were rewritten to help development, are due to be introduced across England.

There have been fears of a planning free-for-all because fewer than half of the councils in England have developed local plans which protect them from builders having free rein to build where they like.

Without a local plan in place authorities will have to use the new National Planning Policy Framework, which is biased towards “sustainable development”, when assessing planning applications, which campaigners say will leave them at risk of “damaging development”.

Mr Boles told his audience that only if councils had “five years’ supply of immediately developable and deliverable sites” would they “get to make the decisions”. He warned: “And if you haven’t, then you will have to accept that the inspector, reluctantly, will make those decisions and will make those decisions according to the policies in the NPPF and the presumption of sustainable development.”

Mr Boles said that he was braced for a fight over forcing through more developments.

Earlier this month Sir Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, warned of a “war” between developers and local residents because of the loosening of planning rules.

“I think that this year is going to be a very, very difficult year in local planning because this is the year when all the
tough compromises are going to have to be reached,” said Mr Boles.

He said that he had taken “a bit of flak” in the past few months, but “it will be nothing compared to the flak that I will have to take over the next few months”.

“What I’m focused on is ensuring that more gets into the system – and consistently more,” he said. “This is the year when we’re going to flush out those areas which just can’t come up with the sites to meet the five-year supply.”

Mr Boles admitted that he might lose his job over the outcry, but invited the property professionals to meet up again in a year:

“And I might by then be a backbencher if the flak’s got really bad. But I hope that we will be able to say to ourselves, actually we’ve got over the worst of it.”

Mr Boles said he wanted to change the situation where Britain “is still one of the richest countries in the world where fewer people are able to buy a home at all, and fewer people are able to buy it before the age of 30 and fewer people are able to buy it without parental help.”

He told his audience that Mark Prisk, the housing minister, had “lot of pots of money to help make” major developments work.

The Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land campaign persuaded ministers to water down the scale of their initial plans, in the months leading up to the publication of the NPPF in March last year.
Quote:The Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land campaign persuaded ministers to water down the scale of their initial plans, in the months leading up to the publication of the NPPF in March last year.

Well that seems to have backfired.

Hard to tell what impact this might have without much detail of the changes. I'm not bothered about commercial premises being turned residential, there are plenty of empty shops in most towns. I'm surprised to hear that they have 'pots of money' to give to devolopers and spend on keeping the housing bubble inflated, I thought they were always bleating that Labour spent all the money. The massive subsidies to developers announced in the budget might mean more archaeology as well.
Quote:The massive subsidies to developers announced in the budget might mean more archaeology as well.
Call me a pessimist, but it's more likely that archaeology planning guidance will be relaxed. With local government cuts, there are barely enough staff to deal with current development workload. Any increase will cause the system to start folding. Rather than hold up all this economy-boosting development until the archaeology has been properly considered/dealt with, it's more likely that the requirements will be loosened (or done away with under some circumstances).

If the archaeology on the HS2 route was done to decent standards under current guidance, it might hold that project up for decades (lots of archaeology/not enough archaeologists). Be interesting to see the compromises which will be made there.
Well, the consultancy on the DBA/EIS for HS2 is well underway, and has been for at least a year to my knowledge. I can't see it holding up the project for decades, but certainly compromises will have to be made.

The tories have tried to loosen archaeology planning guidance before (remember Cllr. Melton in Fenland), and got rather shot down by their own side. I would hope that would happen again.
Well the consultation on HS2 compensation has already been ruled unlawful. Hope archaeology has some deep pockets for court action. The strategy of the current government seems to be that they try their luck and see who (if anyone) complains, then backtrack if forced to. They're introducing new legislation specifically for HS2, so abandoning a policy which was only ever guidance, won't be a problem.

Worth noting that even the Labour shadow transport secretary refers to it as a "vital infrastructure project", so they're looking to minimise delays as well.
Would that be because if they can get it green-lit before 2015 then (assuming they get in) they can just blame everything on the previous govt? Me, cynical much?Big Grin
It is already green lit. The decision to build HS2 has already been taken. There are just legal arguments about how much compensation should be paid to people whose houses have dropped in value and how this should be consulted for, none of which has anything to do with archaeology. Archaeology has been considered very early in the process, and therefore it should not cause significant delays (when compared to engineering problems, say).
I know I'm a cracked record on this particular topic, but can ANYONE explain to me why we are paying people to buy houses they cannot afford, when the only benificiary will ultimately be the property developers themselves? None of these things are actually stopping them from developing land. Planning rules are only stopping them from developing the most 'attractive' sites and reducing the amount of profit they make.

What might be helpful would be a requirement for developers to contribute to the upgrade of local services such as roads, rail etc., which thir unsustainable developments are grinding to a halt. The small town where my girlfriend's parents lived until a few years ago has grown to about twice its original size due to new housing, but without any investment in the transport infrastructure. As a result, a morning commute to the nearest city (the one about to downsize it's archaeological advisory team) is a 15 mile long traffic jam.
D. Vader
Senior Consultant

Vader Maull & Palpatine
Archaeological Consultants

A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of Tony Robinson.
Sith Wrote:I know I'm a cracked record on this particular topic, but can ANYONE explain to me why we are paying people to buy houses they cannot afford, when the only benificiary will ultimately be the property developers themselves? None of these things are actually stopping them from developing land. Planning rules are only stopping them from developing the most 'attractive' sites and reducing the amount of profit they make.


I think you are right to be a 'cracked record' on this. The easy explanation as for why we as tax payers are in effect subsidisng property developers is because these property developers have substantial (particularly financially significant) influence on the present government and this is clearly reflected in the language employed by Mr Boles.

Of course as archaeologists many of us rely on development work for employment (either directly or indirectly) and any measures to stimulate development must have at least some positive benefits. HS2 is a headline grabbing commitment to infrastructure development (although whether this government will pick up the tab is another matter), but local infrastructure – schools, roads, etc seems to be largely neglected and I suspect this local infrastructure would more positivily benefit the archaeological industry as a whole.

My main issue is that this government's measures, be they financial or planning related will do nothing to stimulate more development. For example the 'Help to Buy' scheme is being sold as a helping hand to assist people get onto the housing market by funding deposit shortfalls. The problem is that a requirement for a 20% deposit isn't a bad thing per-se (indeed it could be argued to be financially prudent). The problem is the affordability of a 20% deposit and in particular the ratio between wages and house prices. This is particularly acute for low paid workers such as archaeologists where the ratio of wages to even modest accommodation puts home ownership beyond the reach of most.

Likewise these efforts to 'ease restrictions' on planning will not stimulate significantly more house building, what it will do is make the current levels of house building more profitable for developers. The government and developers are doing everything in their power to prevent a re-adjustment in house prices. Indeed it is currently in developer’s interests to control supply by drip-releasing developments to the market - by limiting supply they can keep demand and therefore prices high.

The vast majority of planning applications submitted are granted - planning policy is not restricting development - the non-affordability of houses and the government and house builder’s desire to keep the house price bubble inflated is.

Locally my impression is that politically members are so desperate to see ‘something happen’ that any development that is put forward, no matter how un-sustainable, un-suitable or un-viable, is jumped at with open arms – they are so desperate not to be seen to be ‘blocking growth’ that all rational consideration of environmental issues is going out of the window.

This government's planning and housing policy will be a double blow to archaeologists - in terms of a stagnant employment market and continuing low wages. For the actual archaeology - I fear developers will land bank those sites that they have that already benefit from planning consents and try speculative submissions for sites that were previously 'out-of-bounds'.

The developers well and truly have politicians in their pockets (at all levels) and I cannot see this as being a good thing for archaeology or archaeologists.

Given that I work in local government I should perhaps note that all views and opinions in this message are mine and mine alone - no inference is implied nor should be perceived as any official view of any company, organisation or body that I may be associated with or employed by at the time of posting.
There certainly doesnt seem to be any shortage of housing schemes (a lot of them huge, 50ha+) either going through various stages of planning or actually under construction around here, so the existing planning regs are hardly choking the system, merely raising the developers' overheads/cutting their profits - its more a case of who the h*** they're planning on selling them to? There are already plenty of overpriced empty properties (3 out of 40 in my street, plus 2 unlet student houses = 12.5%, and its a 'good' street) so do we really need more on green-field sites?

On a different track, the construction industry should take a long hard look at how they do stuff, from the top-down incompetence and inefficiency I've seen over the years on numerous schemes, they could be knocking out the same houses for half the price - e.g. why do they always topsoil-strip the whole site (which they invariably then turn into a swamp as a rod for their own backs) and then put it all back after (often using new imported soil) - that must all be costing a fortune and also adds to their archaeological overheads. A couple of weeks ago I was treated to some builders machining up (into a skip) freshly-laid kerb-stones so they could, errr, lay all the services...makes you want to weep... :face-crying:

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