The Planning Green Paper
Your Chance to Respond
This issue of Chapter 7 News is early because of the deadline for responding to the Green Paper on Planning, which was published by the Government in December. (Our special issue on smallholders has been postponed till summer) The Green Paper will introduce the most radical changes to the planning system for many years. Many of the changes the Labour Government is proposing are favourable to big business, and have been fiercely attacked by environmental groups. But Labour is adept at offering ‘something for everyone’, and not all the proposals are necessarily bad from the point of view of the sort of people Chapter 7 tries to speak for.
But there is one item in the Green Paper which will pose a serious threat to some readers. The proposal to make development without pla nning permission an offence will affect people who live in marginal situations; we estimate that it could turn several thousand people, who are doing nothing more harmful than living on their own land, into offenders (see sections 7 and 8 of our response).
Anybody can respond to the Green Paper, and there is nothing to lose if you let the Government know what you think : especially, if you are at risk of being criminalized. We include a form and addressed envelope which makes it easy to support Chapter 7’s submission, or to send in your own views. The deadline is 18 March, but if you are a little late, your views will probably still be taken into account.
In the next few pages you will find a brief synopsis of the main proposals in the Green Paper, followed by a summary of Chapter 7’s submission, and then a slightly shortened version of the full text. Sorry to bore you with all this.
The Main Proposals in the Green Paper
1) Heavier Enforcement Sanctions. The Government wants to review the law which states that development without planning consent is not an offence; and to apply punitive charges for retrospective applications. These proposals are probably not aimed at poor people living in shacks, caravans and benders, but may turn many such people into offenders. Chapter 7 is strongly opposed to them.
(2) Minority Groups The green paper invites submissions on minorities who are adversely affected by the planning system. Chapter 7 is submitting that low income rural settlers are such a minority.
(3) Changes in Development Plans The most radical part of the green paper is the proposal to move away from site-specific local plans, and towards ‘Local Development Frameworks’ based around a core of criteria-based policies. Site specific policies would only be formulated where necessary. National Planning Policy Guidance will become less detailed, and PPG7 (the government guidance which lays down the rules for allowing agricultural dwellings) will be reviewed within two years. In principle, Chapter 7 supports such moves. We consider that draconian restrictions on where people can build create high land prices and speculation, and play into the hands of volume builders, who monopolize the land and build crap. We would like to see rural dev elopment permitted over a wider range, and much more strictly controlled in terms of environmental impact. Our fear is that the Government will not introduce strong enough sustainability criteria
(4) Increasing Public Participation For example, a Statement of Community Involvement, written into the local plan Ñ sorry, Local Development Framework Ñ which large-scale developments would have to comply with; and the obligation for local authorities to provide a ‘user friendly check-list’ to help individuals applying for permission to draw up well-supported applications. The editor of Planning magazine reckons that these proposals are ‘load of flannel’, and we are afraid he is right.
(5) Making Things Easier for Big Business These are the proposals that rankle environmental groups, and are extremely unhelpful to objectors against major developments. The Government wants to take major infrastructure proposals out of the public inquiry system , and instead get them passed in parliament (ie by a government majority kept in line by whips). The Green Paper also comes out firmly against a Third Party Right of Appeal, a measure which a wide range of organizations, including Chapter 7, want to see because it would put objectors to a proposal on an equal footing with the developers.
The green paper is called Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change, published by DTLR, 2001, tel: 0870 1226 2326.
Summary of Chapter 7’s Response to the Green Paper
1. We would like to see greater emphasis on sustainability.
2. We approve in principle of a move towards criteria-based policies, but we need to be reassured that the criteria will be sufficiently strong.
3. We have concerns about the abolition of structure plans and the emphasis on regional guidance and seek assurance about democratic accountability.
4. We are opposed to the replacement of Simplified Planning Zones by Business Planning Zones.
5. We support proposals to make the planning system more accessible for ordinary people.
6. We are opposed to charging individual applicants for pre-application discussions.
7. We consider that people living in temporary rural dwellings are a minority disadvantaged by the planning system.
8. We are opposed to the proposals to make development without planning consent an offence.
9. We are concerned about the advice that more decisions should be delegated
10. We support the concept of a Statement of Community Involvement.
11. We approve of the recommended changes to outline planning permission and would like to see the prospects for community participation in ‘outline planning’ extended further.
12. We consider that local rules for permitted development rights would be confusing and unhelpful.
13 . We are opposed to the proposal to approve major infrastructure projects through Parliament.
14. We strongly urge the Government to reconsider its opposition to third party rights of appeal.
Chapter Seven’s Response
1. We Would Like to See Greater Emphasis on Sustainability
We view that insufficient emphasis is given to sustainability of development throughout the Green Paper (even though it figures prominently in the companion paper on Planning Obligations). We consider that sustainability should be central to the core policies of Local Development Frameworks, rather than something merely subject to subsequent appraisal (4.25) PPG7 states that ‘Sustainability is the cornerstone of the Government’s . . . planning policies’. It should remain so. While we welcome the increased emphasis upon community involvement in the planning process, it should be remembered that local communities do not necessarily have an interest in wider environmental issues such as carbon emissions and global resource depletion. It is the responsibility of national governments to ensure that these constraints are respected in a way that guarantees continued access to these resources to other people around the world and to fu ture generations. We would like to see firmer guidance in PPGs about what is, or is not sustainable development. At present there is ample guidance (in PPGs 3, 6, 7 and 13) about the sustainable location for development. There is very little guidance about sustainable forms of development: matters such as car-free development, the generation of waste, sustainable building materials, renewable energy, water and energy conservation etc are given much less attention. The result is that developments which are highly sustainable in many respects, but which are less than satisfactorily sited (and very often because of the intense competition to acquire the best sites) find themselves in conflict with the development plan; whilst many developments that are highly unsustainable in most respects are accorded planning permission because they can afford to buy a site in the favoured location. We need a planning system that allows for highly sustainable, low impact developments in difficult locations, and refuses unsustainable developments in easy locations.
2. We Approve in Principle of a Move towards Criteria-Based Policies But We Need to be Reassured that the Criteria will be Sufficiently Strong
C hapter 7 cautiously welcomes moves to simplify local plans in the form of Local Development Frameworks. We agree that the local plans are cumbersome and often out of date. In principle, we welcome the emphasis upon criteria-based policies and any shift away from site-specific policies, for the following reasons:
~ We agree with the statement in 4.5 that comprehensive site-specific policy making is slow and attracts numerous representations.
~ We agree with the Countryside Agency when they argue for ‘a greater use of criteria in planning policies so that ‘lines on maps’ do not protect some areas whilst making others vulnerable.’1
~ We consider that over-reliance upon site-specific policies is undesirable because of the distorting effect this has upon land prices. This in turn fuels speculation, makes access to land for individuals and smaller developers difficult, and makes the provision of affordable housing very difficult. However we, and the public, need to be reassured that any criteria based policies will be precise, stringent and robust: fully capable of protecting resources and enhancing the environment. If criteria-based policies are vague, or a free for all for undesirable forms of development, then there will continue to be a need to retain a comprehensive range of site-specific policies to contain such developments, and nothing will have been gained.
On the other hand, if criteria-based policies are strong enough to direct developers into forms of development that are sustainable, environmentally sound, and socially beneficial, to that extent we will be able to dispense with site specific policies designed to contain undesirable developments, and the development plan system will be correspondingly simplified The ability of the private sector to deliver to demanding specifications is well proven. At present developers compete to acquire scarce areas of building land, pushing up prices to a point which is unaffordable for many, and which the business sector alleges is a constraint upon its international competitiveness. We would like to see developers competing to produce quality developments that conform with stringent criteria for sustainability, environmental protection, social provision and so on. This stimulus for best practice will, in the long run, enhance the country’s international competitiveness
3 . We Have Concerns About the Abolition of Structure Plans and Seek Assurance about Democratic Accountability
We recognize that the elimination of County Structure Plans is one way of reducing the number of tiers in the planning system. However we have some concerns. One is that regionally-based planning guidance, which emanates from large metropolises such as Bristol, may be rather urban focussed at the expense of rural strategies. Structure Plans for counties such as Devon and Cornwall have shown themselves able to produce strategies that reflect their rural nature. There is a worry that a regional basis for strategic planning will not be fine-grained enough to do this.
Regional Government Offices, Regional Planning Guidances and Assemblies have until now been remote to many people. We recognize that the Government is aware of the need for democratic accountability at regional level and welcome the statement in 4.52 that provision should be made for directly elected regional government. However, we are concerned about the statement that this will only be provided if people support it in a referendum. If the regional governments are to provide a greater focus for decision-making, then they must be subject to democratic electoral control.
4. We Are Opposed to the Replacement of Simplified Planning Zones by Business Planning Zones
We are not clear what are the differences between Business Planning Zones and Simplified Planning Zones2, and why there should be a need to abolish the former and introduce the latter.(par 5.36) As far as we can see the main difference is that BPZ’s are only open to business enterprises, whereas SPZ’s are open to any kind of development, including residential.
To restrict Planning Zones to Business Use is in conflict with existing planning guidance advocating mixed use development, since Mixed Use Planning Zones would no longer be permissible. BPZs threaten to produce up market ghettos of a certain kind of industry, unrelated to any balanced community or housing provision, and so likely to be very car dependent.
The Planning Zone concept is a valuable one, and causes no harm , so it should not be discarded. But it has not proved popular with the rather conventional business community. It is probably more valuable as a tool for experiment in new and sustainable forms of development.
5. We Support Proposals to Make the Planning System More Accessible for Ordinary People
In particular we support the proposal for a user-friendly check-list of points to cover in an application, written in plain English. (5.7) We agree that existing planning application forms are hard to understand and give no advice to applicants about how to support their case.
We also approve of the support given to advocacy services for individuals and community groups.(5.57) We would remind the government that as well as Planning Aid, there are other voluntary groups (including Chapter 7) providing services to particular sections of the population.
6. We are Opposed to Charging Individual Applicants for Pre-application Discussions
Charging fees for pre-application discussions (para 5.10) will discourage people from approaching planning departments in advance, and impair relations between the public and planners. We support pre-application fees for major developments which will affect a large number of people and where the fees represent a tiny proportion of the developer’s total bud get.
7. We Consider that People Living in Temporary Rural Dwellings are a Minority Disadvantaged by the Planning System
The Green Paper invites submissions on minorities that are impinged upon by planning policies which are not necessarily targeted at them. (para 5.66)
Much planning policy guidance, and in particular PPG7, Annex I, makes it extremely difficult for low income people Ñ typically smallholders, coppice workers, and seasonal and casual workers Ñ to establish sustainable homes and livelihoods in rural areas. In particular the functional and financial tests in Annex I, which are designed for commercial farmers, are inappropriate for a wide range of other land users.
~ it is almost impossible for more than one or two people at the most to meet the functional test; this effectively rules out all agricultural communities larger than a family;
~ no allowance in the financial test is made for subsistence smallholders;
~ no allowance is made for part-time f armers, even though the NFU reports 60 per cent of all farmers rely on a secondary income;
~ the statement in PPG7 that ‘normally it will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby towns or villages’ is simply not true. Very often it is highly inconvenient for smallholders and small farmers to live away from their holdings, and it causes unnecessary commuting;
~ existing planning policies within villages are so restrictive that housing is unaffordable for people with low agricultural/forestry incomes;
~ the rural exceptions site policy outlined in PPG3 is rarely helpful , since it only relates to sites within or adjoining villages and only applies to local people. We agree that local people should have priority, but less wealthy incomers seeking livelihoods in the countryside need accommodation too.
The consequences of this guidance are that considerable numbers of people, (both locals and incomers) are living in mobile homes, caravans, shacks, tents, or other temporary accommodation, either without any planning permission at all, or through a continuing series of renewals of temporary permissions. Some people carry on living in conditions of insecurity, with the threat of eviction hanging over them for as long as 15 years. This is an unsatisfactory arrangement, and planning guidance should be amended to address this situation by providing for this demand in an environmentally benign way.
8. We are Opposed to the Proposals to Make Development without Planning Consent an Offence
Until the above matter is addressed Chapter 7 is fiercely opposed to the proposals to make development without permission an offence, and to charge punitive fees for retrospective applications. (para 5.69)
If this is introduced it will mean that thousands of low income people, presently in unregulated caravans, tents, shacks and similar, on their own land or land where they are the legal occupier, will become offenders. There is a risk that considerable numbers will be displaced, and this may result in another set of problems, such as a rise in the number of people living in touring caravans and vans and requiring transit sites. There are also serious questions of compatibility with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
<font size=”4″ color=”#000000″> We prefer the suggestion in para 6.7 that there is scope for mediation as a way of obtaining negotiated solutions in these sort of enforcement cases. But the real solution is planning guidance and policies that provide for such people.
9. We are Concerned about the Advice that More Decisions should be Delegated
In particular we are worried that greater delegation (para 6.37, box) may result in decisions leading to the eviction of people from their homes being taken in camera. We appreciate the need to speed up the process, but view that there must be some safeguards. In particular, it is important that elected representatives have the opportunity to assess the human rights implications, in particular in relation to Article 8, the Right for Respect for a Home. We recommend that there should be advice that decisions which may lead to the eviction of people from their home should not be delegated.
10. We support the concept of a Statement of Community Involvement
We support the concept of a Statement of Community Involvement (4.21-4.23) and agree that compliance with su ch should be a material consideration in large developments.
11. We approve of the recommended changes to outline planning permission and would like to see the prospects for community participation in ‘outline planning’ extended further. We approve of the recommended changes to outline planning permission (5.42) With large publicly accessible sites allocated for development we would like to see the prospects for community participation in ‘outline planning’ extended further.
For example we would like to see planning-for-real exercises developing into ‘competitions’ where community-based groups (working with professional architects, planners and engineers) could put forward proposals for new developments to be assessed by the community at large, alongside proposals from the private sector Ñ at, say, an exhibition in the public library. Some funding would have to be found to assist local groups in presenting proposals, but given government approval, this funding could be readily available from a large number of organizations.
12. We consider that local rules for permitted development rights would be confusing and unhelpful
Chapter 7 advises people throughout England and Wales on their permitted development rights. Local flexibility (as advocated in 5.45) would mean that we could no longer offer this advice, and would make the system even more difficult for people to understand. We advocate keeping the General Permitted Development Order, and dealing with minor domestic applications at parish rather than district level.
13 . We are opposed to the proposal to approve major infrastructure projects through Parliament.
The premise of the box in paragraph 6.4 Ñ that investment in major projects like airports and reservoirs is essential to economic growth Ñ is not accepted by everybody. A significant number of informed people do not consider that airport expansion is necessary for economic growth, or that air travel is an equitable and sustainable mode of transport for all the 6 billion people that live in the world, or even that further economic growth in the rich countries is desirable. The Government is entitled to its views, and it has an electoral mandate. But if the government is serious about public participation then it needs to recognize that there are very different, and evolving, views on these matters. It is less than consistent to talk of ‘clear statements of Government policy setting out our priorities for investment’ in the same breath as ‘robust arrangements for prior consultation’.
Chapter 7 is totally opposed to the proposal to approve projects in principle in parliament, and then leave only the detail to be hammered out at public inquiry. For objectors to a development there is nothing more frustrating than an inquiry where the main issues cannot be discussed. This is asking for trouble, possibly another round of direct action protests. The environmental movement fought a battle in the early 1990s to try to get the public inquiries into road schemes to be something more than mere rubber-stamping exercises.3 If inquiries are emasculated and the rubber-stamping is carried out by government whips, then there may well be resistance.
14. We Strongly Urge the Government to Reconsider its Opposition to Third Party Rights of Appeal
Chapter 7 is amongst the many groups that wish to see a third party right of appeal for major developments introduced and we strongly urge the Government to reconsider its opposition toward t his popular proposal (paras 6.19 to 6.23)
We consider it a disgrace that members of the public have no way of challenging consortia of developers who propose, for example, to change completely the face of a town centre . The writer of these words has seen this happen in his home town (Yeovil) and can vouch that the feeling of powerlessness can make ordinary people very angry. In this particular case, some threatened public spaces were eventually protected as a result of a two month long tree-squat, a week long occupation of the roof of a supermarket, and a near riot in a council meeting. But even despite the concessions made by the LPA as a result of this protest action, there was no way for concerned members of the public to challenge a development of breathtaking banality and blatant unsustainability being erected on the town’s largest area of open space.
Clearly, occupations and riots are not a desirable way for the public to make their views known; but there will always be a risk of these happening if developers have a right of appeal while objectors do not. We know from experience that, in the mind of the protester, the moral justification for resorting to direct action is almost always tha t the decision-making process is weighted against the objector Ñ or in other words is considered to be a sham.
We do not understand the logic behind paragraph 6.20. If the fact that the councillors who make planning decisions are accountable to their electorate is an argument against third party right of appeal, surely it is also an argument against developers’ right of appeal?
Like many other voluntary organizations, Chapter 7 is dismayed that the Government is taking such a dismissive stance towards the widespread calls for a limited third party right of appeal, and urges it to rethink.
1. Planning for Quality of Life in Rural England, Countryside Agency, 1999. 2. SPZs are special zones where blanket permission is given for certain kinds of development; the green paper proposes that these be available for hi-tec business but not for other uses. 3. At the outset of the 1993 Salisbury Bypass Inquiry the Inspector informed the public that he had sat on 35 previous road inquiries Ñ and allowed every one of them.
Where does the Government gets expressions like Local Development Framewo rk from?
Our mole in the Cabinet Office has sent us a document for internal use only entitled How to Write a Consultation Paper: a Guide for Civil Servants, from which this is taken.
RANDOM CONCEPT CLUSTERS
A useful exercise for students is to create ‘random concept clusters’, through the use of the table given below. This works like a verbal fruit machine. The first column consists of adjectives, the second of nouns used as adjectives, and the third of straight nouns. Just think of three numbers under 25 and then string the ideas together. So, for example 2, 17, 15, gives us ‘Strategic Customer Evaluation’, while 22, 21, 20 is ‘Key Policy Check-List’. There are over 15,000 different combinations.
Many of the concept clusters will sound perfectly normal, and it will not be long before you will select something that you have already met in a Government document. However if a combination sounds odd, do not give up on it. Try intoning the phrase over and over to yourself in an American accent. You will find that it will soon become familiar to you and then imbued with real meaning.
The next step is to string the concept clusters together with appropriate verbs such as ‘deliver’, ‘access’, harness’, ‘impact’, ‘engage’, ‘promote’, ‘address’, ‘accommodate’, to create meaningful sentences. So for example if you choose 11, 12, 10 and 7, 19, 1, you can announce to the world that ‘ Robust resource parameters will be harnessed to promote long-term investment solutions.’ From here it is only a short step to writing a complete consultation paper.
1 Agreed Design Solutions
2 Strategic Action Package
3 Integrated Neighbourhood Procedures
4 Specific Supply Appraisal
5 Local Efficiency Framework
6 Spatial Regeneration Focus
7 Long-term Consultation Partnerships
8 Shared Community Timeframes
9 User-Friendly Development Statement
10 Major Planning Parameters
11 Robust Information Indicators
12 Responsive Resource Thresholds
13 Appropriate Business Clusters
14 Transparent Growth Options
15 Simplified Infrastructure Evaluation
16 Regional Performance Targets
17 Outline Customer Regime
18 Accountable Private sector Involvement
19 Co-ordinated Investment Objectives
20 Headline Project Check-list
21 Low Impact Policy Mechanisms
22 Key Access Gains
23 Statutory Best Practice Requirements
24 One-stop Quality Programmes
25 Sustainable Fast-track Priorities
By the way , all except two of these words can be found in the Green Paper on Planning
Local Food for Planners
The indefatigable Lucy Nichol has produced another excellent report, called How Can Planning Help the Local Food Economy? A Guide for Planners. Lucy identifies 15 ways planners could help. Her recommendations are likely to carry considerable clout, now that the Food and Farming Commission has come out so strongly in favour of local foods. Numbers 9 and 11 counsel planners, where appropriate, to consider low impact live-work units etc. Smallholders putting in applications might well find it appropriate to submit the appropriate sections of Lucy’s report, together with a quote or two from the Food and Farming Commission report, in support of their application. Available from Lucy Nichol, Oxford Brookes University, 01865 484065, £2.50.
Traveller Law Reform Bill
A new Traveller Law Reform Bill has been drafted by Luke Clements and Rachel Morris of the Traveller Law Research Unit at Cardiff University. The Bill has been prepared after four years of consultation with travellers and other interested parties. Clements and Morris hope that the Government will feel able to support the passage of the Bill in its entirety. A major objective of the Bill is to place gypsies and travellers on the same footing as other people, as regards rights to accommodation. Local authorities have a duty to ensure the provision of sufficient housing, but since the Criminal Justice Act of 1994 repealed the relevant parts of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act, they are under no obligation to ensure the provision of travellers’ sites.
The Bill proposes that:
~ A Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Commission (analogous to the House Builders Federation) will be charged with ensuring that there is adequate accommodation for travellers throughout the country
; ~ Local authorities will be required to facilitate site provision (for example by providing for planning permis sions for owner-occupied sites); ~ Local authorities which fail to provide for sites, will have greater difficulty carrying out eviction and enforcement.
More information: The Traveller Law Research Unit, Cardiff Law School, Cardiff.
Park Home Residents against Rachman
A new radical group representing Park Home residents is being set up after a meeting in January. The meeting partly came out of the interest stirred up by Ron Joyce’s pamphlet, The Hidden Scandal, which we quoted from last issue. The 1983 legislation offers very little protection for site residents, and increasingly park home sites are being bought up by unscrupulous operators who take buyers for a ride, and manage sites on Rachman-like lines. Chapter 7 News, together with Big Issue, has consistently warned about these problems
The group is taking advice about how to structure the organization, and are deciding on a name. Margaret Brown, who is acting secretary stated: ‘I sincerely hope we do not go along the path of compromise. The industry is never going to reform and drive out the undesirables. What
the situation needs is not feeble gestures, but vigorous and well-organized action to bring about fundamental and comprehensive change.’ Contact: 01902 373462
Radical groups on the margins of society often cause a chain reaction resulting in significant changes to the mainstream (for which they rarely get any credit). Without doubt the call of 1990s road protesters to ‘reclaim the streets’ has been a help in introducing the Dutch concept of home zones: residential streets designed so that ‘there are no lengths of carriageway which allow drivers to believe that they have priority and subsequently achieve unacceptable speeds’. The Rowntree Foundation has recently published a design guide for home zones. Further features of home zones are that ‘wherever possible they include no distinction between a road and a pavement’ and use other methods to prevent cars driving too close to houses. The report concludes that ‘although home zones can promote road safety, the main benefit for people is the altered perception of how the street can be used. Home zones allow for a wider range of activities in space formally (sic but perhaps they mean Ôformerly’) considered exclusively for vehicle use.’
Home Zones: A Planning and Design Guide, by Mike Biddulph, The Policy Press, £13.95, available from Marston Book Services, 01235 465500, fax 01235 465556. Four page summary available from JRF on 01904 615905 or www.jrf.org.uk
‘Too Poor to Build a House’
Chris and Llyn Dixon have had their application for a permanent low impact dwelling at Tir Penrhos Isaf, their permaculture holding in Snowdonia National Park turned down in a written appeal. The Dixons have lived there since 1991, their project featured as a case study in our own publication Low Impact Development (1996) and is also being assessed by University of the West of England in their report on Low Impact Development for the Welsh Assembly (see last issue)
The project was turned downpartly because its financial viability and functional need were half based on the keeping of horses. The inspector ruled that this was not relevant because horses do not class as agriculture; even though there are a number of appeals in England where Inspectors have decided that hor se keeping can be assessed under the functional and financial tests.*
The Inspector then proceeded to argue that the Dixon’s didn’t have enough money to build the low impact dwelling anyway. Chris stated ‘This is particularly galling as we have been instrumental in establishing the Rhiw Goch Sawmill Co-operative (with local grant aid) to mill local timber, and the mill operates a LETS scheme for members making building materials affordable . . . Both the Snowdonia National Park planning committee and the Welsh Assembly’s planning inspector have completely ignored sustainability issues. This reaffirms suspicions that the high sounding moral statements on the Assembly web site regarding sustainability still carry no weight on the ground.’
Eg: ‘Enforcement action against a caravan associated with equestrian use in Wilts has resulted in the use being allowed on a personal and limited basis. The inspector ruled that rural policy guidance in PPG7 encouraged farm diversification and took a positive approach to horse-based development. He noted that the appellant was an experienced international event rider who kept and trained event horses for their owners. These were high quality, high value animals and a permanent presence on the land was essential, he concluded. Hearing, N Wilts District Council, 7 Feb 2001. Information on Tir Penrhos Isaf: www.konsk.co.uk
Banned from Farmer’s Market
The farm fragmentation project near Tewkesbury, where Warren Fruit Farm has been divided into 14 smallholdings each equipped with a polytunnel and an agricultural building, has really wound up the powers that be. Not content with placing an enforcement notice upon the agricultural buildings, the local authority also banned the occupiers from selling vegetables at Tewkesbury farmers market (eventually they relented, but the growers have switched to Stroud market).
Now, an appeals Inspector has refused to allow the agricultural buildings . . . and stung the appellants for costs. The buildings were erected under Permitted Agricultural Development Rights before the farm was completely fragmented, at least so the developer Mike Keeley claimed. However the Inspector thought differently: ‘I fail to see how any building can be regarded as necessary for the purposes of agriculture when the unit it is intended to serve is unoccupied and the precise form of the agricultural enterprise is not known . . . I do not accept that Part 6 of the GPDO is intended to allow a developer to erect a building and then seek a particular agricultural use for it after, which is effectively what happened here,’ In our view this doesn’t seem to be what happened here; the use was already mapped out in the form of the polytunnel; it was an agricultural user that was sought. The Inspector also viewed that the buildings looked more like residential chalets: ‘It would be hard to imagine a building more poorly suited to agricultural purposes.
In our view these buildings have been designed not for agricultural purposes but, by the appellant’s own admission, as structures which satisfy the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites Act 1968.’ However the Inspector held that they weren’t caravans either, as they had been assembled on site and because ‘each one has been provided with mains electricity and water and they have been placed on the land with no intention that they be moved’. At least two of the smallholders are putting in applications to keep the chalets as easily dismantled agricultural worker’s dwellings. Appeal ref APP/G1630/C/01/1062797 , -798. -799 and -800
The folks at Holywell Fields, near Aylesbury, have not been banned from their Farmer’s Market, probably because they are the only supplier of local organic veg there. But they have had just as much hassle in other respects from Aylesbury Vale DC, which has served enforcement notices on a number of structures, mainly caravans and mobile homes which were already on the farm when the group took it over. One of the caravans has been occupied for 4 years by Paul and Sarah and their two kids. Court action was threatened if the structures were not removed by February, but the local authority was eventually persuaded to withdraw this as the structures were all included either for use or removal in an outline planning application submitted in that month. The farm at the moment runs a box-scheme, a small herd of Jacobs sheep and about 120 chickens. The application is for workshops, educational buildings, shop and five houses; and has been submitted ‘in the knowledge that our repeated requests for assistance in developing our project have been met with negative responses.’ The group would welcome letters in support of their application. They can send you a copy o f the application by post or e-mail. All comments are supposed to be into the Council Offices by 21 of Feb, but as the application may well take a while, or go to appeal, it will still be worth writing. More info from Mike George, Pond Cottage East, Cuddington Road, Dinton, Aylesbury, HP18 0AD 01286 747737/748092, mike. email@example.com
Two in the Eye for Wealden
Wealden District Council have, for several years been at the forefront of the unofficial campaign to eliminate peasants from the countryside. Not once but twice Wealden planners have published full length articles in Planning magazine calling for increased powers of enforcement against the ‘ruses and wheezes’ of smallholders, people ‘hiding in the woods in a caravan’, people who ‘are not genuine farmers’ etc. Last issue we reported the Sparey’s successful appeal against an enforcement notice from Wealden DC. Now we are happy to announce that David Heritage and Sibylle Pullen of Jera Farm have been given permanent planning permission for their wooden house (photo above) by a committee who voted unanimously against the recommendation for refusal of the Wealden planning officers. The farm, whic h has a flock of free range hens and plans for a vineyard, became profitable last year and conforms with all the guidance in PPG7, but the county land agent employed by Wealden still insisted that the operation was not sustainable. He quoted figures from Nix’s Farm Management Pocket Book, stating that the annual costs of keeping each hen were £9.49; but as David Heritage pointed out, the system to which Nix refers is one ‘in which laying hens are slaughtered after only one year’s production, whereas in our environmentally friendly, humane, healthy environment our hens continue to lay for two or three years, making a nonsense of the officer’s conclusions. Wealden D, WD/01/0970/FR.
The Battle of Turner’s Field
The battle lines are drawn at the appeal against an enforcement notice on Turner’s Field, in Compton Dundon, Somerset where Ann Morgan has run a permaculture demonstration site for the past 15 years. Ann has an impressive array of supporters behind her, but local residents appeared at the Appeal in force to object to her application for a wooden study centre and 3 yurts. One of them came out with a long litany of things that Ann had done wrong or had failed to do, alleging, without any evidence, that Ann has another home in Glastonbury. ‘But what harm has Ms Morgan’s development done to you?’ asked Ann’s barrister ‘We moved to the village because it was such a beautiful place, but now she’s moved in. . .’ was the gist of the reply. The appeal provides the stage for a confrontation between starkly different visions of what the countryside is for and what it should look like. As we write the inquiry is adjourned for a second day.
Satanic Mill-Owner Spoils Leafy Somerset Retreat
Opposing visions of what the countryside is for also popped up in an interesting little application in South Somerset. Chris Black was successful in obtaining planning permission for one dwelling in an abandoned water mill (see photo )Ñ but not without a perverse battle. Local residents and Conservative members of the committee were outraged because Chris wants to return the mill (which stopped producing shaving brushes with water power in 1990) back to industrial use. Any normal developer would convert the whole thing into multiple residences. Now the neighbours living in the old the mill-workers cottages, who thought they h ad bought a quiet retreat in the countryside, find that they will be living next door to a water-powered factory. As one Tory councillor put it, ‘the only place for factories is on industrial estates.’ South Somerset DC, Area East, Nimmer Mill.
Big Sheds and Tin Boxes
In January P&O submitted plans to Thurrock Council to convert a former Shell Oil refinery at the mouth of the Thames into Europe’s largest container port. The London Gateway scheme will turn 600 hectares of brownfield land into a 2..3 kilometre long quay and a 900,000 m2 business park . (see picture opposite) A decision on the scheme is expected in May and the developers expect to start work next year.
But some people at least in Stanford le Hope, Corringham and surrounding areas have their doubts about the benefits of more free trade. In a communiqu? sent to Chapter 7 they claim that the development will mean: ‘Increased traffic congestion ; increased air pollution; increased noise pollution ; compulsory purchases of peoples’ homes & land; erosion of public open spaces and walkways; destruction to the beauty of the landscape; increased cri me; and the storage of toxic and dangerous chemicals on your doorstep.’
It sounds familiar. Anyway, not content with merely objecting to the scheme, they have unveiled their own alternative proposal, which they call The Rainbow Gateway. Its a tad fanciful, and it probably doesn’t conform to the development plan, but it sounds more fun than a million square metres of big shed. We suggest they put in an application for it as a Simplified Planning Zone (which doesn’t cost anything), and quickly too, before the Labour government scraps them.
The Rainbow Gateway:
1. From the main road outside the densely populated areas, a tunnel will lead all traffic in and out of the port avoiding air and noise pollution to local residents
2. A tollgate will collect money for its use and profits will be channelled back into the local community
3. All major buildings, warehouses and carparks will be low impact and part subterranean with natural daylight to their frontage.
4. All buildings will be heated freely from sunlight by “heat exchange method”.
5. All energy will be clean and created on site by solar, wind, and tide.
6. A small dock will also be created for yachts and small fishing boats.
7. Pleasant river frontage walkways will be developed with leisure facilities to attract local trade and tourism incorporating a hotel, multi purpose entertainment venue, bars and cafes, multi-screen cinema, local craft and produce markets, and health centre.
8. A monument will be built in honour of our local heroes Jack Straw & Watt Tyler whose noble actions triggered the Peasants Revolt. 9. All existing Farmland will be developed organically to supply the local needs.
10. The Farm Museum (occupying a listed building) and surrounding empty barns will be developed into a World-Class tourist attraction.
11. Part of the river frontage development will house a College specialising in New Technologies, Yacht Building and Organic Farming. 12. A dry dock will be developed for yacht building and repair.
13. Shell will be exp ected to dismantle and clean up their old oil refinery (as they promised) before building commences. (Perhaps they can train and employ a local workforce to do it for them from the proceeds of the value of the scrap materials).
14. Local wildlife will be preserved and enhanced.
15. A ban will be imposed on the transport of any materials that pose a major potential threat to the local community.
16. A smallish development of futuristic Eco-Houses will be constructed providing affordable economical low impact housing. Maybe 144 homes?
17. A Youth Zone will be developed away from the main development and wildlife where activities such motorbike scrambling, skateboarding and paintballing take place under instruction and supervision.
18. An application will be made to preserve Rainbow Lane for all time in name and character.
19. An application will be made to the local council for funding to develop this proposal.
e-mail contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twickenham: Open Space v Cinemas
Chapter 7 always likes to hear of alternative applications from local groups. In Twickenham, where Richmond BC are considering an application for the redevelopment of an unused swimming pool on their own Thames-side property (see picture), local resident K.R. Hathaway got in first. He put in an application proposing that the building should be lowered in height and the grounds should be turned into a public riverside park Ñ and was given permission because this ‘did not prejudice further development of the site’. The council-backed scheme for shops, cinema, fitness centre etc, comes up before the committee as we go to press. If it gets turned down, Hathaway might have his way.
I do not see why The Land Is Ours is supporting these dodgy and selfish settler schemes. Simon Fairlie and TLIO are acting as the advance guard for Bovis, Crest Homes, the Country Land and Business Association and all the other big capital countryside destroyers. Whilst w e fight the destruction of ancient woodland for housing here in Sussex, at Ashenground, Clapham and Titnore Woods etc. etc, you lot waste your time in selfish back-to-the-land escapism, which just provide a left cover for the de-regulators of the right. Whilst the bloody biosphere disintegrates before our eyes, you lot waste your time on utopian escapism which was discredited 150 years ago, in the time of New Lanark Mills, Fergus O’Connor and his stupid schemes.
You can’t have socialism (or anarchism) on one cabbage patch, any more than you can have it in one country.
When will we have an organization really willing to argue for comprehensive land reform? You lot make Lloyd George look like a Bolshevik.
Dave Bangs, disgusted, of Brighton
We have already replied to an earlier letter from Dave Bangs making similar points, see C7 News 4 p.16.
I have received 2 copies of Chapter 7 News . I am not sure where you received my details from (as below) but I do not wish to receive your publications/ literature, so would be grateful if you could remove me from your mailing list. Thank you
A Forward Planning Officer
We replied: ‘You are receiving Chapter 7 News as a result of our Adopt-A-Planner service, whereby people pay us to send specified planners a copy of the magazine. I think people who pay for such a subscription feel that planners (particularly those in forward planning) ought to be taking account the ideas put forward in the magazine. It is a way for people to get their views across, a form of public participation in the planning process.’
This is the only complaint we have had from an ‘adopted’ planner. We have also had a very constructive letter from another ‘adopted’ local authority planner on the subject of plotlands in his district forwarded to us by a reader, but we can’t print it. Where an authority, but no specific planner is named, we now have a policy of phoning up the planning department and finding out which officer is most likely to be interested in C7 News.
Land Prospector Writes:
We have just made it almost after 22 years , from caravans, benders, sheds and on to a ‘residential mobile home site’. From scraping the money together to buy 5 acres of north facing hillside on the edge, but in the old heart of a Lancashire mill town built of stone and cotton. A land of magic but deserted, its trees counted on your fingers weary and weatherbeaten, waiting for the planners green belt, a certain mark of fields painted green, pale waves of bright green grass wafting forever in the Pennine breeze, a herd of wild sheep endlessly grazing, to one day find a young tree shoot to eat. And now, well we’ve recycled and we’ve lived like kings, they tried an eviction but we got a site licence and now we want to be 15, because we always was, so we’re just going to adjust them and let them come and see. We’re not a bunch of ragamuffins living in ramshackle sheds but respectable people living in low impact accommodation. Yes we have mains water, a septic tank, mains electric and solar, windmills, dry compost toilets, but most importantly of all we have trees and hedgerows, and wildlife and yes the magic is back, and as a young woodland well perhaps they’ll give us a ‘tree protection order’ also as a mark of respect. Prospect Pete
The Sort of Letter We Like to Get
Just a note to thank-you for your help and advice on the planning permission subject. Thought you might like to know WE WON. I can now stay living on my smallholding and keep my business of duck egg production going. If I can help with any info, just let me know. MH. It took MH 14 years to get permission!
Learning to Live with Others
What Bill Metcalf says about co-operative housing not being sustainable (last issue p. 11) totally misses the point about what communal living is all about; learning to live together. We are living in a time of transition and communal housing, much like solar panels and electric cars are part of that transition. They may not be immediately sustainable but they are part of the move towards long-term sustainability. Just in striving/working toward living sustainably I have come up against the biggest barrier of all to radical social change Ñ my own inability to be the change I want to see. I am working towards it but it will take time. The point is that I am making the change and those who are attempting to make the change should not be slated for not being wholly sustainable, sustainability is a process of change and which will take time. In working toward sustainability we need to take into account the process of reconditioning ourselves to cope with this change or any change will be at risk of failure. It is one thing to know something intellectually, it is quite another to live it with ones entire being. Change takes time. Does this provide an insight into the greater failure rate of ‘eco’-urban communities? Is the higher rate a reflection of the environmental exposure to the wider society in urban situations or a consequence of urban sites attracting people at different stages of their personal evolutionary process than rural? Do rural sites demand a greater degree of commitment and therefore greater likelihood of long-term sustainability than urban sites? I feel that these are important questions to ask and worth further investigation. Anyone who is interested please contact me and we could discuss how this might be best achieved. Regards, Ken PS ”You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”(Mahatma Gandhi)
Wanted: Agricultural Experts
<p> Do you have a degree in agriculture or forestry? Chapter 7 needs graduates prepared to carry out appraisals for smallholders and woodland workers for a reasonable but not outrageous fee. There is a shortage of experts able to assess the merits of small-scale, subsistence and sustainable agricuulture and forestry enterprises. Becca Laughton is doing this for us, but is already overloaded. Chapter7 will provide all the necessary back-up and planning expertise. For more information phone or e-mail the office.
This year’s Ecovillage Network gathering is going to be hosted by the Middlewood community in Lancs. It will be an opportunity for people living in ecovillages in the UK to exchange ideas and build on the connections made last year. For details send SAE to Pam at EVNUK, PO Box 1410, Bristol, BS99 3JP
The Big Green Gathering is on this year, all being well, from 24 to 28 July, though in a new location in Somerset. Chapter 7 will have a stall there; you are welcome to visit and unload all your planning problems on us, , and sample our cider. We may also have a stall at Glastonbury. Info on Big Green: 01932 229911
Hand and Horse Logging Course
Tinker’s Bubble will be holding a weekend course on horse logging and felling large trees with hand-tools. No date has been fixed yet but it will probably be in September. For more info, phone Simon on 01460 249204 or 01935 881975
Re:solution Sustainable Development Re:solution are a Scottish based consultancy offer advice in the development of eco-communities. They research best practice sustainability projects throughout Europe and promote these concepts to Scottish communities. Neil Mackay, 53 Dublin Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6NL, tel: 0131 467 0913, 07786 348784; n.mackay@re:solution.co.uk, www.re:solution.co.uk
Build It You’ve heard of Postman Pat and Bob the Builder, but what about Build-It Bob? You can find him on Build It magazine’s website which is full of information for self-builders and renovators. There is a search service for those needing to find a plot of land orwanting to meet other people with whom they can share a plot. Also featured on the site are how-to guides, mortgage advice, product listings and case studies. The homes featured are mostly brick and timber frame, with little emphasis on eco-homes or lower cost low-impact dwellings. www.self-build.co.uk
For low impact dwellings, turn to the web-site of Dwell Well, the Totnes-based campaign for promoting low-impact homes, It contains examples from the slideshow created by Selena Merrett, of the beautiful homes that have been created in the UK and the planning problems these dwellings face. www.dwellwell.org
Low Impact News
Low Impact News, now coming up for its 28th handscribed issue has a new address: Mike Robinson, Dickie’s Meadow, New House Cottage, Sandy lane, Accrington, Lancs, BB5 2OH.
Yes, that notorious one in Pembs National Park. Tony Wrench, builder of the turf-roofed roundhouse which is scheduled for demolition this summer, and author of the book on how to build it (see p. 15) now has a web-site: www.thatroundhouse.info. Brithdir Mawr Summer Camp Brithdir Mawr (where tha t roundhouse is) are holding a friendly midsummer camp for about 100 people interested in living simply on the earth. The location is beautiful and includes a forest and a stream. There will be live acoustic music, circle dancing, a ceilidh, craft workshops, a caf?, market, guided walks, a wholefood shop, working horses, and a big solstice celebration. Cost £100 waged, £80 low waged, £60 unwaged, children £30, little ones free. Send Sae to Melissa, Brithdir Mawr, Trefdraeth, Pembs SA42 0QJ.
Willing Workers on Organic Farms provides an opportunity for people to spend time working on organic farms around the world. In return for their work, WWOOF volunteers are given accommodation, food and new experiences. Write to : WWOOF, PO Box 2675, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1RB or see www.wwoof.org
Books and Reports
Low Impact Development, Simon Fairlie, published by Jon Carpenter, 1996. Why English rural planning is unjust and unsustainable, and how low impact development offers a solution. £10
Defining Rural Sustainability: 15 Criteria for Sustainab le Developments in the Countryside, together with 3 Model Policies for Local Plans, TLIO 1999 The document to give to your local planner or cite in your planning application; also available on our website: £5 www.oneworld.org/tlio/chapter7 (£3 conc)
Planning for Sustainable Woodlands, Lucy Nichol, Simon Fairlie, Ben Law and Russell Rowley, published by Chapter 7 and the National Small Woods Association, June 2000 Planning problems faced by woodland workers. £2.50
Permaculture — A New Approach for Rural Planning, Rob Hopkins, 1996 A study of the success or failure of various different permaculture projects in acquiring planning permission. £8.50
The Sustainable Community: A Practical Guide, Hockerton Housing Project, Feb 2001Excellent guide for people starting communities. Good resource lists on all aspects from social to technical. £8.50
Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, Tony Wrench, published by Permanent Publications, 2001 How Tony built his house at Brithdir Mawr. £10.50
The Impact of the Planning System on Local Food Producers in Somerset, by Lucy Nichol PhD research into local foo d production and planning in Somerset in 1999. £7.50
Planning DIY Briefings
There are now eight do-it-yourself planning briefing sheets available:
No 1 Introduction to the Mysteries of the Planning System 6 pp. £1
No 2 Should I Move on First or Apply First? 4 pp. £0.75
No 3 Putting in a Planning Application 12 pp. £1.50
No 4 Caravans: Permitted Development and Seasonal Use 4 pp. £0.75
No 5 List of Low-Impact Friendly Consultants 2 pp. £0.50
No 6 Appeals 14 pp. £1.75
No 7 Certificates of Lawful Use: The Four and Ten Year Rules 4 pp £0.75
No 8 Agricultural Workers Dwellings: Annex I of PPG 7 (out soon)
or £6.50 for all 8
Chapter 7 has a growing library of planning documents and reports relating to a number of low impact and sustainabl e applications. If you telephone us at the office we can research what you need and supply photocopied excerpts. Prices 12 to 15 pence per page, depending on size and research, inc p&p.
Appeals: Tinker’s Bubble, Brickhurst Farm, Par, Plants for a Future, Brithdir Mawr, Kings Hill, Dommett Wood, Hugletts Wood and many others.
Case Law: Petter and Harris (agricultural viability), Millington (food processing), Tinker’s Bubble (permaculture), Chapman v UK, Varey v UK and Porter v S. Bucks (human rights).
Applications. We have the full submitted paperwork for successful planning applications for agricultural residence including: Northdown Orchard (box scheme), Guilden Gate (smallholding) and Rawhaw Wood (woodland management).
Section 106 Agreements: Tinkers Bubble and Lothian Lowland Crofting
Chapter 7 News Back Issues
£2 each, 7 for £10.50, or complete set of 8 for £12. Copies of Arcadia Revisited, £1 or £6 for 10.