Background to Planning Issues
Planning issues need be addressed at a number of levels;
The Wantage Town Council and Grove Parish Council are responsible for Allotments, Markets, Notice boards and maintenance of the Cemetery. They can produce a Neighbourhood Plan which will influence the design of new developments and help to shape how their local communities grow and develop, but can't override the District's Local Plan for the area. They vote on planning applications and can request funds from developers but the District Council can (and often does) ignore their advice.
Vale of the White Horse District Council - can decide where in the Vale the new houses should go but have little (if any) influence over how many houses should be built, they can sort out our leisure facilities. [show detail]
The Vale of the White Horse District Council is the planning authority for Wantage and Grove and is part of the Oxfordshire Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Partnership (SPIP). The SPIP will set the housing target for the next 15 years. The District Council is then responsible for deciding where this housing is built and producing the Local Plan. Local plans must be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and the National Planning Policy Framework. The District Council will then approve planning applications in line with the plan. They are also responsible for waste management, leisure facilities and flood management.
Oxfordshire County Council - can make decisions on highways, schools, social services etc. [show detail]
The County Council is responsible for highways (except those managed by Central Government like the A34 and M4), schools, social services, libraries and museums etc.
Oxfordshire Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Partnership (SPIP) - decides how many houses are required in Oxfordshire and which District they should be in. [show detail]
The SPIP is the body responsible for deciding the strategic housing numbers across the County and provides a liaison forum on spatial planning, economic development, housing, transport, and general infrastructure issues arising at regional and sub regional level. They are responsible for the Strategic Housing Needs Analysis (SHMA) which dictates our housing numbers. See our page for more details on the SHMA.
Central Government - decides the strategy and says every local authority has a duty, first and foremost, to meet objectively assessed housing need. [show detail]
Since the South East Plan was revoked, the Government has no direct input into our housing needs except to say that there is a Housing Crisis and that we have to build huge numbers of new homes and should have a local plan in place to say where they should go. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) provides guidance for the Planning Inspectors and they are Government employees who just seem to say that huge numbers of houses should be built and we should live with it.
Planning Inspectors - approve the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood plans - or not if they don't like them and adjudicate on planning appeals. [show detail]
The work of the Planning Inspectorate includes national infrastructure planning under the Planning Act 2008 process as amended by the Localism Act 2011; processing planning and enforcement appeals; holding examinations into local plans and community infrastructure levy charging schedules. Many Local Plans have been "withdrawn" on the advice of the Inspector on the basis that the plan fails to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure needs and does not meet the duty to co-operate (i.e." seek to meet objectively assessed development requirements including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities and requires councils and public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis in relation to planning of sustainable development").
As John Gummer, Lord Deben, put so succinctly in a recent article:
1. We do need to build more homes
2. We need all the agricultural land we can get if we want to feed ourselves
3. Sustainable communities are a crucial part of our battle against climate change
4. The revolution in commercial activity and retailing will make fundamental changes to the urban landscape
5. The long-held Treasury belief that the shortage of housing is the result of the planning system is not true.
BUT 6,000 new houses in Wantange and Grove of which more than half will be on good quality agricultural land at least 10 miles from employment with little public transport is not sustainable. People will need cars to get to work and many will work in the Science Vale in jobs where working from home is not an option. They will drive to school, work and the local shopping centres on roads which are close to capacity without cycle ways or footpaths to centres which do not have enough parking spaces and this in a district which already has some of the highest carbon emissions of any district in the South East. This cannot be sustainable in any objectively assessed way.
Is the NPPF delivering planning for people?
Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) researchfound that 60 per cent of respondents disagree or strongly disagree that the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has had a positive impact on their ability to deliver a Local Plan that reflects local needs and priorities. Many of the 400,000 sites nationally that have planning permission are likely to be excluded from a council’s deliverable five-year housing supply on the basis that they are currently considered economically unviable for development. Many are brownfield sites that are less profitable to develop than greenfield sites.
A recap of the political situation: [show detail]
1.The problem is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the way in which it is being pushed by Brandon Lewis MP. Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Rt Hon George Osborne MP.
2. Their policy is understandable because it is intended to make more housing available and, by making it easier to get planning permissions, to encourage more house building to stimulate the economy. So far, so good.
3. The policy breaks down because it appears to have been designed to do this, but ignores the fact that housing is not just a one-size-fits-all kind of issue. It doesn't work because, in the first instance, Local Authorities have been asked to decide a sort of housing quota for their districts. So a lot of areas that don't necessarily need or want housing are being asked to supply it to satisfy a perceived national need. Secondly, it is often the case that houses fetch more money if they are built in areas which are considered "desirable", and therefore, developers want to build there because they are not philanthropists but business men. Equally unfortunately, the NPPF and current government policy of enforcement through the Inspectorate means that developers can get away with calling the shots. So, even though it might be a beauty spot or a small town without work prospects or decent public roads or transport, they can still get permissions.
4. This policy is not a big issue in metropolitan areas because they are population centres and therefore have lots of housing and development plus the infrastructure. That's why critics of the policy often accuse the Government of having a "metropolitan" mind-set. They don't seem to understand the impact on the rural areas and they don't seem to care.
5. The rural areas are different and react differently because we don't have the infrastructure and, moreover, this is where the superb landscapes and lovely old villages are located. These matter a lot to those of us who live in them, and the policy does not allow us to protect these things. The Government interprets this as nimbyism. Astonishingly, these areas tend to be where the core Conservative vote comes from.
6. The political point, is that the Government seems to be unaware that in pursuing this policy, and by being so rude about those who dislike it so intensely, they are affecting their own core vote substantially. This is the message that has to be sent because any politician cares about votes. It is also the case that only the Conservative party can change this policy because it is their legislation and their policy. It doesn't need a lot of change but it needs some change of emphasis and rebalancing towards localism. How do we achieve this?