LocalismThe AJ's bloggers track the latest developments in the plan to hand power to the people
More than half of English councils have failed to draw up local plans in time for the NPPF’s introduction later this month
It promised to give local authorities the power to write their own development plans, but now experts say it is stifling growth and confusing an already murky planning process, reports Merlin Fulcher
The Localism Bill was given Royal Assent yesterday, opening the way for a ‘profound’ overhaul of the English planning system
Richard Rogers has hit out against the government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system claiming it could merge cities and ‘scar the countryside for generations’
The RIBA has urged architects to seize the localism agenda and help communities make the most of their new planning powers
The government has given MPs extra time to contribute to the debate over its controversial planning reforms following huge interest in the policy
The Localism agenda means more work and more proactivity, so getting the ‘key influencers’ on side early is critical, says Geoff Armstrong
Everybody wants to know what the impact of the government’s localism agenda will really be. Here are two, very different, explanatory guides
Craig Casci of Grid Architects argues that housing problems are a symptom of the broken planning system, not the lack of land or delivery
The planning inspectorate has issued guidance to its officers to start viewing the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a ‘material consideration’ in their decisions
Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles have defended the governments’ proposed planning reforms amid fierce opposition from conservation groups
The fourth wave of councils to be given new neighbourhood planning powers has been named by the Department for Communities and Local Government
Updated: Added link to Eric Pickles’ update following the final COBR meeting.
Government departments, local authorities and agencies are working together to do everything they can to help communities at risk.
- Flood support schemes: funding available from central government provides guidance on support packages activated by the government to help communities recover from the severe weather experienced during the winter 2013 to 2014
On Thursday 20 February, Prime Minister David Cameron announced details of flood support packages for homeowners and businesses. This support includes:
The £10 million Farming Flood Recovery Fund opened on 28 February.
If you’ve been affected by flooding, you can find help from Flood Volunteers in your local area.
Get the latest
Support for communities, businesses and farmers
David Cameron has announced a comprehensive package of new measures to help hard-working homes, businesses and farmers hit by the floods.
The measures include:
- a 5,000 “repair and renew” grant for all affected homeowners and businesses - this will top up any money received from insurers to ensure flood resilience is built into homes and businesses as they are repaired. Details on how to apply for the grant will be published - week starting Monday 17 February
- a separate Business Support Scheme worth up to £10 million for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods
- all affected businesses will get 100% business rate relief for 3 months and will also get an extra 3 months to pay the business taxes they owe to HMRC as they get back on their feet
- a £10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields to help restore it to farmable land as quickly as possible
- a total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods
- railways and roads - £31 million for 10 rail resilience projects and £30 million for local authorities in England for road maintenance required due to severe weather
Transport - support for the south west
There is a £5 reduction on all tickets for domestic flights from Newquay - delivered through a government grant to Cornwall Council. The reduction took effect on 12 February 2014 and will be in place for at least 2 weeks.
FlyBe are more than doubling the number of flights available on the air route between Newquay and London Gatwick - providing over 4,500 extra seats per week.
First Great Western has put in place special ticketing arrangements so that rail passengers who are affected by flood disruption do not miss out on cheaper advance fares while revised timetables are in place. Passengers will receive a 25% discount on walk-up fares for journeys that cross the Dawlish gap. If they have bought a more expensive ticket, First Great Western will refund the difference.
Find out if your area is at risk of flooding with the Environment Agency Live Flood Warning map - this is updated every 15 minutes.
Thursday 6 March
Saturday 1 March
Thursday 27 February
Tuesday 25 February
Monday 24 February
Thursday 20 February
- PM announces details of flood support packages
- Military personnel to remain available to assist local authorities
- Dredging to start on the Rivers Tone and Parrett as soon as possible
- Radio adverts launched to help safeguard flooding clean-up operation
Wednesday 19 February
Tuesday 18 February
Monday 17 February
Sunday 16 February
Saturday 15 February
Thursday 13 February
- First meeting of new Cabinet Committee on Flooding
- Eric Pickles’ statement to Parliament on changes to the Bellwin scheme and the form councils can use to apply for it
- Transport Secretary meets with bus industry to help tackle weather disruption
- Citizens Advice support for flood and storm victims
- Brandon Lewis’ statement on sandbags
Wednesday 12 February
- Eric Pickles’ statement to Parliament on the latest situation
- £61 million for rail resilience and roads recovery
- New measures to help communities hit by flooding
- Tax helpline launched to support people affected by flooding
Tuesday 11 February
- David Cameron’s statement on the UK storms and flooding
- Government cuts cost of flying from Cornwall
Monday 10 February
- Eric Pickles’ statement following the evening COBR meeting
- Eric Pickles updates the House of Commons on the latest situation
- Nick Clegg visits flooded areas and promises government support
Sunday 9 February
Saturday 8 February
Friday 7 February
- Military support flood relief operation in Somerset
- Transport Secretary visits Dawlish in south-west
- Eric Pickles’ statement following the COBR meeting
Thursday 6 February
- Forty two new flood defences given the green light
- Eric Pickles’ statement to Parliament: government action taken to respond to floods and extreme weather
Wednesday 5 February
- PM announces £100 million for flood defences and “no restrictions on help” for those affected by storms
- More support for communities affected by floods
More than 5,000 personnel have been committed to help with flood relief operations with thousands more troops remaining available if required. The military will continue to support flood relief efforts as long as their help is required, including the next phase of the operation centred around recovery and clean-up work.
The government is in regular contact with the Electricity Distribution Network Operators and the Energy Networks Association. The Distribution Network Operators are very focused on keeping their customers updated in the event of any disruption to power supplies. See ‘Who to call if you have a power cut’.
Government action on flood defences
England has faced the wettest January since 1766. The government response to this includes:
- £30 million to be spent on urgent flood defence repairs this year on top of the £100 million next year
- 42 new flood schemes given the green light
- 55 schemes starting work this year
- they will protect over 43,000 households across the country
- they represent an investment of over £344 million in total
- Existing flood defences and improvements to the way the the Environment Agency respond to incidents has meant over 1.2 million properties and nearly 2,500 square kilometres of farmland has been protected since the beginning of December
Ministers have held a meeting with insurance industry leaders to discuss how the insurance industry is stepping up to help hard-working people affected by the floods.
The Association of British Insurers has published a film on how to protect your home if you live in a flood prone area, or make a claim if you’re recovering from a flood. You can find more information on the Association’s website
Latest information and advice about the severe weather and floods from government agencies and partners.
Use this tool to find your local council and their advice.
Public Health England
Advice on what to do before, during and after a flood. Health issues related to food, water and cleaning up after flooding. Read: Frequently asked questions on the health issues of flooding.
Who to call if you have a power cut
Your chosen electricity provider sells you energy, but it’s your local distribution network operator who maintains the power lines that connect your home or business to the network.
Take a look now and make a note of the number of the company that covers your area in case you need to use it at some stage. Further information: Who to call when you have a power cut.
Numerous government departments and agencies are working together to provide support throughout the severe weather. In addition to those listed above, further information and advice can be found on the following websites and Twitter channels:
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
This evening I chaired the final meeting of the government’s emergency committee (COBR).
While the weather forecast is improving, groundwater flooding remains an issue in parts of the south and all agencies are working together to take preparatory action and further protect property and critical infrastructure.
Insurance companies are working successfully with those in need, and repairs and payments are moving forward without delay.
Work is continuing round the clock to get the transport network back to full operation, and across the country local authorities are adopting a number of schemes to open up roads as quickly as possible.
I want to thank everyone involved for their continued work as we move into this phase of long-term recovery.
I would also like to emphasise that we are doing everything we can to get those still flooded back into their homes and businesses as quickly as possible.
Should conditions deteriorate I would like to reassure the public that the committee will reconvene immediately to respond to any new threat.
Ahead of International Women’s Day 2014, Baroness Warsi has called for more women from all backgrounds to volunteer as mentors to support young women in realising their full potential.
Speaking at a Foreign and Commonwealth Office event that brought together over 100 women from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, she called for a new wave of cross-community mentoring to help create new opportunities for young women and build strong lasting relationships both within and between faith communities.
The evening event celebrated the everyday examples of inter-faith collaboration and provided a valuable opportunity from which to recruit more women into key mentoring roles through the established interfaith programme run by mentoring charity, Mosaic.
Baroness Warsi said:
Inspiring Change is this year’s theme for International Women’s day with a call to challenge the status quo for women’s equality.
Events like tonight will go along way to kick-start a new wave of mentoring across all our communities and inspire women from all backgrounds to see the real benefits of becoming a role model.
I want to see a wider community of empowered women, supporting one another personally and professionally through mentoring relationships, creating new opportunities for young women and building strong lasting relationships between faiths.
Julie Sidiqui Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Britain said:
It is so important that relationships between Muslim and Jewish women in Britain are strengthened. We have so much to learn and benefit from each other. The calibre of women we had in the room from both communities is testimony to the commitment that is there and I look forward to seeing what great work can come from it.
Laura Marks Founder and Chair of Mitzvah Day said:
Celebrating and acknowledging the achievements of Jewish and Muslim women in leadership was so valuable but it really was so much more - the spirit and warmth of this group of women most of whom had never met was palpable, with a desire to learn so much more about one another, each other’s faiths and to take action and do a lot more good - together.
See more information on International Women’s Day 2014.
Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007, Mosaic’s mentoring programmes create opportunities for young people growing up in our most deprived communities. Mosaic’s vision is for all young people to be supported to realise their potential. With the help of volunteer mentors acting as role models, we aim to bridge the aspirations-attainment gap. By linking young people with inspirational role models in this way, we boost their confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability. See more information on Mosaic.
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News story: Thousands of jobs and apprenticeships to get seaside economies and flood affected areas growing
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rt Hon Danny Alexander and Communities Secretary, Rt Hon Eric Pickles announced a multi-million pound package to create jobs and apprenticeships in coastal towns across the country, including areas affected by the recent floods, as part of the UK government’s long-term economic plan.
Over fifty projects across the UK were today awarded a share of £27.7 million of funding, supporting over 4000 jobs and creating over 1000 new apprenticeships and training places.
In England, £17 million is today allocated to economic development projects in areas affected by the recent severe flooding, so from Great Yarmouth to Weymouth and Devon to North Tyneside, communities can invest and rebuild their local areas after the recent extreme weather.
Join the conversation on Twitter using #CoastalCommunitiesFund
The Ministers also announced that bidding for the next round of the Coastal Communities Fund was now open and that bids on coastal flood protection and repair would be prioritised. The fund will support £64 million of projects across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland over the next three years.
Creating new jobs and apprenticeships in coastal communities
Details of the fifty project winners announced today and how to be bid for the third round of funding, can be found on the Big Lottery Fund’s website.
The Coastal Communities Fund was created to direct regeneration investment to seaside towns and villages to help rebalance their local economies, reduce unemployment and create new work opportunities for young people from the local area.
The fund has already supported more than 100 projects in the first two years delivering over 4,000 jobs and over 1,000 apprenticeships. This takes the expected total, including today’s projects, to over 6,500 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships.
View our interactive map of projects that have received funding from the Coastal Communities Fund to date.
The new projects announced today include £1.3 million to diversify the tourism offer in Southend including a Seafront Apprenticeship scheme, £170,000 to develop the Arran Coastal Way in Scotland, £270,000 to develop Northern Ireland’s first lobster hatchery and £100,000 to support the creation of a new water sports centre in Colwyn Bay in Wales.
To support the announcement Danny Alexander visited a regeneration scheme in Hull, that will receive £300,000 from the fund to transform a disused dock into a multi-million pound technology hub and giving the local economy significant boost.
From Hull, Danny Alexander said:
The Coastal Communities Fund allows us to help communities across the UK to rebuild and regenerate their local economy, with projects this year supporting nearly 4000 jobs and 1000 training places.
This is even more important given the extreme weather and I’m very pleased we’re giving £17 million of the fund to projects in areas hit by floods. Additionally, we have invested £5 million from the fund’s reserve into the government’s programme for flood recovery.
The Coastal Communities Fund is supporting some of the most fragile communities. It is a great way to make sure that people living around our coastline can share in the benefits of the increased returns for the Crown Estate’s marine activities.
£64 million more support, with special consideration for flood recovery projects in England
Ministers also launched the third round of the fund, now extended to span 3 years so it can attract even more ambitious projects and give communities greater flexibility to manage their bids. With £64 million available, funds are the highest so far.
In England, bids for flood management schemes and projects to repair the recent flood damage will also be included as part of the next round of project winners. This will help communities affected by recent extreme weather get back on their feet and ensure that their local economy can grow in the coming years.
The fund is also supporting inland areas in England that are affected by flooding through a one off £5 million freed up from the Coastal Communities Fund reserve to go towards flood recovery projects as part of the Severe Weather Recovery Scheme. This will not affect the funding allocated to existing or future budgets.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
Regenerating forgotten coastal communities is part of the government’s long-term economic plan and our Coastal Communities Fund is backing over 100 projects, that will support a total of 6,500 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships creating new opportunities for local people.
We also want to help our seaside towns affected by the recent flooding get back on their feet as soon as possible. In England, nearly three-quarters of these regeneration projects funded today are in flood affected areas and our support will help these communities show they are back in business.
The next round of the Coastal Communities Fund is now open and we will be prioritising bids on coastal flood protection and repair. This government is committed to supporting the regeneration of our seaside towns and part of that is taking decisive action to help communities and businesses affected by the floods.
You can listen to an audio clip of Eric Pickles talking about the Coastal Communities Fund on Audioboo.
Updated: Added link to the list of guidance documents cancelled by the planning practice guidance suite.
The coalition government is committed to reforming the planning system to make it simpler, clearer and easier for people to use, allowing local communities to shape where development should and should not go. Planning should not be the exclusive preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials.
We are also committed to ensuring that countryside and environmental protections continue to be safeguarded, and devolving power down not just to local councils, but also down to neighbourhoods and local residents.
We have already taken a series of steps to cut unnecessary red tape, such as the streamlined National Planning Policy Framework reducing 1,000 pages of planning guidance to less than 50, revoking the last administration’s bureaucratic regional strategies and extending permitted development rights to make it easier to get empty and under-used buildings back into public use. I would like to update the House on progress on this ongoing work.
An accessible planning system
In October 2012, we invited Lord Taylor of Goss Moor to lead a review into the reams of planning practice guidance that we have inherited from the last administration.
My department subsequently held a consultation on the group’s proposals, and in August 2013, we launched our proposed streamlined planning practice guidance in draft, consolidating 7,000 pages of complex and often repetitive documents. Today, we are launching the final version of that practice guidance through an accessible website.
We have carefully considered representations made on the draft practice guidance and feedback from hon. members and noble peers in recent Parliamentary debates.
I would particularly note that we are:
issuing robust guidance on flood risk, making it crystal clear that councils need to consider the strict tests set out in national policy, and where these are not met, new development on flood risk sites should not be allowed
re-affirming green Belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green Belt and other harm to constitute very special circumstances justifying inappropriate development
making clear that local plans can pass the test of soundness where authorities have not been able to identify land for growth in years 11 to 15 of their local plan, which often can be the most challenging part for a local authority
making clear that windfalls can be counted over the whole local plan period
explaining how student housing, housing for older people and the re-use of empty homes can be included when assessing housing need
ensuring that infrastructure is provided to support new development, and noting how infrastructure constraints should be considered when assessing suitability of sites
stressing the importance of bringing brownfield land into use and made clear that authorities do not have to allocate sites on the basis of providing the maximum possible return for landowners and developers
noting that councils should also be able to consider the delivery record (or lack of) of developers or landowners, including a history of unimplemented permissions; this will also serve to encourage developers to deliver on their planning permissions
incorporating the guidance on renewable energy (including heritage and amenity) published during last summer and making it clearer in relation to solar farms, that visual impact is a particular factor for consideration
allowing past over-supply of housing to be taken into account when assessing housing needs
on the 5 year supply of sites, confirming that assessments are not automatically outdated by new household projections
clarifying when councils can consider refusing permission on the grounds of prematurity in relation to draft plans
encouraging joint working between local authorities, but clarifying that the duty to co-operate is not a duty to accept; we have considered and rejected the proposals of HM opposition to allow councils to undermine green Belt protection and dump development on their neighbours’ doorstep
We will today also cancel the previous planning practice guidance documents being replaced by the new guidance; a list has been placed in the Library. The planning practice guidance will be updated as needed and users can sign up for email alerts on any changes, or view these revisions directly on the site. The online resource is at: planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk
Encouraging re-use of empty and under-used buildings
In August 2013, my department published a consultation paper on a further set of greater flexibilities for change of use. Further reforms will save time and money for applicants and councils, encourage the re-use of empty and under-used buildings and further support brownfield regeneration while ensuring regard to potential flood risk.
New homes: retail to residential change of use
Outside key shopping areas, such as town centres, we want under-used shops to be brought back into productive use to help breathe new life into areas that are declining due to changing shopping habits. This will not only provide more homes, but increase the resident population near town centres, thereby increasing footfall and supporting the main high street. Reforms will allow change of use from shops (A1) and financial and professional services (A2) to houses (C3). This change of use will not apply to land protected by Article 1(5) of the General Permitted Development Order (National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, conservations areas, World Heritage Sites).
We recognise the importance of retaining adequate provision of services that are essential to the local community such as post offices. Consideration will be given to the impact on local services when considering the potential loss of a particular shop. The onus will be on the local planning authority to establish that the proposal would have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of a key shopping area or on local services should they wish to refuse the conversion. When considering the effect on local services they will have to take into account whether there is reasonable prospect of the premises being occupied by another retailer. Local planning authorities will need to have robust evidence base to justify any decision not to permit change of use using these prior approval tests.
In addition, to increase access to retail banking and to encourage new entrants, shops (A1) will be able to change to banks, building societies, credit unions and friendly societies, within the A2 use class. This does not cover betting shops or payday loan shops.
New homes: agricultural to residential change of use
These reforms will make better use of redundant or under-used agricultural buildings, increasing rural housing without building on the countryside. Up to 450 square metres of agricultural buildings on a farm will be able to change to provide a maximum of 3 houses.
We recognise the importance to the public of safeguarding environmentally protected areas, so this change of use will not apply in Article 1(5) land, for example national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty. However, we expect national parks and other local planning authorities to take a positive and proactive approach to sustainable development, balancing the protection of the landscape with the social and economic wellbeing of the area. National parks and other protected areas are living communities whose young people and families need access to housing if their communities are to grow and prosper. I would note that a prior approval process will allow for flooding issues to be addressed.
Change of use: extending access to education
We also propose to extend the existing permitted development rights for change of use to state-funded schools to additionally cover registered nurseries. Agricultural buildings up to 500 square metres will also be able to change to state-funded schools and registered nurseries.
I believe that these are a practical and reasonable set of changes that will help facilitate locally-led development, promote brownfield regeneration and promote badly-needed new housing at no cost to the taxpayer. The reforms complement both the coalition government’s decentralisation agenda and our long-term economic plan.
Homes and businesses in Somerset will be better protected from the risk of flooding under a new action plan outlined by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today.
The plan was commissioned by the Environment Secretary in January after exceptional weather caused large scale flooding and aims to improve resilience against floods on the Somerset Levels.
- Executive summary of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan
- The full Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan
Drawn up by local partners in the region, including the local councils, MPs, businesses and local residents, it sets out a number of initiatives that will ensure better protection against floods in the future, including:
- Immediate plans to dredge 8km of the Rivers Parrett and Tone as soon as it is safe and practical to do so;
- Making some temporary flood defences and pumping sites permanent;
- Helping local partners take more responsibility for water management on the Levels through a new Somerset rivers board;
- Supporting farmers to manage flood risk better; and
- Ensuring new developments meet the highest standards for water and drainage.
To help deliver the plan, the government is investing an additional £10 million to support the recovery effort in Somerset to fix damaged roads and improve the network’s ability to cope with tough weather conditions and flooding.
An extra £500,000 is also being made available from the Severe Weather Recovery Fund to help people on the Somerset levels get back on their feet and prevent future flooding, in addition to funding provided to local authorities under the Bellwin Scheme.
Read more about the UK government’s response to the flooding.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
The exceptional weather over the past few months has taken its toll on flood prone communities.
Six weeks ago I visited Somerset and saw for myself the exceptional impact on the county. That is why I commissioned urgent work from those at local level to identify how we can better protect Somerset communities over the next 20 years.
The plan we have received today includes some immediate actions that will help do this and I’m pleased that dredging will start as soon as it is safe to do.
We will continue to work with local partners on other proposals to ensure we secure a sustainable future for communities on the Somerset Levels.
Somerset County Council Leader John Osman addded:
This is a big step forward, bringing hope to our flood-hit communities. We have worked with government and other partners to find solutions in the short, medium and long term, for what we can do now and what we need to plan for in the future.
The Somerset Levels action plan also outlines a number of long-term proposals to ensure Somerset is better equipped to deal with the risk of flooding in the future. They include helping local partners take more responsibility for water management on the Levels through a new Somerset rivers board, and supporting farmers to manage flood risk better.
In addition to support for Somerset, the government has today announced further measures to help fishermen affected by the recent storms, pledging to make financial support under the European Fisheries Fund to reimburse up to 60% of the cost of replacing lost or damaged fishing gear such as lobster pots. The government will also continue to pay lighthouse dues for another year, saving the industry up to £140,000.
The publication of the action plan follows the Prime Minister’s announcement of an extra £10 million to help Somerset deal with - and recover from – the severe floods bringing the additional funding to Somerset specifically to more than £20 million.