Welcome to the seventh edition of the Environment, Housing and Planning bulletin.
The much-anticipated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March, and I'm pleased to say it contains a number of significant changes from the draft version which the Local Government Association (LGA) has lobbied for. These include: improved drafting of "the presumption in favour of sustainable development", redrafting of the 'standards' and 'viability' sections, retention of the 'Brownfield first' principle, giving a stronger emphasis to a 'Town centre first' policy, inclusion of the intrinsic value of localism as a core principle and a number of other improvements.
The finalised NPPF also contains transitional protection for local authorities, who now have 12 months to finalise their Local Plans. These will carry more weight as they reach their final stages, as called for by the LGA. There is more information on the NPPF in the bulletin itself.
The 28 of March finally saw the introduction of self-financing for council housing, the result of many years of lobbying from the LGA. See the bulletin for further information.
The announcement of the Government's final Right-to-buy scheme showed some improvements to the scheme originally proposed, although it is disappointing that there is a uniform national discount cap, as our response highlighted.
The imposition of drought orders in the southeast of England was announced in March. LGA will continue to be involved in weekly 'bird-table' meetings with Government, its agencies and water companies on this agenda to promote both the impact that drought has on councils, as well as councils' role in reducing drought risk. Further information and useful links are available below.
This month there have been several developments in Waste and Recycling and the LGA has produced downloadable guidance on the £250 million Weekly Waste Collection Fund, with partners WRAP, Local Partnerships and iESE.
Work also continues to promote the sector's view regarding co-mingling and the regulations regarding presentation of waste. Both subjects were discussed at the Environment and Housing Board meeting held on 14 March.
Letters sent to Richard Benyon MP and the Association of British Insurers regarding Flood insurance have received widespread media coverage. The letters expressed local government's concerns with the availability and affordability of flood insurance cover and made clear the LGA's offer on this issue.
Input from member councils directs and help inform our work, so please do feel free to email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions and contributions and, in particular, any information about any good work your council is doing.
Councillor David Parsons CBE
Chairman, LGA Environment and Housing Board
Following an extended period of consultation, the NPPF was published on 27 March 2012. A summary of 'lobbying successes' for the local government sector has been produced by the LGA, with the headlines being:
balanced approach to sustainable development
realistic transitional arrangementthe retention of 'Brownfield first'
giving a stronger emphasis to 'Town centre first' policy
a more explicit presumption against Green Belt development
the intrinsic value of localism has been added as a core principle
emphasis that Supplementary Planning Documents and Local Standards are part of the plan making, rather than adjunct to it
clarity around the status of guidance
a stronger emphasis on the role of good design.
There is also some clarity on the issue of planning for Travellers' site.
The LGA will be responding in more detail following discussions with member authorities. For your comments and contributions, please contact Russell Reefer, Adviser, Policy and Programmes on Telephone: 020 7664 3131 or email the Environment and Housing Team.
To assist with any questions that local planning authorities may have about the implications of the Framework for plan making or decision taking, a helpline has been established jointly between the LGA, the Planning Inspectorate and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The helpline is available from 09.00 until 16.00, Monday to Friday until further notice, on 0303 44 45500.
Self-financing went live on the 28 March with a transaction giving councils control of rental income from council housing that will mean more investment in affordable homes, following a sustained lobbying campaign by the LGA. This is a 'big win' for local government as the Treasury will no longer be holding onto the extra money raised from renting out social housing. While self-financing takes councils in a more localist direction, the LGA was disappointed that the details of the Right-to-buy policy announced on 12 March have taken a centralist approach and imposed conditions on councils around keeping receipts from Right-to-buy sales. The LGA will be urging Government to remove the centralised cap and allowing councils to decide to invest the income in new homes.
In response to announcements on drought and the introduction of temporary use bans (hosepipe bans), the LGA is working with Government and water companies to support affected councils. The LGA has provided information on the direct impact that restrictions have on councils and links to further information. We will shortly be producing an 'at a glance' guide for councils on their role in dealing with drought.
BeachCare is a project that aims to reconnect local people with their local environment. Through this it hopes to deliver real social outcomes including enhanced health benefits and cohesion within communities.
Through the work of a dedicated project officer in the local community, we aim to develop self-managing groups of community volunteers who adopt a particular beach and then develop a plan of activity. Beginning with litter surveying and collection, but also encouraging action that can help deliver better bathing water quality, including identifying wrongly-connected properties, incorrect disposal of fats/oils and sewage litter and drain and water efficiency.
The 'Love where you live' campaign, also run by Keep Britain Tidy, aims to inspire, encourage and enable us to make where we live, work and play the kind of place we really want it to be. It's about making a difference, whether as individuals, groups, local authorities or companies with partners such as local authorities, water companies and tourism organisation, and helping drive forward initiatives.
We have delivered three of the Housing and Planning Masterclasses and feedback has been positive. Delegates have heard from speakers on a number of issues and discussions have been lively and honest. There are still spaces available at the Birmingham event on 2 April.
The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) has published a leaflet on using strategic planning to work for sustainable growth. It examines the role of the duty to cooperate in planning for cross-boundary, strategic issues and the importance of doing these to effectively plan for long-term growth and investment in infrastructure.
Austin Mitchell MP (Great Grimsby) opened a Westminster Hall Debate on 6 March highlighting what he described as a "long period of disinvestment and under-investment" in social housing, claiming that council tenants were treated as "scroungers living on state subsidy." The LGA briefing to MPs ahead of the debate is available on the LGA website.
Oral questions to the DCLG Ministerial team were held in the House of Commons on 12 March. These included a range of questions on housing matters, such as that from LGA Vice-President Henry Smith MP (Con, Crawley) who asked what support DCLG could give to "local authorities to stop...illegal sub-letting and those who over-occupy their social tenancy homes..?"
Councillor Terry Stacy (Liberal Democrat, Islington) attended the All-Party Parliamentary Housing and Planning Group on 15 March, presenting on the LGA's response to the Government's Housing Strategy, our reaction to the recent Right-to-buy announcement, and what we wish to see in the forthcoming NPPF. Other speakers included Shelter and CPRE.
Environment, housing and planning at the LGA annual conference
Don't miss out on key sessions at this year's LGA annual conference. The Local Government Association's annual conference is the biggest event in the local government calendar. It also is one of the biggest political conferences of the year regularly attracting over 1,100 delegates. A list of those sessions specifically targeted at the workforce programme area is listed below, but this only tells part of the story. Come along to conference and take part in your choice of over 40 plenary, workshop and fringe sessions; network with over 90 exhibitors and share experiences with key players across the local government sector.
Tuesday 26 June – 16.45-17.45
W1: Housing the Nation: How to deliver development that communities suppor t
What is the role of good design in stimulating local growth and places people want to live, work and visit? This workshop will investigate the impact an innovative approach to design and planning can have on the attitude of local people to housing growth alongside appropriate infrastructure and the involvement of communities and their elected representatives in planning for their place.
Wednesday 27 June – 11.15-12.15
W15: Using planning to deliver for – and with – your communities
Planning is about creating places people want to live, work and visit. It is therefore important to local councillors. Councillors play a vital role in supporting residents to articulate their needs and ambitions for their area and working with them to decisions about when, where and how growth takes place along with better planned and financed infrastructure. Sometimes this means difficult and unpopular decisions. But collaborative working with local people and businesses and the right evidence will stand you in good stead to reach a conclusion that works for your local area.
The debate about the future of local high streets across the UK has moved beyond the Mary Portas proposals, after the Government today accepts many of the views put forward by local councils. However, council leaders believe the plans will only succeed with sustained local programmes to improve high streets for years, building on those already in place.
The LGA Chairman, Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, responds to the Government's announcement of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
This week, councils will finally get control of rental income from council housing that will mean more investment in affordable homes, following a successful campaign by the LGA.
The LGA Chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, responds to the budget announcement on right-to-buy.
30 January 2013