What is – the Government Housing & Planning Bill 2015-2016 ?

The Housing & Planning Bill 2015-2016 is currently before Parliament and is at the final stage. To read about the Bill in more detail go to:


The Impact Assessment (from which the following is extracted) relates to clauses within the Bill and poses two questions:

  • What is the problem under consideration?
  • Why is government intervention necessary?

Explanatory Notes are provided as follows:

In the year to June 2015, 131,000 new homes were completed. Although housing starts are at their highest annual level since 2007, and there are now almost 800,000 more homes in England than there were in 2009, we are still not fully meeting the demands of over 200,000 households formed every year.

In addition, not enough people who want to own their own home have the opportunity to do so.

The rate of homeownership in England has been falling since its peak in 2003, despite the aspiration for home ownership remaining strong. Although over 230,000 households have been helped by government-backed schemes to buy a home since spring 2010, younger households, in particular, are now less likely to own their own home than a decade ago.

The public need to have confidence that housing policy in our country is fair and fit for the future. Social housing needs to work as efficiently as it can. Private tenants need additional reassurance that rogue landlords will be driven out of business. Further government intervention is required to ensure this happens.

(The Impact Assessment proceeds to pose questions about the policy objectives and the intended effects, i.e. getting the nation building homes faster, helping more people buy their own home, ensuring the way housing is managed is fair and fit for the purpose).

Planning Portal News – 14th October 2015 – Local Plans shrinking the Green Belt

Planning Portal News: 8 October 2015

Green belt figures

New figures show that there has been a decrease of around 2,000 hectares overall of green belt in England between April 2013 and the end of March 2015 largely because of new local plans adopted by 11 local authorities.

These latest figures show that the extent of the designated green belt in England as at 31st March 2015 was estimated at 1,636,620 hectares, around 13 per cent of the land area of England.

Since these statistics were first compiled for 1997, there has been an increase of 32,000 hectares in the area of green belt after taking account of the re-designation of some green belt as part of the New Forest National Park in 2005.

(The above is an extract from Planning Portal News)

The Clock Gardens – A Timely Response for Opinions from Local Residents

Whilst listening to local residents at various locations, it became apparent that there are many varying opinions about the new Clock Gardens development. With the use of the social media website, Streetlife, and other forms of communication, many comments were provided and this is just a sample of some of them who corresponded on Streetlife.

Lin W believes that the development is an abomination and cannot understand how developers got approval as it is not in keeping with the surrounding area.

Linda Mc says that it is an ugly development in the wrong place, but also highlighted another major issue regarding traffic problems at rush hour.

One of the other contributors to Streetlife, Chloe, is one of the few that actually like the development and had many comments to make including her view that it is very attractive. She also mentions that it is better than building a nursing home as the local medical staff would not be able to cope with the demand. Her views include the benefit for younger members of our community who have to start somewhere on the housing ladder.

Ian S made an interesting comment about being elbowed out by buy-to-letters if he wished to buy one of the flats. Other comments have indicated that these flats have been mostly bought by buy-to-letters so Chloe’s comment about first time buyers may not ring true here.

Apart from the few who actually like the development, other respondents based their views on a couple of topics including the ugliness of the development, the possible traffic problems that may be caused at peak times and how did the project get approved in the first place?

One comment from a local resident on the way to Stevenage when passing the development was “Living there will be like sleeping on the hard shoulder of the Motorway!

Local Plan – Welwyn Hatfield – Progress update

WHBC Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel Newsletter No 8 reports that they have recommended to Cabinet a revised timetable for the preparation of the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan.

The following are extracts from the WHBC Newsletter No 8 published October 2015

To get your own copy of the Newsletters you are invited to email your details to planningpolicy@welhat.gov.uk or telephone 01707 357532.

The Borough Newsletter No 8 declares:

The revised timetable reflects the amount of time that it will take to: analyse nearly 6,000 consultation responses to the draft plan; assess 61 new and/or amended sites; update evidence, such as the need for new homes in the borough; receive evidence from third-party studies such as the Herts Water Study; and liaise with service providers in respect of schools and healthcare and other infrastructure.

New Sites

The Newsletter identifies that many new and/or amended sites have been put forward for potential inclusion in the Local Plan since the draft was put out to consultation earlier this year. Details of these proposed sites can be found on the Local Plan website, but they come with a caveat. In none of these instances have the proposed sites yet been assessed for suitability.

Of special interest to the WPAG, there are a number of newly proposed housing sites affecting Welwyn directly, and it is worthwhile familiarising yourself with these, in readiness for our involvement in the Consultation on the final draft Local Plan which is scheduled for the Summer of 2016.

Drop In Events

But in fact you do not have to wait that long, because the Borough is running two drop-in events where these proposed new/amended sites will be able to be viewed, as follows:

20th October 2015     – at The Hub, Hatfield Town Centre between 4 pm and 7.30 p.m.

11th November 2015 – at The Focolare Centre, Parkway, Welwyn Garden City, between 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.

At these events we are informed that officers will be available to answer questions about the Local Plan process and the feedback received to date.

We repeat, the Borough cautions that these sites have not yet been assessed and therefore no decision has been made on their suitability.

Local Plan Timeline

Autumn – Winter 2015    Review responses and further technical work

Spring 2016                    Complete evidence, site assessments, draft final Local Plan

Summer 2016                 Consultation on final draft Local Plan

Autumn/Winter 2016       Review responses and submit for examination

Early 2017                       Examination in Public

Spring/Autumn 2017       Examination Inspector’s Report and Adoption

Planning Portal – 24th September 2015 – Large Scale Housing Schemes

(The following is an extract from the Planning Portal Content Team, reporting on 24th September 2015).

Ministers should consult on bringing large-scale housing schemes within the Planning Act 2008 regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), a report commissioned by law firm Bond Dickinson and planning consultants Quod has urged.

The report, based on the views of housing and planning experts in both the public and private sectors, claimed that use of the NSIP regime could harness the power of the private sector and “relieve hard-pressed local authority budgets”.

Less than half the estimated 240,000 new homes needed each year were completed in 2014, and the last six years had seen the lowest level of house building since the Second World War, it added.

The report insisted that there was widespread support for creating new settlements on the scale of the post-war New Towns to address the housing crisis.

However, it argued that this was unlikely to happen without policy and legislation that overcame the current barriers to bringing forward large-scale housing and mixed use projects within the current planning system.

The report noted recent research suggesting that only 25 per cent of local planning authorities had a local plan which had been adopted as sound since the publication of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.

For the full report go to Planning Portal Content Team report).

Planning Portal News 23rd July 2015 – Local Plan ‘deadline’

Government announces local plan ‘deadline’ and urges more Inspectorate pragmatism


Planning Minister Brandon Lewis told Parliament this week that the government would intervene where local authorities had failed to produce a local plan by “early 2017”.

In a written Commons statement he said: “We will intervene to arrange for the plan to be written, in consultation with local people, to accelerate production of a Local Plan.”

The minister’s comments came as Lewis’s colleague Communities Secretary Greg Clark wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate Simon Ridley voicing concern that some inspectors were taking too tough a line on shortcomings in some strategies.

The Secretary of State said: “We have recently seen significant positive plan-making progress: 82 per cent of authorities have now published local plans and 64 per cent adopted plans compared with 32 and 17 per cent in May 2010 respectively.

For the full report go to 


Planning Portal – 10 September 2015 – Housing Projections

The following is extracted form a Planning Round-up published by the Government Planning Portal on 10th September 2015.

Official figures showing a surge in net migration to the UK cast further doubt on the robustness of key household projections used by councils to assess their area’s housing need, Planning Magazine reported last week. 2013-P1060312

Concerns have resurfaced about the reliability of the government projections used by councils to help assess housing need, with recent official figures showing that net international migration to the UK has hit record levels.

Commentators say the new figures are evidence that the housing shortfall is worsening more quickly than expected, and some councils may need to look to increase their housing numbers locally.

Simon Coop, planning director at consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners is reported as warning that councils who relied on the projections risked an under-provision of housing need in their area.

The Clock – the seconds are ticking away.

(For the background to the following critique, see the earlier post A1(M) Improvement).

Those who live in and around Welwyn, and those who regularly pass through Welwyn via the Welwyn By-pass or the B656 Link Road, await anxiously for the builders dust to settle; for the landscaping to finish;2015-09-06 13.07.44-1 and then nervously for the Clock to strike ‘Won’.

But who will be the winners?

We are glad that the eye-sore of the burned-out, derelict, former Hotel site has been cleared, and we are glad that more housing will be made available, and we will welcome the new residents into the Welwyn Community.

But we do not have to be glad about the existing rush-hour traffic chaos on the Clock Roundabout, that can only get worse, nor should we be glad that local residents will feel the effect of over-flow car parking that will inevitably follow once the new flats are completed and occupied.

Borough Councillors have expressed their concerns, and there have been suggestions, including creation of a box to prevent grid-locking on the roundabout, and at the entrance to The Clock too. But we have no news of progress on that front.

And the Danesbury Residents Association’s proposal to place a single traffic-light control on the southern entry to the roundabout as a simple, and relatively cheap solution to reduce the build-up of long queues on both the B656 and the B197, received discouraging sounds from County Highways. “We don’t plan to do that sort of thing”…

Perhaps we are jumping the gun?

Perhaps The Clock will stop?

Unlikely, to say the least.

Planning Portal News – 20th August 2015 – St Albans Green Belt Appeals Dismissed

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed two re-opened appeals, one for 116 dwellings and a care home and the other for 85 dwellings at a green belt location – largely open farmland – on the northern edge of St Albans in Hertfordshire. The site is located between the mainline railway and the A1081.

Both schemes had been refused by the local planning authority, St Albans City and District Council and dismissed on appeal by a planning inspector in 2013. However developer Hunston Properties mounted a successful High Court challenge which quashed the inspector’s decision. Subsequently the council went to the Court of Appeal which resulted in a ruling that the appeals should be reheard and redetermined.

The SoS agreed with the inspector that, despite the council having less than 3.7 years of housing land supply “the very special circumstances do not exist to justify allowing the inappropriate development”.

Clark’s decision letter concluded that the schemes represented “substantial green belt harm”. He also agreed with the inspector that the schemes posed “significant harm to the character and appearance of the area, diminishing its intrinsic character and beauty, causing real and serious harm with a lasting effect on the nature of the countryside”.

Ed: Go to the Government Planning Portal on the Links Page for more information about central Government planning news..