Local Planning and The Built Environment

Major revision April 2016

Local Planning and the Built Environment

Background


LP100 There will always be competing demands for the finite resource of land. A free market in land would give undue power to wealthy landowners and rich buyers, and would lead to unsustainable patterns of development. This has been recognised since the establishment of the first green belt in 1935, and the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947.

LP101 However, the half century following the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 has seen three policy failures. First, unsustainable patterns of development have prevailed, though less than if there were no planning controls at all. Of particular concern has been the development of prime agricultural farmland and important natural habitats, low density suburban sprawl that makes sustainable lifestyles difficult, and energy-inefficient buildings. Second, in some parts of the country the permitted use of land for housing has not kept up with the growing population, contributing to rising housing costs, and in turn to more overcrowding, a greater reliance on housing benefit, and fewer households being able to live near their place of work or their family. Third, and partly as a consequence of flawed national economic and industrial policies, in some parts of the country the permitted use of land for diverse and sustainable employment uses has been eroded by conversions to other uses.

LP102 While planning policy has failed to grapple with these national policy challenges, it is also often too remote from local communities. Decisions are not always taken at the most local practical level, consultation processes are too often tick-box exercises rather than an opportunity for genuine dialogue, and local decisions on local matters are overturned at a national level.


Long-term aims


LP200 To achieve patterns of development that enable all people to realise their potential and improve the quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the earth’s life support systems.

LP201 To provide housing that is suitable for and affordable by local people as well as the land, infrastructure and facilities for work, social and cultural activities as required by the community.

LP202 To protect land providing other human uses that are essential to the national and local community, such as floodplains, farmland and national parks.

LP203 To minimise the impact of human development on other species, and to nurture a network of resilient habitats to reverse declining biodiversity.

 

Short-term aims

 

LP300 To improve spatial patterns of development to meet sustainable transport and energy objectives.

LP301 To improve the permitted use of land to meet local needs such as housing without prejudicing long-term aims.

LP302 To re-introduce conservation practices in the design and construction and use of buildings. This should result in buildings which are durable, energy efficient, and adaptable for more than one specific purpose.

LP303 To enable a greater degree of self-sufficiency to be achieved within the living areas than at present.

LP304 To strengthen and protect local decision making, and empower local communities to be genuinely involved in the development of local planning policy.

 

Policies

Sustainable development

 


LP400 National, regional and local planning policy should articulate a vision of sustainable development which enables all people to realise their potential and improve the quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the earth’s life support systems and other species’ habitats. This principle would lie at the heart of a revised National Policy Planning Framework, which should be brought forward at the earliest opportunity.

LP401 In practice, given the current unequal distribution of land, property and power, achieving LP400 will inevitably mean that some with excessive wealth and power will lose out. Planning policy should seek to resolve these conflicts in the interests of greater equality.

LP402 While the Green Party aims to reduce the need for growth in the economy and the population, there will inevitably be requirements for new infrastructure, housing stock, industrial and commercial land, and social facilities in many local communities. Good planning and design are essential to resolve potential conflicts between social, economic and environmental concerns.

LP403 Sustainable development will be achieved through planning by creating places that facilitate a sustainable low carbon, and eventually zero carbon, circular economy, with actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to reduce our ecological footprint to a ‘one planet’ level, and to address more localised problems such as flooding. Local plans should integrate with energy plans (see EN112).

LP404 Achieving this requires a recognition that policies addressing all aspects of planning, including construction, housing, energy, transport, food, waste, water, health, the economy and natural habitats, are interconnected. More detailed policies in these areas are set out in other chapters. Local plans and neighbourhood plans (see LP504) should seek to foster Lifetime Neighbourhoods, which offer everyone the best possible chance of health, well-being and social, economic and civic engagement regardless of age. Ensuring this means that communities are empowered, and that local shops, social and community facilities, streets, parks and open spaces, local services, decent homes and public transport are affordable and accessible to everyone now and for future generations.

LP405 The Green Party strongly supports land designations which prevent inappropriate development on National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, natural habitats of local, regional, national or international importance, sites of special scientific or archaeological interest, and ancient woodlands.

LP406 Planning policy has failed to stem the alarming loss of biodiversity in England and Wales, and to arrest damage to ecology and landscapes, let alone to enhance them. The Green Party would require planning policy to protect and enhance ecology and biodiversity at a landscape scale, integrating this with policies on agriculture and industry.

LP407 The Green Party strongly supports the provision of green belts to contain urban sprawl, to maintain the separation of settlements, to protect prime agricultural land around settlements,to encourage urban regeneration and compact towns and cities, and to complement the ecological and cultural value of other designations listed in LP405. The Green Party would put a greater emphasis on the green belt’s use for wider sustainable development considerations such as flooding, biodiversity, agriculture, energy production and sustainable transport. The local authority role in reviewing and protecting their green belt is set out in LP510.

LP408 The Green Party believes that the call-in powers of the Secretary of State and the Mayor of London, and the appeals system operated by the National Planning Inspectorate, undermine local democracy and confidence in the planning system. We would therefore:

• bind the call-in powers of the Secretary of State so that he or she cannot override decisions in compliance with an up to date and approved local plan, except where the decision relates to national strategic infrastructure projects.
• abolish the Mayor of London's power to call in and approve planning applications that have been refused by the local authority, or where the local authority has not yet made a decision.
• restrict the role of the National Planning Inspectorate to examining local plans for compliance with national policy, abolishing its appeals process;
• introduce a right of appeal for applicants and third parties, to be handled by a new body overseen by the Local Government Ombudsman, and only where there has been an error in the planning process, a variance from the local plan or national policy, or an infringement of civil rights.

LP409 The Green Party is concerned that viability assessments for local plans and for individual planning applications have put too much power in the hands of private developers, and led to the under-provision of affordable housing and other community benefits. This has been exacerbated by cuts to public investment in housing and infrastructure, a volatile development market, and excessively generous allowances for profits (often exceeding 20 per cent). We would therefore require that all viability assessments are published for public inspection, and that local authorities be required to set out clear guidance on developer profits with a maximum surplus of 15 per cent.

LP410 Permitted development rights are an important feature of the planning system, but in some cases these have been extended to inappropriate forms of development. The Green Party would roll back recent changes to permitted development rights including changes of use from commercial or industrial, and extensions onto or paving over front and back gardens where this exacerbates flood risk and biodiversity loss.

 

Local plans

 

LP500 Local authorities should bring forward Local Plans, setting out a clear spatial vision which gives form to the principles set out in LP401-406; which complies with national policy; which is aspirational but realistic; and which is based on an understanding of the significance of place - what the community values about it and how they would like it to change in the future. Plans should be accompanied by a delivery strategy, setting out the scale and location of anticipated change, the likely sequence of development, and wider changes required to meet the objectives.

LP501 Both the Local Plan and its delivery strategy should be underpinned by a rigorous evidence base. This would include assessment such as the availability of land, the requirements for housing (see HO401-409) and employment, the local ecology and ecosystems services, the historic environment, the landscape, and our changing climate.

LP502 Consultation on local Plans should begin early, and provide opportunities for local stakeholders to engage in a deliberative process to understand the evidence base and the challenges the local area faces; to identify the objectives and priorities for the plan; and to sketch the outline plans for each location. Without this genuine dialogue and co-production, plans are unlikely to arrive at the best solutions and are more likely to meet with opposition from those excluded from the process. The Green Party would ensure that planning departments are adequately resourced for this task.

LP503 Where planning issues cross administrative boundaries, local authorities should face a duty to cooperate, which should take the form of a continuous process of engagement from initial thinking through to implementation. Where cooperation fails, an independent inspector will advise based on the process and outcomes. Where this still fails to achieve a common set of objectives and an implementation plan, the Secretary of State will make a ruling based on the inspector’s advice which will form a binding national policy on those local authorities.

LP504 The Green Party supports Neighbourhood Planning. Each local community should be able to express their own vision of a ‘lifetime neighbourhood’, defined as one where the social and physical conditions support a strong and vibrant community. Local planning authorities should seek to empower and support communities to develop their plans, ensuring they align with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area, national policy and legal requirements. Neighbourhood plans, therefore, must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan, and local authorities should therefore have a duty to assist communities in engaging in a deliberative process similar to that used in consulting on the Local Plan. Neighbourhood plans and local plans should seek to identify deficiencies in the components of a lifetime neighbourhood, for example areas with little access to open space and nature, and develop plans to address these.

 

Identifying land for development

 

LP505 Local planning authorities would be given a duty to bring forward sufficient capacity for new housing, the local economy and infrastructure. This can include land for development, and the potential to intensify existing uses, for example adding further storeys to a block of flats. This provision should meet the need identified in housing strategies (see HO401-409).

LP506 As far as possible, the demand for new urban land should be minimised through a combination of demand-reduction policies (see for example HO401) and through optimising densities. Land value taxation would create incentives to bring forward empty sites for development, and local authorities would be given stronger powers to tackle remaining land hoarding (see LP516) . Any development of present settlements should be confined within the existing boundaries where possible, and where a loss of countryside is deemed necessary it should go on the least sensitive land that is most accessible by public transport, cycling and walking to existing economic and social facilities. The maximum value should also be obtained on land used for development, for example by integrating natural habitats into solar forms or on rooftops.

LP507 Local authorities should make more use of small sites, which are often overlooked or undervalued in the current land availability assessments. Dense infill developments could significantly offset the need to build on larger brownfield and greenfield sites that provide natural habitats.

LP508 To protect wildlife, the Green Party would require any release of land for development to follow the mitigation hierarchy of ‘avoid, mitigate and compensate’. The impact on other natural habitats should be avoided wherever possible and where damage cannot be avoided it should be mitigated (e.g. via housing or infrastructure design, translocation of species or repair of damaged habitat). Finally, any unavoidable residual loss of replaceable habitat should be compensated through offsetting to ensure no net loss for biodiversity in and around the location of the development. Irreplaceable land uses as outlined in LP405 would not be subject to this offsetting policy. Developers should also look to understand and compensate for the social or amenity value of lost green space to local communities. The offset should be based on a robust, independently verified set of metrics. Links between housing, planning and environment strategies should be identified so that any offsetting contributes towards broader local and regional objectives.

LP509 While the policy of ‘brownfield first’ is supposed to consider the environmental value of brownfield sites, too many valuable habitats for other species are identified for development. The Green Party would give wildlife-rich brownfield land greater protection following the approach set out in LP508, and require local authorities to review their local plans to remove high-value sites.

LP510 Local authorities should review their green belt on a periodic basis where they are failing to achieve sustainable development, for example where they are causing sprawl and commuting beyond their bounds, and where there is scope for more sustainable development on existing green belt sites, for example near transport hubs. Reviews should seek to achieve the policies set out in LP406-407, ensure no net loss in the quantity and quality of green belt land, and should aim to ‘green the greenbelt’.

LP511 The effects of climate change will mean that it will no longer be practical for the continued use of some sites, including many homes, which are now liable to regular flooding. Such derelict land should be re-landscaped rather than re-developed, and the practice of developing reclaimed marshland should be ended. Central government should also help those who are most affected. Government insurance schemes should be available to offer cover for those refused flooding cover by commercial companies, and there should financial assistance to help with relocation for those whose properties have become uninhabitable or prohibitively expensive to insure.

LP512 Flooding in urban and rural settlements is a fact of life, and is set to get worse as our climate changes. Flood risk will change over time, and so should be regularly reviewed. Local plans should aim to reduce flood risks arising from all sources (rivers, tidal surges, sewers, groundwater, surface water and infrastructure failure). Individual developments should minimise the loss of permeable surface and increase it where possible. Where development entails a reduction of permeable surface area, it must mitigate the resulting increase in surface water runoff using Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDs) in accordance with policy HO410d. Loss of permeable surfaces in existing developments such as front and back gardens should be avoided. Planning consent will be required where an existing permeable garden is proposed to be converted to an impermeable surface which drains into conventional drains or a sewer. New green and blue infrastructure is not only cost effective, but also often good for air quality, biodiversity and health. Local plans should also identify opportunities for new flood defences.

LP513 Overheating in urban areas is a problem that is also set to get worse with our changing climate. Local plans should identify areas subject to a significant urban heat island effect, and set targets for urban greening to cool the air such that a changing climate makes the heat island effect no worse than it is today.

 

Bringing development land forward

 

LP514 Local authorities should have an active role in assembling land, providing infrastructure and drawing up the spatial plans for development. Currently they are left in a largely reactive role, giving permission based upon local development frameworks, which has led to a shortage of available land and too many poor quality developments. The Green Party would move towards the ‘custom build’ model more common in countries like the Netherlands and Austria. Under this new model, local authorities should be able to use streamlined compulsory purchase powers to assemble areas with fragmented ownership, and to buy the land at existing use value. We would also support the allocation of more land for self-build. The Green Party would explore how the Land Bank and Community Land Trust models developed in the USA could be used to maximise the benefits from land and property acquisition. Land should be chosen based on its potential to achieve the principles of sustainable development set out in LP400-406.

LP515 Local authorities should then develop detailed plans for each development, provide the social, environmental and transport infrastructure, and promote good standards of design. They would then sell the land in small parcels for development by private, cooperative, charitable or publicly owned companies at a price that at least recovers their costs. Where this isn’t possible, the local authority and national government should assess the social and environmental case for subsidising development.

LP516 Where owners of land designated for development in the local plan fail to bring it forward for development in a timely manner, local authorities should exercise compulsory purchase orders in the public interest, to prevent land hoarding.

LP517 To improve transparency and efficiency in the land market, making it easier for small, community and self-builders to acquire land, the Land Registry (which should be publicly owned) would be required to collect and publish an open registry on land ownership, and open data on land prices by site and hectare. Local authorities would also be required to publish open data on planning permissions with some details of the plans. All other public authorities that collect data on transactions and options agreements would also be required to publish this in an open format. All public authorities considering disposal of land assets would be required to do so transparently, publishing its intention to do so, publishing key financial information after the land has been sold, and exploring options for other public or community bodies to purchase the land (see also HO514).

 

Other land needs

 

LP518 In some parts of the country there is a shortage of provision for burials. At the same time there is an interest in woodland burial and other environmentally-friendly forms of burial. Local councils shall review the future need for burial space, to include provision for woodland and other environmentally-friendly forms of burial.

 

Local independent retailing

 

LP601 A wide range of local shops and services within walking distance is essential to a sustainable community. Yet local shops are closing or being replaced with chain-store 'clones' and formula retailers every day, and just a few supermarkets dominate the market for groceries. Current government and local government policies are not protecting local shops and markets.

LP602 Retailing is a highly visible part of the business sector with a huge influence on society, local communities and employment. Almost half of UK shops are owned and managed by a sole trader, and many more have fewer than five employees. Retail also provides routes to self employment for groups such as migrants to the UK and ethnic minorities, who are proportionately more likely to start their own businesses. In rural areas, retailing is now the single largest employer.

LP603 Many of the Green Party's policies on localisation and small enterprises will help local, independent retailers, such as the abolition of VAT (see EC771) and combining National Insurance with Income Tax (see EC721), and some of our policies already seek to control parking in new developments (see TR035). However, some specific planning policies to preserve the viability of local shops and the services provided by these enterprises are also necessary.

LP604 We will revise the National Planning Policy Framework and its guidance so that local and regional authorities can protect and encourage local, independent retailers. This guidance would:

a) enable the introduction of ‘business conservation areas’ that empower local communities to retain the character and amenity of their high streets, and bar formula retailers from certain areas,
b) ensure basic facilities (food shops, banks, pharmacies and post offices) are located within all residential areas of a certain size; and ensure they are within 15 minutes’ walk in all urban and suburban areas, aiming for all such facilities to be within 5 minutes’ travel by foot or wheelchair; by empowering local authorities to use the planning process to influence the retail mix in their areas, and to offer subsidies or other incentives if necessary,
c) prohibit new out-of-town retail parks and car-based superstores,
d) insist that 50% of retail floor space in all new developments is affordable space for local small businesses,
e) reduce local authority dependence on financial incentives (‘planning gain’) from large developers and companies, which are used to secure planning permission for developments that would otherwise be rejected,
f) include clear policies on sustainability to enable planning authorities to favour local businesses on ecological grounds, rather than bigger firms with less sustainable practices,
g) prohibit new retail parking in large developments, apart from disabled parking,
h) encourage the pedestrianisation of shopping areas within cities, towns and villages, to provide a safe and pleasant shopping environment. Where possible, delivery access should be provided outside of the pedestrianised area or should be restricted to times which are not peak shopping times.

LP605 We will require local authorities to adopt a retail strategy, a retail regeneration plan and local competition policies to prevent high streets from being dominated by formula businesses, and to ensure fair market access for small, independent retailers. We would require these strategies to include policies to support and retain street markets and farmers markets, and encourage the introduction of new markets, where there is community demand.

LP606 We will empower local authorities to bring in rent controls for small shop premises, to prevent landlords from driving up rents and driving out independent retailers.

 

The built environment

 

LP700 Our built environment should create a sense of place and community life. Buildings should not obscure or unduly disrupt popular viewpoints from local amenities such as parks or hills, and should be broadly consistent with the height of existing buildings in the local environment. Specific buildings providing a distinctive feature to the locality can be an exception to this.

LP701 Buildings of special historic interest need to be preserved for future generations. The present regulations and guidance for conservation areas and listed buildings should be maintained and improved to provide incentives for the retention of listed structures, and to protect or enhance the special historical character of conservation areas. Local authorities would be given a statutory duty to provide historic environment records.

LP702 Legal sanctions must be stiffened against those who demolish listed buildings, or who allow them to fall into a state of disrepair. The relevant bodies must make proper use of legislation enabling them to do this and must earmark sufficient resources, financial and staff, to operate it effectively. Interim protections would also be introduced to prevent the demolition of or damage to buildings that are being considered for heritage designation.

LP703 The Green Party would increase local authorities’ powers to take action in response to heritage at risk, including improvements to urgent works and streamlined compulsory purchase powers that reduce the risk to the local authority and increase the likelihood that the property would be saved and reusable.

LP704 It is recognised that blue-rich white light (BRWL) at night is harmful to human health and ecology, due to human and wildlife circadian disruption. Furthermore, it is detrimental to road safety and contributes to undesirable sky glow, due to excessive glare caused by the so-called "Rayleigh Scattering Effect". Finally, there is a considerable negative aesthetic impact, particularly in areas with heritage lighting. Based on the growing body of scientific research which shows that BRWL is harmful, emissions of short wavelength, blue-rich light should be minimised in all outdoor lighting applications.

For the above reasons, all lighting of streets, roads and other outdoor public places should be of a "Warm White" specification, and ideally have a CCT (Correlated Colour Temperature) of 2700K - but in any event must not exceed a CCT of 3000K. The wavelength, angle and intensity of new or replacement lighting intended to save energy should be tested in situ before a scheme is implemented and be preceded by thorough Health and Environmental Impact Assessments.


Local Planning and The Built Environment Chapter Updates

Spring 2017 - new LP704 added

The following additional policy statements can be found in the Green Party Record of Policy Statements (RoPS) on Planning available on the Members webiste:

  • Planning and Third Party Appeals (Spring 1995)
  • Permitted Development Rights (Spring 1999)
  • Planning Green Paper (Spring 2002)
  • Building Regulations & Climate Change (Autumn 2008)