Sustainable what?

Bearing in mind the NPPF waxes lyrical about the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and the ‘golden thread’ of sustainability that runs through planning, it might appear crass to question what is meant by sustainable development. But I’ll do it anyway.

Last year I was preparing for an appeal.  I was reading through various planning committee reports and reviewing the well meaning, but ad-hoc analysis undertaken by the respective planning officers.  They were inconsistent.  They were unsubstantiated.  They were absolutely open to scrutiny.  I looked at my own analysis.  I felt it was robust and capable of defence under cross-examination, but I was conscious that along with the planning inspector that would ultimately determine the appeal, all of the professional planners involved in the process would be applying their own interpretation to what is meant by the term sustainable development, and in turn, the presumption to be applied to the same. God help any members of the community looking on from the gallery.

One might initially say, so what? Well to my mind, it matters a great deal.  The NPPF sets out to increase the pace and volume of development, albeit with the laudable caveat that it should be the right kind of development – sustainable development.  The NPPF identifies the three strands of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental, and references to these categories, and sustainable development in general, courses through the NPPF. But ultimately, it doesn’t say what it is, or at what point (or level) the presumption is triggered.  Is it about carbon neutral development? Is it about being close to public transport? Can you be sustainable if you satisfy one of these credentials but not the other two?

Once the dust had settled on my appeal, I got to thinking.  What if there was a criteria to sit alongside the NPPF that all practitioners, stakeholders, and the public at large could use as a yardstick to appraise planning proposals (development plan submissions and applications alike)? Would it be so difficult to, say, rate the economic, social, and environmental components of a scheme, to bind the complex and extensive planning submission documents into a single rating system, and to then provide a blended overall outcome?

I’m pleased to say that I was not alone in thinking that this could be a good thing.  With the wise counsel of Nick Raynsford, the former Labour Housing Minister, Iceni are in the process of setting up a Sustainable Development Commission, the purpose of which will be to scrutinise those elements, their applicability and the weight of significance, to be applied to planning proposals. We are presently formalising the membership of the Commission, but at the time of writing we already have the commitment of a number of eminent people, who are well known in their day-jobs, and have generously agreed to spend their own time scrutinising and developing our initial ideas. These include Shaun Spiers (Chief Executive, CPRE), Sue Smith (Joint Chief Executive, Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council), Stephen Ashworth (Partner, Dentons) and Janet Askew (RTPI President, 2015).  We are looking to finalise the involvement of two developers (one with a specific interest in housing), and a planning inspector, which will provide an excellent cross-section of interests in planning and development.

What would I like to see come out of this process? Ideally, for all practitioners to be in a position to apply the same, easily understood criteria to all projects, so that there is consistency in decision making, and a real understanding of what constitutes sustainable development. Time will tell as to whether we can achieve this, but Iceni will certainly be leading from the front, and will apply a weighting system to the projects we work on – what we have dubbed a Sustainable Development Scorecard – to guide our clients into delivering the best possible proposals, that can equally provide the best possible community outcomes from the same.

Large numbers in our society still have very little understanding of who funds the improvements in transport infrastructure, health, education, community facilities and affordable housing, to name but a few.  I think a Scorecard – and the principles underpinning it – can help to present these facts in a lucid fashion. Equally, I think we do need a tool that local planning authorities and communities can apply to hold developers – and development – to account.  Providing investment in a new water treatment works and flood protection should be worthy of recognition, and may well secure a credit along the way to justifying the sustainable development credentials of a scheme. Equally, the erosion of important agricultural land has the potential to mark down a proposal. A Scorecard system would allow supporters and objectors alike to rate the credentials of any given project.

It’s important to say that Iceni are not seeking to claim ownership of Sustainable Development.  The objective is borne out of the NPPF, and our proposals for a Scorecard will be signposted at all stages back to the NPPF. Others may look to devise an alternative criteria, or seek to apply a more detailed layering to the analysis, which would be a positive outcome of this process, and one to be welcomed.

As a final comment, I sincerely hope the outputs of the Commission – and how Iceni would apply a Scorecard – will be a tool that is accessible to all, and not simply sustainability consultants on the margins of projects.  Planning is not rocket-science, but it is all-consuming; it affects all of our lives, and we all have a point of view.  The major benefit of the NPPF is that it has made planning policy easy to find, and in the main (objectively assessed need discussions aside) relatively easy to understand.  That is a very solid objective, and sustainable development, being a fundamental objective of the NPPF, needs to be kept firmly in the centre ground of planning and decision making.

What funding shift means for the role of planners in housing delivery

Extract from Planning Magazine
04 December 2015

New priorities for the government’s multi-billion pound housing budget, along with the Housing and Planning Bill, are likely to reduce the planning system’s role in providing affordable homes to rent, experts have said.

In last week’s spending review, chancellor George Osborne reaffirmed the government’s overriding objective of increasing homeownership. In his statement to Parliament, he said the housing budget would be doubled to more than £2 billion a year. “Above all, we choose to build the homes that people can buy,” Osborne said.

A five-point plan for housing in the spending review is intended to deliver 400,000 affordable housing starts by 2020/21, with funding pumped into low-cost homeownership products rather than affordable and social rented housing. “Affordable means not just affordable to rent, but affordable to buy,” Osborne told MPs.

Of those housing starts, the spending review said, 200,000 will be the Starter Homes pledged in the Tories’ general election manifesto, available at a 20 per cent discount to the under-40s, with a £2.3 billion fund to “support the delivery of up to 60,000 of these, in addition to those delivered through reform of the planning system”. Osborne also pledged 135,000 shared ownership houses and 10,000 more rented homes that will let tenants save for a deposit.

Experts said the spending priorities set out in the chancellor’s statement, combined with mandatory reductions in social rent levels from 2016/17 and yet to be announced regulations on the provision of Starter Homes via the Housing and Planning Bill, could significantly limit the number of social and affordable rent properties provided through planning obligations.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has acknowledged the effect of rent reductions. The bill also includes a clause to allow ministers to demand that councils include a certain proportion of Starter Homes on all reasonably-sized sites.

Commentators predicted that the changes could lead to a boom in housing needs assessments as councils start taking the Starter Homes initiative into account. They also said the Starter Homes’ proposed exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy could prompt early charging schedule reviews. The forthcoming legislative changes – and the spending review’s affordable housing funding shift – are likely to mean that the planning system could have a reduced role in future provision of affordable rented homes, they said.

Richard Ford, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said local planners would need to show examiners that they have taken demand for Starter Homes into account and could face challenges if their housing need assessments are not updated. He said developers could claim that affordable housing policies are out of date and can be ignored if they do not include Starter Homes.

“Developers may argue that the whole plan is out of date because there is new demand for Starter Homes and more units should be allocated,” said Ford. “The opportunity for authorities to do new strategic housing market area assessments and viability work is now.” He added that section 106 deals are already beginning to be worded in anticipation of a need for future flexibility in the balance between affordable rent, shared ownership and Starter Homes.

Stephen Ashworth, partner at law firm Dentons, said: “When you introduce a new category of housing, it’s difficult to judge what the objectively assessed need for it will be. But Starter Homes are going to eat into something else. Councils will have to pre-empt the situation. By the time data has been put together and put out to consultation, you’re looking at a year to do it properly.”

Mike Kiely, chair of the board at the Planning Officers Society, predicted that the improved viability of affordable homes for sale – compared to properties sold to housing associations for rent – could lead to future section 106 deals with tenure mixes that seek 30 per cent Starter Homes and 20 per cent other affordable tenures.

However, he said the government seems to recognise that “almost a wholesale shift” would be required from “traditional forms of affordable housing to Starter Homes” to deliver the programme, which would further affect the planning system’s ability to deliver affordable rented properties. “By the time the bill is on the statute books, there will probably be three and a half years of this parliament left,” he said. “You would need 38 per cent of new homes to be Starter Homes at a rate of 150,000 a year.”

Ian Anderson, executive director at consultancy Iceni Projects, said he expects proactive councils to look increasingly to deliver affordable rented properties through their own land acquisitions and development vehicles. He queried whether affordable properties built for sale would have viability benefits over those built for rent.

“If landowners know that developers can come through with proposals that don’t include social rented units, that fundamentally changes site values,” he said. “Every scrap of brownfield in London and the South East is being looked at for housing, and I don’t think that the Starter Homes programme is going to lead to a material change in the number of homes delivered. I think it will only change the tenure of those homes.”

London’s housing crisis: Instead of building east or building up, it’s time for managed release of green belt land

Please see my below opinion piece, which was published in today’s City AM (26.10.2015).

“The capital’s housing crisis is an issue often swept under the carpet in people’s cramped, sub-standard living rooms.

Having just launched its Housing and Planning Bill, the government is continuing to reassure people about that its plans to roll out one million new homes by 2020 in order to solve the sticky situation in which London finds itself. Yet just where these homes are going to be built, together with the speed of delivery, remains the crux of the problem.

There are three purported solutions about where best to house a population that is set to stand at 10 million by 2030. Firstly, building up around transport nodes in central London and other accessible locations. Secondly, support Boris Johnson in his plans for 200,000 homes in a ‘city in the East’ and thirdly, utilise land on the fringes of London.

In our recent seminar series ‘Go East, Go Up, Go Out’, industry experts argued for each of these options respectively. A poll showed almost half (46 per cent) believed the most viable option available was to ‘Go Out’ and build on viable land around the capital, with support for ‘Go Up’ and ‘Go East’ relatively equally split at 29% and 25 per cent respectively.

Further development of high-density buildings in central London, together with a transformational repositioning of East London are valid options, but they will not either alone nor in combination deliver the quality or quantity of homes Londoners need.

Going up and going East present significant problems such as infrastructure imbalances or sightline considerations, which leads to higher development costs and a more unaffordable product.

Evidence also suggests young families prefer the community offered by low rise, traditional housing. Have we learnt nothing from the high rises of the 1960s?

There’s only one option left for sustainable development – a reclassification of the sacred and misunderstood green belt.

Politicians need to realise they can’t have their cake and eat it. They can’t continue to promise to build affordable homes but deny development of vast swathes of viable land – much of which isn’t the picture postcard countryside that many would lead you to believe.

Nobody wants to see a complete loss of green land around London. So let’s empower and incentivise local authorities to work together to undertake a managed release of suitable green belt land within the local plan system.

Once a local authority has agreed to development on one slice of the green belt they are currently seen as a soft touch and targeted for more development. This is the wrong approach. The spotlight should instead turn on other local authorities to follow suit.

The reality remains that releasing certain areas of land within the green belt is the quickest and most affordable way of delivering the thousands of homes were are in dire need of.

The industry is in agreement. The government now needs to listen”.

Job vacancy: brewery logistics manager – left leaning, must have good communication skills

The itinerary said be at the event for 6pm. I arrived early, as I didn’t want it to look like I’d just waltzed in straight off the London train. I’d done my homework – the RICS Residential Policy paper (released last week) sat freshly marked up in my bag. I had my points to get across, and I wasn’t afraid to use them. This is the new era of open debate amongst the Labour Party after all. I didn’t think they’d mind some straight talking from an outsider.

Roger and Trevor, the RICS representatives, were there to greet me, and very amiable they were too. RICS were sponsoring the event, and they were keen to get it right. They’d rolled out their paper at the Liberal Democrats conference, and it would be re-run at the Conservative party next week. They were looking to stimulate a debate, and they had a good running order: Angela Eagle MP, Shadow First Secretary of State; Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Helen Hayes MP, vice chair of the all party parliamentary group for housing and planning, Michael Newey of RICS, and myself. I was effectively first up, and I was to give an industry perspective on the Paper, and my thoughts more generally on ways to speed up the delivery of, and supply of, housing. After the politicians had had their say, we were to embark on a question and answer session with the audience.

At 5.50pm the buffet trolleys were wheeled in, and the RICS team went into hospitality mode. Tracey took care of the carrots and cucumber sticks, whilst Alan managed the hoards of ham and cheese sandwiches. Both were casting envious eyes at Marjorie, who looked like she’d secured sponsorship from Hardys, judging by the quantity of red and white wine on offer. One thing was for sure, no one was going to go home thirsty.

The first sign that things were not going entirely to plan was when one of the organisers slipped into the room and passed a note to Roger. “A touch of the tummy wobbles. Angela can’t make it, but Baroness Hayter has agreed to stand in”. “Not to worry”, said Trevor. Everyone agreed that in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech, things were bound to be a bit busy at the top table of the Labour Party.

Helen arrived right on time, and it was good to see her as a Member of Parliament (having previously been a director at Urban Practioners before it was incorporated into Allies & Morrison). Baroness Hayter duly arrived, and the panel was beginning to take shape.

Then Roger delivered the second bit of bad news: “It’s Roberta. Unfortunately she’s had to pull out as well”. Whilst this was clearly disappointing, I was more preoccupied by what appeared to be a more fundamental issue: where was everybody? One chap had taken a pew on the farthest seat from the back, and was valiantly attempting to eat his body weight in Mini Cheddars and sun-dried tomatoes. There was a young group of people quaffing the white wine that I had taken to be delegates, but weren’t they RICS badges pinned to their lapels?

By 6.15pm, it was quite obvious that the event was not going to constitute a sell out. We were passing the time of day trying to out-do each other with tales of right to buy, construction skills shortages and the cost of living in London, but the fact remained that the panel was beating the audience by a ratio of 2:1. By 6.30pm Trevor was entertaining us with stories of infamous cross-country rail excursions. By 6.45pm he was explaining the trans-Atlantic challenges associated with being a former chair of the RICS. And who can disagree that spending 72 hours on a flight to Singapore, only to have to be re-routed to India for a meeting with the ruling party only to find that they are on holiday is anything other than a bind?

It was left to Roger to put us out of our misery: “I’m terribly sorry, everyone, but it looks as though the masses have decided to go home after Jeremy’s speech. I don’t think there’s much point keeping you any longer”.

And that was pretty much that. Except I overhead Alan speaking to the white wine brigade: “Can you believe the bloody Labour Party forgot to publicise it! I’d have got 5,000 fliers made up and handed around Brighton if they’d owned up earlier. A front line issue, and they forget to tell their members that we’re having a debate on housing!”

The buffet trolleys were wheeled back in, and ‘man on back row’ made his excuses as he belched his way through the fire exit, whilst the Hardys was put firmly back on ice. And then the Phoenix rose from the flames – Billy Bragg, the Bard of Barking himself – popped his head round the door to see if the debate was still going: “terribly sorry, sir, but the event has been cancelled”, said Trevor, as Billy was ushered back into the foyer. Never mind.

Some of the names have been changed, but Billy most definitely played himself.

The industry’s tacit disagreement with the Government doesn’t go far enough.

Property Week’s recent opinion poll on the merits of releasing Green Belt land for housing (04 September 2015) was – not surprisingly – thought provoking.

The industry has been calling for a revised position on the Green Belt for years. The poll serves as a useful reminder of a growing disparity between realistic solutions to the housing crisis and Government policy.

74 per cent of Property Week’s respondents suggested restrictions should be relaxed to some degree. I would suggest this doesn’t go far enough. The factors restricting development delivery in this country are as much about perception as they are policy. Any relaxation of rules should be accompanied with an honest message about why certain areas of land are suitable for development – because the social, economic and moral arguments for housing our population far outweigh the often limited environmental value of many of these sites. Likewise, this has to be about a long-term approach. We need to recognise that any relaxation will be a short-term realignment before looking ahead to how we can plan more productively in the future.

To the 46 per cent of Property Week’s readers that feel there should be penalties for councils that fail to deliver the required number of homes, I say caution is required. Under-resourced councils have been left out in the cold for far too long and a more conciliatory approach is necessary. By all means let’s flag up those cynical authorities making no effort to get a plan in place. But let’s also look to incentivise and reward local authorities, either financially or through other means, to ensure they also see the benefit of a positive approach to development.

I am not convinced that the Government is best placed to pick the right areas for growth, or to commission and build homes. This is a crisis of decision making and perception. By all means impose direction – we need it – but empower Local Authorities to deliver it.

Finally, and most importantly, let’s stop referring to this as ‘the Green Belt debate’ – this simply polarises the discussion around ‘green’ or ‘not green’, playing into the hands of misinformed NIMBYs. This is about finding a long-term solution to housing our population and we can’t afford to get distracted from that.

The laws of unintended consequences…

Iceni Projects has looked into the possible repercussions of the Government’s announcement last week by Planning Minister Brandon Lewis that planning authorities in England must produce post-NPPF local plans by early 2017 or face intervention.

Recent research carried out by Iceni Projects has found that only 125 of 330 local authorities in England (38%) have adopted their Local Plans since the publication of the NPPF (information gathered April – July 2015), which underpins why the Government has felt compelled to comment on this matter.

However, the danger is that in trying to right a wrong, further damage may be committed to the plan making process.  Communities Secretary of State, Greg Clark, has voiced concern that some Inspectors are taking too tough a line on emerging development plans, stating that “there is a real value in getting a local plan in place at the soonest opportunity, even if it has some shortcomings which are not critical to the whole plan. … it is critical that inspectors approach examination from the perspective of working pragmatically with councils towards achieving a sound local plan.”

Greg Clark’s statement is laudable in principle, but clearly it depends on the scale and breadth of the unsound element of the plan.

We have already seen Greg Clark call in the submitted Maldon Local Plan after lobbying from the Leader of the Council, despite the Inspector concluding that ‘all the Plan’s housing policies are fundamentally unsound because the Plan does not identify and meet objectively assessed housing needs and it is not based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence.’

We will need to wait to see the outcome of the Maldon examination, and to what extent Clark will move away from the Inspector’s findings.  Common sense might suggest that in a case such as Maldon, all bar the housing policies of the plan could be adopted and relied upon for decision making purposes.  However, the devil is inevitably in the detail.  For example, what would this mean for the principles of sustainable development, and the drive for mixed-use communities, including ‘sound’ employment and community elements, but ‘unsound’ housing?  Conversely, will Clarke allow local planning authorities to adopt development plans with sub-standard housing policies for the sake of a bad plan being better than no plan at all?  Whilst this may appear an appropriately pragmatic response, it will not be the low-hanging fruit that will be prejudiced from development – such as urban brownfield sites – which arguably need no plan at all to materialise.  Rather, it will be the greenfield sites – the very sites that local authorities gain little political mileage in identifying, but are crucial to meeting objectively assessed need – that will perish.  If the pressure is released to identify fully objectively assessed housing need, it will take even longer for a fully sound plan to materialise, to the detriment of housing delivery as a whole.

Iceni Projects will continue to monitor the situation, and will provide further analysis in due course.

For Planning Reform, Timing is Everything

Extract from Property Week, 26 June 2015
Ian Anderson, Executive Director at Iceni Projects: 

Editor: Your recent column points to a well-established concern in the industry – the failure to grasp the planning ‘nettle’ by political parties too focussed on ‘aspirational’ yet ineffective demand-side policies, like the much maligned Right-To-Buy rehash. Unfortunately for this government time is running out and, unless the supply crisis is addressed immediately, this issue will define General Election 2020. Politics can no longer afford to skirt around the problem.

Yet we must be careful not to mistake planning reform with dumbing down the system. The last government went to great pains to overhaul a bloated regulatory framework. Think what you will about the NPPF, which is not perfect, but planning needs some degree of consistency and the framework offers that. Instead, let’s build on its basic principles and financially incentivise Councils to put development plans in place. As we’ve seen, waving a stick doesn’t work if you’ve already experienced the chopping block, and it’s time we ensured Local Authorities – all of which have been cut to ribbons – feel the benefit of proper planning.

The main message to politicians is not an easy one for them to hear – planning is better off without them.

On a national level, Secretary of State call-ins are unnecessary and Greg Clark should instead put more faith in his planning inspectorate to get the job done. On a local level, annual council elections are leading to delays as Local Authorities shut down for purdah and developers hold off submitting applications for fear of being caught up in the campaign period. Let’s have a five year election cycle instead.

Five years may feel a long way away but for planning, and this government, time is already of the essence.

35 days and counting…

The General Election already seems a long time ago. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that we haven’t already seen a raft of commitments to infrastructure projects, as I thought the Government would act decisively in this respect.

The focus has so far been on reaffirming the commitment to the inception of a Northern Powerhouse; the basis of which still puzzles me. I know I sound like a scratched record, but what is it? What does it mean for the rest of the Country? Part of me hopes that another region comes forward and promotes exactly the same message as that which is emerging out of Greater Manchester – not because I wish to denigrate what the Mancunians are doing, but to prove the point that there needs to be a national plan for regions to work to, to ensure communication, compatibility, and productivity of output. That’s what a business would do; why is running a country any different?

Conversely, what has stubbornly refused to go away is the Government’s seemingly firm commitment to the sale of homes owned by housing associations. The FT’s article of the 14th June highlights the likely shortfall in value that will be created by such a move, but also provides an interesting insight from political heavyweight Ken Clarke, who either believes – or is a disciple to collective responsibility – that the initiative is a good thing: “Housing associations are the biggest private landlords in the country,” he said. “We need to get them selling those homes and building new ones with the proceeds.”

I think Ken Clarke is completely wrong on this. In an age when every commentator is briefing a generation of would-be home owners that they’d better realign their aspirations and get used to renting, it’s as important to focus on the management and protection of rented accommodation, and why it can meet modern lifestyles, as it is to change the tenure. That is, after all, part of the attraction of PRS. Housing associations are the most experienced sector of the housing market in looking after the interests of tenants. Equally, I only need to look at Iceni’s forward order book to see that they are behind some of our most ambitious and exciting projects – from wholesale estate renewal, to mixed use developments and custom build housing.

The unilateral sale of housing association accommodation should be kicked into touch, and the Government should redouble its focus on announcing coordinated infrastructure projects before its honeymoon is well and truly over.

Things Can Only Get Better…

So, the dust is beginning to settle on the shock Election outcome, and the Westminster/media village has gone into introspective mode as to firstly, what went wrong (for Labour and the pollsters), secondly, how long it will be before the Tories shoot themselves in the foot, and thirdly, how the Labour party re-invents itself.

In respect of the latter, the inevitable left-right debate has begun.  The ghost of Blair has walked across the threshold of Brewers Green, and there are as many people advocating a reinvention of New Labour as those disowning it.  How does a party appeal to both an affluent metropolitan middle class and the working class northern voters that were the bedrock of the party?  How does it appeal to Scottish voters without alienating entrepreneurs and business leaders in the South?

I’m glad I only have to reflect on this as a member of the voting electorate, but it does strike me that those closest to the coal face are often the last to feel the heat of the fire.  Surely what united the country in the lead up to Blair’s landslide victory of 1997 and the march of the SNP in Scotland since 2010 (and culminating in Friday’s decisive victory north of the border) was a positive vision for the future rather than tribal party politics or the carefully crafted profiling of its candidates.  The Election was always going to be for the Tories to lose and others to win, which is why they can feel vindicated in investing in the mantra of Linton Crosby that the only message that mattered was the economy, but for everyone else, there needed to be a positive alternative.  The SNP did that with aplomb, putting fire in the bellies of Edinburgh bankers and Highland farmers to boot, convincing the masses that Scotland could stand confidently in a modern world, that it had a long term plan for the Country, and that it could be progressive rather than reactive.  Labour didn’t do that.  It painted those that have achieved as somehow villainous, rather than encouraging others to match them.  It boiled down the Country’s challenges as being little more than a one-issue focus on the NHS.  It made a mansion tax a greater priority than properly dissecting how to build greater levels of family housing and to get house price inflation under control.  It poured scorn on High Speed 2 without explaining how it would re-position the rest of the Country to see London as complementary to it, rather than a dominant, benevolent, distant relative that could offer a financial hand out.  And fundamentally, it said what was broken with the country without ever really telling us what could be great about it – and how it would achieve this.

Election results in my adult life suggest that we British are a pretty malleable lot, who will listen, and form a view on what is presented to them at the time, rather than putting the same ‘x’ in the ballot box every four or five years.  We’re inherently centre ground, passive, secular, apolitical, and whilst we’re cynical, we’d rather believe that we can stand as a proud, inclusive nation, than one that is broken and worth giving up on (which would help to explain why the SNP lost a referendum but ‘won’ an Election).  America didn’t vote for Barrack Obama because he is black, any more than we voted for Margaret Thatcher because she was a woman; it was because they stood for progress and change, and people believed they could muster it.  Labour are deluding themselves if they think the country will vote for Dan Jarvis because he’s an ex-soldier with an interesting back-story or Liz Kendall because she represents Leicester West rather than Hampstead & Kilburn.  Londoners, Scots, Welsh, Northerners, Irish and Westerners voted for Labour under Blair in their droves, because they believed he would make Britain better.  If 2015 has a whiff of 1992 about it, politicians of all parties must surely consider what followed in 1997.  That in itself will hopefully keep the Government facing forward, and for Labour to properly reflect on what it needs to focus on before launching into another leadership campaign.

My Alternative Manifesto

So, we are now well down the road to the General Election on May 7th. Paxman remains the big winner from the Leadership debates, and is princely placed to take over from Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. Conversely, Clarkson is the bookies favourite to be the new warm up act on The Great British Bake-Off. Electric stuff.

As the main parties launch their manifestos, I’ve been thinking about the kind of policies that I would like to see debated from a planning and development viewpoint. I’ve shared them with colleagues, and remarkably, they’ve not told me I’m mad, to the extent that they’ve taken out the swear words and refined a good few of them so that they are fit for public consumption. So literally as a starter for ten, here’s a few thoughts for change. I’d welcome your thoughts.

To view my alternative manifesto, please click here.