Queen’s Speech 2015

QUEEN’S SPEECH 2015

While the Queen made no specific mention of brownfield sites in her speech setting out the Government’s legislative programme over the coming year, the Housing Bill contains provisions for brownfield sites.

The Background Briefing Notes to the Queen’s Speech refer to ‘brownfield’ five times. In his Prime Minister’s Introduction, David Cameron promises that “We will get 90 per cent of suitable brownfield land ready for development.”

Most notably, the Housing Bill will “introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, to help achieve the target of getting Local Development Orders in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020.”

Of course this begs the question of what exactly is a brownfield site and what makes one suitable.  Both Speech and Background Briefing Notes are silent on this, so we will have to wait and see.

Perhaps of more local relevance, the Housing Bill will also be used “To simplify and speed up the neighbourhood planning system, to support communities that seek to meet local housing and other development needs through neighbourhood planning.”  This will need modification of existing provisions contained set out in the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 No.637.

The Bramcote Hills Community Association’s planning sub-committee will discuss these provisions at our meeting next week. If you have any questions feel free to reply to this posting or pop in to our stall at the Hemlock Happening on 6 June.

Humpty Dumpty was wrong!

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Over the next few weeks and months many will talk about the green belt, brownfield sites, greenfield sites. Plans will be drawn up, committees will discuss and councillors will vote.  In all of this it is important to use words consistently and accurately if we are to have a meaningful dialogue and an acceptable outcome to our collective deliberations.

The National Planning Policy Framework recognises that there are policies in place to ensure that development can be restricted in certain cases: “policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage
assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.”

The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence. Green Belt serves five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

You can see a map of our local Green Belt by visiting http://tinyurl.com/q4smfrk.  The website is hosted by the Daily Telegraph.

The NPPF defines the term Previously Developed Land (PDL) as follows:

Previously developed land: Land which is or was occupied by a permanent
structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be
assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated
fixed surface infrastructure.

The NPPF uses ‘brownfield’ virtually as a synonym for PDL. However most of us would not consider the house we live in as ‘brownfield’ even though it is PDL. Helpfully the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) in “NLUD Classification Version 4.4” identifies two types of PDL that are what most of us would think of when we use the word ‘brownfield’:

11.1 Vacant Previously developed land
+ Previously developed land which is now vacant and could be redeveloped without treatment, where treatment includes any of the following: demolition, clearing of fixed structures or foundations and levelling.
+ Vacant buildings that are structurally sound and in a reasonable state of repair (i.e. capable of being
occupied in their present state) where re-letting for their former use is not expected or that have
been declared redundant.
– Excludes land previously used for mineral extraction or waste disposal which has been or is being
restored for agriculture, forestry, woodland or other use.
11.2 Derelict Previously developed land
+ Land so damaged by previous industrial or other development that it is incapable of beneficial use without treatment, where treatment includes any of the following: demolition, clearing of fixed structures or foundations and levelling.
+ Abandoned and unoccupied buildings in an advanced state of disrepair i.e. with unsound roof(s).
– Excludes land damaged by development which has been or is being restored for agriculture, forestry, woodland or other open countryside use.
– Excludes land damaged by a previous development where the remains of any structure or activity have blended into the landscape in the process of time (to the extent that it can reasonably be considered as part of the natural surroundings), and where there is a clear reason that could outweigh the re-use of the site – such as its contribution to nature conservation – or it has subsequently been put to an amenity use and cannot be regarded as requiring redevelopment.

Interestingly ‘greenfield’ is not mentioned in either the NPPF or in the HCA NLUD document. A helpful way to think of greenfield is as land that has not been previously developed, mined or landfilled.

So as we enter the closing stages of finalising our local plan it would be good that we try and not copy Humpty Dumpty but to try and use words consistently and accurately.

BHCA planning sub committee stand at Hemlock Happening 2015: looking back & looking forward

Two weeks from today it will all be over. But on Saturday 6 June the Bramcote Hills Community Association’s Planning Sub Committee will have a stand at the Hemlock Happening (http://www.broxtowe.gov.uk/hemlockhappening).

Hemlock Happening is sponsored by NET & CASTLE ROCK BREWERY. This event is organised by Broxtowe Events in conjunction with The Bramcote & Stapleford Golden Jubilee Group.

Our stand will include activities for children to do with their parents based around both the theme of the event (it is the 71st anniversary of D-Day) and imagining what Bramcote will look like in 2086 (71 years from now).  There will be displays of the D Day campaign, focusing on the geological aspects of the Normandy Coast.

See you there!

Highfields Park, Restoration Plans, Guided Walk – May 24th

What a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Beeston & District Civic Society

Highfields Park Highfields Park – Restoration Plans Guided Walk

Head on over to the walks page to find out about this new walk that has been organised.

With the new restoration work at Highfields Park, have a tour by the park ranger to find out what’s happening on this important, beautiful and local park. All the details on the page.

http://beestoncivicsociety.org.uk/guided-walks/ 

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Candidate’s log Friday 8 May

Start with end in mind.
The end of this particular chapter came at about 5pm today when the Returning Officer called Bramcote Ward’s candidates and agents to show them the results, before announcing them to the assembled crowd.

11 candidate, 4 parties (and an independent – that’s me in case you hadn’t realised) and 3 seats. Well, Conservatives swept the board taking all three seats followed in the first instance after just SIX votes by the Liberal Democrats, then labour and then me – with an astonishing 377 votes!

Wow!

So it seems that a significant number of Bramcote voters value the purposes our green belt serves to spare a vote for an indepedent when many voted en bloque for the party they’d supported for the general election.

So this is the end… of the beginning.

Au revoir.

Candidate’s log Thursday 7 may

A strangely quiet day. The lull before the storm. The end of campaigning and the time for control to be put where it belongs: firmly in the clutch of the pencil wielding voter in the privacy of the voting booth.

If you voted today, well done.

If you voted for me today, thank you!

Back to the count at the Pearson Centre… even though the council votes aren’t counted until friday afternoon. There are no exit polls for council elections but the voters know what they want.

Candidate’s log Wednesday 6 May

Wow! The last blog of this campaign and my penultimate as a candidate.

Last night’s brace of public meetings exceeded expectations (which admittedly weren’t high!). 20 or so people braved the elements to hear my reasons for standing, to have their questions answered and at the end of it, unbidden, most chose to pledge their vote.

Green Belt has five purposes and we need it to serve all five for both Bramcote’s and Beeston’s tomorrow. A secure Green Belt will drive better development and foster creativity that will give us all a better place to call home.

I hope whoever reads this makes the effort to vote tomorrow, even if they choose not to vote for me (but even better if they did!)

Canidate’s Log Tuesday 5 May 2015

Almost like buses but not quite – today I will be holding not three but two back to back public meetings to allow Bramcote’s residents to hear why I am standing for election to the Borough Council and to ask me any questions they may have.

In finalising what I plan to say, I reviewed the present Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government planning guidance on the green belt. It is here:

http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/policy/achieving-sustainable-development/delivering-sustainable-development/9-protecting-green-belt-land/

The coalition Government reminds us that “The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.” The Government says that it “attaches great importance to Green Belts”.

Those green belts serve five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

The new council will decide the extent to which it will use its local plan to protect our green belt and seek more sustainable solutions to meeting our housing needs than sprawl and the associated car dependency.  Successful service and retail sector businesses thrive on footfall. Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity are fostered in urban places where we can meet, interact and colaborate. Beeston Town Centre can be such a place. Better public transport connections between Bramcote and Beeston can benefit us all.

I hope to see some of you this evening and will post a summary of the proceedings in tomorrow’s  blog.

In the meantime do think about voting for an independent voice on our Borough Council in the run up to Thursday’s ballot.

Candidate’s log Monday 4 May

A slightly longer than usual blog in which I answer questions posed by a local resident:

1 About you

Q. Your CV shows expert knowledge on land use and some thoughts here. Will you/ do you have any conflict of interest with potential developers?
Do I? – A: No, I am not working with any developers in the Broxtowe area.
Will I? – A: As an environmental consultant I have clients from both private and public sector – usually in relation to land contamination aspects of redeveloping land. I would not work for developers with interests in Broxtowe.

Q. If elected how would you deal with the developers who approach you?
A. I would welcome the chance talk with anyone who wants to invest in Broxtowe! Throughout my professional life the possibility of conflict of interest has come up from time to time. If I think there is a potential conflict of interest, I would take advice and seek to err on the side of caution by turning down work if I thought there was a conflict between the work and being a Councillor. I am a recognised expert in my field and I would seek to use that expertise through my role as a Coucnillor.

Q. Would you consider becoming a school governor at Bramcote?
A. I have considered this from time to time in the past. School governors are an important part of the way the County Council runs its schools however I am standing for election at the Local Government level and if elected I will focus on serving as a Borough Councillor.

Q. Your literature is about land/soil but the bigger picture needs to come out somehow for the development of Bramcote.
A. My literature is about a lot more than land and soil. My position is about creating places where people can thrive without destroying their own environment or passing on the problem to the next generation. This involves making better use of our resources and facilities, avoiding creating the need for car journeys to carry out the basics of everyday life and protecting the environment that supports us all.

2 EDUCATION

Q. Siting the new school is important but getting better results is the key.We have seen bright new schools being built around the country and results do not always follow. New house in the area will generate more school places and parents will want to see far better performance.
Some ideas- link the school to George Spencer somehow?,link both Universities to the school.
A. Your ideas are interesting, but I’m not sure that Borough Councillors would be in a position to move them forward. White Hills Park is a Federation and as such is independent from all other schools. The extent to which they want to be linked to other schools in the area is a matter for their directors and governors. The Universities have increasingly good links to local schools – especially in the sixth form.

3 HS2
Q. Are you in favour of HS2?
A. We need to continue to invest in our infrastructure and if HS2 attracts the investment support it needs to be built then yes I would favour it; specifically I would favour the East Mids station being at Toton. It would help regenerate the area and link to the new tram extension. Better public transport links to East Mids airport and to Derby and Leicester would be needed.
Although the question was not asked, I would be equally in favour of other improvements to rail infra such as HS3 and the Cambridge-Oxford link.

Q. What are your views on job creation in the area -are their any sites that could attract factories/offices?
A. There are plenty of employment sites in the and the Universities are accelerating their role as engines of growth. Wealth creation needs to be at the centre of any area’s growth. For example, he City Council has worked with the University of Nottingham to support local small businesses improve their performance on many generic aspects of growing their business – I know because I took part in and still benefit from the Growth100 programme.

4 CONNECTIVITY

Q. You have mentioned that Bramcote will not [directly] benefit from the tram. Would you support better bus links [from Bramcote] to the terminus?
A. Yes I would support – and use – better bus links to Beeston! We are fortunate to have good bus links into Nottingham City Centre but the L10 bus that links Bramcote to Beeston is only an hourly service. For it to be an option for those who could drive to Beeston but would choose to go by bus it needs to be a much higher frequency than that – I would say every 15 minutes. I say this as someone who has a car and chooses to travel to work at University Park by bus.

5 OLDER FOLK
Q. The census figures show an increasing number and would you support a retirement village in Bramcote?-assuming it were in planning terms in the best position.
A. Yes, I think retirement complex providing suitable accommodation among the community for our elderly residents is a good idea. It would mean that long standing residents could stay in their community and would probably hasten the release of family homes for younger people to buy. It would need to be located either close to existing shops and services or close to high frequency bus routes to such places. I do not think the golf course is a good site for a retirement village as it will build over currently open land which has significant wildlife value.

In addition, I think that we could make much better use of what I call ‘pocket brownfields’ – those small bits of awkwardly shaped land in among our houses which no-one makes much use of – to bring services and facilities closer to where people live.

6 GREEN BELT
Q. Would you align yourself if elected to parties who would protect the green belt and would you say this before the election next week? I think that Labour have said they will not protect the green belt
A. I am standing as an independent and have no wish to align myself with any party – why else would I stand as an independent? I would oppose inappropriate development on Green Belt land and would oppose any development on Bramcote’s open spaces.

7 OTHER ISSUES
Q. How would you vote if elected on say raising council tax, reducing services………………. in other words the big financial stuff
A. I would want to see the details of what the tax was being spent on to ensure we were getting good value for money. My experience in other parts of the country are that public sector procurement rules do not necessarily seek value but the cheapest price. Last year Broxtowe had an online consultation where you could make changes to the budget to increase or decrease spend and the level of services offered. I recall my overall answer (after cuts in some places and increases in others) would have been a small reduction in the council tax. However we need to be aware that most of our council tax is spent at County not Borough level.

Candidate’s log Sunday 3 May

The early morning was spent helping out my Election Agent deliver the Sunday papers – in the pouring rain!

However by the time we came round to start on delivering leaflets in the afternoon the sky had cleared and the few heavy raindrops were brushed aside.

It seems nationally things are getting very close to call the outcome of Thursday’s election. Locally it strikes me we still need a mechanism for allowing residents to share their ideas for how Bramcote will change and to capture what we might all like from our public places. Hopefully I can help make this happen once the election is out of the way.