Neighbourhood matters

Good morning.
Haven’t seen you in ages.
How are you?
Lovely day.
Got to dash.

Jesus pointed to the actions of the good Samaritan as exemplifying the actions of a neighbour.

Now the clocks have ‘sprung forward’ many of us have emerged from a winter hibernation and are rediscovering the pleasure of an early evening stroll. Strolls when we bump into neighbours we haven’t seen since… well since the clocks fell back last October.

Conversations like the one above are but a start.
See you at church, in the pub at the game
We must get together for lunch, a coffee
Did you know that so and so are getting married?
Have you met the lovely couple who moved into number 23?
I’ve been meaning to ask…

But these conversations are not as random as they seem. They happen because our streets have safe pavements, our open spaces have public footpaths. These were planned and are maintained for us. They create the physical space where we can bump into each other and pass the time of day.

We live in a ‘place’ that splices people and environment. A place that is unique because the space and the people are unique.

And that is what makes where we live a neighbourhood.

Humpty Dumpty goes to court – or when is a garden (not) a brownfield?

“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.’

Broxtowe Borough Council is in the throes of preparing its Local Plan – Part 2.  Not so much a sequel to the Aligned Core Strategy on whose altar was sacrificed the Green Belt first of Field Farm and now seemingly in Toton but an essential component of the Local Plan.  A sort of Deathly Hallows Part 2 if you will.

This time last year Broxtowe, then under Labour/ Liberal Democrat control, undertook a consultation on the green belt – under a banner of “tidying up” the green belt – in which large swathes of  green belt were being offered up as suitable for development in order to meet the Council’s own adopted housing need.

The present Conservative government is consulting on changes to its own 2012 vintage National Planning Policy Framework. The consultation period was extended to Monday 22 February – tomorrow as I write this.  One of the suggestions is that brownfield sites in the green belt should be more readily allowed to be redeveloped for ‘starter homes’.

This would mean that brownfield sites in the green belt (such as a former school) would get planning permission. The danger of starter homes in the green belt is it would eat into the green belt with housing – meaning that it would subsequently be easier to argue that development on adjacent “green” undeveloped areas of green belt could then simply be seen as infill. In the long (or perhaps medium) term it would mean the demise of swathes of green belt and the merging of settlements.

A recent High Court case upheld a decision that whereas gardens are not previously developed land (a term considered in the NPPF as synonymous with brownfield) if the garden is in an urban area gardens in rural areas are previously developed land (brownfields).  This then begs the question of what is the definition of an urban or rural area.

The reason definitions of terms matters is that the government is planning on requiring local authorities to develop a register of brownfield sites, and specifically those that are suitable for housing, and is minded to grant such sites in the green belt automatic planning permission for “starter homes” (i.e. costing less than £250,000 outside London).

Perhaps it is fitting to give the last word to Lewis Carroll’s characters:

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy

The Government is currently consulting on amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
 
The consultation is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/488276/151207_Consultation_document.pdf (you may need to cut and paste the URL into a browser rather than clicking)
 
The consultation is examining changes in the following areas:
·         broadening the definition of affordable housing, to expand the range of low cost housing opportunities for those aspiring to own their new home
·         increasing residential density around commuter hubs, to make more efficient use of land in suitable locations
·         supporting sustainable new settlements, development on brownfield land and small sites, and delivery of housing allocated in plans
·         supporting delivery of starter homes
 
Given the current debate in Broxtowe about land use and housing, the specific focus on housing in the consultation is noteworthy and something our councillors would do well do keep in mind as they formulate part 2 of the local plan and make decisions about key sites in the borough.
 
It is worth contrasting the lack of focus on residential provision in Beeston town centre by both the present Conservative council and the predecessor Labour/ Lib Dem coalition with a desire to see Increasing residential density around commuter hubs.  Our brand new tram-bus interchange and the adjacent Phase 2 of the Town Centre look like the perfect place for high density residential development. Yet our council seems to be focusing only on leisure related land uses for a strategically important tract of land that could help improve the economic viability of both Beeston town centre and the shops along Chilwell High Street – both “a short walk away” as the voice-over on the bus might say.
 
The consultation reinforces the commitment to protecting the Green Belt and maintaining the strong safeguards on Green Belt set out in national planning policy. This promise to protect the Green Belt of course was also a mainstay of successful candidates in both the general and local election.  Only 0.1% of land in the Green Belt is previously developed land suitable for housing, often with structures or buildings in place. Limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of such land – where this would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development – is already deemed not inappropriate.
 
Anyone who wants to respond to the consultation can do so by the deadline of 22 February 2016 online at:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YZBLFJP

Wanted: urban land for housing

Broxtowe Borough Council is looking for extra housing sites to augment its Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.

Specifically it is asking land owners, or their agents, for sites that are:

vacant, derelict or underused
where business is considering re-location
large garden plots
suitable for conversions of existing buildings.

If you can help, call 0115 917 3482 or email policy@broxtowe.gov.uk

why are they doing this? to avoid having to erode the green belt of course. This is the 5th function of the green belt: to encourage reuse of urban land and to minimise urban sprawl.

it is noteworthy that the word ‘brownfield’ is not mentioned. The above types of land would meet the definition of brownfield widely used across Europe.

Well done Broxtowe! (and if any readers have any underemployed land, do contact the council).

Summer Budget July 2015: brownfields, what brownfields?

The Chancellor’s budget speech earlier this week was the first such speech delivered on behalf of a Conservative government in two decades.

The Chancellor made no mention of brownfields in his speech so we await with interest news from elsewhere on how the election manifesto commitments will be taken forward.

The speech is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-summer-budget-2015-speech

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.