July Monthly Update

A year on from Brexit

A year on from the infamous referendum we know that “Brexit means Brexit” but precious little else. All that is certain is that discussions started in June and have to finish by March 2019.

Prior to the General Election Theresa May pledged to carry out a ‘hard’ Brexit. Although the Conservatives received a staggering 43 percent of the vote share, she did not receive the mandate she was hoping for, and the Tory majority in Parliament decreased. This has seen the Tory’s cling to power with a £1bn agreement with the DUP.

The agreement has opened up unhealed splits between the right and left of the Conservative Party with an unknown impact on our stance in Brexit negotiations. Theresa May finds herself in quite the predicament, as she is weaker in the Commons, announcing that she will work with all parties, and worries about an internal back bench rebellion run high. Only a minority of MPs are hard Brexiteers, but they are influential, so she has a tight rope to run (not walk) to get a deal that everyone can accept within a very short space of time.

In that vein, David Davis, Secretary of State for exiting the European Union, has begun his discussions with the European Council and first on the agenda was immigration. This is vital for the development and construction industry as up to two thirds of the workforce comes from the EU. Experts have predicted that should no labour deal be secured, costs may increase by around 15 to 20 percent as the labour market tightens.

Import and export of goods is another concern for the development industry. The single market allows for quick, easy and cheap trade of materials with our nearest neighbours but is that trade is undoubtedly going to be restricted if the UK doesn’t bring home a deal – and the signs aren’t looking good so far. Eurocrats insist that being part of the single market is a privilege offered to countries which agree to the free movement of people – given as the number one reason for Brexit.

Of course, there are many more possible implications of Brexit to the industry. Questions remain unanswered and it is unlikely that anything will start to become clearer until the Government is well into their discussions with the European Union. The only thing we have to go on at the moment are rumours, counter rumours and experts predictions of what will come of the Brexit talks. So all in all, not much.

 

Potential changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Steve Quartermain, the Chief Planner of the DCLG has said that the Government will be looking to make the much discussed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework this year.

The department anticipate that a consultation will be launched no later than this summer, and that the department will be working on a revised NPPF towards the back end of this year. Savid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has said that the consultation would look at introducing a different approach to assessing housing requirements.

The department also announced that they want to see a greater use of neighbourhood development orders, which can grant planning permission for specific developments in a neighbourhood area, particularly rural areas. This would give rural communities a say in the developments that will affect them in their neighbourhood.

However, the department has previously announced that it is going to re-look at the NPPF, with little outcome. Watch this space for more updates.

 

A Weak and Wobbly Great Repeal Bill

After much speculation, the Government has now published details of its so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’. It is safe to say that majority of people will have found it a great disappointment.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, bringing an end to Britain’s membership of the European Union. European laws will no longer take precedence over UK laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will be removed. So just how much control are we taking back?

Untangling European law will be a messy affair. In reality, if and when the Bill becomes the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, it simply means that all existing EU legislation will become UK law. This is to ensure the process of leaving the European Union runs as smoothly as possible. Parliament will then decide which European laws it wants to keep, get rid of or amend.

However, this will be easier said than done as the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee warned that EU law is found in many different places in many different forms. The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ must become an Act of Parliament before Britain’s official exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019. Due to the complexity of detangling EU law, the Committee is concerned that the Government will use some of the delegated powers outlined within the Bill.

This means that the Government will potentially be able to amend legislation on everything from workers’ rights to food standards and banking regulations without the agreement of Parliament. Brexit Secretary David Davis has stated any major changes to UK law will be voted on through primary legislation. However, if the Government finds itself running out of time it will not put at risk the entire Brexit process for the sake of Parliamentary scrutiny.

The re-election of Remain supporter Hilary Benn MP as Chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the EU could throw another spanner in the works. Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, has warned the Government that Labour will vote against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ if it does not get a number of concessions including protecting workers’ rights, copying the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law and limiting the use of delegated powers. Starmer has denied that Labour are trying to block Brexit however just a few votes against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could be catastrophic.

As well as a potential collision course with Westminster, Theresa May could face a battle with the devolved administrations who must also agree to the Bill under the Sewel Convention. A joint statement (released mere hours after the Bill was published) from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon states that they cannot support the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ in its present form.

The Government will therefore most likely be forced in to making several concessions Labour is seeking such as retaining the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Opposition parties are likely to threaten to derail the Bill if they believe they are not getting enough control over what laws stay and what laws go. Far from being strong and stable, Theresa May’s government is looking increasingly weak and wobbly.

 

New St Albans Leader

In late May, Councillor Alec Campbell was elected the new Leader of St Albans City and District Council, taking over from Cllr Julian Daly.

Alec Campbell has been on the District Council for St Peter’s ward since 2011. During his time on the Council he has been heavily involved on the Planning Committee, following the same route as former leader Julian Daly. Before being elected as Leader of the Council, he was Portfolio Holder for Planning since 2013 and is considered a strong voice on the Council when it comes to planning proposals.

In order to become leader of the Council he had to give up his position on the Planning Committee, so that the roles do not coincide. This is following a previous backlash that his successor Julian Daly received when he was Chair of the Planning Committee whilst being Leader of the Council. In the back of his mind he will also be hoping to be popular amongst his colleagues and do a good job, this would have influenced his decision.

Cllr Daly admitted that as his work commitments outside of the Council have become more demanding over the past year, and he has decided to relinquish the leadership role. However, he will remain a rank and file member representing Harpenden West.

The Council’s Chief Executive and head of Legal have also announced that they will be stepping down this summer, leaving the council with a potential leadership vacuum at a time when its Local Plan is being challenged by the Inspectorate.

 

Local Plan updates

 

Sevenoaks – The Planning Advisory Committee voted to progress the ‘Issues and Options’ document to Cabinet. The Issues and Options document has not yet been published but it is expected soon, following its approval at Cabinet on 3rd July. Sevenoaks are remaining steadfast in their position that they will not allocate Green Belt land – and as a result will likely be told by the Planning Inspector they need to provide more housing than the numbers they have currently planned for.

Tandridge – Tandridge District Council’s Local Plan: Garden Village Consultation will run from 14 August to 9 October. With 94% of its land in the Green Belt, Tandridge has the highest proportion of Green Belt in the country. The council’s preferred option is a single large site – a new garden village comprising 4,000 houses at Chaldon however Chaldon Village Council have raised their objections.

Guildford – Draft Local Plan currently out for a second Reg 19 consultation. Guildford Borough Council was criticised in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last week for including sites which contain Green Belt land. The leader was critical of the programme which failed to speak to the authority prior to going on air. The consultation only relates to changes to the previous Reg 19 version and runs until 24 July.

Welwyn Hatfield – Local Plan has been submitted for examination by Melvyn Middleton BA(Econ) DipTP DipMgmt MRTPI. The Examination in Public will take place in the Autumn. The authority is is allocating sites for around 12,000 homes over the Plan period.

Aylesbury Vale – Aylesbury Vale District Council has announced that it is delaying the publication of its local plan due to the need for extra time to complete a critical piece of the evidence base.

The plan intends to introduce around 27,000 new homes to the district by 2033.

Work that was scheduled for July will now carry on throughout the whole of the Summer and the submission plan will now be considered by the scrutiny committee on 26 September. This will be followed by a review by the full Council and Cabinet in October. The plan will then be submitted to an independent examination in January, which is two months later than originally anticipated.

Councillor Carole Patemaster, portfolio holder for growth strategy has said, “we believe this short extension is essential to making absolutely sure we have all the necessary evidence to support us in this goal.”

The Aylesbury Vale District Council local plan is thought to be complicated and they Council are prioritising getting every detail correct.

Chelgate will monitor the progress of the local plan, as there may be more delays in its progress.

Basildon Council – The council switched from a cabinet system back to a committee system in June. This was a coup by the combined UKIP and Labour groups putting the largest party into opposition. The first meeting of the Infrastructure Growth and Development Committee, which will oversee the local plan, took place on July 19. The plans to have the draft local plan independently reviewed will progress, with terms of reference being agreed at the next meeting (August 1st). It is clear that the local plan programme of both the pre-submission consultation and examination in public taking place in the autumn will slip, although it will not be until the September meeting until we find out by how much.

The other news from the meeting, which surprisingly did not prompt any particular debate, was that a review of the SHMA to 2034 increased the OAN in Basildon from 16,000 to just about 20,000, in effect a 25 per cent increase.

East Herts – Following the Inspector’s comments, the council undertook a review of the housing numbers, re-assessing the OAN for the HMA, submitting further evidence at the beginning of July. The housing need for EHDC was increased by 2,207 from 16,189 to 18,396. It is not clear how the Inspector will deal with these numbers, whether he will require the council to accommodate them immediately or agree to an early review.

Epping Forest –  The word is that the analysis of the Regulation 18 consultation recorded significant opposition to nearly all the designated sites within the district, especially the urban green spaces. Epping is watching the outcome of the East Herts examination, and will now need to review its housing numbers as the review of the OAN for the HMA includes Epping: its numbers increase by 1,508 from 11,065 to 12,573. It is not yet clear how the council will respond to this change in numbers.

Harlow – Harlow Council revealed a further delay in its local plan, instead of early 2017, it is likely to be early 2018, now largely in line with Epping. It is also in the same boat as Epping and East Herts, being part of the same HMA. Its OAN increase is some 13 per cent, from 6,520 to 7,409. Again, it is not clear how the council will respond to this increase.

Uttlesford – After a delay to ensure the evidence base was sound, Uttlesford launched its Regulation 18 consultation this month. It will conclude on September 4th.

St. Albans –  The council was not successful in its judicial review of the inspector’s findings that it had failed in its duty to cooperate. It is likely to withdraw the local plan and undertake a review of its engagement with its neighbours before announcing what it needs to do to bring forward a new local plan. The district is not likely to lose its record as having the country’s oldest local plan (1994) any time soon.

Waverley –  The examination in public of the local plan concluded earlier this month with the inspector indicating a modest increase of numbers – around 1,300. The public inquiry into Dunsfold has also started and due to run for 12 days from July 18. This will also have an impact upon the local plan as the aerodrome accounts for a large chunk of the housing numbers.

The judicial reviews of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan by three developers failed, which means the plan can now be adopted following the positive referendum result in May. With the adoption of the new local plan, however, the NP will effectively be out of date as it conformed with the previous local plan.

Thurrock –  Work is forging ahead on traffic modelling now that the preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing Link Road has been announced. This will allow Thurrock Council to progress its local plan, although it does have a fairly unambitious timetable of adoption in 2020.

Central Bedfordshire –  This council delayed its local plan process in anticipation of changing requirement in the Housing White Paper. As these never materialised, the council has now published its local plan for a Regulation 18 consultation this month, running for eight weeks from July 4.

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