Cornwall Council receives threatening letter

How does developer-led planning work?

  • First, lobby the Government to put in place a growth at all costs planning framework that makes it a ridiculously easy business to extol the benefits of any and all building.
  • Second, work to ensure that planning departments are thoroughly captured by developers’ assumptions about the central place of profiteering in delivering housing. This is helped by a revolving door between planning departments and planning consultants.
  • Third, make sure developers are represented right at the heart of strategic planning, as in Cornwall Council’s Private Developers’ Forum or the panel that drew up the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.
  • Fourth, encourage friends in high places to send in planning inspectors to find for developers on appeal and ‘examine’ Local Plans in order to ramp up housing targets (based on faulty and flawed data in the Cornish case).

With all this in place, the dice thoroughly loaded in favour of the developers and a complicit and feeble response from the vast bulk of elected councillors you wouldn’t think anything else would be required. You’d be wrong because if all that fails then developers can still resort to strong-arm tactics and bullying.

The field Linden Homes have their eyes on

The field Linden Homes have their eyes on

Take Linden Homes’ plan to build 28 houses at Swanpool, Falmouth. This was refused by Cornwall Council in July last year by a unanimous vote. Linden Homes duly appealed, the appeal being currently in progress. In November Cornwall’s planners may have been surprised to receive another application for exactly the same scheme (PA15/10410). This was accompanied by a letter from Linden Homes’ agents Collier Planning of Taunton, the blustering tone of which many would describe as extremely threatening.

The letter asserted that Cornwall Council had ‘failed to make adequate provision for housing through planning permissions and the Local Plan’. Increasing the housing target over the historic trend was clearly not enough to mollify Linden Homes, which was already calling for more than 57,000 houses back in 2011, a 30% jump on the existing rate.

The letter continued: ‘urgent action is required to ensure that the homes that are needed by the Cornish communities [sic] are actually delivered in a timely manner … the supply is clearly inadequate to meet the need and backlog of need’.

Given this sad state of affairs, Linden Homes was stepping philanthropically into the breach and offering a scheme that would make ‘a significant contribution towards meeting the clear and identified urgent need for affordable housing in the locality’. Even though its plans only add seven social rented houses and four discounted, so-called ‘affordable’, homes to the stock at Falmouth.

Given the location, who'll buy the 17 open market houses?

Given the location, who’ll buy the 17 open market houses?

Collier Planning then got tough. The letter goes on to warn the Council that costs will be applied for if the appeal is upheld. They’re furious that elected councillors had the temerity to overturn the advice of their own planning officer, who had tamely recommended approval. This fact, plus the rigged planning framework, does indeed mean that Cornwall Council is odds on to lose the appeal.

But Linden’s planning agents offer councillors a way out. The new application provides the council with ‘an opportunity to approve it, without delay, and avoid the appeal having to proceed to a hearing and the intended application for costs having to be made.’

Is there really any point any more in having any democratic scrutiny of developers’ plans? Why not hand the planning department over entirely to developers and save some money? This actually seems to be the Government’s intention. The Housing and Planning Bill currently going through Parliament introduces mysterious ‘designated persons’ who can decide on planning applications rather than local authorities. Although why they’ll be needed when another clause institutes automatic planning permission for previously dedicated sites is beyond me.

P.S. Linden Homes is part of Galliford Try, which posted a record pre-tax profit of £114m in 2015, up 20 per cent on 2014.

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4 Responses to Cornwall Council receives threatening letter

  1. Sheila Trezise says:

    This is just another way this government is forcing developments in areas where the local councils refuse planning permission. Cornwall has only one major hospital which cannot cope with the existing population. They are being denied proper funds to work efficiently. There are precious few jobs and those that do exist are very poorly paid. Will all these extra people be wealthy as young local families certainly will not be able to afford them.

    Like

  2. Kath Morgan says:

    When Cornwall finds itself a totally Tory county it’s hardly surprising this kind of thing is occuring. What did people think would happen when they were casting their vote?

    Like

  3. Martyn Alvey says:

    This is wrong – so very wrong and Government really needs to deal with developers ignoring overwhelming public opinion in the appropriateness of some developments. Any sensible minded person will appreciate that there is a shortage of affordable housing in Cornwall (and elsewhere in the country) and part of the solution is to build more homes – and these houses must go somewhere. However, the ‘imposed’ numbers are way too high, there is much that can be done to relieve the housing shortage before you lay a single brick, such as more control over second homes. Also, developers who obtain permission, but then don’t build, instead ‘land banking’ should be dealt with by being financially penalised or the permission withdrawn if building isn’t properly commenced within a year (not just moving a bit of earth about for effect). Nonetheless, I think we need to tread carefully labelling this as a ‘Tory’ issue. True Cornwall is currently a Tory county MP wise, but some people have short memories, things were no different under Labour in terms of the power given to developers and the Planning Inspectorate (indeed it was a Tory Communities Inspector who quashed the appeal for a massive and inappropriate development near us that Labour supported). They are all as bad as one another!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: An alternative new year message from Redruth | Cornwall – a developers' paradise?

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