‘Who he?’, I hear you implore. The answer is that Mr Poppleton is the esteemed head of the Planning Inspectorate in Wales, that wonderful agency that not only grants us wind farms but also forces our councils to build thousands of new homes for people who haven’t yet thought of moving to Wales.
Regular readers of my blog will know that over the past few months I have given quite a bit of coverage to the Planning Inspectorate. I believe I have established that, despite claiming to be somehow under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Government, the Planning Inspectorate is in fact an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Further, the Inspectorate is run on an Englandandwales basis with – for appearanceʽ sake – a branch office in Cardiff. To mistake this for a separate, Welsh organisation (as we are encouraged to) would be a grave mistake. Mr Poppleton and his agents carry out the wishes of their masters in London. Neither tolerates any Welsh interference.
Perhaps Mr Poppleton, or someone, has been reading my blog; for I learn that the man himself is currently on a tour of all twenty-two Welsh local authorities in the hope of ‘explaining’ how the Planning Inspectorate is organised and how it operates. To aid him he has a little PowerPoint presentation, so here I offer you the chance to go through the document; while beneath it I have selected a few points I think deserve to be highlighted. (To open the document in a separate window and follow page by numbered page, right click here.)
P4 Curious wording for the first bullet point, but note that it makes no claim to a separate Welsh framework, merely “a section based in Cardiff dealing with Welsh matters”.
The second bullet point is very interesting. Are we expected to believe that the “planning inspectors” are freelance, independent of the Planning Inspectorate? Who recruits them? Who do they report to? Who pays them? How would a planning inspector keep canis lupus from his portal if he fell foul of the Planning Inspectorate?
P5 This page desperately tries to pretend that planning in Wales is determined by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But the only planning officials in Wales are those working for the Planning Inspectorate which, as we know, is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.
Also worth remembering is that “Welsh policy” is invariably – and increasingly – the same law as England with ‘(Wales)’ inserted into the name of the Bill / Act. A perfect example would be the Housing (Wales) Bill currently snaking its way through the Notional Assembly. The Bill makes thirty-nine references to ‘England’. The Housing (Scotland) Bill makes not one reference to our shared neighbour. There’s a message there!
P6 Again, in bullet point 1, weird syntax. (Is this a translation?) But note, “supported by the administration in Cardiff” but not ‘answering to the administration’. Suggesting yet again that the ‘Welsh’ Government merely provides office space.
Bullet point 2 confirms what I’ve been told by a number of people. Planning inspectors are brought in from England to adjudicate on matters in a country they know nothing about.
P8 Ah, posterity, what bullshit is spouted in thy name! The Edmund Burke appeal to “those who are to be born”, a weapon regularly found in a dissembler’s armoury.
P9 Very interesting first bullet point. And note the underlining. Could almost be a reference to social engineering. For wasn’t the Nazi lebensraum policy about ‘shaping’ eastern Europe?
P13 “Co-operation and collaboration”. Interesting, this. I have no objection in principle to cross-border commuting, it’s commonplace on the continent and elsewhere, however . . . I suspect that ‘housing market areas’ and ‘travel to work areas’ are used here to justify excessive house building for the benefit of English commuters in the north east, Powys and Gwent.
P14 Ah! posterity, again. Though isn’t ‘constituents’ a word from the political rather than the planning lexicon? Wouldn’t ‘residents’ or ‘population’ fit better? Is it telling us that tomorrow’s constituents, in large parts of Wales, will not be today’s constituents, or their descendants?
P15 “Those yet to come”. Enough posterity, already!
P21 “Plans and policies are not to be slavishly followed without thought and local application”. Of course not. As Denbighshire found out, when a planning inspector went back and demanded yet more unnecessary housing.
P26 Translation of bullet point 3: ‘Local knowledge is OK, but you must have outside experts like our inspectors who can’t even pronounce the name of the community they’re wrecking.’
P27/28 Explains why so many damaging schemes succeed – the law is weighted against anyone – individual, interest group or local authority – engaging in what will almost always be decided is vexatious obstruction, and they will have to pay the cost(s).
P29 “Sheer volume not enough”. If everybody in an area was to object to a scheme their views could be disregarded by a “decision maker”, i.e. a planning inspector.
P31 “National policies”. Which nation?
P33 “S106”. Planning conditions or sweeteners, such as a local occupancy stipulation or the developer building a highway or other community benefit.
P34 “S73” Can be used to undo S106 conditions, and can also be used to grant retrospective planning permission. Which could mean in practice that a scheme is given planning permission on the understanding that there will be local occupancy clauses attaching to all or some of the properties, but that this is then overturned by an S73 ruling. Or, to be utterly cynical, those applying for any scheme could use the S106 local occupancy clause as a ploy to gain planning approval while knowing that once approval is granted they will apply for an S73. Worse, those granting planning consent could also know this.
P35 The figures speak for themselves; though it should be remembered that even though almost two-thirds of appeals are dismissed this does not take into account the many who would like to appeal but are deterred by the prohibitive costs.
P36 The English Planning Inspectorate is to be given even more power in Wales.
P37 A blueprint for taking more power from local authorities. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when the power is to be transferred to the Planning Inspectorate, an unelected foreign agency, then it’s definitely a bad thing. Note the implication of bullet point 3. “(Welsh) Minister (though PINS) to administer and decide the largest development applications”. In other words, the Planning Inspectorate will make decisions and get some dumbo down Cardiff docks to make the announcements.
Also, “poorly performing” Local Planning Authorities – i.e. not passing enough planning applications – are to be stripped of their power. This threat coupled with the punitive costs involved will emasculate any local authority that refuses to nod through virtually every application that comes before it. Plus, of course, the LDP.
P38 Reinforcing the threat of the Planning Inspectorate taking over responsibility for planning in Wales using the puppet regime down Cardiff docks as a human shield and mouthpiece.
Planning in Wales (I nearly made the mistake of saying ‘Welsh planning’!) is undergoing big changes, and few outside of the ‘opposition’ appreciate the full implications. Though the building industry understands, as this piece illustrates. (Note how the quote from Carl Sargeant makes yet another bloody reference to “future generations”!) The Bill dealt with in the article I’ve linked to is the Planning (Wales) Bill, available here. You can read it yourself, but this piece from the Planning Inspectorate media centre might tell you all you need to know. Again, let me pick out what I consider to be the salient points.
- The ‘Welsh’ Government is to take powers from local planning authorities; that is, your local council. As I said above, no bad thing in itself, given the record of many councils, but with larger and possibly more efficient councils on the horizon why do it now? Or is that the reason?
- Local development plans would be “subject to refinement”. In other words, councils could be told to build even more unnecessary new homes than had been agreed in the LDP.
- Planning applications could by-pass local planning authorities and be made direct to the ‘Welsh’ Government (fronting for the Planning Inspectorate). Worrying, and would this apply to National Parks?
- Despite the comforting reference to Scotland the Planning Inspectorate does not operate there. It is an Englandandwales body.
- Though it talks of the ‘Welsh’ Government this legislation officially hands control over virtually all planning in Wales to the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.
- The Planning Inspectorate article makes it clear, more than once, that when this legislation is enacted the chances of successfully appealing against any of the Inspectorate’s decisions will be almost zero.
- “Major changes are afoot”. Yes, indeed. And all for the worse.
Another Bill currently going through the stages is the Housing (Wales) Bill. I have written a number of posts on this subject, work back from here. The only publicity this Bill is getting concentrates on the provisions for tighter regulation of private landlords. But the Bill covers the entire rented sector, and makes clear that our social housing providers – councils and housing associations – will in future co-operate fully with their English counterparts. This means that anyone qualifying for a home in England will automatically qualify in Wales . . . even if they’ve never set foot in Wales.
The consequences are easily predictable. Our less responsible housing associations will go on a building spree knowing they now have an inexhaustible supply of potential tenants in England. These will be described as ‘vulnerable’ and having ‘needs’. But don’t shed any tears, for these are just euphemisms for problem families, drug addicts, paedophiles, other criminals, the (deliberately) homeless, etc. While this is obviously good news for social housing providers has anyone considered the wider costs of bringing such people into Wales? This post might help. Another consideration is that despite the increase in the social housing stock it will become more difficult for Welsh people to secure social housing because of that inexhaustible supply over the border.
It has become obvious to me in the research I’ve done into the Planning Inspectorate and other agencies that housing and planning is used to attract English colonists with the express intention of weakening and eventually destroying Welsh identity. For the simple and obvious reason that without Welsh identity there can be no political threat to emulate Scotland. That being so, then the counter-measures needed are equally obvious.
We need a five-year residency period before anyone can access social housing, and social housing providers – especially in rural and coastal areas – must be encouraged to buy existing properties (as they were once able to). We need open market housing limited to meeting local need; but more than anything, in the private housing sector we need a mechanism that either reserves a percentage of housing stock for local people, or else financial assistance enabling Welsh people to compete with outside buyers.
This was always about more than housing and planning. They know it; it’s about time we realised it.