It looks like the city council’s planning officers are off doing whatever the hell they feel like again to help their private developer friends without going to the bother of consulting elected politicians.

It says here that the Royal Town Planning Institute’s networks, “provide a forum for linking planners in the public and private sectors with representatives of the wider property and development industry”, which is nice isn’t it?

But, we’re told, these poor multi-millionaire property developer types are apparently having a bit of a hard time, what with the state of the economy and everything else at present.

And would you believe that just last month the RTPI debated, here in Bristol with attendees from across the UK, the future of section 106 agreements – which dictate how much developers should give to us, the public, in terms of cash, benefits and services in exchange for building their profitable blocks of buy-to-let high-end flats?

And would you believe, “the opening proposition was put by Bristol City Council head of major projects Gary Collins”?

And would you believe he said, “his authority has devised a concordat with the local property sector that aims to reduce the burden of existing planning conditions and section 106 agreements in the hope of maintaining delivery on key schemes.”

Is, by any chance, a city council CONcordat similar to a city council CONsultation?

All nice and cosy isn’t it? Private property developers – who are supposed to bear risk – get hit by the recession so, we, the public, thanks to the city council, have to immediately pick up the tab and forego various public service and infrastructure necessities we might need as a direct result of these major development schemes.

So forget, for the foreseeable future – courtesy of our poor, downtrodden private developer friends at least – any new schools, public transport improvements or the affordable housing we still urgently need despite what must have been the boom time S.106 deals negotiated by the council until recently.

Oh, and did we miss it? Where was the announcement from the city’s political leadership of this new policy favouring private property development interests and profits over our collective needs?

Or are major policy announcements for the city now made by unelected town planners at obscure networking events?

This entry was posted in Bristol, CONsultants, Developments, Education, Housing, Local government, Planning, Politics, Transport and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to RTPI

  1. Now remind me again, who was it who said “Productive meeting to progress proposal for #Bristol King Street floating bridge. Digging out old plans and re-do costings. Good use of S106”?

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    That’ll be Dr Jon earlier this week on Twitter.

    Oh dear. Has no one told him about his new CONcordat with developers yet?

    Fancy that!

  3. Jon Rogers says:

    Bait taken…

    This is not like you BB, rehashing old news, that was covered, albeit not as colourfully or pejoratively, in the Evening Post in January?

    The EP was reporting on the steps recommended in the previous administration’s “Recession Action Plan 2009”.

    The EP report even quoted my predecessor Mark Bradshaw, “Bristol City Council must lead our city in responding flexibly to the current economic conditions.

    “The real need for more homes and services never goes away.

    “It is sensible to take steps to protect Bristol’s growth whilst ensuring high-quality sustainable development.”

    Since his name has been taken in vain, I also checked with Gary C who said, “For my part, whilst I recognised the difficulties in delivering development in the current economic climate, I re-asserted the importance of delivering affordable housing, the code for sustainable homes, place-making, and ensuring that developments “worked” ie without detriment to the local environment.

    “I also advised the event that elected members and local communities had to be involved in this process”

    For the record, I support this policy. We cannot ignore the economic circumstances of today, so such conversations between planners and developers are appropriate. In my view, any proposed changes to existing S106 agreements do need to come to members and should be time-limited.


  4. thebristolblogger says:

    Jon I’m not sure wishy washy ambivalence like:

    “It is sensible to take steps to protect Bristol’s growth whilst ensuring high-quality sustainable development.”

    is equivalent to a clear policy statement like:

    [the] authority has devised a concordat with the local property sector that aims to reduce the burden of existing planning conditions and section 106 agreements in the hope of maintaining delivery on key schemes

  5. Jon Rogers says:

    Yeh but the first phrase you are quoting is Cllr Bradshaw’s January 2009 press release and the second is a reporter’s view of some conference speech.

    I have not seen or heard the word “concordat” before in this context; I have heard the process described as a “conversation”.

    I must have been reading this blog too long, as I instinctively started to write the above phrase as “I have not seen or heard the word “CONcordat” before in this CONtext; I have heard the process described as a “CONversation”.” !

    Anyway, it is the right thing to do. We do need to be talking with everyone, including developers and bloggers, about how we best weather the recession and prepare for the future.

    As a Liberal Democrat I tend (like many others) to place great store in the wise words of our deputy leader, Vince Cable http://bit.ly/1M3d38 and indeed he spoke persuasively at the Council House in January about how we might best respond to the recession.

    Have a good weekend all


  6. Dona Qixota says:

    Good Morning Jon,

    May I enquire … when you write “Have a good weekend all”, is this a jolly clever sort of corporate communications way of saying that you’ve written the last word on matters and won’t be back to hear any response?

  7. chris hutt says:

    You cynic Dona. In my estimation you should just take Jon at face value. He’s a genuinely nice, open guy who simply doesn’t want to engage with the darker side of human nature, although I think he’s smart enough to know it’s there and roughly what it looks like.

    I think Jon’s ‘open and transparent’ approach is actually very brave and refreshing. It’s easy to mock when some things have to be kept under wraps or when too much slips out, but I think we should recognise that he’s genuinely trying to set a new paradigm.

    • Dona Qixota says:

      Well Chris, sadly I have not had the pleasure of eyeballing Jon at close quarters, and for me that would be a minimum requirement for any such evaluation.

      Seems to me that anyone who shies away from the dark side of human nature is frighteningly naive and inherently a danger to themselves and anyone engaging with them. Anyway, the man’s a doctor, so I’m sure you must be wrong in that estimation.

      Furthermore, Cllr Rogers (I mean you, Jon, sorry to talk of you in the 3rd person) is perforce a party man, a Liberal Democrat.

      I reserve my right to remain cynical about the Lib Dems having seen their lamentable showing on the whilom DevCon S&E farce, when Lib Dems fell hook line and sinker for, ahem, THEIR man’s pet project, wittering on about how super “mixed use” is and not being able to “get blood out of a stone” (they’re not joking are they) and rubberstamping the whole thing through with complete disregard for their own consultation. A consultation which clearly demonstrated that the great majority of local interestees very much oppose the development going ahead at the expense of serious damage to local wildlife and amenity engineered by scheming and land-grabbing that has been going on behind closed doors.

      Also correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall hearing much of a squeak from Jon about the decision over the land sale which we were promised would be taken by elected councillors, but now seems likely to be taken by unaccountable officer(s), again behind closed doors.

  8. Chris, I hope that your comment is facetious.

    Dona, yes. They teach this crap on courses. My only hope is that this particular course was paid for by the Diberal Lemicrats rather than the Bristol council tax payer.

    Jon. On Sunday I shall go to church where I shall pray for God to send down a plague of anal warts on all Bristol’s councillors!

  9. thebristolblogger says:

    I have not seen or heard the word “concordat” before in this context

    Neither had I Jon. Hence the reason for the blog. Not really a “rehash of old news” is it? It’s potentially new information that neither you nor Bradshaw have put in the public domain.

    Anyway,it’s nice to know in these recessionary times you’re either having a conversation or agreeing a concordat with the wealthy.

    Nothing for the poor then? How about a “conversation” or maybe even a concordat with those of us struggling to pay your council tax?

    Perhaps you could withdraw the threat of court and the increased council tax that entails for the city’s poorest people struggling to pay?

    Perhaps too, you could withdraw the threat of bailiff action ?

    No chance of any of this is there? It’s favours for the rich and courts and bailiffs for the poor.

    Business as usual for Bristol City Council.

  10. Jon Rogers says:

    Morning all

    You are very generous with your prayers, Lizard Watcher!

    “Have a good weekend all” is my sadly cheerful way of stating my hope that everyone reading this sometimes offensive, often informative blog will enjoy their weekend break.

    Have a good one!


    • Dona Qixota says:

      I have news for you, Jon. Not everybody gets a weekend break. Thanks to our insane modernist 24/7 moneymoneymoney culture more and more people are working weekends (and shifts – very bad for the health).

      Ther are also too many people who have 2 or even 3 or 4 badly paid jobs and are forced to work 6 or even 7 days a week.

      Naturally this goes hand-in-hand with a rising tide of hand-wringing and bringing the law into disrepute legislation from the idiotic well meaning classes, bleating on about summat they call the “work life balance”.

  11. Bigwok says:

    If the Council were really serious about this, they would do the following things:

    A: Start to build there own afforable housing, they have the powers, just maybe not the finance or political will. Removing the requirement for the private sector to provide afforable housing will generate so much more land value allowing other frankly more important infrastructure to be delivered.

    S106 is to address the off site negative impacts of development, Affordable housing dosen’t strictly meant the tests set out in govenment planning circular 05/05. 30% affordable is basically a load of shared ownership units that are not really that affordable.If governement was serious about the issue and they continually say they are they would build afforable housing and sell it at construction cost, secured in perpituity so it remains relateively afforable forever.

    B: Come to a view on development viability based on an asssessment of development viability through a residual valuation, rather than simply having a consversation and believing what the private sector says. I’m in the private sector and i’m always happy to have the profit.

    C: Come to an agreement through the Local Strateigic Partnership,on what are the infrastructure priorities across different parts of the city. In this way in cases of non-viability at least the development industry can provide what is considered inportant in spatially.

    • thebristolblogger says:

      Good post.

      It’s pretty obvious that the free market development principles adopted in this city over the last 20 years have failed to deliver on – what should be – BCC priorities. Namely education, housing and transport.

      It has, however, delivered on the developers’ priority – profit – and on lots of empty high-end flats.

      Now that the economic system supporting these free market development principles has collapsed we find planners and councillors rushing to developers aid to help them continue on their personally profitable path.

      Why? What’s in it for us?

      Now seems the perfect time for the city to collectively decide what its development and planning priorities for the future are and work towards them. Not make a load of secretive deals with private developers.

      Not sure about using the LSP though. That’s unelected free market, business cheerleader-in-chief John Savage’s area of interest isn’t it?

      Surely better to work through democratically elected reps isn’t it?

    • Jon Rogers says:

      My impression is that options B and C are both already happening.

      (B) The “conversation” will be subject to independent valuation just as the current negotiation on S106 quantum.

      (C) The options appraisal as part of the evolving Bristol Development Framework is currently weak on neighbourhood plans and local community aspirations. That is coming through on feedback and on the feedback from “call for sites”.

      PS. Confused by the “reply” option. It also means that I won’t see replies to earlier messages.

  12. Jon Rogers says:

    BB, my party wants to abolish the unfair council tax, we want to abolish tax on people earning under £10K – further details here:

    “The party will promise to raise the income tax personal allowance to £10,000 by closing tax loopholes exploited by big businesses and the wealthy.

    “Measures which will be used to pay for this proposed increase in the personal allowance include:

    * Restricting tax relief on pension contributions to the basic rate
    * Taxing Capital Gains at marginal income tax rates, allowing for indexation and retirement relief
    * Tackling Stamp Duty Land Tax avoidance and Corporation Tax avoidance
    * Subjecting benefits in kind to National Insurance Contributions as well as income tax and applying National Insurance to multiple jobs
    * Switching aviation taxes from per person to per plane and increasing taxation on non lifeline domestic flights.”

    You see, even Lib Dems can be offensive when we want to be 🙂


    • Well Jon, that’s all very well and good… however, these are all national policies that the Diberal Lemicrats claim they would introduce were they to become the national government. I for one don’t think that is very likely in the near future… do you?

      BB’s points relate to those people suffering here and now in Bristol. You are the largest party in Bristol. Very likely, after the erection, you will have an absolute majority. What we want to know, is what are you going to do to help the poor – as well as the rich – now, in the real world, not in some theoretical future.

      Oh by the way Jon, thanks for acknowledging my generousity of prayer.

      • thebristolblogger says:

        You’ve said exactly what I was going to say.

        At present if you miss – or are even late – with two council tax payments, you get a court summons and costs. Therefore the poorest often end up paying more.

        This could be stopped at the wave of a pen. Why not do it? Why not allow people to negotiate terms instead?

        It’s so fucking simple and decent it defies description.

        • Get out says:

          Council tax payment problems are likely to be a very real issue in the coming year. The Council tax take is likely to go down quite dramatically as a result of the recession – as people get into arrears.

          The problem is that, as part of their “scorched earth” policy before they resigned, Labour finance supremo Cllr John Bees actually RAISED next year’s Council tax collection estimate! This was despite the obvious sign that we were in a bad recession.

          If the Council doesnt collect MORE Council tax this year than last year (i.e. virtually impossible) then the £3.5m hole in the Council’s finances will get even bigger. Of course, Councils arent allowed to run deficits (unlike our wonderful Govt), so that would mean future cuts and most likely a stonking council tax rise next year too.

          The recession is going to bite real hard next year, on many fronts, even though the FTSE lunatics may be cracking open the champagne and caviar again as they will likely get back over 5000 quite soon.

          The problem with your suggestion BB is that if the word gets out that the Council is going to go soft on late tax payments, thousands may well miss a month in safe knowledge, which would sink the council’s budget. Better that they do it quietly on a case by case basis…

          • thebristolblogger says:

            I like the description of not charging the poorest more as “going soft”.

            The council doesn’t deal with anybody on a “case by case basis” at present.

            Everybody is treated the same – regardless of circumstances – summonsed and then charged for it.

            There’s nothing soft in letting people negotiate payments instead. The money’s still coming in, isn’t it?

  13. Bigwok says:

    I take your point on the LSP, but the reason I suggested it is the need to get organisations such as hospital trusts and PCT’s involved. Your right that its unelected and therefore democractic, but I think it needs be be involved even if local members have the final say.

    Disappointed, with the lack of comment from Jon Rogers and others on some of my suggestions. B and C are really things that he should be instructing this officers to undertake now. I know BCC has the the basis to complete an infrastructure study, identifying need, cost, potential funding, priorities, development viability and ultimately delivery.

    Fully agree with the points about quoting Lib Dem national policy, nice but pointless really, if you want to trumpet national policy become an MP. I appreciate context is important, but I for one am looking for some local initiatives rather than simply relying on whitehall.

  14. Bigwok says:

    Apologies, appear to have missed Jon’s post on my suggestions. Glad to hear that some sort of residual valuation is being undertaken on S106.

    Land values have halved in the last 12 months and this will mean that many sites won’t be developed, there are two main reasons for this: 1) land owner won’t sell for the price required for the developer to provide infrastructure contributions and make a profit (20-25%), or 2) The reduced demand for housing will effect sales rates and subsequent reduce profit margin.

    My concern with reducing contributions following residual valuation and developer conservation is that developers will simply get permission and implement it when the market has picked up, maximising profit. A large proportion of developments simply won’t come forward irespective of the reduced level of S106, so the Council shouldn’t apply a blanket approach to reducing S106.

    I’d suggest that only a percentage of sites will come forward and that the Council needs to come to a view on which one theses should be. These will fall in to two groups:

    1) Development sites in areas where there is existing infrastructure capacity so reduced contributions will have a negligable effect.
    2) Development sites that will provide significant community of regeneration benefits, e.g Westmorland House. I know its subjective but people could argue that the chocolate factory fits into this group.

    If the Council is already doing this then great, but working with many Locl authorities national wide, i’d be suprised if the information was detailed enough yet, but i’m sure you’ll tell me if officers and completed an infrastructure study yet, telling me if new development in South bristol, will required new schools, health centres, open space, libraries etc.

    Another suggestion would be to ensure that some thought is given by officers to a planning condition that time limits reduced cost S106 agreements to esure implementation within 18 months.

    What do you think?

    • Dona Qixota says:

      “significant community of regeneration benefits … people could argue that the chocolate factory fits into this group.”

      I agree, Bigwok. The majority of people in Easton / Greenbank also want to see a beneficial re-development of the Chocolate Factory go ahead asap.

      The major problem is that the developers, Squarepeg, have been sneakily trying to grab and build over extra land outside the Chocolate Factory site, which has always been separate. This land is publicly owned green-space and very valuable for wildlife and the wellbeing of local residents. We cannot afford to lose it and this extra land should never have been on the table.

      That’s the sticking point – one which has sadly, and misguidedly, been created by the developers.

  15. Jon Rogers says:

    Hi BB

    Struggling to cope with these threaded responses, so will stick with old fashioned date order!

    In addition to national policies, the local responses to the recession are outlined here : http://bit.ly/2pNM6Z

    I think they may have broadly cross party support, but you don’t often see Conservatives or even Labour around these parts to allow you to check!


  16. Bigwok says:

    I agree Dona, developers create these situations to primarily increase profit, and also improve the design and marketability of the scheme, which while good also improves sales/profit of the development.

    It’s the public sectors role to control them for the communities benefit, “We cannot afford to lose it and this extra land should never have been on the table” is exactly the problem and that’s why i’m banging on about proper infrastucture planning.

    The Council needs to decide on what is needed in terms of infrastructure in advance and not just what sites should be developed. This will allow development in a way that conforms and provides sufficient finance to complement public funding and ensure adequate infrastcture for all residents, future and existing.

    Jon’s comments that this is already happening is positive, but in reality this is not happening in a comprehensive way to allow him, developers and us the community to transparently know what should and could happen, and that it will happen in a generally positive way.

    Only a comprenhensive infrastructure study process will allow the community to inform the future of their neighbourhoods in a meaningful way. I’m pleased to see Jon’s acknowledgement that the LDF is weak on neighbouhood plans and community aspirations and look forward to seeing some proctive action on this issue during the economic slowdown.

    If he’s serious I suggest he looks at Plymouth City Council’s LDF they are already preparing plans based on neighbourhood areas across the city.

    With the Chocolate Factory Site. The Parks Open Space Strategy identified the land as open space not surplus, so the site should not have been touched. Whats the point of undertaking theses assessments if they don’t use them to inform their decisions?

    Public ownership should have really prevented this, and if it was in private ownership, Council policy should have prevented planning permission. I personally don’t understand the Council’s decision on this.

  17. thebristolblogger says:

    Reply function disabled – too confusing.

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