Monthly Archives: November 2016


The RTPI’s 16 ways to address the housing crisis


The RTPI's 16 ways to address the housing crisis

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) revealed their 16 point action plan to help the government tackle the housing crisis and achieve its ambitious targets.

The RTPI’s Chief Executive Trudi Elliot has written to Gavin Barwell, the UK Minister for Planning and Housing ahead of the release of the Housing White Paper for England.

The Chief Executive wrote:

“The major house builders alone cannot be expected to deliver all the homes we need. In addition, changes to the English planning system over the last 30 years have failed to deliver the homes we need.”

The Chief Executive went on to say that there wouldn’t be a quick fix and there needed to be a comprehensive package of suggestions from the Prime Minister.

Do you have an opinion about the housing crisis?

Take a quick look at the 16 point action plan headlines from the published document. Get active on Twitter, follow #RTPI16ways and join the debate.

The published document by the RTPI contains the following…

1. Offer ready permitted sites to SME builders.

Support them in the new industrial strategy. We need to get them building again.

2. Keep Housing Associations building.

Housing Associations need to keep building homes and they need to be supported.

3. Let Local Authorities charge the planning fees they need.

The RTPI states that Planning departments have suffered greater cuts than other local authority functions, and indicate it has to stop and be reversed.

4. Require a city region wanting a devolution deal to have a plan for housing.

Create funding to have a plan to deliver the supporting homes required by those jobs.

5. Make Land Registry an open data organisation.

To allow strategically planned houses the RTPI says that they need data on who owns the land and where.

6. Create a fiscal regime that encourages ‘Build to Rent’.

As a nation there is a failure  to supply purpose-built properties to rent with longer term security.

7. Government must provide stronger direction on suitable land for housing.

Brownfield land should be made to achieve its full potential. They suggest that communities should be involved in places which are undergoing regeneration.

8. Encourage innovation in climate change mitigation.

The RTPI suggest that there is a need for mechanisms to improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock, and policies which ensure that new homes are compliant with carbon reduction targets.

9. Make more of the existing housing stock.

Pay attention to how the rental market and structure, and how taxation and housing benefit policy drives behaviours and the market.

10. Find innovative ways of funding affordable housing.

The RTPI suggest that we must learn the lessons from the 2008 financial crisis and cannot let the challenges that major house builders face in a downturn result in whole developments being stalled.

11. Invest in the next generation of those who will make housing happen.

Government has backed the RTPI’s planner’s bursary scheme; they states that we need to make working in the built and natural environment open and inspiring to all.

12. Get the public sector building.

The LGA and the Federation of Master builders have already stepped up and said they are up for it. Cleverly used the RTPI suggest that it can create markets and support private sector provision.

13. Align transport infrastructure and housing delivery more effectively.

Start by assessing infrastructure projects for the development land they unlock, not just their impact on speed and congestion.

14. Allow Planning Inspectors to find local plans partially sound.

The RTPI suggest that we should not  let problems with one small policy area hold up a Local Plan having the weight it needs in steering where homes go.

15. Encourage local authorities to be proactive in land assembly.

To unblock land for homes as well as wider socially and economically beneficial development.

16. Intervene in the land market and capture the benefits from transport investment.

In the longer term we need to explore the operation of the land market, an issue explored by the House of Lords in their report on the economics of housing.

Here is a summary of the statement.

  • Make brownfield land achieve its full potential. Brownfield land continues to play an important role for providing housing, but the RTPI says that:

A brownfield firstpolicy will fail to deliver its full potential if there is insufficient available funding for the treatment and assembly of land.”

  • Involve communities in regeneration. Increasing housing densities within existing town and cities may be a way to provide new housing. Development of increasing density needs to be of high quality and supported by infrastructure and facilities including sufficient open space. The RTPI advocates real community consultation on these proposals.

    We would support consultation where this is focused upon delivering change and new development – rather than is so often the issue that engagement only effectively takes place to prevent development.

  • Land within existing built up areas will not meet all our needs. The RTPI accept that one of the future housing needs will have to be met on greenfield land around our towns and cities.

The experience of our members clearly indicates that this can be done without undermining the priority to be given to brownfield sites through a planned, managed and phased approach to development.”

  • Make green belts work for everybody. Green Belt policy has been championed by the planning profession for over 60 years, however, its current role and function needs to be revisited if locations for housing are to be identified.  We would support this statement:

Green belt boundaries may well need to change, but only through careful reviews over wider areas than single local authorities, and where safeguards are put in place to ensure that development is sustainable, affordable and delivered in a timely manner, and without prejudice to the renewal of brownfield land.”

  • Better planning, not less planning. The RTPI has called for less intervention in the planning system. It has called for greater support to be given to local authorities who have worked in partnership to deliver those homes. Effective strategic planning is needed to address the housing crisis rather than put local authorities at risk of their local plans being called in.

The RTPI concludes that Planners have the skills to do the job, working in partnership with politicians and communities

In summary, in our view the main problem in planning is the over focus upon localism and lack of focus upon regional/strategic planning to ensure the difficult (but necessary) decisions are undertaken within local communities to provide the much-needed housing that this country requires. Without this additional focus – and political will – the system will continue to operate at less that it’s full potential.

Further reading about this topic:

Where should we build new homes? RTPI Policy Statement on identifying new housing development opportunities. Click here to read more (PDF).

About the RTPI

The Royal Town Planning Institute is the UK’s leading planning body for spatial, sustainable and inclusive planning and is the largest planning institute in Europe with over 23,000 members. It is an organisation and chartered institute responsible for maintaining professional standards and accrediting world class planning courses nationally and internationally.

A charity whose charitable purpose is to advance the science and art of planning (including town and country and spatial planning) for benefit of the public. A Learned society.

Find out more here.

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From Start to Finish: How quickly do large-scale housing sites deliver?


Largescale Housing Developments - how quickly do they deliver?


This is a vital read for those affected by the trials and tribulations of planning permissions and development.

‘From Start to Finish’ is a new report written by Nathaniel Lichfield – an expert in planning, design and economics. The report examines delivery of large-scale housing schemes.

We read the report from start to finish with great interest to us and of great importance to our clients.  

Here are the 5 key findings from that report…

  1. More land should be released if more homes were to be built. Confidence in delivery through the planning system relied on ambitious and robust local plans. Where plans were not forthcoming there should be a fall-back mechanism to release land for development when required.

2. Planned housing trajectories. These should be realistic, accounting and responding to lapse rates, lead-in times and sensible build rates. Allocating more sites rather than less and a sensible approach to evidence and justification were needed.

3. Spatial strategies should reflect that building homes were a complex and risky business. Stronger local markets had higher annual delivery rates and although large sites could deliver more homes per year over a longer time period, they also had longer lead-in times. To secure short-term immediate boosts a good mix of smaller sites was needed.

4. Plans should reflect that, where viable, the affordable housing supported higher rates of delivery. Trajectories should differentiate expected rates of delivery. Some areas will want to consider spatial strategies that favour sites with greater prospects of affordable or other types of housing delivery.

5. Large-scale brownfield sites delivered more slowly than greenfield and the very largest had very long planning approval periods.Self-evidently, many brownfield sites also faced barriers to implementation that meant they did not get promoted in the first place. In most locations outside the biggest cities, a good mix of types of site was required.

And now, the answer to that question is…

How quickly do large-scale housing sites deliver?

In figures, according to Nathaniel Lichfield:

  • 70 large sites were assessed
  • 9 years was the average lead in time for large sites prior to the submission of the first planning application
  • 1 years was the average planning approval period of schemes of 2000+ dwellings. The average for all large sites was c. 5 years
  • 161 was the average annual build for a scheme of 2000+ dwellings
  • 321 was the highest average annual build rate of the schemes assessed, but the site has only delivered for three years
  • 40% is an approximate increase in the annual build rates for large sites delivering 30%+ affordable housing compared to those delivering 10% to 19%
  • 50% more homes per annum are delivered on average on large greenfield sites than large brownfield sites

Expanding on that, in the report were 2 key questions:

1. what were the realistic lead-in times for large-scale housing developments?

2.  Once the scheme began to deliver, what was a realistic annual build rate?

A desk-based investigation of the lead-in times and build-out rates on 70 strategic housing sites of 500+ homes were contrasted with 83 “small sites” of 50 – 499 homes to look at trends in lead-in times and build rates at varying scales.

Lapse rates: Interestingly, bearing in mind the current focus on unimplemented planning permissions, it includes an analysis of lapse rates, noting that DCLG had identified a 30%-40% gap between granted permissions and starts on site. Nathaniel Lichfield said it was not realistic to assume 100% of planning permission granted in any given location would deliver homes.

Planning permissions could lapse because:

1.  The landowner could not get the price he wanted for the site.

2.  The developer could not secure finance or meet the terms of an option.

3.  The development was not considered to be financially worthwhile.

4.  Pre-commencement conditions took longer than anticipated to discharge.

5.  Supply chain constraints hindered a start.

6.  An alternative permission was sought after approval, perhaps when a housebuilder sought to implement a scheme when the first permission had been secured by a land promoter.

The housebuilder’s model:  Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) – incentivised a quick return on capital after a site was acquired, building and selling homes as quickly as possible, at sales values consistent with the price paid for the land. There was little incentive to hoard land with permission.

The LGA’s identification of 400-500,000 units of ‘unimplemented’ permissions, even if accurate, was equivalent to two years pipeline supply. The data was significantly overstated unimplemented permissions because it referred to units on sites where either the entire site was not been fully developed or the planning permission had lapsed – a stock-flow analysis where outflow (homes built) was ignored. Insofar as ‘landbanking’ existed, it was in London. Read more in the report here.

Delivery of large-scale sites:  One allocation of several thousand homes could (at least on paper) mean a significant proportion of the housing requirement in a district had been met but their scale, complexity and sometimes up-front infrastructure costs meant they were not always easy to kick-start. There was also a need to be realistic about the speed of delivery with housing land supply gaps opening up as a result of over-optimism. Read more in the report here.

Lead-in Times: Larger sites generally took longer to complete the planning application and lead-in processes than smaller sites because they gave rise to complex planning issues (the principle of development and the detail of implementation). There was rarely a way to short-circuit planning.

Commencement could be accelerated if a coherent first phase could be ‘carved-out’ and implementation fast- tracked through a focused first phase planning application, together consideration of the wider scheme through a Local Plan or wider outline application.
On average, after receiving permission, smaller sites took longer to deliver their first dwelling than the largest sites (1.7-1.8 years compared to 0.8 years for sites on 2,000+ units). Read more in the report here.

Build out rates: There was a positive correlation between the strength of the market (as measured by residential land values) and the average annual build rates achieved. The annual average build-rate for the largest sites (of 2,000 or more units) was c.161 dwellings per annum; delivery increased for larger schemes, reflecting the higher number of sales outlets possible on large sites but was not a straight line relationship: on average, a site of 2,000 units would not deliver four times as fast as a 500 unit site because of the limit to the number of sales outlets and overall market absorption rates.  For the duration of the development period, the average annual build rate was 239 dwellings.  Read more in the report here.

Brownfield/greenfield: Brownfield and greenfield sites came forward at broadly similar rates, although at the smaller end of the scale, there was some ‘bonus’ in speed of decisions for previously-developed land. For the largest sites (of 2,000+ units) an extended time period (3.6 years longer) was suggested compared to the equivalent greenfield sites, once started, large-scale greenfield sites delivered homes, on average, 50% quicker.

Read the full report here. 




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Hammond on housing – The Autumn Statement Summary


We’ve read the statement, even the small print.

On November 23rd 2016, Philip Hammond – Secretary, Chief and now Chancellor introduced his Autumn Statement Summary. He used his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer to prioritise capital expenditure on housing and unlocking housing as part of a statement intended to ‘deliver a housing market that works for everyone’.

Mr Hammond has been in politics for a fair length of time, a Jack of all trades and a master of some. You could say he is an expert in work and pensions, the treasury and transport. Hot on defence, foreign and commonwealth affairs. However, recently he has been involved in a little bit of Brexit unrest and accused by cabinet colleagues for, ‘arguing like an accountant, seeking the risk of everything.’

But… he’s the one holding the red case and what we are interested in is his intentions with housing and planning.

In this short article, we are going to touch on 3 points.

  1. What is the Chancellor’s priority when it comes to housing?
  2. What’s in the small print? In particular, why is the Chancellor spending £7.6m of tax payer’s money on renovating someone’s home?
  3. Moving forwards – Are the housing deficit solutions really jotted on a piece of white paper?
  1. What is the Chancellor’s priority when it comes to housing?

Affordable Housing: £1.4bn has been set aside to deliver 40,000 additional affordable homes by 2020-21. Alongside the extra money, the government will relax restrictions on the precise tenure of the units to allow for a broader range of affordable housing to be provided.

Housing Infrastructure Fund: The creation of a £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund by 2020-21 which will see local authorities, combined authorities and cities bid on a competitive basis for infrastructure funding with the specific requirement that it unlocks housing. The money, heavily backloaded towards the end of the parliament, will be focused on areas with the greatest housing need and where affordability is most stretched. It is intended to eventually help to unlock the delivery of 100,000 new homes. The most obvious area of expenditure will be on roads but it could also be extended to utilities and other areas.

The Chancellor reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme and announced two new allocations of funding aimed at boosting housing supply. The Autumn Statement also formalises the £2bn of funding pledged by the Communities Secretary at Conservative Party Conference to pilot Accelerated Construction on public sector sites.

  1. What’s in the small print? In particular, why is the Chancellor spending £7.6m of tax payer’s money on renovating someone’s home?

Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade I listed country house in the village of Wentworth, near Rotherham. It is thought to have been the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. The chancellor announced £7.6 million of public money is to be spent on the property. Why? (click to read)  Meanwhile, statutory homelessness rose by 23 % from 2009 to 2015. Last year, around 50,000 households were recognised as homeless by their local authorities. Rough sleeping was up by around a third over the same period.

You should always read the small print (click to read).

  1. Moving forwards – Are the housing deficit solutions really jotted on a piece of white paper?

No, not jotted but the White Paper will include a wide range of measures and reforms to increase land availability, boost supply and ‘halt the decline in housing affordability’. The White Paper is expected in the coming weeks and the House Builders Federation (HBF) will provide a comprehensive briefing when it is published.

Finishing on a positive…

We look forward to Mr Hammond delivering a housing market that works for everyone. We will be watching very carefully and following his every move.

Read the Autumn Statement in full.

Read what the experts are saying about the Autumn Statement.

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10 top tips about the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)


Community Infrastructure Levy

We speak from experience…

Urbanissta are now familiar with the principle of CIL and making reps to Examination sessions, as well as dealing with new application in CIL areas. We have however recently, had challenging experiences with CIL and considered it insightful to prepare this ‘Top Tips’ article should be of help to house builders, planners, engineers, land buyers, architects and regional builders.

What is the CIL?

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) came into force in April 2010. It allows local authorities in England and Wales to raise funds from developers undertaking new building projects in their area. The money can be used to fund a wide range of infrastructure that is needed as a result of development. This includes new or safer road schemes, flood defences, schools, hospitals and other health and social care facilities, park improvements, green spaces and leisure centres.

We at Urbanissta have experience in dealing with and have knowledge of the CIL. We have had to address questions in order to avoid or limit the risks that can be presented to us or our clients.

These are 10 Top Tips to help you prepare for and avoid any expensive lessons to be learnt from the CIL:

  1. Knowledge is power – Be aware of any changes in the CIL. To request notifications of amendment go to this site and sign up to receive updates as they happen. Read more.
  2. Don’t presume – Find out if the extant planning permission pre-dates the introduction of the CIL in the local authority area that you are planning to work in.
  3. What are the different variables? – What variation to the permission is intended to be made? Is it a non-material amendment to the permission via s96a or is it a minor material amendment that requires variation to the permission via s73?
  4. It pays to be cautious – Take caution if the permission needs to be varied via s73, you don’t want any unexpected surprises.
  5. Look beyond the obvious – What extent of the site does the variation relate?
  6. Do your research – Determine if there is any affordable housing within the proposed variation to which (if a new permission were being applied for) would have Social Housing Relief (SHR).
  7. Get confirmation – Confirm whether the extant permission has been implemented and if the development has commenced.
  8. Be aware of the risks – If implementation has taken place and the s73 area includes affordable housing for which SHR would be applied for.
  9. Plan and be organised – Social Housing Relief has to be applied for after permission is granted but before implementation has taken place. Depending upon your scheme’s unique circumstances, consider whether implementation has taken place (albeit under a separate previous permission) there is a risk that SHR cannot legitimately be applied for following the grant of the s73, because implementation has already occurred.
  10. Look at all considerations – Consider whether there is scope for CIL liability to be triggered for the whole area to which the s73 variation relates – including the affordable housing.

Tips are a great start but we have only touched the surface with this list. If you want more information on the key points we have raised, contact us for more advice.

The extent of our knowledge has resulted from extensive negotiations where we have managed to avoid an expensive CIL liabilities for clients. In addition, we have dealt with different CIL challenges where a site straddled two Local Authority administrative areas, one authority having operative CIL and the other does not.

The issues that we needed to consider on this site were:

  • The principle access to the site would be through the non CIL authority area. Implementation of a permission once issued would therefore occur in the non CIL area, however with a single cross boundary application the concern was whether such implementation would trigger a CIL liability in CIL operative administration area
  • It was concluded that implementation would trigger the applicable CIL liability if the (single) permission were implemented in the non CIL area
  • Next it was a matter of seeking to determine the most effective and comprehensive manner in which to secure permission within both administrative areas without triggering CIL liabilities unnecessarily and without submitting two separate applications
  • Prior submission, it was agreed with both local authorities that the development proposals would be distinctly phased. The phasing approach would ensure that the phases of the site were clearly defined within the CIL affected area. These phases would be delineated via condition to restrict the trigger of a CIL liability to the implantation of each specific phases with the CIL local authority area and not the wider scheme

And finally…

These are the key considerations for the transitional period whilst CIL Charging Schedules are at different stages of progress:

  • Monitor progress of CIL introduction with local authority areas whilst implementation of extant permissions has taken place
  • Consider if a permission was granted prior to CIL being introduced by an LPA, if it had been implemented and is proposed to be varied after the introduction of CIL.
  • If CIL becomes operable in the LPA area, following implementation (of an extant permission) and variations to the permission are required by s73, consider carefully what changes are required. Is Social Housing Relief required and determine if a CIL liability would be triggered on the entire (applicable) area the subject of the varied permission if SHR cannot be applied for
  • Where sites have cross boundary considerations, ensure that any CIL liability can be ring-fenced to implementation only within the CIL affected area – and not implementation elsewhere on the site

In conclusion…

We are sure that as CIL gets rolled out across more local authority areas, we’ll all experience further transitional challenges, however if in the meantime the above can prevent you from getting into any sticky and costly situations with CIL affected areas then all is well and good!

For further reading and information about making CIL work in 2016: Read more.


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The examination of local planning



St. Albans is in Chaos!  Archaic plans, political challenges and excruciating progress.

This article provides an insight into Local Plans progress – or lack of it!. Our case study reveals just how things don’t always go to plan when you haven’t got a good plan in place!

We start with the preparation, process and progress of planning…

A Local Plan defines local planning policies and identifies how land is used, determining what will be built and where. The Planning Inspectorate supports the Government’s goal for every area in England to have an adopted Local Plan. Adopted Local Plans create the framework for development across England. The views of the local people are vital in shaping a Local Plan, helping to decide how their community develops. Development should be consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Local Plans have to be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with National Policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended). The NPPF gives guidance to local authorities in drawing up their Local Plans. The Examining Development Plan Documents: Procedural Guidance published in December 2013 has been updated to take account of more recent refinements in practice and the update to the Planning Practice Guidance published on 19 May 2016.

The Procedural Practice in the Examination of Local Plans sets out what happens once a Local Plan has been submitted for Examination, including information about estimated timelines and delivery of the inspector’s final report. It includes advice for local planning authorities about how to carry out a fast track review of specific policies within their Local Plan. Policies include, for example, car parking standards or provision of open space and recreation, larger issues such as housing or employment strategies are not covered by the fast track procedure. The fast track procedure takes around six months. There are costs, fees and Planning Inspectors who play an important role in examining Local Plans impartially and publicly. They look at all Local Plan documents that local authorities in England prepare for an Examination. They decide whether a plan is sound or not.

Considering the above it is vital that there are good planning resources. The lack of those resources is a topic Jo discusses in her article, Step Into My Office.


The case study

St. Albans Plan in Chaos…

On the 22nd August 2016, an inspector was appointed to examine the Strategic Local Plan (2011-2031) for St. Albans. A historical Roman City in Hertfordshire. We know St. Albans well and will use it as a prime example where an inspector has expressed a series of concerns.

The St. Albans current local plan is pretty archaic being based upon saved policies of the District Local Plan Reviews of 1994 and from experience, when seeking to secure permission for minor works (albeit in an Article 4 area to a listed building) the Authority moved at an excruciating snail’s pace.

The Planning Inspector (David Hogger) found in relation to the St. Albans plan that:

  • At this early stage in the Examination process, there was a significant issue relating to legal compliance and the duty to co-operate that needed to be addressed immediately. He indicated that it was questionable as to whether the duty had been met and whether it was based on an inappropriate assessment of cross-boundary issues not least regarding overall housing (and jobs) provision
  • Effective cooperation was considered essential via sustained joint working with actual actions and outcomes identified. He indicated Examination evidence should be robust, providing details as to who the authority cooperated with, the nature and timing of co-operation and how it had influenced the plan formulation. He noted that this was not evident from the St. Albans submissions
  • Hogger indicated that if an authority could not demonstrate that it had fully exercised its duty to cooperate that is should not proceed further with Examination and that a Local Plan should be withdrawn
  • He also noted that whilst the duty to cooperate was largely separate from Local Plan requirements regarding soundness, the two were considered to be related because cooperation was needed for a number of strategic matters, including homes and jobs and the provision of infrastructure
  • To be sound, a plan should be based on effective joint working on cross- boundary strategic priorities, it should provide clear policies against which a decision can be taken and provide adequate information and he therefore indicated that it was reasonable to highlight initial concerns about soundness at this early stage
  • Finally with regards to overall housing provision, the reasons for identifying a housing figure of 436 dwelling a year, the relationship between that figure and the full objectively assessed housing need and the value of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment were all similarly questioned

St Albans Council is not the first and will not be the last authority which had failed to rigorously pursue its duty to cooperate and ‘under deliver’ in terms of the required housing (and jobs) targets. The question that we consistently ask ourselves, in relation to many authority areas, is when will our planning system ensure that we start adequately planning where cross boundary considerations need to be addressed, to ensure that we deliver houses and jobs much needed to support our social and economic needs. It is now a well-known fact that for decades (since 1924) we have been planning for the lowest common denominator in many Authority areas – St.  Albans not having prepared a plan since 1994! Yes, that’s 22 years in case you were wondering. This is a perfect case in point, not only do we wonder what the Authority has been doing for all those years, but more widely, we wonder how we manage to plan positively for the need of existing and our future generations.

Really, these issues are not hard to address technically by a suitably qualified planner. We appreciate that planning resources are tight (the subject of our next blog post where we also make reference to St. Albans). However they are of course often eternally politically challenging. There are sufficient good examples of positively prepared, sound plans, even with extensive cross-boundary considerations. We just wonder about what will happen in our rather sleepy Local Authority area and in areas such as Birmingham and Bradford where Local Plan holding directions are in place, due to MP interventions which now places even the more proactive of authorities, in limbo.

Anyway, hopefully before another 22 years pass, St. Albans will get a sound new Local Plan in place, or if not, maybe we will have retired to somewhere in the sunshine and it won’t seem so bad.

Find out more about the background of the St. Albans Strategic Local Plan 2016 here

Want to know more about the beautiful city of St. Albans? Visit:


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What does Sadiq Khan’s victory mean for housing in London?


What Sadiq Khan's victory means for London housing


Sadiq Khan pledged that if he was victorious and became the Mayor of London, he would tackle the housing crisis by building thousands more homes for Londoners each year and would set a target of 50% affordable housing in the new developments.

He made pledges…  Now he is Mayor, has he kept to his word six months down the line?

He is tackling the housing crisis…

On 6th September 2016 the Mayor of London approved a masterplan for the first large housing development on Old Oak Common and the Park Royal site as well as approving the masterplan for Barking Riverside regeneration. Making way for the redevelopment of a 180 hectare brownfield site for up to 10,000 new homes with 50% of these being affordable.  Mr Khan intervened in the Old Oak Common depot scheme in August by investing public funding to increase the overall provision of 33% affordable housing to 40% affordable housing.  Affordable homes to rent and those for first-time buyers, across a mixture of one, two and three-bedroom homes. It is clear that Mayor’s office will be taking a tough stance on the provision of affordable housing in new developments through the production of supplementary planning guidance to be published later this autumn.

We believe that so far, Mr Khan appears to be on track and this is what we can expect from him in the coming months…

  • Draft SPG on affordable housing to be published in Autumn 2016 which will set clear guidance on the provision of affordable housing within developments
  • Further clarification on the London Living Rent scheme as a form of affordable housing
  • Tough stance on maximum affordable housing provision on all sites
  • Continued preference for development on brownfield locations in favour of Green Belt
  • Refinements to the London Plan to set guidance on the protection of leisure uses

What other pledges did the Mayor make?

Pre- Mayorship and Post – Mayorship

  • Work in partnership with industry to deliver on skills, infrastructure, and growth within the Capital

He is working in partnership with industry to deliver on skills, infrastructure, and growth.

One of Sadiq Khan’s first decisions as mayor was to lift the previous Mayor’s objection to the proposed expansion of London City Airport. While he has been called reckless by Green Party counterparts and he has been questioned on his promises regarding air quality, he is sticking to the promise to deliver on infrastructure and growth. London City Airport estimates the scheme will create 1,600 jobs for staff, together with 500 construction jobs. In addition to that, he has urged Theresa May to support expansion at Gatwick Airport, stating that to do so would bring substantial economic benefits to London. On October 10th the Mayor, with Barking and Dagenham Council announced that they are exploring plans to create the capitals largest film studios in Dagenham. Resulting in the creation of employment and investment opportunities in the city


  • Make cycling and walking safer with more segregated cycle routes

There are currently plans for six further Quietways to be completed by spring 2017. Sadiq Khan has said that it is important that we make it safer and easier for Londoners to cycle across our city and we want the first of the Quietways to make a significant contribution towards that aim. He is looking at what works best from the existing cycle schemes to ensure we deliver the best and safest road cycling network possible. Cycling leads to healthier lifestyle, it helps to cut pollution and is a key part of his vision of the type of greener more modern and affordable transport network we need in our city.

  • Restore air quality in the city to safe levels

A consultation has been conducted on proposals for reducing the number of polluting vehicles driving in London which has serious air quality problems. Khan has already been bolder than Johnson, producing plans that include extending and bringing forward implementation of the Central London ultra-low emission zone. This has pleased environmentalists, though they will watch carefully to see how far he eventually goes

  • Protect the Green Belt

Khan voted the construction of a football stadium and two blocks of flats on Green Belt land in Chislehurst, after the plan had already been supported by Bromley Council.

  • Make London safer by restoring neighbourhood policing, tackling gangs, knife crime and extremism

Khan has welcomed the forthcoming increase in armed police patrolling London. In line with a pledge to strengthen community policing, he has vowed to introduce a second dedicated beat constable to each of London’s 629 electoral wards by the end of 2017.

  • Work with employers to make London a living wage city

Khan is committed to championing the living wage campaign and will be announcing the new London Living Wage rate on 31st October for Living Wage Week 2016. We are looking forward to Mr Khan supporting our work to tackle low pay by pledging to bring together major employers in the capital to them to increase the wages of their lowest paid and he has supported the work of the Living Wage Commission. We’re really excited about continuing to work with him during Living Wage Week 2016 and beyond.

We remain positive and look forward to further announcements.

Further reading


Read more about the approval of the masterplan here:

Infrastructure and growth



Green belt

Make London safer

Living wage


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Let’s get Britain building!


Let's get Britain building Urbanissta


  • We need to build more homes!
  • The HCA launches the Home Building Fund to accelerate home building
  • Building blocks and brick walls – Bradford, Barwell and green belt
  • Get out your hard hat!
  • How to keep up with the developments as they happen

Can we fix it? Yes we can! Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to “repair the dysfunctional housing market, to help deliver more homes.”

What are the latest developments on how the government is going to tackle the housing deficit?

On Monday 3rd October 2016 at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, a Ministerial Statement was made on how the government is taking action to tackle the housing deficit and ensure everyone has a secure place to live. The Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Chancellor Philip Hammond made it clear that they are determined to take action and get more homes built. Those measures see the launch of a massive multi-billion Home Building Fund (HB Fund).

What is the HB Fund?

The HB Fund is a flexible source of funding administered by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) on behalf of the government. It provides recoverable investments in the form of commercial loans and loan funding to meet the development costs of building homes for sale or rent.

How many billions are being spent and where?

The measures are to include the launch of the £3 billion Home Builders Fund which will provide £1 billion of short term loan funding for small builders, custom builders, and innovators, aimed at delivering 25,500 homes by 2020. This is an increase of £325 million over the previous commitment through the £525 million Builders Finance fund and the £150m Build to Rent fund – these will now be incorporated within the new combined fund.

The fund will also provide £2 billion of long term funding for infrastructure aimed at unlocking a pipeline of up to 200,000 homes over the longer term – HBF said that £1.2 billion of this £2 billion had been previously announced as the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund in 2015.

There will be an emphasis on developments on brownfield land – land that was previously used or sections of industrial or commercial facilities, this usage is becoming more commonplace. The housing measures announcement also focused heavily on proposed changes to the planning system that have been previously consulted on or are contained with the Housing and Planning Act 2016. While there is a focus on bringing forward brownfield sites for redevelopment there is no return to a ‘brownfield first’ strategy. There will also be a focus on urban regeneration – redeveloping dilapidated or no longer functional urban areas.

What are the key features of the HB Fund 2016 fund?

  •  Loans of £250,000 to  £250 million are available with smaller loans considered for innovative housing solutions and serviced plots for custom builders
  • Typical terms are up to 5 years for development finance and up to 20 years for infrastructure loans
  • Interest is payable at transparent, pre-agreed variable rates
  • Sales income can be recycled to minimise the loan request
  • Subordinated lending will be considered
  • Finance is available to draw down up to 31st March 2021
  • Eligible costs will be discussed with each applicant and depend on the type of funding request

Time to get busy, such a lot to do!

The Homes and Communities Agency CEO Mark Hodgkinson announced…

“From today, builders and investors just need to give us a call to start discussing funding for new homes. Our dedicated team will also provide expert ongoing support to new entrants to the sector and those companies proposing innovative solutions to speed up house building.”

What is the HB Fund core eligibility criteria?

  • Applicants will need to demonstrate that without this funding the scheme would not progress or progress as quickly, or at all
  • Developers must be in England
  • The borrower must be a private sector entity which has majority control of the site
  • Development projects must build a minimum of 5 homes
  • The borrower must be a UK registered corporate entity
  • Infrastructure projects must ultimately lead to the development of new housing
  • The minimum investment the fund will make is £250,000, except in the case of innovative housing solutions and serviced plots for custom builders

Will there be prioritisation?

As a government backed initiative, the HB Fund also reflects wider government priorities.

  • The best value for money for the taxpayer
  • The greatest potential for early delivery
  • Clear local support
  • Projects that support policy priorities such as Housing Zones, brownfield development and diversification and innovation in the housing market
  • Projects that support wider government housing priorities, such as starter homes, estate regeneration, Garden villages and Towns and making use of available public sector land – The Ministry of Defence or council owned land for example

Most government projects are never straight forward. There will be hurdles, red tape and revelations…

Building blocks and brick walls – Bradford, Barwell and green belt

The Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has been accused of blocking the building of thousands of homes.

It is stated that Gavin Barwell used his powers as a minister to intervene and suspend development plans in Bradford after a request from Tory colleague Philip Davies, putting them under potentially indefinite review. The minister’s intervention invokes new powers the government granted itself earlier this year. The request raises a number of issues including the proposed release of green belt, particularly in Wharfedale, development of green belt before brownfield land is exhausted… and the appropriate location for development to alleviate housing need and contribute to the regeneration of Bradford city centre.

Read more about this controversial revelation in the Independent (13/10/16) here.

Get out your hard hat!

Do you want to be involved in the Let’s Get Britain Building scheme with the HB Fund?

The procedure is straight forward: You make the enquiry, the HB Fund will do the eligibility check and if you qualify, you will be dedicated a transaction manager. You will receive a lending decision, pricing will be confirmed and there will be a completion of due diligence. You will sign an agreement for building homes or housing infrastructures and finally after much success you will repay the loan.  At the point at which a loan offer is made, applicants are normally required to have a controlling interest in the land and a clear route achieving planning consent. The HCA has responsibility for managing the Fund and its lending decisions are final.

How to keep up with the latest developments about the HB Fund as they happen…

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How to enquire about the HB Fund

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‘Step into my office’ – with Jo Hanslip


This week Jo talks about…

“The East of England Planning Capacity and the Management of Planning Resources.”

I was not surprised to read that an East of England and National LGA review (sponsored by St. Albans City & District Council, my own home town) had concluded that the region was significantly lacking in skills and planning capacity required to deliver much needed housing.

Day-to-day experience suggests that there is a significant shortfall of dedicated and suitably skilled Planning Officers. During this most recent summer period, we experienced a substantial number of projects within local authority areas across the South East and East of England with high housing delivery targets had just one member of full-time planning staff working.
For the best part of a month where planning determinations or condition discharge submissions were pending, all work simply ground to a halt for what seemed like an inordinate period of time. Planning Officers took (often deserved) leave, but due to the serious lack of capacity within the respective authorities, there was no one available to pick up the slack and so files just remained dormant for 4 -6 weeks.

This comes at a time where the requirement for consistent delivery of much needed housing and maintenance of a buoyant housing market has never been so important, to ensure the adequate resourcing of planning departments in the East of England – and elsewhere in the Country…

Not only are such periods of inaction exasperating, but they are also detrimental to our fragile economy.

The East of England/LGA review highlighted:

• A serious lack of capacity
• An aging workforce – which presents us with an even more concerning picture with no proper succession planning arrangement being put in place
• High turnover of staff – in one Local Authority (I won’t mention) we had 4 different Case Officers during pre-app (which was not extensive, circa 3 – 4 months) and we were on the 4th Officer before we had even submitted the application!

Whilst the review emphasises that planning graduates are an essential solution to the problem, I would of course concur, in part, that graduates can and will need to play a role in rebalancing the system. However my concern is that there appears to be a serious lack of experienced and dedicated Officers who have the gravitas to effectively work with the private sector to deliver complex and challenging schemes in an effective and efficient manner. Without people of calibre in more senior positions in local authorities, I fear the system may creak more than it already does going forwards…

I’m not suggesting that we all move from the private sector to the public sector to alleviate the burden, but it does strike me that job opportunities, experience, remuneration and retention of more senior Officers is crucially important so that we get the service that we need and demand.

I also wonder whether in authorities such as St. Albans – who lack both development management and policy staff, whether a greater interchange between Officers working across planning disciplines might also be encouraged. To ensure a greater breadth of skill sets, create a more dynamic workforce, ensure a better response to workload pressures in either aspect of the planning department and also serve to better excite and involve planning professionals.

We watch in anticipation to see how planning resources are a managed in the East of England and beyond…

Find out more about St. Albans in our recent blog post, ‘An Examination of Local Planning’ where there is a very insightful case study – ‘St. Albans is in Chaos’.


Urbanissta Ltd was established in January 2011 by Jo Hanslip who set the Company up having spent the previous 87 years working as a Senior Director for Redrow Homes Plc. She previously worked for the House Builders Federation (HBF), Babtie and various Local Authorities across England. Jo has been a member of RTPI since 1998.

Further reading: East Of England LGA Action Plan 2016/17

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Sadiq Khan reveals a city for all Londoners


A City for all Londoners

Sadiq Khan revealed his direction of travel for his Mayoralty in his statement of ambition and intent for the city of London.

On 24th October 2016 Mr Khan published for consultation a new development strategy for the capital outlining challenges and opportunities across priority policy areas to deliver in the next four years. The published document will be open for comment until 11th December 2016. City Hall will be holding stakeholder workshops, community focus groups and online discussions to obtain a wide range of feedback on the document. Have you read the document? Read it here.

Have your say here.

We read Mr Khan’s plan of action with great interest because we wanted to know…

What is the Mayor’s plan to deal with the pressures of the fast growing population and the increasing diversity of Londoners? How will he cope with the rising inequality and the uncertainty caused by the EU Referendum or climate change?

So many questions and there were plenty of answers in the document. We have put together a few notes to give you a taste of what’s to come – that’s if all goes to plan.

Read through our Q & A’s to find out the key aspects of the document.

  1. How does the plan propose to accommodate growth?

London’s population and its economy are growing and the pressure on land is increasing. So, how will the plan tackle this issue?

  • A transport strategy will be put into place
  • Housing developments will be created around stations and well-connected town centres
  • Great efforts will be made to ensure people can access decent and affordable housing, jobs, culture and social infrastructure across the city


  1. What about the economy and the uncertainties caused by the EU Referendum?

There is a determination to remain the world’s top global business city – in spite of the uncertainty linked the UK’s relationship with the EU. Mr Khan’s goal is to ensure that everyone benefits from the capital’s economic success. How?

  • Delivering a world class transport infrastructure
  • Arguing for an immigration system that prioritises access to talent
  • Protecting our environment and our world-class culture so the people and businesses from around the world continue to choose London

NEWS FLASH – There could be a spanner in the works!

3rd November 2016 – Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU, the High Court has ruled. Find out more here.

  1. How will the challenges of the environment, transport and public space be addressed?

As the city develops and accommodates more people, jobs and activities the threat to climate changes will be more tangible. What will be the priorities?

  • It will be vital to protect health and wellbeing so steps will be taken to protect and enhance the environment, including Green Belt land
  • A goal has been set to be zero carbon by 2050 by reducing traffic and encouraging cycling and walking on healthy streets
  • The government will protect the city’s heritage and culture to promote good design in public places

We at Urbanissta provide Heritage, Conservation & Archaeological services for a range of public & private sector clients. Contact us for advice.

Do you travel around London? Commute in and out of the city?

There will be additional river crossings. Find out more here.

Proposals have been made to build the Silvertown Tunnel. Linking the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown. Reducing congestion to the Blackwall Tunnel. Find out more here

  1. What about the planning and housing development in the city and resolving the housing crisis?

The report recognises that new housing in London has failed to keep up with pace and demand. Many Londoners cannot afford a decent home to rent or buy. It’s a huge challenge, one that can only be achieved in partnership with local authorities and developers. A task led by Mr Khan’s new Homes for Londoners team at City Hall.

Here are 12 relevant and important facts about the planning and housing developments in London:

  1. A pro-development approach will be taken.
  2. There will be an over ground extension plan for 10,000 homes in Barking.
  3. A total of 2500 homes are to be built in South East London with an extension to the Baker Loo line.
  4. There will be affordable housing options. Low cost living rent and shared ownership.
  5. 50% of new developments to be affordable.
  6. There will be development around key transport hubs.
  7. The government will be hoping to attract finance into high quality build to rent policies.
  8. There will be accelerate development of over 40 opportunity areas bringing forward as much housing within all of the 31 housing zones.
  9. Authorities will be working with police and the NHS to unlock surplus sites.
  10. There will be a better understanding of foreign investment properties left empty.
  11. Surplus TFL land (Transport for London) will be put to use – 75 sites have already been identified.
  12. In the interim, supplementary planning guidance (SPG) is maximising affordable housing.

Read the full version of ‘A City for All Londoners’ here.

May be it’s because he’s a Londoner…

Mr Khan says, “Londoners must all live well together, social integration is vital this is why inequalities needs to be addressed.”

The government needs to tackle discrimination and promote full participation in the life of the city, making sure resources are available. Crime and public safety has to be a priority. The Met will bring policing closer to communities, to protect young people, particularly from knife crimes and confront violence against women and girls. Combating hate crime, extremism and terrorism and improving the criminal justice system.

Mr Khan’s intentions are all good. He wants to make sure that everyone regardless of their background or circumstances are able to share in and make the most of London’s prosperity, culture and economic development. His plan reveals his vision for a better city for all Londoners. Will his bold approach to planning and development achieve what he dreams of or what we hope for?

We will have to wait and see over the next four years.

How well do you know the Mayor of London?

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London was born and raised in South London, one of eight children to parents who were determined to give their family a better life. Find out more about Sadiq Khan: 

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The Heathrow Expansion


Heathrow airport runway expansion Urbanissta

The government approved a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Will the plans take off or be grounded?

Heathrow’s third runway could be operational by 2026, creating £60 billion of economic benefits across a 60 year period.

However, there is turbulence and controversy on the radar as the Heathrow expansion heats up!

The Heathrow expansion plan has been something of a hot topic recently particularly now that it has been given the nod by Theresa May. We have decided to use this post as a runway to look at how this will affect us and what to expect in the near future.

Let’s check-in to the expansion plan.

The plan consists of a 3,500m runway which is said to be the first full-length runway to be built in the south-east of the UK since the Second World War. The costs involved are estimated to be a staggering £18.6 bn. You can view the proposed plan here:

The big debate is on and for the people in the political and legal control tower, there’s an awful lot to think about.

There is a legally binding obligation for the UK to meet air pollution and climate change targets to protect public health and safety. Heathrow emits 50% of the UK’s aviation emissions. That amounts to 6% of the UK’s overall carbon contribution. With a third runway this will significantly increase by 2050 which in turn will hamper the UK’s efforts in tackling climate change.

Heathrow insist that their plans are compatible with the target and it has been argued that Heathrow’s plan “doesn’t force a choice between the environment and the economy – it will deliver for both”.

The government have stated that the decision to approve the plan is central to the economic growth of Britain – does this mean that the have placed more value upon the economic aspect of the development and completely neglected the law and the health risks imposed on Londoners?  Well, Gatwick seem to think so. Gatwick have argued that the Heathrow expansion is illegal as it is already in breach of the EU Air Quality regulations and will contribute to prolonged breaches. It therefore undermines the current law and the decision to back the proposal is “unlawful”.

Is the economic case overstated or are the environmental concerns overplayed? This is the burning question.

So, how will we be affected? Are we in for a bumpy flight if we take off?

We predict uncomfortable air pockets… Here are the negatives if a third runway is built.

Heathrow is situated in a dense urban area and therefore millions of people will be affected by the expansion.

  • Air pollution – Greater London Authority (GLA) report suggested Heathrow would breach the EU regulations on levels of Nitrous Oxide if a third runway was built. The law was put in place to protect the health and safety of the public
  • Noise pollution – Noise is already a major problem. There have been 84,000 noise complaints since January 2016!

Areas such as Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham will suffer from noise pollution. It is noted by Richmond that “Richmond upon Thames is already subjected to over 50 decibels of noise, the level the World Health Organisation considers to be problematic, and the extra runway and flights would ensure that this increased even further”

  • Destruction of communities – The entire village of Sipson is likely to be destroyed as a result of the expansion. This includes 700 houses and hundreds of acres of greenbelt land. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 people will need to be moved, the largest forced removal in over 100 years 
  • Climate change – Heathrow is one of the UK’s largest contributors of climate change. Research shows that 220,000 flights will emit more carbon than Kenya’s 40 million citizens do in a year. Many Climate Change activists have argued that the UK’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 now looks unrealistic. Will the rest of the economy have to make up the shortfall with extra cuts to carbon emissions? We are yet to find out

It could be the flight of a lifetime if the plans go ahead for the third runway. What’s the positives?

  • Heathrow needs more capacity – London is growing and we need to meet the needs now and for the future. Given that Heathrow runs at nearly 100% capacity, it is not feasible to continue as is if air travel doubles in a generation
  • Economic boost including more job opportunities – Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities…”

Richard Blyth, head of policy, RTPI, said: “Our overriding concern is that investment in new airport capacity should provide an opportunity not only to meet demands for air travel, but also to solve other pressing needs that London and the South-East face, notably land for affordable housing and additional transport capacity 

  • A potential to build zero carbon homes in place of existing buildings

Here comes the drinks trolley to help steady the nerves and soften the blow – the mitigation…

  • The airport has also pledged to provide over £700 million for noise insulation for residential properties, proposed to use quieter air crafts and made a vow to ban night flights. The question is when could it happen.

Is this going to be long haul or short haul – what should we expect now?

We can expect legal challenges from Gatwick, Green Party, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor and Maidenhead. Do keep in mind that in 2010 the expansion was successfully overturned – how does this plan differ from the 2010 plan? Given that this plan is significantly bigger, it is likely to fail the same legal tests. Is it going to take time? There could be long delays but there is also a possibility of an early landing.

Watch the UK government in the House of Commons approve a third runway for Heathrow airport, read more here.

Boris Johnson who has contested the proposal since day one vowed to lay in front of the bulldozers than let the construction go ahead – we wonder if he will retract this statement! Watch an interview with Boris where he talks about his opinion on the Heathrow Expansion. Read more here.

We will do a return flight on this topic. Watch this space!

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