Monthly Archives: March 2019

 

The Chancellor’s Spring Statement and Brokenshire’s Ministerial Statement 2019

 

The Chancellor’s Spring Statement and Brokenshire’s Ministerial Statement 2019

On the 13th of March 2019 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, presented the Spring Statement and the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire presented the Ministerial Statement.

In this article, we have focused on the relevant aspects of the documents that relate to housing and development.

The Spring Statement

Philip Hammond said the Government is determined to ‘fix the broken housing market’ with a new £3bn scheme aiming to build 300,000 new homes by the end of this Parliament.

During this time of Brexit uncertainty, it’s difficult to believe that anything could go to plan or be fixed but the Chancellor said his pledges would put the UK on track to raise housing supply to its highest level since 1970.

“Building more homes in the right places is critical to unlocking productivity growth and makes housing more affordable.” Hammond told Parliament.

The progress on planning reform…

Hammond announced further progress on planning reform, as set out in more detail in the accompanying written Ministerial Statement by MHCLG’s Secretary of State.

  • £717 million would come from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock “up to” 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire
  • Through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme (extension of an existing scheme), the Government would guarantee up to £3 billion of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes
  • A £1bn fund to encourage SME housebuilders announced at the Autumn Budget

The Future Homes Standard

A ‘Future Homes Standard’ would be introduced by 2025, future proofing new build homes with low carbon heating, eliminating fossil fuel sources and achieving world-level leading levels of energy efficiency.

The new standard would build on the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge mission to at least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030.

The Government are to take 5 steps in the coming months:

1.   Produce an independent report on build-out rates. There will be an introduction to additional planning guidance to support housing diversification on large sites. Sir Oliver Letwin concluded that greater differentiation in the types and tenures of housing delivered on large sites would increase build-out rates.
2.   Respond to the consultation on planning reform. There will be an introduction of a package of reforms including allowing greater change of use between premises, and a new permitted development right to allow upwards extension of existing buildings to create new homes.
3.   Accelerate the ‘Planning Green Paper’. This would be done by publishing a Green Paper setting out proposals on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements could accelerate the end-to-end planning process.
4.   Consult on the consultation on the changes announced at Budget 2018. The changes to lettings relief and the final period exemption, which extends private residence relief in capital gains tax.
5. Consult on Planning for Future High Streets. Look at the options for potential changes to help local areas make better use of planning tools to support their local high streets, including through ‘Compulsory Purchase Orders’, ‘Local Development Orders’, and other innovative planning measures.

Read the full Spring Statement here.

Brokenshire’s Ministerial Statement

The Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP has hailed millions of pounds in extra funding and new planning measures to build homes, rejuvenate high streets, create jobs and deliver economic growth.
Brokenshire told Parliament, “We’re pulling all the levers available to build homes and opportunities in our communities. These new measures and funding mark our continued commitment to ensuring the housing market works for everyone and economic growth is shared across the country.”

Planning

There is to be an independent report on build-out rates and permitted development.

In his Ministerial Statement, Brokenshire said the Letwin Review found no evidence that speculative land banking was part of the business model for major house builders and a consensus has emerged that it is the market absorption rate that determines the rate at which developers build out large sites.

As confirmed in the Spring Statement, Brokenshire’s department will shortly publish additional planning guidance on housing diversification – to further encourage large sites to support a diverse range of housing needs and help them build out more quickly.

Brokenshire agreed with the principle that the costs of increased housing diversification should be funded through reductions in residual land values.

The Government was committed to improving the effectiveness of the existing mechanisms of land value capture, making them more certain and transparent for all developments; his focus was on evolving the existing system of developer contributions to make them more transparent, efficient and accountable and his department is gathering evidence to explore the case for further reform.

Brokenshire would keep the need for further interventions to support housing diversification and faster build-out, including amendments to primary legislation, (under review).

Accelerated Planning Green Paper

The priority was to ensure faster decision-making within the planning system. His department would publish an ‘Accelerated Planning Green Paper’ later this year that would discuss how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements could accelerate the end-to-end planning process.

It would also draw on the Rosewell Review, which made recommendations to reduce the time taken to conclude planning appeal inquiries, whilst maintaining the quality of decisions. Brokenshire would consider the case for further reforms to the compulsory purchase regime, in line with the manifesto commitment.
Read our article on The Rosewell Review here.

The Rosewell review of planning

Permitted Development Rights

MHCLG would amend the shops use class to ensure it captured current and future retail models, which will include clarification on the ability of (A) use classes to diversify and incorporate ancillary uses without undermining the amenity of the area, to introduce a new permitted development right to allow shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), hot food takeaways (A5), betting shops, payday loan shop and launderettes to change use to an office (B1) and to allow hot food takeaways (A5) to change to residential use (C3).

Additionally, to give businesses sufficient time to test the market with innovative business ideas it would extend the existing right that allows the temporary change of use of buildings from 2 to 3 years and enable more community uses to take advantage of this temporary right. This will enable such premises to more easily locate on the high street and would shortly publish “Better Planning for High Streets” with tools to support local planning authorities in reshaping their high streets. With the intention to create prosperous communities, particularly through the use of compulsory purchase, local development orders and other innovative tools.

MHCLG would take forward a permitted development right to extend upwards certain existing buildings in commercial and residential use to deliver additional homes, engaging with interested parties on design and technical details. It would want any right to deliver new homes to respect the design of the existing streetscape while ensuring that the amenity of neighbours was considered. It would also make permanent the time-limited right to build larger single-storey rear extensions to dwelling houses and to introduce a proportionate fee. Brokenshire would extend the time-limited right for a change of use from storage to residential. This right will lapse on 10 June.

Alongside this, he would review permitted development rights for conversion of buildings to residential use in respect of the quality standard of homes delivered. MHCLG would continue to consider the design of a permitted development right to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes. It would also develop a ‘Future Homes Standard’ for all new homes through consultation in 2019 with a view, subject to consultation, to introducing the standard by 2025.

It would grant a general listed building consent for works to listed waterway structures owned, controlled or managed by the Canal & River Trust.

He intended to implement an immediate package of permitted development right measures in the spring, with the more complex matters, including on upward extensions, covered in a further package of regulations in the autumn.

Oxford Cambridge Arc – Update

On 13th March MHCLG also published an update on the Government’s ‘overarching ambition’ for the Arc, including a joint declaration between Government and local partners, signalling the importance of collaboration to achieve these aims.

The document also provides an early update on the Government’s work to develop a robust economic evidence base for the Arc.

The Government intend to:

  • Appoint an independent Business Chair for the Arc shortly to provide expert advice; they would lead an Advisory Group, to be set up by late Spring
  • Launch a broad, joint, public engagement exercise over the summer
  • Support additional stakeholder engagement, utilising the breadth and depth of our networks of leaders and local partners, as well as Government departments and their agencies, to drive conversations and engagement with groups, communities and businesses across the Arc
  • Begin consulting on the route options for the Expressway this autumn with a decision on detailed development of the preferred route to be undertaken in early 2020,
  • Complete the analysis into new or expanded settlements and consider where economic and housing growth, including through locally-led plans, could maximise the benefits of new road and rail infrastructure
  • Consider how the design of new settlements could support the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges through the demonstration and deployment of new technologies
  • Complete underway assessments on Garden Communities bids, and announce successful proposals in the spring
  • Work with  the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission to gather evidence on design and quality place-making to identify opportunities to promote improved design quality and greater community consent (the Commission would publish an interim research report by July)
  • Work with local authorities to consider what planning approaches and flexibilities might be appropriate to better support planning an increased housing supply over the long term

Read the full Ministerial Statement here.

Further reading…

Read the Government UK Economy document here.

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A standard methodology for housing need

 

The household projections published by the ONS in September 2018 created a bit of a quandary for policymakers particularly for Local Plan preparation as projected household rates were significantly reduced across the whole of England where previous MHCLG 2014 projections showed that there was a significant housing need.

Recent research from Savills for Cambridge showed internal migration was slumping for example.

 

The NPPF which was revised in July 2018 allowed for a transition for Local Plans up to the end of January to be based on the 2012 NPPF household methodology.

Now that the transition period has ended, Local Plans are to be based on the standard methodology.

The standard methodology is based on household projections with market signals for affordability and vacancy with a 40% uplift cap.

 

The most recent projections to establish household need are the 2016 projections which are based on the period of household growth between 2001 and 2011. During this period, household formation was suppressed by external factors and the 2016 projections going forward bake this suppression in.
The government aims to support the delivery of 300,000 new homes per year by mid-2020s. The difficulty is that the 2016 projections weren’t supporting the government aim of creating 1 million homes by the mid-2020s. So much so that a technical consultation was published in October specifying that. For the short-term, to specify that the 2014-based data will provide the demographic baseline for assessment of local housing need.
The NPPF and NPPG were updated on the 20th Feb 2019 to specifically state that an assessment of household need starts by setting the baseline using national household growth projections (2014-based household projections in England, table 406 unitary authorities and districts in England). This clarification must be welcomed by policymakers to set a clear direction.

Housing Delivery Test

As part of the overall plan to boost the supply of housing, Government introduced a housing delivery test in the July 2018 version of the NPPF. The HDT results were published on the 20th Feb 2019.

HDT is a calculation expressed as a percentage, of

(i)    net homes delivered in a specified 3 year period (“the numerator”), as against

(ii)   the number of homes required in that period (“the denominator”).
•    The numerator is not just “net homes delivered”

•    Student adjustment –“net increase in bedrooms in student communal accommodation in local authority” divided by the average number of students in a student only households in England”
A 20% buffer will be applied if…

•    From November 2018 – if delivery falls below 25% of housing required over the previous three years;

•    From November 2019 – if delivery is below 45% of housing required over the previous three years

•    From November 2020- if delivery is below 75% of housing required over the previous three years

 

The Housing Delivery Test will apply from the day following the publication of the Housing Delivery Test and there are 21 authorities that are required to prepare an action plan.

•    Bromsgrove

•    Derbyshire Dales

•    Huntingdonshire

•    King’s Lynn and West Norfolk

•    Milton Keynes

•    Peterborough

•    Rotherham

•    Stroud

•    Tamworth

•    Torbay

•    Welwyn Hatfield

•    Babergh

•    Arun

•    Worthing

•    Slough

•    Bexley

•    Enfield

•    Sevenoaks

•    Tunbridge Wells

•    Braintree

•    Thurrock

On the 8th February 2019 Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO said…

“For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand. From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well. The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

Will there be opportunities for further development in these struggling boroughs? We will wait and see.

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The Agricultural PD rights

 

Earlier in the year, we did an article on agricultural PD rights after the former housing minister, Dominic Raab announced changes to Permitted Development Rights which enabled flexibility for rural sites to be converted from three to up to five family homes (Class Use C3) to better meet local housing need without the need to apply for Planning Permission. Read the article.

To summarise, amendments to the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) were approved by Parliament on 12th March 2018 and have come into force on the 6th April 2018.

The amendments

Allow buildings which currently are/were in ‘active agricultural use’ on or before 20th March 2013 to be redeveloped for up to 5 dwellings.

This will allow for the following:

Up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 sq. m. (5005.2sqf)
Up to 5 smaller homes, each no larger than 100 sq. m. (1076.4sqf)
Combination of both above options – no more than 5 homes (no more than 3 being larger homes).
We recently worked on a project in Braintree for the change of use of three agricultural dwellings to 5 residential dwellinghouses. We came across a few stumbling blocks which were not otherwise clear when we set out to apply for permitted development. We set the things you need to check and consider before applying for prior notification.

Firstly, check whether you are within a designated area.

Restrictions

Permitted development rights are generally more restricted in the following designated areas:

Conservation Area
National Park
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or The Norfolk or Suffolk Broads
Permitted Development Rights are subject to obtaining approval from the LPA first. This means that you must notify the relevant LPA and submit a prior approval application before starting any work. If the council do not issue a decision within the time frame of 56 days, then development can begin.

Criteria

When the Council consider the application, they will assess the proposals against the Class Q criteria. The first criteria relate to what the development consists of permitted development.

Development consisting of:

(a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order; or

(b) development referred to in paragraph (a) together with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3(dwellinghouses) of that Schedule”.

The following criteria will need to be met before a development can be considered as permitted development:

(a) the Site was solely in agricultural use on the 20th March 2013
(b) the cumulative floor space changing use falls below the 465 sqm threshold
(c) no other Class Q conversions have taken place on the Site. The cumulative total is 5 smaller dwellings each below 100sqm, below the threshold of 5 dwellings permitted
(d) the site is not occupied under an agricultural tenancy
(e) an agricultural tenancy has not recently been terminated
(f) no agricultural building works under the GPDO Schedule 2 Part 6 Class A have taken place since 20th March 2013
(g) no extensions are proposed
(h) the cumulative total of floor space changing use will be below 1000 sqm
(i) no building works beyond those permitted in subparagraph (i) are proposed
(j) the site is not on Article 2(3) land
(k) the site is not in one of the defined special areas
(l) the site does not contain a Scheduled Ancient Monument
(m) and the buildings are not listed

It is understood that Class Q development is permitted subject to the condition that the developer shall apply to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the local planning authority is required for one or more of six distinct considerations:

(a) transport and highway impacts
(b) noise impacts
(c) contamination risks on the site
(d) flooding risks on the site
(e) whether the location or sitting makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the use to change to Class C3
(f) the design or external appearance of the building
Please note that once the new PD rights have been exercised, there will be no opportunity to construct to extend an agricultural building for a period of 10 years.

The explanatory memorandum can be read here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/343/pdfs/uksiem_20180343_en.pdf

The amendments to the Legislation can be read here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/343/contents/made

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Lower Thames Crossing update

 

Following the announcement of the preferred option of Route C by the Government, highways England consulted on The Lower Thames Crossing between October and December 2018.

The Lower Thames Crossing will have:
· Approximately 14.5 miles (23km) of new roads connecting the tunnel to the existing road network
· Three lanes in both directions with a maximum speed limit of 70mph
· Improvements to the M25, A2 and A13, where the Lower Thames Crossing connects to these roads
· New structures and changes to existing ones (including bridges, buildings, tunnel entrances, viaducts and utilities such as electricity pylons) along the length of the new road
· Two 2.5 miles (4km) tunnels, one for southbound traffic, one for northbound traffic crossing beneath the river
· A free-flow charging system, where drivers do not need to stop but pay remotely, similar to that at the Dartford Crossing

The benefits of the crossing are cited as:
· Boost to the economy
· Quicker journeys
· Creating a better future
· Provide benefits for local communities and the economy for generations to come
· Support local growth

The route is split into three sections:
· South of the river in Kent – M2/A2 junction
· The crossing
· North of the river and south of the river in Kent – M2/A2

The A2 will remain as four lanes in both directions with hard shoulders throughout. The M2 will be widened from three lanes to four in both directions through junction 1.

Two one-way link roads will be provided north and south of the A2, connecting to the existing A289 and the old A2 at the eastern end. Neither of these link roads will connect to the A2 at M2 junction 1, with these connections being made at the site of the new LTC junction instead. 

The A2 will be kept at its existing height and the link roads will be at approximately the same height. A section of the M2/A2 immediately to the west of the new junction will need to be built and for approximately 2 miles (3.5km) to the east, including junction 1 of the M2.

The route will pass under Thong Lane and approach a new junction with the A2, situated at the eastern edge of Gravesend. The road will be in a cutting approaching the tunnel.

On the southern section, the tunnel will pass under the:
· A226
· Lower Higham Road
· Thames and Medway Canal
· North Kent railway line
· Thames Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site
· South Thames Estuary and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
· Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Training Centre at Gravesend
· The Crossing

North of the river in Thurrock and Essex
On the northern section, the tunnel will pass under the East Tilbury Marshes and cross through Tilbury, Chadwell St Mary, Linford, Orsett and Ockendon. There are four smaller areas to describe the route, which are:
· Tilbury junction & A13 junction
The crossing will pass through West Tilbury, Linford and Chadwell St Mary to approach a new junction layout between the Lower Thames Crossing, A13 and A1089. It will be located at the site of the existing junction between these roads to the west of Orsett
· LTC and M25 junction
The route would continue across the Mardyke river and Golden Bridge Sewer. It would then connect with the M25. The junction with the M25 will be located just under two miles (3km) south of junction 29 on the M25, near Ockendon Road
· M25 junction 29

Beyond the northern section of the Lower Thames Crossing, improvement and modification works will also be needed at junction 29 on the M25 and to the north of junction 29. It is likely to take around six years to build the tunnel and is estimated that the cost of building the crossing will be between £5.3-£6.8 billion.

The crossing will operate on a free-flowing e-charging system, similar to the Dart Charge.
One of the Lower Thames Crossing’s targets is that no-one should be killed or seriously injured on the new route by 2041.

Timeline
Formal pre-application commenced in October 2018 for 10 weeks. In 2019, a Development Consent Order will be submitted and the planning inspectorate has 28 days to make a decision as to whether the DCO can proceed. Pre-examination of the application and examination is proposed for late 2019 with a recommendation and decision made in 2020.

On the basis of the timeline, it is predicted that the crossing will be open to traffic in 2027.

Contact us today if you wish to discuss any of the topics that we raise or for more information about our services.

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St.Albans emerging Local Plan

 

5 stages of planning appeals

The St Albans draft Local Plan has been published for the plan period of 16 years from 2020 -2036. The plan period is broken down into sub-periods:

  • 2020 – 2025
  • 2025 – 2030
  • 2030 – 2036

The vision of the plan is for “a thriving community, which is a great place to live and work and has a vibrant economy”.

The Local Plan Issues and Options consultation was held on 8th January to the 21st February 2018, although there had previously been several consultations on the earlier draft Local Plan documents in 2006-2016.

The Council consulted on the publication Draft Local Plan from the 4th September to 17th October 2018. Submission of the Draft Plan to the Secretary of State is proposed for March 2019, Public Examination by Summer 2019 and the estimated date for the adoption is anticipated for Spring 2020. For an Authority with one of the oldest adopted Local Plans (if not the oldest at 1994!), we welcome the formulation of the Council Local Plan, especially in housing supply by having a continued plan approach for increased growth. However, this does not address the 2018 -2019 housing needs and previous housing shortfalls.

With regards to the provision of housing target for the period 2020 – 2036, the Council is set to provide 14,608 additional homes at an overall average of 913 homes per annum, split into three time periods to reflect rates of delivery of both the required infrastructure. The requirement target per annum from 2020 – 2025 is 565 per annum, whilst the requirement target from 2025 – 2030 is 1,075 per annum and the target from 2030 – 2036 is 1,075 per annum.

Policy S2 of the Draft Local Plan identifies a number of “Broad Locations” for development to contribute to meeting the housing, infrastructure and other development needs over the plan period. The Broad Locations and the numbers of the housing allocations are shown below.

 

The Broad Locations

· Policy S6 iii) – East Hemel Hempstead (South) 2,288
· Policy S6 i) – East Hemel Hempstead (North) 1,538
· Policy S6 iv) – North Hemel Hempstead 1,380
· Policy S6 ii – East Hemel Hempstead (Central) 10,000 jobs
· Policy S6 v – East St Albans 1,138
· Policy S6 vi – North of St Albans 988
· Policy S6 vii – North East Harpenden 700
· Policy S6 viii – North West Harpenden 530
· Policy S6 ix – West London Colney 380
· Policy S6 x – West of Chiswell Green 365
· Policy S6 xi – Park Street Garden Village 2,180

Summary of Key Growth Areas:

East Hemel Hempstead
The East Hemel Hempstead proposed development Masterplan for the location was led by the Council in collaboration with Dacorum Borough Council, local communities, landowners and the other stakeholders. The East Hemel Hempstead development Sites is located south of the M1 and north of the A4147. North Hemel Hempstead Broad Location will provide 1,388 dwellings, of which 40% are to be affordable housing and 3% which equates to 41 of those dwellings are to be self-build. The East Hemel Hempstead (North) Broad Location make provision of 1,538 dwellings of which 40% will be affordable housing in accordance with Policy L3 and 3% (46 of the homes) to be provided are to be self-build. The East Hemel Hempstead Central Broad Location is for the provision of a range of employment uses for 10,000 jobs: including offices, research development, light industries and logistics.

The East Hemel Hempstead (South) site is proposed to provide 2,288 dwellings of which 40% will be Affordable Housing in accordance with Policy L3. A total of 3%, which equates to 68 of the proposed development are to be self-build housing with new neighbourhood and local centres, including commercial development opportunities.

St. Albans
The East St. Albans Broad Location is situated north of the A1057 Hatfield Road and is to provide 1,138 dwellings (including an area with extant permission for 348 homes) of which 40% are to be affordable housing. Also, 3% of the homes (34 homes) are to be provided for self-build housing. North St. Albans Broad Location is located east of the A1081 Harpenden Road and is to provide 988 dwellings of which 40% are to be Affordable Housing. Also, 3% of the homes which equates to 29 dwellings are to be self-built housing. See Figure 3 below.

Harpenden
The North East Harpenden Broad Location is situated and is to provide 700 dwellings of which 40% are to be Affordable Housing and 3% (21homes) are to be self-build housing. North West Harpenden Broad Location is to provide 530 dwellings of which 40% are to be Affordable Housing and 3% which equates to 15 dwellings of the total housing to be provided are to be self-built.

London Colney
West of London Colney Broad Location is situated north of the M25 and west of the B5378 and is to provide 380 dwellings of which 40% of the housing are to be Affordable, whilst 3% (11 dwellings) to be provided are to be self-built housing.

Chiswell Green
The West of Chiswell Green Broad Location is situated west of the B4630 and is to provide 365 dwellings whilst 40% are to be Affordable Housing and 3% (11 dwellings) are to be self-build housing.

Park Street
Park Street Garden Village Broad Location is situated south of the A414 North Orbital Road and is to provide 2,180 dwellings, whilst 40% are to be affordable housing and 3% which equates to 65 of the dwellings to be provided are to be self-built. Two 15 pitch Gypsy and Travellers sites are also to be provided in the Garden Village.

This draft Plan has also been welcomed by the House Builders Federation (HBF) and considered the Plan to be long overdue. We see the provision of housing in the Draft Plan to be adequate in numerical terms. However, we are concerned in relation to the provision of housing for the planning period 2020 -2036, this is because, there will be a significant backlog of housing provision, since the plan to build more housing starts in 2020 and not considering the period for 2 years for 2018 – 2019. The question being asked is whether the Council’s Emerging Plan is shifting the Plan forward. This Plan is flawed by not starting the trajectory base date at 2018. Hence, this approach is not considered to be a suitably evidence-based plan.

Duty to co-operate
The draft Local Plan for St Albans states that it is committed to working with neighbouring Councils of Dacorum, Hertsmere, Three Rivers and Watford as part of the South Hertfordshire Housing Market Area and the agreement to produce a joint strategic plan for this area. This is a welcome development, and one only hopes that progress will be made on this plan and allows for the needed infrastructure required to meet the areas of development needs.

The previous Local Plan submitted by the Council had failed in its Duty to Co-operate since there is no evidence by the Council to demonstrate how it has rectified this matter in preparing this Local Plan. However, the only statement on Cooperation within the Council evidence base that is apparent is in the 2017 Authority Monitoring Report. The Report in Paragraph 3.6 summarised the many discussions that have taken place with neighbouring authorities and other statutory bodies. The Council have not shown whether there are any neighbouring areas that cannot meet their own needs and how the Council have worked with those areas in trying to meet these needs in spite of the stipulation in Paragraph 60 of the NPPF.

Paragraph 27 of the NPPF makes vivid what is required to show effective and on-going joint working by stating that:
“in order to demonstrate an effective and on-going joint working, strategic policymaking authorities should prepare and maintain one or more statements of common ground, documenting the cross-boundary matters being addressed and progress in cooperating to address these. These should be produced using the approach set out in national planning guidance and be made publicly available throughout the plan-making process to provide transparency”.

With regards to the Duty to Cooperate, we urge the Council to produce the necessary statements of common ground which identifies the main cross-boundary issues and the progression being made in addressing these matters before the Plan can be found sound.

Housing Supply
The delivery of housing in broad locations where Green Belt boundaries will be amended to enable the necessary development which is the strategic focus of St Albans local Plan Policy S2 and details of broad locations are set out in Policy S6. We consider the identification of these areas a welcome development, however, it is imperative that the Council should ensure that those broad locations can deliver the rate and scale of residential development as suggested in this plan. With regards to supply, the Council should ensure that there is evidence to support the windfalls. The Council must be able to demonstrate a five-year land supply on adoption. Hence, we are concerned that even with the proposed stepped trajectory and starting the plan period at 2020, the Council will only have a 5.02 years land supply on adoption. This is a marginal position and places the Council of a consequential risk of the Plan being considered out of date on or soon after adoption. However, if the plan period commences from 2018 as is required by NPPF, the Council would have, even using the Council proposed stepped trajectory, a 4.57 years housing land supply. The stepped trajectory evidence of this Plan suggest to allocate adequate sites in the first five years of the plan and is overly reliant on delivery later in the plan period. We suggest that rather than the Council seek to manipulate the plan period and trajectory, it should have looked to plan more effectively to meet its housing needs earlier in the plan period.

The issue of availability and the deliverability of Park Street Garden Village under Policy S6xi is also a major concern. This stems from the fact that the Council do not have the necessary evidence with regards to the availability of the site for the proposed allocation as a Garden Village. There is no clear decision as to the kind of development that will take place on this site and whether there is a reasonable prospect of the site being available at the point anticipated within the Local Plan. We suggest that the plan should address this uncertainty prior to the submission of the Local Plan before it can be considered developable as stipulated in Policy S6xi.

Another issue is how the Council intends to deal with their housing shortfall since St Albans has consistently not met their housing target, is still unclear and how the methodology intends to deal with this issue and needs clarification. The Community Infrastructural Levy (CIL) also needs to be set alongside with the Plan, this seems to be absent in the current St Albans Draft Local Plan.

Housing mix and density, size, type
In terms of the housing mix under Policy LI, this seems to be quite confusing and unclear, since there are no clear numbers and or helpfully, prescription of bedroom’s size/mix but rather the Policy states that all housing development will be expected to contribute to a different housing types by directly addressing the evidence of local needs, whilst considering the existing pattern of development in the area and site-specific factors. We suggest that the council makes clear indication within this policy as to the general mix of property size based on the number of bedrooms it is seeking to deliver within the Borough. The general mix will then inform, but not dictate, the type of development that is delivered. Hence, we are of the view that Policy L1 should be amended so as to provide an indicative housing mix for development.

The Plan needs to be addressed and one way of doing this is to get the Plan out of the local councillors to the Planning Inspector, this is based on the failure of the Council to deliver on previous plans. Another issue that the Draft Local Plan did not address, is that of timing for infrastructure implementation before the proposed housing is delivered. The specifics of where the Park Street Garden village ‘Broad Location will be situated was not adequately addressed in the Plan.

In summary, St Albans emerging Local Plan seems promising in terms of the proposed housing numbers for the plan period which are to be built in “broad Locations”, of which some of the sites are in the Green Belt. In order for the Plan to be considered sound by an Inspector, the above criticism should be considered by the Council. Overall, we consider St Albans Local Plan unsound in terms of its evidence base, duty to cooperate, and cast doubts as to how it will meet its projected housing numbers.

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The Rosewell review of planning

 

Neighbourhood Planning

On the 12th of February 2019, Bridget Rosewell’s review of planning report on the planning system was published.

Bridget Rosewell was appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to chair the Independent Review of Planning Appeal Inquiries (the Review) in June 2018.

The aim of the Review was to make the use and operation of the planning appeal inquiries procedure quicker and better and make recommendations to significantly reduce the time taken to conclude planning inquiries while maintaining the quality of decisions.

The report identified that…

· The overwhelming majority of planning appeals (93%) are determined through the consideration of written representations, including householder and minor commercial appeals (written representations)
· A further 5% of planning appeals are dealt with through hearings.
· Only 2% of planning appeals are subject to an inquiry
· Over the five year period, 2013 to 2018 on average 315 inquiry appeals were decided each year
· 56% of decided inquiry appeals were allowed (or approved in the case of called-in applications)
· On average, from receipt of a valid appeal, it took 42 weeks for a decision to be made by an inspector

The report identified that based on submissions of evidence the things that work well are:

· The quality of inspectors holding inquiries and their decisions
· Inspectors fairness to parties, including members of the public and others unfamiliar with the inquiry process
· The value of oral presentation of evidence
· Benefits of rigorous cross-examination in really testing the evidence presented were also often commended

Things that don’t work well are:

· Excessive timescales for the process from start to finish
· Lack of transparency about the process and the evidence being considered
· The very limited availability, capability and use of technology in many instances
· Main parties might seek to influence the speed of the process for tactical advantage

The report revealed that the stage identified as having the greatest scope for improvement was the inquiry preparation stage between the start letter and the start of the inquiry.

22 recommendations are made:

Recommendation 1. The Planning Inspectorate should ensure the introduction of the new portal for the submission of inquiry appeals by December 2019, with pilot testing for inquiry cases to start in May 2019.

Recommendation 2. The Planning Inspectorate should work with representatives of the key sectors involved in drafting statements of case to devise new pro formas for these statements which can then be added to the new portal and include, where appropriate, the introduction of mandatory information fields and word limits.

Recommendation 3. The process of confirming the procedure to be used should be streamlined. Where an inquiry is requested, appellants should notify the local planning authority of their intention to appeal a minimum of 10 working days before the appeal is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. This notification should be copied to the Inspectorate.

Recommendation 4. The Planning Inspectorate should ensure that only complete appeals can be submitted and ensure a start letter is issued within 5 working days of the receipt of each inquiry appeal. The start letter should include the name of the Inspector who will conduct the appeal.

Recommendation 5. The practice of the Planning Inspectorate leading on the identification of the date for the inquiry should be restored, with all inquiries commencing within 13 to 16 weeks of the start letter. Finding a way to help fund the cost of accommodation could reduce the financial burden on local planning authorities. It may also widen the choice of accommodation, bringing forward the identification of a suitable venue, which will benefit all parties. As a minimum requirement, all inquiry venues must allow internet access for all those attending the inquiry.

Recommendation 6.  MHCLG should consult on the merits of appellants contributing to the accommodation costs of the inquiry.

Recommendation 7. MHCLG and the Planning Inspectorate should substantially overhaul the approach to the preparation of statements of common ground.

The overhauled approach should include:

• Encouraging a topic-based approach, where appropriate, which would ensure that disagreement on some matters did not hold up the submission of agreed positions on others
• Identification of areas where the parties are working together and there is the prospect of resolving reason(s) for refusal
• Strengthening the requirement for parties to identify issues of disagreement as well as agreement and reinforcing this emphasis by renaming the statements – Statements of Agreement and Disagreement
• The statement of common ground should include an agreed list of conditions and the reasons for them, as well as setting out those in dispute, draft terms of any s106 and a statement of compliance with statutory and policy requirements for the conditions and s106
• Newly detailed pro formas on the new online Planning Appeal Portal (supported by guidance) which drive a more structured approach, and the clear identification of issues of agreement and disagreement for common topics, such as highway matters, landscape impacts, or housing land availability. The Planning Inspectorate should work with leading topic experts, and other bodies who have inquiry experience, to develop the online pro formas and guidance. As with nationally significant infrastructure projects, best practice examples should also be published32

Recommendation 8 (a). In every inquiry appeal case, there should be case management engagement between the inspector, the main parties, Rule 6 parties and any other parties invited by the inspector, not later than 7 weeks after the start letter. (b) Following the case management engagement, the inspector should issue clear directions to the parties about the final stages of preparation and how evidence will be examined no later than 8 weeks after the start letter.

Recommendation 9. The inspector should decide, at the pre-inquiry stage, how best to examine the evidence at the inquiry and should notify the parties of the mechanism by which each topic or area of evidence will be examined, whether by a topic organisation, oral evidence and cross-examination, roundtable discussions or written statements.

Recommendation 10. The Planning Inspectorate should ensure all documents for an inquiry appeal are published on the new portal, in a single location, at the earliest opportunity following their submission.

Recommendation 11. The Planning Inspectorate should ensure the timely submission of documents. It should also initiate an award of costs where a party has acted unreasonably and caused another party to incur unnecessary or wasted expense.

Recommendation 12. The Planning Inspectorate should amend guidance and the model letter provided for local planning authorities to notify parties of an appeal, to make it clear that those interested parties who want Rule 6 status, should contact the Inspectorate immediately.

Recommendation 13. The Planning Inspectorate should consult with key stakeholder groups to update procedural guidance to set out clear expectations on the conduct of inquiries, based on a consistent adoption of current best practice and technology. Updated guidance should encourage and support inspectors to take a more proactive and directional approach.

Recommendation 14. The Planning Inspectorate should ensure that its programme for improving operational delivery through greater use of technology fully exploits the opportunities available to enhance the efficiency and transparency of the inquiry event, such as the use of transcription technology for inspectors and publishing webcasts of proceedings.

Recommendation 15.  Alongside other recommendations that will improve the transparency and clarity of the process (Recommendations 10, 12, 13 and 14), the Planning Inspectorate should develop a more effective and accessible guide to the inquiry process for interested parties, including members of the public.

Recommendation 16. Programming of inspector workloads should ensure there is enough time to write up the case immediately after the close of the inquiry.

Recommendation 17 (a). To minimise the number of cases that need to be decided by the Secretary of State, MHCLG should keep their approach to the recovery of appeals and call-in applications under review. (b) The Planning Inspectorate should work with MHCLG to identify ways that technology can be used to speed up the process of preparing the inspector’s report to the Secretary of State.

Recommendation 18. The Planning Inspectorate should submit an action plan to the Secretary of State by April 2019. The action plan should set out how it will ensure that the necessary organisational measures are put in place to deliver the proposed timescale targets and wider improvements by no later than June 2020. This should include the mechanisms by which sufficient inspectors can be made available. The action plan should also set out challenging, but realistic, intermediate milestones to be achieved by September 2019.

Recommendation 19. The Planning Inspectorate should review the issue of withdrawn appeals and consider how the impact on its work can be minimised. To deliver this the Inspectorate should:
(a) Always collect information from appellants about why an appeal is withdrawn.
(b) Initiate an award of costs where there is evidence of unreasonable behaviour by a party in connection with a withdrawn appeal (c) with the benefit of more detailed information, review whether further steps can be taken to reduce the impact of withdrawals on its resources and other parties.

Recommendation 20.  The Planning Inspectorate and MHCLG should regularly discuss the practical impact of new policy and guidance on the consideration of evidence at inquiries with those parties who are frequently involved in the planning appeal inquiry process.

Recommendation 21. The Planning Inspectorate should adopt the following targets for the effective management of inquiry appeals from receipt to decision (a) Inquiry appeals decided by the Inspector Receipt to decision – within 24 weeks – 90% of cases Receipt to decision – within 26 weeks – remaining 10% of cases (b) Inquiry appeals decided by the Secretary of State Receipt to submission of inspector’s report – within 30 weeks – 100% of cases. The Inspectorate should regularly report on its performance in meeting these timescales and what steps it is taking to expedite any cases that take longer.

Recommendation 22. (a) The Planning Inspectorate should use the Transformation Programme to ensure there are robust and comprehensive management and business information, which is regularly collected and reported, on all aspects of their operation.
(b) In developing an improved suite of information the Inspectorate should also:
• Ensure their digital case management record system records information on key variables in a consistent way
• Agree with MHCLG a new set of key performance indicators to effectively monitor the inquiry appeal process from end to end, including the availability of senior inspectors.

Read the Independent review of planning appeal inquiries: executive summary

Read the Independent review of planning appeal inquiries: report

Read the Independent review of planning appeal inquiries: annexes A-H

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The Planning Bill – Affordable Housing and Land Compensation

 

‘Step into my office’ – with Jo Hanslip

On the 27th February 2019, Labour MP Helen Hayes introduced a new Planning Bill for affordable housing and land compensation to the House of Commons.

Why?

To restore community need at the heart of the planning system and increase the speed and quantum of affordable housing delivery. Hayes explained that it was time to meet the needs of local communities and safeguard their interests for future generations.

The post-war planning system…

The post-war planning system was a framework for managing change and making sure that new development met the needs of local communities. However, the system which had been reviewed and modified in recent years would often fail to deliver against either the promises it made or the real and pressing needs of local communities.

It is now time for a major reform…

Hayes explained that planning plays a critical role in the delivery of affordable housing but there are some major problems at present which limit the effectiveness of their planning system and work in favour of landowners against the interests of the communities.

The MP said, “Our planning system is in need of major reform. The Government’s definition of affordable housing includes homes to buy at up to £450,000 and homes to rent at up to 80% of market rent. I and my party support the delivery of affordable entry-level homes to buy, and although I believe that there are ways to deliver these homes that are more effective and give better value for money than the Help to Buy scheme, my Bill does not cover homes for sale; it addresses the definition of affordable homes to rent.”

Hayes revealed that over the past 10 years, the number of social homes built each year had fallen from around 30,000 to 6,400. At the same time, the number of “affordable homes” at up to 80% of market rent rose to 47,000.

Hayes proposed two reforms:

  1. To define affordable housing in relation to household incomes. The Bill re-established the link between the definition of affordable and income, replacing the current definition of up to 80% of the market price with a definition of “no more than 35% of net household income for lowest quartile income groups in each local authority area.”
  2. Amend the law relating to land valuation and compensation. Even though the reforms introduced last year, which were welcomed, landowners had the right to the future value of development rights or planning permission, which was granted by and in the gift of the planning authority, dramatically inflating the cost of land, and inflated land prices made it much more difficult for councils to buy land in order to deliver social housing.

The proposed Bill would make 3 changes to the current planning law:

  1. Amend section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, as amended, and add to it a statutory definition of an affordable home for the purpose of all planning decisions.
  2. Make further changes to sections 14 to 16 of the Land Compensation Act 1961, as amended.
  3. Introduce a new statutory definition of the key factors used for viability testing in relation to planning decisions.

The Bill is supported by Shelter and the Town and Country Planning Association, to reform the planning system to deliver fair outcomes and accelerate the delivery of genuinely affordable social housing.

Planning law for local authorities…

There will be a new requirement in planning law for local authorities who will have to include a policy in their local plans to capture betterment values and establish a legal duty to capture land value. This would be done for the benefit of communities and creating a strong justification for councils to argue for the resources they need to engage in viability discussions on equal terms with applicants.

Viability testing for planning decisions will include:

  • Placing explicit limitations on the expectations of developer profit
  • Land values for compulsory purchase

This will provide greater certainty and transparency for both landowners and communities. The current viability rules were developed to encourage and stimulate building in a recession but it had evolved into a ‘quasi-scientific’ basis for negotiations between developers and councils.

The Second Reading of the Bill is scheduled for the 22nd March 2019, we will report back with an update.

Relevant information:

**Read the official Bill presented by Helen Hayes on the government website here.

**Listen to Helen Hayes in the Houses of Parliament introducing the new Bill here.

Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes is the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood. She is a chartered town planner and member of the RTPI.

**Find out more here about Helen Hayes from the ‘TheyWorkForYou’ website.

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