Category Archives: Commenting on Government

 

Government propose granting Planning Inspectorate greater flexibility

 

Government grant Planning Inspectorate greater flexibility in decision making

As part of the Business and Planning Bill 2019-21 the Government announced new measures that will grant the Planning Inspectorate greater flexibility in decision making. Inspectors will be allowed to employ more than one procedure at the same time when determining an appeal, choosing from written representations, hearings and inquiries.

Currently, Section 319A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, only allows Planning Inspectors (PINS) to switch between procedures, not to employ more than one at the same time on the same case. The proposed change, which would be permanent, would speed up the decision-making process for planning appeals. The change would apply to all standard planning and enforcement appeals, listed building consent appeals and hazardous substance appeals.

Despite the difficulties, PINS have successfully delivered 3,500 decisions since the start of the lockdown, down 37.5% on decision numbers in normal circumstances. Where possible they have successfully carried out several virtual events including decisions on three National Infrastructure projects, three inquiries and one local plan hearing. A number of cases are programmed to be progressed through July via virtual events, including the South Oxfordshire Local Plan examination.

Barristers from No 5 Chambers provided a useful insight into their experience of virtual committees through their ‘Planning for Recovery’ webinar series*. Whilst they pointed to the positives, such as the move towards the use of electronic documents, they were not conducted without some technical difficulties.

They explained that prior to the virtual event, participants are invited to attend a technical meeting to test the technology and process, organised by the Local Planning Authority. PINS have not dictated how people participate in the virtual hearings and inquiries, appreciating that it is not always possible for teams to gather in the same place. The PINS case officer is ultimately in control of who is audible and visible. Whilst No 5 were supportive of the new format, they did not think virtual committees will or should be the norm on a permanent basis as the lockdown is relaxed, as the technical difficulties are unavoidable and do disrupt the process.

The Business and Planning Bill is expected to be adopted later this month.

*https://www.no5.com/events/planning-for-the-recovery-episode-5/ 

Share this on:

 

Judicial Review Against Planning Inspectors Granted to Sevenoaks Council

 

Judicial Review Against Planning Inspectors Granted to Sevenoaks Council

Judicial review has been granted to Sevenoaks District Council against the decision of a Planning Inspector to reject its emerging Local Plan over failure of the Council to meet the duty to cooperate.

The Inspector’s final report on the draft plan, issued on 2 March 2020, followed an examination of the Council’s draft Local Plan which had taken place in September and October 2019.  It had asked Sevenoaks Council to withdraw its Local Plan and concluded that the Plan was not legally complaint with regard to the duty to cooperate, because the Council had not satisfactorily worked with neighbouring authorities to accommodate homes it could not plan for as a result of the green belt and other restrictions.

The Inspector, Karen Baker, accepted that the Council had prepared a joint evidence base with other local authorities, including a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) with neighbouring Turnbridge Wells Borough Council. However, she stated that the assessment of housing did not include any specific provision for meeting unmet needs of adjoining areas, which the SHMA stipulate need to be considered through the duty to cooperate.

Sevenoaks District Council in their response vehemently refused to withdraw the documents, consequently in April they issued a legal challenge to the Inspector’s decision in the High Court. The Court had issued a notification granting permission for review.

The High Court Judge, Honourable Mr Justice Swift, concluded that “all grounds for the Council’s claim are arguable, hence permission for judicial review was granted, thus clearing the first hurdle of the process”.

The Judge noted more than 800 pages of evidence setting out how the Council had worked with its neighbouring Councils during the production of the plan, whilst these neighbouring Councils supported Sevenoaks Council’s evidence and approach on this matter.

The Council’s Cabinet Member for Development and Conservation, Julia Thornton, noted that “This is great news as it means the High Court believes our position that the Planning Inspectorate may have a case to answer”. She further noted that the Council had followed the relevant guidance when they developed the Plan and the evidence, they had provided to the Planning Inspector justified their position.

The Council insisted that they had no choice but to take a legal route to demonstrate how serious and committed they are to their residents, against what they believe is a fundamental failure by the Planning Inspectorate to take account of the weight of evidence in front of them.

The Council strongly believe that the Inspector had erroneously interpreted key parts of the Local Plan requirements. The Council noted that their Local Plan was the “first in the country” to be assessed under the revised 2018 National Planning Policy Framework.

We will keep you informed of the Court decision concerning this case when the ruling is made.

Share this on:

 

The highs & lows of … planning application submissions, the last 6 months

 

Large housing development aerial view in construction on rural countryside site Scotland UK

Planning professionals across the land have been, and still are, submitting planning applications on all natures and scale on behalf of clients across the country.  Whilst this has been occurring, a forensic analysis has been undertaken by EG Radius Data Exchange.  Some interesting findings have emerged. A subtitle of “silver linings in lockdown” invites interesting reading and reflection.

Reporting on a downward trend towards lockdown (23 March), the numbers in April plunged to the lowest since 2016.  However, the report does highlight a few interesting aspects, such as some parts of the country finding themselves with more large scale proposals, and particular sectors such as telecoms maintaining strong returns.

Some overall numbers to cogitate:

  • Before 2020 there was an average of 6,796 planning decisions per month, so far, in 2020 there has been a 12.5% decline
  • Slim pickings for approvals (up 1%) and refusals down (1%)
  • 2% increase in the number of homes approved compared to the same time last year
  • 1,295 telecom mast applications as the nation gears up for 5G
  • A 15.7% fall, year-on-year in applications submitted in the first 4 months of the year

Within the residential sector, negative figures strike (-25% for new applications, -29.2% for decisions) whilst office and commercial activity shoots up (21.2% new applications and 20.5% for decisions).  Not surprisingly private housing is the largest sector for UK planning, accounting for more than half of decisions last year.  Now its contribution has fallen 41.9%.  A slight silver lining for this cloud is that social housing decisions are up 12.9% and new applications also up albeit at 4%.  Bear in mind though, that social housing represents a total of only 3% of applications and decisions.

Across all sectors for applications, whilst offices and commercial applications leap by over 20% with a more modest 4% for social housing, apart from medical and scientific uses which remained static, all other sectors fell from between 8% (community and amenity) with the residential sector hitting -25%.

So, in an era of lockdown, the industry is looking to build new offices?  Does not seem logical when the vast majority are working from home and find it, er … works!  No, it is not the “office” tag which is resurging, rather the “commercial,” and within that lies the answer telecoms.  With the nationwide ambition being for 5G coverage, our nation requires the relatively innocent telecoms mast.  However, given our geography and the fact that 5G radio waves do not travel as far as 4G, the nation needs many of the innocent masts. In fact, they accounted for a third of all commercial and office decisions at the start of this year and more than 41% of all applications.

This may be the case but, according to the research, “Telecom masts have driven office and commercial activity, but only in certain parts of the country,” as evidenced in their graphic …

Approved telecomms applications

Turning to the residential sector, whilst although the number of new applications (-25.5%) and decisions (-29.2%) are down, approvals are on the up with a 7.2% rise to 210,973.  On a similar level, the number of homes in applications submitted at the start of the year was up 13% on 2019 totalling 373,972.

As a Scot myself, it is rare that across most sectors (other than whisky (not whiskey) and tartan) the country spends much time making positive noises.  However, on the rather nerdier planning front, the country has much to shout about, with Scotland leading the way in planning activity at the start of this year.

A couple of graphic snapshots adequately demonstrate this …

Top 10 council approved applications

UK graph

Whilst is would be rather pleasing to end on a positive, there is of the course the negative, planning permissions being refused with the report highlighting that “Greater London is home to eight of the councils most likely to refuse an application.”

Top Active Councils

So, from the above, it clear that planning has not ground to a halt.  It is also clear that some sectors are holding their ground with one, telecoms, pulling the office and commercial sector to the top of the class.  For the residential sector, whilst new applications and decisions are down, approvals are up for the same time last year.  So, with permissions already in place, applications being submitted, certainly on the residential front it is over to the developers to get back out there and get those permissions implemented, or in real terms, build!


A copy of the analysis by EG Radius Data Exchange can be found here.


 

Share this on:

 

Buckinghamshire Becomes a Unitary Authority

 

Buckinghamshire Council became a unitary authority on 1 April 2020, with the four district councils – Aylesbury Vale District Council, Chiltern District Council, South Bucks District Council and Wycombe District Council with the Buckinghamshire County Council area now ceasing to exist. This is a result of the announcement on 1 November 2018 by the then Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire.

The implementation of Buckinghamshire Council was overseen by the shadow Authority to ensure the smooth transition to the new Council. A total of 202 councillors make up the new Buckinghamshire Council, whose key responsibilities include setting a budget for the Council and appointing members to committees.

The new Buckinghamshire Council leader, Martin Tett, reiterated the readiness of his team across the Council amidst the challenges of the current Covid 19 emergency to work together to deal with an unprecedented national emergency situation in protecting, supporting and informing the residents and businesses in Buckinghamshire.

In a related development, Buckinghamshire Council had criticised the Planning Inspectors decision that the former Chiltern and South Bucks emerging Local Plan failed to satisfy the duty to cooperate by finding significant weaknesses and shortcomings in the proposed Local Plan. The emerging Local Plan was submitted for examination in September 2019.

The Planning Inspectors warned that there is a strong likelihood that the strategy would have to be withdrawn, since the Councils preparing the strategy had failed to engage sufficiently with regards to the unmet need of around 8,000 homes in neighbouring Slough.

The Head of Planning and Environment for Buckinghamshire Council had written to the Council on 12 May 2020 to point out the “significant shortcomings” and an “inadequacy of reasoning” in the Inspectors findings, and called for further examination hearing to address criticism of the plan. The Head of the Council’s Planning and Environment noted in the letter that:

“…Your letter correctly anticipated that the Council is disappointed with your initial findings but, having considered the substance of your letter, the Council is equally disappointed with the inadequacy of the reasoning which has led you to your initial findings…”

The Council’s letter also noted that the Inspector had failed to correctly apply the duty to cooperate, a legal requirement. Consequently, the Council stated that it would address the “significant shortcoming” in the Inspectors’ letter in due course.

Concerning the initial finding of the Inspectors on “the significant weakness”, the Council noted that the Inspectors had demonstrated that this was not an issue which can be dealt with appropriately exclusively on paper, hence, they require that the matter and the substance of the Inspectors response be dealt with at a hearing. Thus, the Inspectors responded in their letter to the Council dated 20 May 2020 that they acquiesce to that request.

However, the Inspectors reacted to the Council’s preference to have discussion in person with them rather than  a virtual event online, but stated that it may be many weeks or months before they can hold a hearing of the type envisaged by the Council.

We hope that residents, communities, and businesses will start to see more and more benefits of having a unitary council. More joined up local services, one single organisation serving them, more investment in local priorities and a stronger, louder unified voice to champion the Council at a national level.

It is not clear when the Council would adopt a unified Local Plan or whether the existing Local Plans and emerging plans of the former district councils, like that of the former Chiltern and South Bucks presently under examination will for the meantime serve as their development plans, until the Council is able to evolve a unitary development plan.

 

Share this on:

 

The Conservative Party Manifesto 2019

 

The Conservative Party launched their election manifesto on Sunday 24th November 2019.  Amongst some of the usual planning ‘suspects’ such as greenbelt, new homes and affordable housing, the party has chosen also to pick up on more specific matters such as design, electric charging points and even expecting all new streets to be lined with trees.  Starting with the usual planning ‘suspects:’

  • Greenbelt/brownfield – will continue to protect and enhance the greenbelt by continuing to focus new development on brownfield land.  At the same time, they have pledged to make the countryside more accessible to local communities whilst improving poor quality land which, where possible, can increase biodiversity
  • New homes – continue to progress towards the target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020’s, the belief is that at least a million new homes can be delivered over the forthcoming Parliament term
  • Affordable homes – renew the Affordable Homes Programme following a publication of a new Social Housing White paper

Thereafter appear a number of specific topics designed to be tackled by policy, investment or particular geographic focus:

  • Design – encouraging/expecting local communities to decide on their own design standards when development comes forward.  This builds on earlier policy announcements which aim, through central guidance, to bring through a more ‘uniform’ approach to design standards when being assessed at local levels
  • Development infrastructure – bringing in policy to ensure that development infrastructure is delivered before residents occupy new homes, the spur being a new £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure Fund
  • Cycle infrastructure – the introduction of mandatory design standards for new cycle routes with a new £365m Cycling Infrastructure Fund to support this
  • New homes for local families – through developers S106 contributions in the planning system, enable councils to discount homes in perpetuity by a third to local people who cannot otherwise afford to buy in their area.  The implication here is that this is can assist in the provision of ‘key worker’ accommodation for the likes of the commonly recognised police, teachers and nurses through to other less commonly picked up such as local authority town planners and probation officers
  • Electric vehicles – rolling out a £1bn fast-charging network to ensure everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric charging point
  • The setting up of a new independent Office for Environmental Protection which will issue and oversee specific legal targets to deal with subjects such as air pollution
  • Trees – ensuring all new developments where streets are created, to have trees lining them

There then also appear a number of initiatives which are less planning specific, more national or regional ‘boosters’ which have less immediate or exact planning impact, examples being:

  • A new £3.6bn “Towns Fund” to improve the local economy of an initial 100 towns
  • Funding new youth clubs and services (£500m), new civic infrastructure (£250m) and a Community Ownership Fund (£150m), this being to encourage local communities to take over community assets which are under threat
  • Regional ‘boosts’ – applying “Northern Powerhouse” principles to Liverpool, Tees Valley and Hull, investing in the Midlands Rail Hub and funding city-regions to upgrade transport series  to parallel London

Read our key points from the Liberal and Labour  Manifestos.

Visit our blog again soon where we will give our opinion of the General Election results. 

Share this on:

 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2019

 

As part of our election series, with the General Election just around the corner, the Liberal Democratic Party published its manifesto in November 2019. The key pledges made which are of most significance to the planning profession are set out below:

Environment

  • Require all companies registered in the UK and listed on UK stock exchanges to set targets consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change and to report on their implementation, and establish a general corporate duty of care for the environment and human rights
  • Establish a Department for Climate Change and Natural Resources, appoint a cabinet-level Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury to coordinate government-wide action to make the economy sustainable resource-efficient and zero-carbon, and require every government agency to account for its contribution towards meeting climate targets
  • Establish UK and local Citizens’ Climate Assemblies to engage the public in tackling the climate emergency
  • Create a statutory duty on all local authorities to produce a Zero Carbon Strategy, including plans for local energy, transport and land use, and devolve powers and funding to enable every council to implement it
  • Guarantee an Office of Environmental Protection that is fully independent of government and possesses powers and resources to enforce compliance with climate and environmental targets
  • Increase government expenditure on climate and environmental objectives, reaching at least five per cent of the total within five years
  • Support investment and innovation in zero-carbon and resource-efficient infrastructure and technologies by creating a new Green Investment Bank and increasing funding for Innovate UK and new Catapult innovation and technology centres on farming and land use and on carbon dioxide removal
  • Implement the UK’s G7 pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 and provide Just Transition funding for areas and communities negatively affected by the transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions
  • Introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment through setting legally binding near-term and long-term targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years
  • Combat climate change, and benefit nature and people by coordinating the planting of 60 million trees a year and introducing requirements for the greater use of sustainably harvested wood in construction
  • Invest in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, salt marshes, wetlands and coastal waters, helping to absorb carbon, protect against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats, including through piloting ‘rewilding’ approaches
  • Reduce basic agricultural support payments to the larger recipients and redeploy the savings to support the public goods that come from effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland
  • Introduce a National Food Strategy, including the use of public procurement policy, to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food and cut down on food waste
  • Support producers by broadening the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and supporting them with access to markets
  • Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including protecting up to a million acres, completing the coastal path, exploring a ‘right to roam’ for waterways and creating a new designation of National Nature Parks
  • Give the Local Green Space designation the force of law

Housing

  • Promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built-in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes
  • Improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing
  • Allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500 per cent where homes are being bought as second homes with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties
  • Build new houses to zero-carbon standards and cut fuel bills through a ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings
  • Devolve full control of Right to Buy to local councils
  • Help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30
  • Promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built-in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes

Affordable Housing

  • Build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year and ensure that total housebuilding increases to 300,000 each year
  • Help finance the large increase in the building of social homes with investment from our £130 billion capital infrastructure budget
  • Help people who cannot afford a deposit by introducing a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property-owning it outright after 30 years
  • Set clearer standards for homes that are socially rented
  • Require complaints to be dealt with in a timely manner
  • Proactively enforce the regulations that are intended to protect social renters
  • Fully recognise tenant panels so that renters have a voice in landlord governance

Renewable Energy

  • Accelerate the deployment of renewable power, providing more funding, removing the Conservatives’ restrictions on solar and wind and building more interconnectors to guarantee security of supply; we aim to reach at least 80 per cent renewable electricity in the UK by 2030
  • Expand community and decentralised energy, support councils to develop local electricity generation and require all new homes to be fitted with solar panels
  • Ban fracking because of its negative impacts on climate change, the energy mix and the local environment
  • Support investment and innovation in cutting-edge energy technologies, including tidal and wave power, energy storage, demand response, smart grids and hydrogen
  • Provide an additional £12 billion over five years to support these commitments, and ensure that the National Infrastructure Commission, National Grid, the energy regulator Ofgem, and the Crown Estate work together to deliver our net-zero climate objective

Lower Energy Bills

  • Cut energy bills, end fuel poverty by 2025 and reduce emissions from buildings, including by providing free retrofits for low-income homes, piloting a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme, graduating Stamp Duty Land Tax by the energy rating of the property and reducing VAT on home insulation
  • Empower councils to develop community energy-saving projects, including delivering housing energy efficiency improvements street by street, which cuts costs
  • Require all new homes and non-domestic buildings to be built to a zero-carbon standard (whereas much energy is generated on-site, through renewable sources, as is used), by 2021, rising to a more ambitious (‘Passivhaus’) standard by 2025
  • Increase minimum energy efficiency standards for privately rented properties and remove the cost cap on improvements
  • Adopt a Zero-Carbon Heat Strategy, including reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive, requiring the phased installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses off the gas grid, and piloting projects to determine the best future mix of zero-carbon heating solutions

Transport

  • Investing in public transport, buses, trams and railways to enable people to travel more easily while reducing their impact on the environment
  • Placing a far higher priority on encouraging walking and cycling – the healthiest forms of transport
  • Accelerating the transition to ultra-low-emission transport – cars, buses and trains – through taxation, subsidy and regulation
  • Committed to completing HS2
  • Freeze train fares, with a fare-freeze for all peak times and season tickets

Reduce the Need for Car Travel

  • Give new powers to local authorities and communities to improve transport in their areas, including the ability to introduce network-wide ticketing, like in London
  • Implement, in cooperation with local authorities, light rail schemes for trams and tram-trains where these are appropriate solutions to public transport requirements
  • Restore bus routes and add new routes where there is local need; we will provide £4.5 billion over five years for this programme
  • Introduce a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes, increasing spending per head five-fold to reach 10 per cent of the transport budget
  • Build on the successful Local Sustainable Transport Fund established by the Liberal Democrats when in government, and workplace travel plans, to reduce the number of cars – particularly single-occupancy cars – used for commuting and encourage the development of car-sharing schemes and car clubs and autonomous vehicles for public use
  • Amend planning rules to promote sustainable transport and land use

Infrastructure

  • Investment in infrastructure in rural and coastal communities by providing the following:
  • Set up a £2 billion Rural Services Fund to enable the co-location of services in local hubs around existing local infrastructure
  • Invest in bus services by:
  • Substantially increasing funding for buses, enabling local authorities to restore old routes and open new ones
  • Supporting rural bus services and encouraging alternatives to conventional bus services where they are not viable
  • Encouraging local authorities to use their new powers under the Bus Services Act, including franchising powers and repealing the rule preventing local councils from running their own bus companies
  • Providing funding to accelerate the transition to electric buses
  • Ensure that all households and businesses have access to superfast broadband (30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload)
  • Invest £2 billion in innovative solutions to ensure the provision of high-speed broadband across the UK, working with local authorities and providing grants to help areas replicate the success of existing community-led projects
  • Invest in mobile data infrastructure and expand it to cover all homes
  • Launch a National Fund for Coastal Change, to enable local authorities to properly manage their changing coastlines
  • Reform planning to ensure developers are required to provide essential local infrastructure from affordable homes to schools, surgeries and roads alongside new homes.

Read our key points from the Conservative and Labour Manifesto.

Visit our blog again soon when we will give our opinion of the General Election results.

Share this on:

 

The Labour Party Manifesto 2019

 

As part of our election series, with the General Election just around the corner, the Labour Party published its manifesto on 21st November 2019. The key pledges made which are of most significance to the planning profession are set out below:

Environment

  • Introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill setting out in law new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection
  • Introduce an Environment Emergency Act with revised standards for a healthy natural environment
  • Provide increased funding for National Park authorities and the introduction of ten new National Parks
  • Introduce a Green Transformation Fund of £250 billion over the next ten years to directly fund the ‘transition to our sustainable future’. Separate funding streams shall be made available for:
  • Developing renewable and low carbon energy sources
  • Supporting the shift towards sustainable, pollution-free transport systems
  • Supporting the decarbonisation of energy-intense industries
  • Achieving net biodiversity gains through natural environment restoration
  • Delivering natural mitigations of climate change
  • Embark on a programme of tree planting with a target of 300 million trees being planted within its first term in office
  • Introduce a new Clean Air Act, with a vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zones
  • Provide restoration and enhancement of our water environments to ensure that 50% of rivers and lakes meet the standard of good ecological status by 2027
  • Maintain and continuously improve the existing EU standards of environmental regulation
  • Provide an extra £5.6 billion in funding to improve the standard of flood defences and respond to the increased risk of flooding, prioritising areas at risk in North West England, Yorkshire and the East Midlands
  • Reframe Green Belts by introducing a new primary purpose into the planning framework recognising the role they play in adapting to and mitigating against climate change
  • An investment of £4.5 billion will be made towards the waste and recycling infrastructure that will be required to reduce the waste we create
  • Give local government greater freedom to set planning fees and require the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions
    Introduce a zero-carbon home’s standard for all new homes

Housing

  • Will create a new Department for Housing and make Homes England a more accountable national housing agency and put councils in the driving seat
  • Will set out a strategy for a flourishing construction sector with a skilled workforce and full rights of work
  • Establish a new English Sovereign Land Trust, with powers to buy land more cheaply for low-cost housing. Public land will be used to build this housing
  • Developers will face new ‘use it or lose it’ taxes on stalled housing developments
  • The Land Registry will remain in public hands and will seek to make ownership of land more transparent
  • Brownfield sites will be the priority for development and the green belt protected
  • Developers will face new ‘use it or lose it’ taxes on stalled housing
  • Build more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers in every area, including Labour’s new discount homes with prices linked to local incomes

Affordable Housing

  • Deliver a new social housebuilding programme of more than a million homes over a decade, with council housing at its heart. By the end of the Parliament, Labour hopes to build at an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent
  • Labour will establish a new duty on councils to plan and build these homes in their area, and fund them to do so, with backing from national government
  • Scrap the Conservatives’ definition of ‘affordable’, set as high as 80% of market rents, and replace it with a definition linked to local incomes
  • End the conversion of office blocks to homes that sidestep planning permission through ‘permitted development’
  • Reform ‘Help to Buy’ to focus on first-time buyers on ordinary incomes
  • Make available 8,000 additional homes for people with a history of rough sleeping
    Introduce a new national levy on second homes used as holiday homes to help deal with the homelessness crisis

Building Safety

  • Introduce a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to fit sprinklers and other fire safety measures in all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks, enforce the replacement of Grenfell style cladding on all high-rise homes and buildings, while introducing mandatory building standards and guidance, inspected and enforced by fully trained Fire and Rescue Service fire safety officers

Planning

  • Bring together transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choices
  • Ensure street designs provide freedom for physically active outdoor play
  • Rebalance power in the planning system by giving local government greater freedom to set planning fees and by requiring the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions
  • Review the planning guidance for developments in flood risk areas

Energy

  • Start a Green Industrial Revolution that will create one million jobs in the UK to transform industry, energy, transport, agriculture and buildings, while restoring nature
    Introduce a zero-carbon home’s standard for all new homes
  • Upgrade most of the UK’s 27 million homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards
  • Develop the recommendations of their ‘30 by 2030’ report to put the UK on track for a net-zero-carbon energy system within the 2030s
  • As part of heat decarbonisation, Labour will roll out technologies like heat pumps, solar hot water and hydrogen, and invest in district heat networks using waste heat
  • To balance the grid, Labour will expand power storage and invest in grid enhancements and interconnectors
  • Labour will create a Sustainable Investment Board to bring together the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Bank of England Governor to oversee, co-ordinate and bring forward investment – involving trade unions and business
  • Launch a National Transformation Fund of £400 billion and rewrite the Treasury’s investment rules to guarantee that every penny spent is compatible with climate and environmental targets and that the costs of not acting are fully accounted for too. Of this, £250 billion will directly fund the transition through a Green Transformation Fund dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration
  • Invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Bring energy and water systems into democratic public ownership
  • Deliver free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030
  • Under their Green New Deal, Labour aims to achieve the substantial majority of their emissions reductions by 2030

Infrastructure

  • Regulate and take public ownership of bus networks
  • Increase and expand local services, reinstating the 3,000 routes that have been cut
  • Bring railways back into public ownership
  • Introduce a long-term investment plan including delivering Crossrail for the North as part of
  • improved connectivity across the northern regions

Read our key points from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Manifesto.

Visit our blog again soon where we will give you our opinion of the General Election results.

Share this on:

 

Community Infrastructure Levy Changes Following Review

 

Following a Community Infrastructure Levy review which began in late 2015, with the findings being published in a report in early 2017, the Government have now made changes to the CIL regulations via The Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) (England) (No2) Regulations 2019 implemented on 1st September 2019.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a planning charge first introduced by the Planning Act 2008 which came into force in April 2010 via the Community Infrastructure Regulations 2010, it is an important tool for local authorities to enable them to deliver their infrastructure requirements to support development within their local area. A local authority must consult on any proposed levy rates and these must be approved and a charging schedule be published before the levy is formally in place.

Development is potentially liable for CIL if it would create a net additional floor space of 100 square metres or more, or creates a new dwelling. There is an opportunity to claim relief or exemption from the levy but set criteria must be met and procedures followed for this to occur.

CIL Review Group

In November 2015 the CIL review group was set up with a specific purpose to:

“Assess the extent to which CIL does or can provide an effective mechanism for funding infrastructure, and to recommend changes that would improve its operation in support of the Government’s wider housing and growth objectives”.

In summary, the remit of the group was to look at the following:

(i) The relationship between CIL and Section 106 agreements in delivering infrastructure.

(ii) The impact of CIL on development viability.

(iii) The exemptions and reliefs from CIL.

(iv) The administration and governance associated with charging, collecting and spending CIL.

(v) The ability of CIL to deliver infrastructure in a timely and transparent way.

(vi) The impact of the neighbourhood portion on local communities’ receptiveness to developmental.

(vii) The geographical scale at which CIL is collected and charged.

Following examination and in consideration of the consultation responses received the key issues were identified in a report published in February 2017 as follows:

(i)  A number of local authorities had decided not to introduce CIL at all with the outcome being a heavier reliance on Section. 106 than originally expected. This has also resulted in a number of smaller developers who could afford to make some contribution not being required to pay.

(ii) The amount of CIL raised overall has been much less than originally anticipated and hasn’t been helped by exemptions.

(iii) Where CIL has been produced it had not necessarily worked well for larger sites with complex site-specific mitigation requirements.

(iv) The burden and risk of providing CIL lay with local authorities who may not be well placed to deliver infrastructure in a timely manner.

(v) Necessary infrastructure has not been provided upfront when it is needed to support the earlier stages of development because further CIL money was awaited.

(vi) Where developers were continuing to make traditional S.106 payments difficulty was caused by pooling restrictions for large items of infrastructure that needed to be funded by more than five planning obligations.

Overall, the report concluded that the adoption of CIL did not meet the initial intention of a faster, fairer, simpler more certain and more transparent means of ensuring that all development contributed towards infrastructure need. It was also found that CIL did not compliment S.106 arrangements but rather caused complications and disruptions to them.

The CIL Regulations 2019

The Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) (England) (No2) Regulations 2019 which came into effect on the 1 September 2019 is not wholly responsive to the findings of the review group but does make some notable changes summarised as follows:

(i) The removal of Pooling restrictions has occurred which no longer limits the number of contributions from Section 106 agreements to five.

(ii) Monitoring fees have been reviewed and a monitoring fee can be included if it is fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development and does not exceed the local authority’s estimate of its cost of monitoring the development over the lifetime of the related planning obligations.

(iii) The loss of exemption due to failure to serve a commencement notice has now been replaced with a surcharge.

(iv)  In the interests of transparency, there is now a requirement for local authorities to publish an annual ‘infrastructure funding statement’ these will replace existing 123 lists. These should include details of money raised by developer agreements for both CIL and S.106 agreements.

(v) Due to uncertainty in how charges should be applied further to a Section 73 permission, amendments have been made to clarify in essence only additional floor space will now be charged at the latest index rate with the previous floor space charged at the rate in place when the original development was first permitted.

(vi) A requirement has also been introduced to undertake consultation if a local authority is considering ceasing CIL charges.

A link to the CIL Regulations can be found here.

Contact us today if you wish to discuss any of our articles or need more information about our services.

 

Share this on:

 

The Environmental Bill looking to improve biodiversity with developers – post Brexit?!

 

“The Queen’s Speech was made on 14th October 2019 and amongst a myriad of pledges, policies and statements across all areas, The Environment Bill was announced.  Suitably vague, and as the Government cannot command a majority (and is still trying to deal with Brexit), no date has been set for a second reading which would begin to turn this statement into legislation.

A summary of the Environment Bill has been made by House of Commons researchers and can be found here, In terms of development, the only key announcement is that it will “Improve biodiversity by working with developers.”  Further detail awaited likely post Brexit and General Election, could be a long wait!

If you are interested in the pledges set out in the speech, the full 130 page Queen’s Speech analysis can be found here.

We will return to this topic post Brexit!

Share this on:

 

British Housebuilding Industry – House of Commons Debate

 

On Thursday (5th September 2019) the House of Commons was subject of a Backbench debate on the British housebuilding industry.

Called by Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, a background of housing supply, affordability and homelessness was presented to MPs. Thereafter, a detailed expose of the10 housebuilders in the FTSE 350 index was highlighted, concentrating heavily on the 4 housebuilders who are also in the FTSE 100 index. Matters such as landbanks, Chief Executive pay/bonuses, housing completions, and affordable housing provision were discussed.

Siobhain McDonagh MP opened the debate by looking at the current housing crisis, the record of the FTSE 350 companies and their contribution to solving this crisis. Pay inequality issues which she believes are rife across the industry were also raised.

Housing completions and supply at FTSE housebuilders

Source: Debate on a motion on the British housebuilding industry, page 5 – download PDF

The MP bemoaned the fact that between 2017 and 2018 only 6,464 new social homes were built, the second-lowest on record and referred back to the 1950s and 1960s when 150,000 and 203,000 council homes were delivered by Governments. With a current target of 300,000 new builds a year which has not yet been reached she focused on the 4 housebuilding companies who are in the FTSE 100 index, Barratt, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley. She highlighted Persimmon who had completed 16,449 homes and posted profits of £1.1 billion, half of which were subsidy through the Government’s Help to Buy scheme. Overall, she stated that together, these 4 companies collected a pre-tax profit of £3.68 billion despite completing only 53,198 homes, less than 18% of the Government’s build target.

Short-term land banks at FTSE 350 housebuilders

Source: Debate on a motion on the British housebuilding industry, page 7 – download PDF

The question was then posed that maybe volume housebuilders could not build out due to lack of developable land. This then turned to land banking with the extent to which the 10 housebuilders did this.

Several studies have considered whether land banking takes place. For example, a report by
Molior for the London Mayor in 2012 found that of the 210,000 existing planning permissions
for new homes in London, 55% were in the control of building firms while 45% were in the
control of non-building firms such as investment funds, historic landowners, government and
‘developers’ who do not build. Molior concluded that accusations of land banking directed at
builders were ‘misplaced.’ An updated report in 2014 found a smaller percentage of planning permissions held by non-developers.

It is acknowledged that developers retain stocks of land with planning permission as a strategy for managing pipelines and ‘smoothing out peaks and troughs in resource allocation.’ There are also holdings of ‘strategic land banks’ which are sites without planning permission which is generally held ‘under option,’ i.e. not recorded as in the developer’s ownership. Shelter and KPMG conclude that incentives to get strategic land through planning are “very high.” The MP highlighted that these 10 companies had a collective land bank of 470,068 yet only completed 86,685 homes between them.

If land banking is not the main problem, there does appear to be a case for ensuring that most of the suitable land for development is held by firms who intend to build on it.

Pay made to Chief Executives and ratios to staff employed in their firm was also a focus drawing on research from the High Pay Centre.

CEO pay ratio at FTSE housebuilders

Source: Debate on a motion on the British housebuilding industry, page 9 – download PDF

Whilst it was stated that it is in no doubt the CEOs worked hard, particular attention was paid to
Persimmon who after a Dispatches investigation and their then Chief Executive refusing, when on camera, to answer questions, had already been in the spotlight. MPs felt it wrong for Jeff Fairburn to be awarded a £75 million bonus despite, in their view, a substandard number of homes being built. In addition, it was highlighted that the median pay for an FTSE 100 house building CEOs is 228 times that of the typical worker, with Persimmon soaring to 964.
In terms of town planning, matters were raised but not extensively discussed during the debate,
these focused on:

– In Siohban McDongh MPs view (and experience at Connect House on a south London industrial
estate) the use of Permitted Development rights to convert office buildings into residential
resulting in poor living quality conditions
– The use of viability assessments at the planning application stage to lessen or not produce any
affordable housing when viewed against policy – the practice should be investigated
– Making it easier for self-build homes to be constructed for both market and social tenure. Here it was alleged by Richard Bacon MP that for
– Calls for further debate on the Town Planning system generally, Help to Buy, planning law and
building on the Green Belt Unsurprisingly, MPs highlighted particular constituency matters which practically leant weight to their arguments:
– George Howarth MP referred to a development in Summerhill Park which has had ongoing
leasehold issues.  When trying to meet to discuss, the MP informed the house that Redrow
Homes refused to and referred to Redrow as “arrogant.”
– Mark Francois MP referred to 3 housebuilders working in close proximity to each other in
Rayleigh each having contra-flow traffic lanes. When the schools went back last week, this
resulted in gridlock. When the MP contacted all 3 to seek resolution he found the smallest,
Silver City finished works within a week, Countryside shutting the lanes in the rush hours with
Barratt David Wilson offering him a wholly unsatisfactory response. Criticism was levelled at
the Highways authority for not anticipating the cumulative impact
– Many MPs lamented the 30% loss of SME housebuilders during the recession and wished to put matters in train to assist them in “standing up” to the 10 volume housebuilders subject of this debate. Here it was alleged by Richard Bacon MP that for SMEs “It is a very risky enterprise, and actually local planning authorities prefer dealing with a small number of large companies because it is easier for them.

There was little time left for the debate to seek the views of Shadow and Government Ministers:

– The Shadow housing Minister reeled off statistics to try to prove the Government were not
delivering and pointed to Labours plans if elected to sort this
– The Minister, Esther McVay, also did the usual political numbers scoring, “300,000 new homes
by the mid-2020s” and political acceptance, “the market is not working” and “there are not
enough homes built.”   It appears the only “new” thing she stated was establishing a new
“Centre for Excellence” in the north for construction and housebuilding.  Not much else was said

A short parting shot from Siobhan McDonagh MP was to seek clarity when discussing affordable housing:

“I want to ask that we ban the word “affordable” in the context of housing. “Affordable” means 80% of market rent, but the vast proportion of our constituents could never afford 80% of market rent. Let us talk about social housing rent and owner-occupation, but let us also clearly address the question of what is affordable, because the “affordable housing” is not affordable.”
A question was then put and agreed by the House. They resolved:
“That this House notes with concern the ongoing shortage of housing and the housing crisis across England; further notes with concern the number of families in temporary accommodation and the number of people rough sleeping; acknowledges that there are over one million households on housing waiting lists; recognises the Government’s target to build 300,000 new homes each year; acknowledges that this target has been missed in each year that the Government has been in office and that the number of homes constructed by housebuilding companies that are deemed affordable is insufficient; notes the pay ratios between executives and employees in FTSE 350 housebuilding companies; and calls on the Government to tackle the housing crisis as an urgent priority.”

For reference:
– House of Commons Research Briefing Paper …
https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2019-0205
– Hansard transcript details … https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-09-
05/debates/40C1B81A-B890-47D4-BE94-F2B12444A20D/BritishHouseBuildingIndustry
– Parliament TV coverage of the debate … https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/de8c2a28-4dd2-
47e5-9283-7411a0abff01 Debate commences at 1545.

If you wish to discuss any of the topics in our blog articles, contact us today.

Share this on: