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Planning news - 7 September 2017

Published: Thursday, 7th September 2017

Khan plans to buy land for housing with £250m, Call for community land trusts to be exempt from leasehold reforms, City-regions could make better places using tech, says RTPI. And more stories...

This weeks planning news in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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An initial £250 million has been earmarked by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to buy and prepare land for new and affordable homes in his draft Housing Strategy.

According to the strategy, the money made from selling the land to housebuilders would be recycled to buy further land for housing.

Khan’s plans for housing aim to bring together the capital’s private tenants and landlords to develop plans for a new London Model of renting. It will focus on increasing tenancy security to support “a more stable, family-friendly sector, where the legitimate rights of landlords are protected too”.

A proposal for the London Model will be submitted to the government once ready.

For there to be a “really significant step-change” in delivering housing, the strategy sets out how the government should provide a comprehensive devolution of funding and powers, something a statement from the mayor describes as being urgent.

Khan wants to recruit new technical deal-making experts for his Homes for Londoners team, to identify and prepare the new sites he secures. He said he would use his compulsory purchase powers where necessary to secure the land.

The £250 million would come from a new land fund, to be used alongside the £3.15 billion affordable housing cash the government allocated to London in last year’s Autumn Statement.

City Hall will work with a range of housebuilders, such as councils, housing associations and commercial home builders, on housing developments.

Khan said: “From £250 million to kick-start my plans to secure more land for new and affordable homes, to a new model and fairer deal for millions of private renters, I want to help all Londoners facing the housing crisis. I will use my powers and resources to their fullest extent, but the government needs to play its part too by giving London the powers and resources we need to see an even greater step change in the number of homes being built. This launch marks the start of a three-month consultation – I want as many Londoners as possible to let me know their views on how we can improve housing in London.”

Other measures in the strategy include:

  • Diversifying the housing sector – Increased funding for self-build, purpose-built private rented developments and community-led projects.
  • Changing the way the Mayoral Community Infrastructure Levy is levied so small and medium-sized builders can pay less up front.
  • Improving the skills, capacity and building methods of the construction industry.

Jonathan Seager, executive director of housing policy at London First, a business membership organisation, said: “We have to dramatically increase the number of new homes London is building, doubling the rate to 50,000 homes each year, so making more land available is absolutely critical. We’d also urge the mayor to bring new ideas and new entrants into the market to finally tackle London’s housing crisis, including the build-to-rent developments that give people a better choice of secure, long-term places to live.”

Barry Mortimer, director of the Federation of Master Builders London, said: “The London Housing Strategy marks a step forward in empowering smaller housebuilders in London. In order to reach the 50,000 new homes London needs to build each year, this renewed emphasis on small sites is vital. However, all such progress could be undermined if the mayor fails to protect small sites from onerous levels of developer contributions. National planning guidance states that planning obligations should not be sought from developments of 10 units or fewer, but implementation of this policy in London is patchy at best. Unless the mayor, and London boroughs, recognise the need to minimise burdens on the very smallest developments, SME builders will continue to struggle to enter the market.”

The consultation on the Draft Housing Strategy can be found on the Greater London Authority website.

It is expected the strategy will be published in 2018.

6 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A housing charity says the government’s proposed reforms for leasehold would become a ‘stranglehold’ for community-led housing providers that could jeopardise thousands of new homes.

In July, The Planner reported on communities secretary Sajid Javid’s proposals to stop new homes being sold as leasehold and to restrict ground rents to as low as zero.

Leasehold, on the whole, applies to flats that have shared spaces, but the government has expressed concern that developers, particularly in the North-West, have been selling houses on these terms.

Through Community Land Trusts (CLTs), leases are used to retain control of land to ensure that prices remain affordable. The approach allows CLT properties to be aligned to what people earn in the local area, explained the National Community Land Trust Network.

Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), a London-based CLT, is developing 33 new mixed-tenure homes. The CLT will keep a stake of at least 20 per cent in each property to ensure that the development remains affordable in perpetuity. Residents can expect to spend only a third of their income.

Now, the National Community Land Trust Network has called on the government to protect community-led housing by exempting CLTs from the ban. Together with UK Cohousing, it has also suggested a Code of Conduct for Public Interest Leases, where best practice of the leasehold market is promoted.

Catherine Harrington, director of the National Community Land Trust Network, said: “Community Land Trusts have played no role in the exploitation of leasehold. While we support the consultation’s goal of addressing the unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold by developers and private investors, CLTs are one of a few approaches using leasehold to deliver genuinely affordable housing. That's why we are calling for the government to exempt CLTs and other affected community-led housing models from this proposed ban.

“CLTs are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people who want to help those in housing need. It’s the fastest-growing housing model in the UK. We hope other responsible housing providers will join us to campaign for a Code of Conduct for Public Interest Leases.”

The National Community Land Trust Network and UK Cohousing have issued a proposed approach to the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on its leasehold proposals, which can be found here (pdf).

31 August 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

New technology could help city-regions and combined authorities tackle ‘complex’ economic, social and environmental challenges by enabling strategic planning to be done more effectively, the RTPI has said.

In its new paper, Better Planning: Smart City-Regions, the institute said the recent devolution agenda provides combined authorities to create joined-up plans for housing, infrastructure, heath and the environment at the scale of city regions.

According to the paper, economic, social and environmental trends need to be understood and consensus built between a range of stakeholders in order to be successful. In addition, long-term plans need to be developed in conditions of uncertainty.

Using data and tech will not only improve the performance of infrastructure networks, but “can support local authorities as they work collaboratively to develop plans which cover a wider range of people, places and issues”.

James Harris, policy and networks manager, RTPI, said: “Smart-city initiatives show that big data and new technology can improve the efficiency of infrastructure networks and many aspects of city life. But the benefits can go much further.

“By applying technological innovation to strategic planning, we can help combined authorities develop plans for cities and their surrounding areas, including towns and rural areas. New types of data can help them tackle a broad range of issues such as growing regional divide, housing, health, and climate change.

“By combining the smart city agenda with the potential offered by devolution, we can start to create smart city-regions”.

A number of approaches to strategic planning are already in use, according to the paper, such as integrated infrastructure maps being used in Greater London and Greater Manchester.

The RTPI is set to embark on several projects to explore how city-regions can plan more effectively by using data and technology. Details of these will be posted on the institute’s website.

The RTPI has also said it would like to hear from members who are experimenting with innovative approaches to strategic planning, either in the public or private sector, including tools and approaches that can be used to engage the public in strategic plan-making.

To find out more and get involved, please contact James Harris on:

Better Planning: Smart City-Regions can be found on the RTPI website (pdf).

Further information about the project can be found here on the RTPI website.

5 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Research by the Housing & Finance Institute has suggested a fall in the number of homes being built in London, but more being built in the Home Counties.

Rather than attributing this to Brexit, though, the institute suggests its figures indicate a long-term trend of London increasingly being “outgunned” by the rest of the country.

According to the research, about 16,800 new homes were started in the year to March 2017, a big reduction compared with the 23,000 homes started in the previous year to March 2016.

In comparison, more than 24,300 new homes were started in the Home Counties in the year to March 2017 – an increase from 21,500 on the previous year.

Further to this, England as a whole saw nearly 163,000 homes started in the year to March 2017, an increase from around 143,000 on the previous year.

The Housing & Finance Institute said that not only are new home starts in the capital lower now than in 2013, its analysis also suggests that London’s contribution to the overall number of starts in England has decreased from 17 per cent to 10 per cent over the past five years.

The institute wants to see the government employ a two-pronged strategy to keep Britain building into 2018. It suggests that London be given “special measures” to avoid it falling further behind, and greater powers, resources and more support from central government to help the South-East and other regional areas to continue to deliver the homes needed.

Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of the Housing & Finance Institute, said: “Last year the government was warned in Lord Kerslake’s London Housing Commission report that London’s orders for new homes may have peaked in 2015. Just over a year on and that warning has proved correct.

“In contrast, the Home Counties areas are powering ahead on housing numbers. The Home Counties areas have maintained the overall proportion of homes against the overall national increase in numbers – which is impressive.

“The latest figures show that there is no room for complacency as it is not certain that this strong housing growth in the regions is fully embedded across the country.”

Elphicke noted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plans for housing, but said the capital needs national support.

“It isn’t right for the government just to leave London to solve its own housing crisis.”

She said Kerslake’s recommendations need to be taken into account. “They should consider taking additional and special measures as set out in that report in order to reverse this decline and ensure that the capital’s housing targets can be met.”

More information on the research can be found on The Housing & Finance Institute website.

4 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning appeals.

Inspector cites Javid on green belt boundary ruling

An inspector has refused permission for 10 ‘executive dwellings’ in Northumberland, ruling that the scheme would be inappropriate development after referring to Sajid Javid’s ruling on areas with unspecified green belt boundaries earlier this year.

Townhouse restoration outweighs loss of housing despite marginal supply

The merging of two flats in a listed Chelsea townhouse by reinstating a staircase between them has been allowed after an inspector ruled that the benefit of restoring the building’s historic layout outweighed the loss of separate housing units.

‘Unquantified need’ for 2,400-space Manchester Airport car park

Plans for a ‘monolithic’ four-storey car park to serve Manchester Airport have been refused after an inspector ruled that the future need for more parking had not been quantified and could not outweigh demonstrable harm to the area’s character.

Two more homes for permitted scheme would harm green belt

An inspector has refused permission for two homes on green belt land in Surrey, which were to be added to seven previously allowed on the same site, because the new homes would be on an undeveloped portion of the land.

Kent solar farm opposed by MP is refused permission

Proposals for a solar farm that could power 2,750 homes near Maidstone, Kent, have been blocked after an inspector decided that protecting the ‘sensitive landscape’ and nine surrounding listed buildings took priority over the need for renewable energy.

Sustainability comes second to development plan in Maidstone scheme

An inspector has refused permission for 45 homes near Harrietsham, Kent despite judging the scheme economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, ruling that the local development plan should carry most weight because the council could demonstrate a five-year housing supply.

Javid approves 560-home scheme despite local plan conflict

Sajid Javid has granted permission for a scheme involving 560 homes and 110 extra care and assisted living units near Felixstowe, Suffolk, despite its conflict with the local development plan. A housing supply shortfall of at least 1.5 years was key to the decision.

Scottish ministers overrule reporter's advice to back Murray sports scheme

Scottish ministers have gone against the recommendation of a government planning reporter who advised that proposals for an elite tennis and golf facility in the Dunblane green belt, backed by Judy Murray, should not get planning permission.

England’s second curling rink ‘unacceptable in principle’

An inspector has refused a revised proposal to convert a Berkshire barn into a curling rink after ruling that it would be unacceptable countryside development, despite acknowledging that England's only other curling rink is also a rural converted barn.

Council must pay costs after refusing retirement apartments

An inspector has granted permission for 31 two-bedroom retirement apartments in Ruscombe, near Reading, Berkshire, after deciding that the council had failed to distinguish between ‘difference and harm’ and must pay costs for ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

1 September 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

WCMA proposes housing action plan

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is set to consider an action plan to unlock land for housing and commercial use later this week.

The Land Delivery Action Plan proposes a number of measures and interventions that aim to speed up the supply of land needed to underpin the combined authority’s plans for new homes, jobs and economic growth.

It outlines how councils could work with the WMCA, using its funding and resources to provide an improved and balanced supply of land at a much more rapid pace, said the combined authority.

The meeting, which will take place on Friday 8 September, is to be chaired by Mayor Andy Street.

Westminster refuses scheme with no affordable housing

Westminster City Council has refused an application for a luxury residential development in Bayswater because it does not include any affordable housing.

Leeds Property Ltd’s proposal would have seen The Holiday Villa Hotel converted into 32 flats.

The council’s planning committee found the lack of affordable housing to be unacceptable, and not in line with Westminster’s pledge to create 1,850 affordable homes by 2023.

Large residential schemes need to provide a proportion of affordable housing to comply with council policy, with this scheme needing to provide at least 11 affordable homes.

Khan wants to increase tax on empty properties

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on the government to allow councils in London to increase council tax bills for high-value homes that are left empty.

In a letter to the government, Khan said the tax should be above the current 50 per cent of council tax allowed.

Councils should be able to charge this levy at a meaningful rate that would incentivise occupation, or at the very least generate a more substantial receipt that could support investment in new affordable homes and other measures to tackle the housing crisis, he wrote. Khan cited the case of Westminster’s top Band H, where properties may be worth many millions of pounds but the empty homes levy would currently be no more than £688 a year.

SFHA sets out priorities for the Scottish Government

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has outlined three key issues for its members ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government 2017/18.

The priorities are increasing affordable housing development, tackling fuel poverty and mitigating the effects of welfare reform.

Sally Thomas, chief executive at the SFHA, said: “This autumn provides the opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to make long-term investment in affordable and social housing a priority across the parties as well as deliver the planning legislation needed to help our members build their share of the Scottish Government’s 50,000 affordable houses, abolish fuel poverty, and address the damaging impact of welfare changes.”

She said it is “vital” that that housing is kept centre stage in debates.

Sturgeon is set to launch her plans later today (5 September).

Leisure scheme in Haverfordwest approved

Pembrokeshire County Council has granted planning permission for a town centre development in Haverfordwest.

Submitted in November 2016, the application comprises four restaurants/shops at ground-floor level, with a five-screen cinema on the first floor, covering 1,400 square metres of leisure floor space.

Developers Fairacre Property has secured commitment from national cinema operator REEL Cinemas.

The development will be designed by Holder Mathias Architects.

Consultation on reducing congestion launched

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has launched proposals for consultation that aim to reduce delays to motorists caused by utility companies digging up roads.

The proposals could see local authorities charging utility companies by the hour to carry out works on selected routes, in an attempt to encourage them to avoid busy roads and peak times.

The government said 2.5 million roadworks are carried out each year, costing the economy £4 billion because people are unable to get to work on time or deliveries are delayed.

The consultation document can be found on the Department for Transport website

Council launches planning compliance service

Elmbridge Borough Council has launched a new planning compliance service.

Under the service, uniformed officers will be out and about in the borough, carrying out investigations into alleged breaches of planning control.

Officers will be able to look into a range of breaches of planning control including: unauthorised development, breaches of the conditions attached to planning permissions, works to a Listed Building without consent, and unauthorised felling or works to a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order or in a Conservation Area.

5 September 2017