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Planning news - 16 November 2017

Published: Thursday, 16th November 2017

Hammond urged to address construction staff shortages in London, Report: Councils should be able to buy land at cheaper prices, Green light for three major Cardiff developments. And more stories...

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

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on chancellor Philip Hammond to take ‘emergency action’ to support homebuilding in the forthcoming Budget as concerns in the housing industry mount over the impact of Brexit.

Khan wants additional funding for affordable housing and further devolved powers for London.

One of the primary concerns for housebuilders surrounding Brexit is continued access to the almost 100,000 skilled construction workers from the European Union who help to build the homes and infrastructure needed in London.

Khan noted research from the Construction Industry Training Board (pdf), which suggests that 42 per cent of London's construction employers have already been affected by Brexit, suffering staff shortages, project delays and reduced levels of investment.

He also referred to the latest RICS Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey (pdf), which suggests that 55 per cent of its members have reported skills shortages. It cites the lack of quantity surveyors and bricklayers as being particularly acute.

In October, Khan announced that London needs to deliver 66,000 new homes a year to meet growing demand. He called on the government to increase funding and powers for London in the Budget.

Now, he wants “emergency action” in the Budget “to give him the resources and powers he needs to support homebuilding in the capital through the turbulence of the Brexit process”.

The mayor wants greater control over public land and for councils to be able borrow to invest in homes, a massive increase in government funding for homebuilding and infrastructure, and full control over London's skills and further education systems.

This must go hand in hand with guarantees of the rights of EU nationals living in London and continued access to the single market when Britain leaves the European Union, said Khan.

Paul Hackett, chair of g15 – representing London’s largest housing associations – said: “As the largest providers of affordable homes in the capital, g15 members are concerned about a decline in EU construction workers linked to Brexit. Construction workers from other EU countries make up over a quarter of the bricklayers, plumbers and roofers upon whom we are reliant to build our homes.

“Our members are gearing up for a substantial increase in housebuilding, including a commitment to start 42,000 affordable homes in the capital by 2021. We wholeheartedly back the mayor’s call for an early deal on the rights of EU nationals to continue to work in the capital.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “London’s housing shortage continues to undermine the capital’s capacity to increase productivity and economic growth. We need all housing tenures firing on all cylinders to make meaningful change, but this will require protecting EU workers’ right to live and work in the UK. They make up a significant proportion of the construction sector’s workforce.”

She urged the government to make a deal as soon as possible on EU workers’ right to be here, “giving them the confidence to continue calling the UK their home and providing assurance to the construction sector so we can drive forward a much-needed, ambitious housebuilding programme”.

13 November 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Some councils should be designated ‘special housing zones’ in order to flood the market with new homes for sub-market sale or rent, according to a new report.

The cost of land is thought to be one of the factors for why not enough homes are being built.

The Civitas publication – In the Land Question: Fixing the Dysfunction at the Root of the Housing Crisis – advocates that the highest-demand areas should be designated as special housing zones.

This would see local authorities or mayors assume the ability to acquire land at below its residential value, “saving of pounds per hectare” in land acquisition costs. As a result, “thousands” of council homes could be built within any given funding belt, and could be used to increase social housing stock as well as be sold to first-time buyers at more affordable prices.

Doing this would overcome landowners’ ability to “drip-feed land” for new developments at prices that lead to slow build rates and squeeze out affordable housing, according to Civitas.

Report author and editorial director at Civitas, Daniel Bentley, notes that often wealthier people buy new-builds, limiting the pace at which developers can build. He said that when it comes to large sites – up to 1,000 homes – 50 to 60 units are built a year. “That new homes must be priced at this level is the result of landowners holding out for the highest-value schemes for their sites.”

The impact of this is greatest in high-price areas. The report states that 80 per cent of London’s new-builds are affordable only to 8 per cent of households. Additionally, affordable housing contributions from developers have fallen by 37 per cent since 2009 in the capital.

Recommendations in the report include removing landowners’ entitlement to residential values for sites that have not yet been granted planning permission, laid out in the 1961 Land Compensation Act.  

This, says the report, prevents public authorities from purchasing land for new housing for less than its potential residential value, even if the land doesn’t have planning permission, which could be 100 times as much as its agriculture value.

For Bentley, the pursuit of such profits by private landowners “should not be allowed to undermine public policy objectives in housing”.

He recommends the 1961 act be reformed so that there is no assumption that landowners are entitled to future residential values and local authorities are able to strike deals for land at prices closer to its existing use value.

Benefits of this are listed as:

  • Landowners’ incentive (especially in high-demand areas) to sit on land waiting for higher prices or higher-value developments would be removed.
  • It would be easier for private developers to get hold of land at prices compatible with planning obligations, including the provision of more affordable housing units as well as quicker build rates for market-sale homes.
  • It would make it much easier and much cheaper for the government to embark on a new generation of council housebuilding and/or a new programme of new towns and garden villages.

Bentley said a public sector building programme that would to add to the output of private developers is “becoming increasingly essential”.

“This should comprise council housebuilding in existing towns and cities but – given that space is limited in many of those places – it also requires the development of strategically planned new towns and garden villages in new locations.

“Ministers seem reluctant to fund such a scheme in the current fiscal environment. But the upfront costs of development could be very much reduced by reforming the land compensation rules and allowing public authorities to buy land at prices closer to their existing use value.”

He added that in high-demand areas this could save the taxpayer millions of pounds per hectare.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, said: “An effective land market is critical to delivering more genuinely affordable homes with the infrastructure and services that communities need.

“Councils have long called for the powers to purchase land at a price which is close to its existing use, and to be able to capture increases in land value in order to fund further delivery of affordable homes and infrastructure, and for greater transparency on land ownership.

“It is crucial that the chancellor uses the Autumn Budget to trigger a renaissance in council housebuilding by enabling councils to borrow to build once more.”

13 November 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Three major developments have been approved in the Welsh capital this week – a new museum, a 248-bedroom hotel, and one of the biggest student accommodation schemes yet proposed for the city.

Each project is subject to conditions and legal agreements, the council confirmed to The Planner today (9 November).

The proposed Military Medicine Museum will occupy a site in Cardiff Bay. A council report said: “The proposed building is an acceptable and appropriate development for the site and would bring about a positive economic, tourism and cultural benefit to the area.”

The same report said the H-shaped student scheme in Butetown, providing accommodation for 711 people, would “enhance the appearance and amenity of the area”.

The hotel scheme will involve the redevelopment of the grade II listed Custom House building in the city centre street of the same name, retaining its façade, while the former York Hotel, adjoining, will be demolished and replaced.

Wednesday’s (8 November) planning committee meeting was told: “The proposals bring back into beneficial community use the grade II listed Custom House and do not adversely impact on the listed building or its setting.”

Meanwhile, new plans have been lodged for a significant mixed-use development, including a hotel and more than 27,870 square metres of office space on a prominent site in the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone.

9 November 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner

Think tank IPPR has called on the government to allow local authorities to borrow to invest to build a new generation of council homes, as it says that 92 per cent are not meeting affordable housing needs.

Local authorities are also failing to build enough homes generally to meet their overall housing need.

A report by the think tank notes government projections that 67 per cent of local authorities did not meet housing demand in 2015/16.

According to the research, the range of housing products available has increased but rental models, ownership schemes and intermediate housing schemes have become increasingly “divorced” from earnings.

This has left affordable housing out of reach for most, “posing significant problems” for those on low incomes.

Priced Out: Affordable Housing in England considers the affordable housing markets in the Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Tees Valley and West of England combined authority areas.

Tees Valley is the only area that is meeting housebuilding needs.

The West of England needs to build an additional 1,060 homes a year and the West Midlands needs to build 2,812 further units. Greater Manchester is the worst-performing area, missing its target by 42 per cent and requiring an additional 4,518 homes a year.

House prices are out of reach for many on average incomes, says IPPR. Median monthly rents do not become affordable (using the 35 per cent of net monthly income measure) until after tax earnings of £33,167 in the West of England, £19,131 in the West Midlands and £18,959 in Greater Manchester.

Single people are the worst affected, with the most housing products unavailable to them.

IPPR has made a number of recommendations for the government in advance of the Budget on 22 November, including:

  • Removing the arbitrary cap placed on borrowing through the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to allow local authorities to borrow to invest in the building of a new generation of council homes.
  • Adopting a threshold of 35 per cent for affordable housing to be applied to all private developments nationally, with a higher threshold of 50 per cent on all public land.
  • On a local level, city-region mayors should establish combined authority-wide mayoral housing companies, using them to bring land to market for social and affordable rent. They should also use mechanisms to capture public value from the land and that local authorities and local authority pension funds should work together to combine their land and investment to build affordable housing.
  • Devolve great powers to mayors to deliver the housing their regions need, including greater flexibility in the pooling and coordination of housing funding streams.
  • Reallocate funding for the Starter Homes programme to a programme for investing in genuinely affordable homes for rent and devolve the appropriate proportion to the combined authorities.

Darren Baxter, researcher at IPPR, said: “This analysis shows that not only are local authorities failing to build enough affordable homes, those which are being built are often out of reach of those who they are intended to support.

“The newly elected mayors should use their powers to take on the housing crisis and get their local councils building, including working to bring land to market for social and affordable rent.

“If it is serious about tackling the housing crisis, the government will work with mayors to ensure they are equipped with the powers they need to drive local house building programmes their regions need.”

Luke Murphy, senior research fellow at IPPR, added: “The chancellor should use the Autumn Budget to provide city-region mayors and local authorities with the powers and resources they require to build the affordable homes their communities need.”

Priced Out: Affordable Housing in England can be found on the IPPR website.

13 November 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round up of appeal decisions

No re-amalgamation for Knightsbridge flats subdivided after bomb damage

An inspector has refused plans to re-amalgamate a flat that was subdivided as part of Second World War bomb damage repairs, ruling that the post-war works hold their own significance because they reflected the ‘changing needs of society’ after the war.

Temporary permission for ‘winter festivities’ on Twickenham riverside

An inspector has granted temporary permission for a 400-square metre ice rink in Twickenham as part of ‘winter festivities’ in the area, subject to various conditional requirements including a complaints hotline.

Retirement complex does not warrant sport and leisure contribution

An inspector has allowed 16 sheltered accommodation units for people over 55 to go ahead without a financial contribution to local sport and leisure facilities, ruling that retirement accommodation does not warrant the levy in the same way as ‘conventional housing’.

Green belt rules outweigh benefits of reducing CO2 emissions

An inspector has refused plans for an energy storage facility near Gravesend that would regulate National Grid energy supplies, ruling that the scheme’s benefits – including a cut in CO2 emissions – could not outweigh harm to the green belt.

‘Vibrantly coloured’ children's playhouses not harmful to listed cottage

An inspector has granted retrospective permission for two brightly painted playhouses in the garden of a 16th century cottage in Suffolk, describing them as ‘typical domestic paraphernalia’.

Javid approves 200-home scheme after High Court quashes predecessor’s decision

The communities secretary has approved 200 homes, 20 self-build plots, 37 retirement apartments and a community centre in the Forest of Dean, after the High Court quashed his predecessor Greg Clark’s 2015 decision to block the scheme.

Ministerial statement outweighs core strategy, rules inspector

In refusing a plan for seven homes in Camberley on character and appearance grounds, an inspector ruled that the 2014 ministerial statement on affordable housing carried more weight than local policy.

Javid ignores inspector’s advice on green belt crematoria

Following a joint inquiry that considered two separate crematorium proposals in South Staffordshire, communities secretary Sajid Javid has gone against his inspector’s advice by deciding to allow the scheme with the greater catchment area.

Local plan ‘tension’ halts 400-home scheme despite legal challenge

An inspector has refused permission for 400 homes on the site of a quarry east of Crewe because of conflict with the newly adopted local plan, despite a legal challenge against its adoption prompted by allegations of data falsification.

10 November 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner

You can read the full appeal decision stories on The Planner website (requires subscription, free for RTPI members).
The decision letter and supporting documents relating to the appeal stories can also be found by using the advanced search on the Planning Inspectorate's Appeals Casework Portal.

A round-up of planning news

Government methodology for OAN would ‘entrench’ existing house building patterns

The RTPI has said that the government’s proposals for a new methodology to calculate housing need would “entrench existing house building patterns”.

They fail to address the need for a mix of housing tenures and types, too, according to the institute.

In its response to the government consultation the RTPI said: “The methodology does nothing to address the tendency to base housing growth on past trends, rather than on a more forward-looking strategy which takes into consideration future growth aspirations or employment projections.”

A better methodology would require local authorities to be more holistic, taking into account plans like the council’s own economic growth strategy, employment projections, or wider government’s plans such as industrial strategy.

A full account of the RTPI’s response to the standard methodology consultation will be published in The Planner shortly.

Trampoline park approved in Coventry

Coventry City Council has approved proposals for the city’s first trampoline park.

The application was made by Harris Lamb’s planning team on behalf of Jump In.

Proposals will see a vacant warehouse in the Tile Hill area of the city transformed into an all-ages activity centre, creating 60 jobs.

Neil Slade, part of Harris Lamb’s agency team, brokered the deal for Jump In to take on the site with landlords Avon Capital Estates (ACE), while the business’s planning consultancy oversaw the application for the change of use.

The park is expected to open in spring 2018.

Real estate company to finance Build to Rent homes

M&G Real Estate has announced that it will finance the development of 148 Build-to-Rent homes in Montrose Crescent, near Wembley Central station in North London.

The £67 million deal is the latest on behalf of M&G Real Estate’s UK Residential Property Fund managed by Alex Greaves. Sunbel Development Limited will develop the scheme, which is expected to be ready for residents by 2019.

The development will comprise one, two and three-bedroom homes in the heart of Wembley.

Westminster gains £16m through CIL

Contributions from property developers through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) have been used on public squares, school expansions and large transport schemes.

Since May 2016, the CIL fund has generated cash receipts of £7 million. Other sums collected by Westminster City Council from property developers specifically for use on projects to benefit the local area have taken the total to £16 million.

The council’s first CIL committee meeting confirmed spending on a broad range of projects, including the continuing public realm improvements to Hanover Square, where the Elizabeth Line is set to attract millions of additional visitors each year, and the Church Street Green Spine project.

Care home approved in Banstead

Reigate & Banstead Council has approved the redevelopment of the former Merok Park Nursing Home site in Banstead.

The site is located on Park Road and is designated as Metropolitan green belt land.

The new facility, to be called Woodstown House, will deliver a purpose-built nursing homes designed to cater for patients with complex needs. It will comprise 40 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, communal lounge areas, a physiotherapy room and office space.

Arup to explore for hydrogen to heat homes

Planning consultancy Arup has announced that it will lead on a UK Government project to examine the feasibility of phasing out natural gas for domestic use and replacing it with hydrogen fuel.

The £25 million Hydrogen for Heat Programme, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will consider the feasibility of replacing natural gas with hydrogen for cooking and heating in a small village or estate.

The Arup-led consortium, including hydrogen specialist Kiwa Gastec, will explore the practicalities of using the zero-carbon gas in homes. It will facilitate the design and manufacture of new appliances such as fires, cookers and boilers, for both domestic and commercial use.

Hydrogen fuel produces water and heat when burnt so swapping out natural gas in homes would have a “significant impact” on reducing the UK’s carbon footprint.

The project, which is expected to run until March 2021, will explore public attitudes to changing to hydrogen fuel and lay out the ground work for a pilot project in a village or small town.

£100m housing scheme in Greater Manchester

Housing and regeneration specialist Galliford Try Partnerships and Trafford Housing Trust have come together in a joint venture – Health Lane Farm LLP – to transform the Partington area of Greater Manchester.

The partnership expects to deliver up to 600 new homes at Health Lane Farm that integrate with existing community. The partners said the plans would be developed with the local community and contribute to the Partington Priority Regeneration area.

Work has started on the consultation process and then a planning application will be submitted to Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council. 

The proposals are expected to comprise 576 new homes, 500 of which will be available for open market sale and 74 available as affordable homes, including shared ownership and for rent. They will be a mix of one to five-bedroom dwellings, including apartments and family homes.

14 November 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner