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Planning News - 15 November 2018

Published: Thursday, 15th November 2018

Waverley wins High Court challenge over local policies, Q3 housing registrations hit 40,000, Government to review second home tax rules and more stories...

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

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A deputy High Court judge has rejected legal challenges against policies in Waverley Borough Council’s local plan and a secretary of state decision to approve 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome.

The decision was made on 5 November after a hearing at the High Court on 9 and 10 October 2018.

The challenges were made under s113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The policies in question were:

ALH1 – this sets out a figure of 519 dwellings a year;

SS7 – this allocates the new settlement at the aerodrome for 2,600 homes; and

SS7A – sets out the Dunsfold Aerodrome design strategy in the Waverley Borough Local Plan Part One (LPP1).

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Surrey branch challenged ALH1. POW Campaign Limited, which represents local residents in the Dunsfold area and the Waverley population more widely, challenged all three policies.

A further challenge was made under s288 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against a decision taken by the secretary of state on 29 March 2018 to grant planning permission for a new settlement of 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome. This was brought by POW.

With regards to the s113 challenges, both POW and CPRE Surrey believe the council and the local plan inspector acted unlawfully in adopting LPP1 because they included 50 per cent of the unmet need from Woking borough in the local plan, which was adopted in February this year.

Both POW and CPRE Surrey also contended that the inspector had failed to give adequate reasons as to why he had included a proportion of Woking’s unmet housing need in Waverley’s local plan.

Another issue highlighted by deputy judge Nathale Lieven QC was that the s288 challenge relies on the s113 challenge, and falls away if that is rejected.

“However, if the s113 challenge is accepted there is then a further issue as to the legal consequences of an error of law in the local plan process, for the secretary of state's decision on the planning application”.

POW said the grant of planning permission in reliance on LPP1 is undermined by the alleged unlawfulness of the adoption of LPP1. Therefore, the s77 decision should be quashed pursuant to s288.

Lieven concluded that the local plan inspector was place in a “difficult” position. “For the plan to be sound he had to establish a figure for the OAN in Waverley, and ensure the plan sought to meet that OAN and unmet need in the HMA [housing market area], see NPPF para 182. However, he was not carrying out the Woking Local Plan examination and indeed Woking is very far off any such stage of its plan-making process. He did not have, and realistically could not have had, all the evidence which would have been necessary to determine whatever local plan housing requirement figure Woking will ultimately bring forward. The inspector was carrying out a fundamentally different exercise from any future Woking Local Plan inspector.”

In dismissing the applications, she stated that the inspector took a “sensible, pragmatic and in my view lawful approach”. There is undoubtedly going to be some unmet need in Woking, some of which “beyond doubt” “would have to be met in Waverley”.

Lieven rejected the s113 challenges.

The challenge against the secretary of state decision was called in after the council approved the 1,800-home application. The inspector recommended approval.

Lieven noted that the only challenge to his decision was on the grounds that he relied upon the local plan policies that were the subject of the s113 challenge. As she dismissed the s113 challenges, the s288 challenge could not succeed and was also dismissed.

Julia Potts, leader of the council, said it is pleased to have been vindicated in the High Court.

“Although I understand that planning for our future isn’t an easy subject, it is essential that we have a local plan that enables us to have the control to shape our borough for future generations. Now we can continue getting on with doing just that.”

The full judgment can be found here.

7 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

UK housebuilders registered 43,578 new homes during the third quarter of 2018. This represents a 15 per cent increase on the 37,940 registered in the third quarter of 2017.

The private sector delivered 33,520 registrations, 16 per cent up on the same period a year earlier, according to statistics published by the National House Building Council (NHBC).

In the affordable sector, 9,019 registrations were made, 12 per cent more than the third quarter in 2017.

In Scotland, 3,681 homes were registered, an increase of 625 homes compared with the same period in 2017. Wales saw a decline in registrations, down 162 homes from 16,38 to 1,476.

In Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, 1,281 homes were registered, up from 747 homes in Q3 of 2017.

Regionally, there was a 141 per cent increase in London, from the lower than usual 2,492 in Q3 of 2017 to 6,007 this year. NHBC attributes this to the large number of housing associations registering large developments, and inward investors focused on the private sector.

There were also increases in Yorkshire & Humberside (39 per cent) and the South West (34 per cent).

Steve Wood, chief executive at the NHBC, said: “The upturn in registrations over recent months is good news for the industry and shows that there remains a strong demand for high-quality new homes in many parts of the UK.”

He explained that the industry remains cautious in the short run until the economic impact of Brexit is clearer.

“Attaining the government’s target of 300,000 new homes by the middle of the next decade will require a real focus on innovation, particularly the use of modern methods of construction, and on building skills and capacity in the workforce onsite – topics many builders are actively grappling with.”

5 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government is going to consult on a business rates ‘loophole’ that it says could be costing councils in England millions in lost council tax.

Second homeowners pay council tax on their properties, including when the property is available to rent infrequently during the year. Properties are valued for business rates when owners declare their property is let as holiday accommodation for 140 days or more a year.

Any property registered for business rates rather than council tax is likely to qualify for small business rates relief. Providing 100 per cent relief, no tax is due on properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. 

The government explained there are about 47,000 holiday lets in England that are liable for business rates, 96 per cent of which have a rateable value of £12,000 or less. Currently, it is not necessary to provide evidence on whether a property has been commercially let.

The local government minister said the government is aware of concern that owners of second homes are exploiting the system by not paying council tax. 

Rishi Sunak said: “We are seeking views on whether we should strengthen the checks already in place to ensure second homeowners have to pay council tax, while ensuring genuine holiday let businesses are able to demonstrate they are eligible for business rates relief.

“The consultation will seek views on whether the current criteria should be strengthened to ensure that second homeowners are contributing to the local economy through the proper payment of council tax, or, for those genuinely renting out their property and supporting tourism, business rates.”

The consultation, which runs until 16 January 2019, can be viewed on the UK Government website.

8 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The owner of an unauthorised scrapyard in South Staffordshire has been directed to pay a £150,000 confiscation order after failing to comply with an enforcement notice.

The scrapyard was located in Four Cross in Hatherton.

Andrew Taff, the owner of A5 Tyres, was ordered to pay the £150,000 after a successful Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) application, brought by the council and supported by financial investigators at Birmingham City Council, in October. This must be paid within 18 months, otherwise Taff faces imprisonment.

At a hearing in Birmingham Crown Court at the end of October, Taff was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay court costs of £28,280.

An enforcement notice was initially issued in November 2011. It required Taff to clear the scrapyard site and stop using it as one, as well as for storing vehicles, parts and skips. He unsuccessfully appealed and was given a further 12 months to comply with the notice.

Despite enforcement officers visiting the site in 2013 and 2014, operations did not stop. Taff refused them entry on occasion, meaning that they had to seek a warrant of entry from the courts.

On 26 July 2017 at Stafford Crown Court, Taff changed his plea at the last minute, pleading guilty to three allegations of failing to comply with the enforcement notice. Around this time, the council said he complied with the enforcement notice.

Roger Lees, cabinet member for regulatory services, said: “This case highlights the patient and diligent work of our legal team and enforcement officers. As a council, we will not hesitate to prosecute people who carry out unauthorised activities, no matter how long it takes. POCA is designed to take the profit out of crime and I'm delighted that the seriousness of the offence has been recognised by the courts and that this successful prosecution will result in confiscated criminal assets benefiting the community instead and go towards buying more CCTV cameras to catch fly-tippers.”

South Staffordshire Council will receive around £28,000 of the confiscation order. The remaining money will be split between the Home Office, the court, and financial investigators at Birmingham City Council.

8 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

High Speed 2’s local-led growth strategies will bring forth nearly 500,000 jobs and nearly 90,000 new homes.

This is what Sir Terry Morgan, chair of HS2 Ltd, told the audience at the HS2 Economic Growth Conference. He showcased how only the regions could rebalance the national economy and close the North-South divide – by connecting, integrating and sharing the benefits of growth.

With benefits already being felt, HS2 will connect 25 stations from Scotland to the South East, facilitating new jobs, increasing trade and presenting opportunities to deliver more housing and improvements to local transport connections, he added.

Morgan said: “HS2 is seeing new strategic alliances form which overcome old rivalries. Our local leaders and businesses know best where homes need to be built, where people need retraining, and where existing and new industries can grow.

“Only by tapping into this local knowledge and expanded partnership working can we reshape Britain permanently. It is now important that towns and cities take ownership of their plans to ensure that we make the most from HS2.”

The HS2 chair called on both political and business leaders to put aside the old ways of working in order to guarantee that the project delivers a maximum return.

8 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing minister Heather Wheeler has announced that councils will receive a £2 million fund from the government to tackle rogue landlords.

The government has taken these measures to protect tenants who have been forced to live in squalid conditions, and to improve standards in the rental sector.

Councils will be able to bid for funding to step up enforcement action against a small minority of landlords who have provided inadequate and unsafe housing for their tenants, including young families and others who are vulnerable to exploitation.

Local authorities will be able to use a range of measures, including fines and banning orders, to tackle rogue landlords.

Wheeler said: “Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe and secure, and it is vital we crack down on the small minority of landlords who are not giving their tenants this security.

“This funding will help further strengthen councils’ powers to tackle rogue landlords and ensure that poor-quality homes in their area are improved, making the housing market fairer for everyone.”

With the funding, councils will aim to build relationships with external organisations such as the emergency services, legal services and local housing advocates.

Councils will also be encouraged to share best practice enforcement action and examples of innovative approaches that are self-sustaining and can be easily adapted across the country.

8 November 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner