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Planning News - 13 June 2019

Published: Thursday, 13th June 2019

Developer contributions to be made simpler, says Malthouse, Planning system drives up house prices in expensive areas, says report, Woking and Truro to receive infrastructure funding and more stories

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

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Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced changes to developer contributions to make the system simpler and accelerate the pace of homebuilding.

Builders pay through developer contributions (section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy [CIL]) for the roads, schools, GP surgeries and parkland needed to help areas to cope with new residents.

But Malthouse said these measures are “confusing and unnecessarily over-complicated”. The new rules mean that communities would know exactly how much developers are paying for infrastructure in their area, he explained.

Councils will be required to report the deals done with developers and set how the money will be spent, so residents can see every step taken to make sure that their area is ready for new housing.

The changes are also intended to help developers get “shovels in the ground” more quickly, said the government, as it looks to meet its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Malthouse said: “Communities deserve to know whether their council is fighting their corner with developers – getting more cash to local services so they can cope with the new homes built.

“The reforms not only ensure developers and councils don’t shirk their responsibilities, allowing residents to hold them to account – but also free up councillors to fund bigger and more complicated projects over the line.

“The certainty and less needless complexity will lead to quicker decisions – just another way we’re succeeding in meeting our ambition of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

The government said the measures would also make it faster for councils to introduce the CIL in the first place, while restrictions would be eased to allow councils to fund single, larger infrastructure projects from the cash received from multiple developments.

Alex Ground, planning lawyer and partner in the Real Estate team at law firm Russell-Cooke, said: “The proposed changes require new reporting procedures, but councils are given the ability to recover those costs and they should help local communities see the benefits that new development can bring – therefore making them less opposed to new development in principle with objections focused just on specific identified harm. The information on section 106 contributions is already publicly available but difficult to obtain, and I think the new reporting requirements will help with the buy-in from locals.

"Overall, therefore, the reforms should be helpful to the delivery of more homes.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
5 June 2019

High house prices in expensive cities have been caused by the planning system’s rationing of new homes in areas of high demand, according to a report out on 11 June.

It suggests the planning system should be reformed to introduce the flexible zoning system used in Japan and some parts of America.

In its report, Think Tank Centre for Cities explores the relationship between urban economies and housing wealth in England and Wales. The organisation finds that the “restrictive planning system” has made urban homeowners in the greater South East more than £80,000 richer over the past six years than those in other parts of England and Wales.

In this region, residents tend to earn higher incomes and the planning system “fails” to match demand for new homes. Capital Cities: How the Planning System Creates Housing Shortages and Drives Wealth Inequality says saw homeowners’ wealth grow by over £80,000 – after accounting for inflation – between 2013 and 2018. This is £46,000 more than the national urban average.

In London, housing wealth increased by £122,000 during this period, while Cambridge saw an increase of £121,000. In Oxford the figure was £89,000, in Brighton it was £83,000, and in Southend it was £79,000.

In contrast, Sunderland saw housing equity increase by an average of just £3,000 since 2013. Burnley saw average increases of £5,000.

In total, London saw in real terms, an increase in housing equity of £550 billion since 2013 – more than every other city in England and Wales combined, says the report.

However, home ownership rates in these cities are lower, with 66 per cent of people living in the private housing market in the capital owning their own home compared with 85 per cent in Warrington. Centre for Cities explains that this means the planning system has redirected wealth to a relatively small band of mainly older homeowners and landlords in these cities. Renters, who tend to be younger, have been “penalised” in South East cities by higher rents.

Andrew Carter, chief executive at Centre for Cities, said: “Our planning system is fuelling a North-South wealth divide among homeowners. Restrictive planning policies in many prosperous southern cities are gifting wealth to homeowners in the greater South East.

“This creates two wealth divides: one between homeowners in the greater South East and elsewhere in the country, and another between homeowners, who tend to be older, and renters, who tend to be younger, within the greater South East.

“The best way to address this inequality is to build more homes in the areas that have seen the biggest increases in housing wealth. This means radical reform of our broken planning system and challenging the Nimbys whose voices dominate local politics.”

Centre for Cities makes a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • Reform the planning system: The government should ensure that housing supply meets demand in popular areas. It should reform the planning system and introduce the flexible zoning system used in Japan and some parts of the USA.
  • Increase housing supply where new homes are needed: To reduce housing wealth inequality, we must ensure more homes are built in high-demand areas. Despite there being less demand for homes in Telford and Wakefield, these places have seen more homes built than expensive and sought-after places such as Oxford and Brighton. Building in places with fewer jobs fails to address more prosperous cities’ housing crises.
  • Stop subsidising home ownership and tax increases in housing wealth: Despite Right to Buy, home ownership as a share of private housing has fallen in every city since 1981. The government should stop subsidising ownership, tax housing wealth increases and treat owning and renting equally. 

Capital Cities: How the Planning System Creates Housing Shortages and Drives Wealth Inequality can be found on the Centre for Cities website.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
11 June 2019

Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced a £142 million investment in infrastructure to aid the delivery of homes in Woking and Truro.

The money, which comes from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, will be spent on widening bridges, building roads and connecting utilities.

Malthouse said: “For decades, governments of all stripes and types have not built enough new homes but we are turning that around, brick by brick.

“We are driving to create homes, opportunities and thriving communities – and this £142 million investment will mean we can build more of the properties our country so badly needs.

“We need to keep upping our game and build more, better, faster, if we are to meet our ambition to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

Money is allocated to local authorities after a competitive funding allocation process.

In Woking, Surrey, £95 million will go towards widening the Victoria Arch Bridge, road improvements, buying land and connecting utilities to unlock land to develop 4,500 homes. Surrey County Council is undertaking the project.

David Bittleston, leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “By working in partnership with Surrey County Council and other key stakeholders, we can now deliver significant improvements to the local road and rail infrastructure, whilst supporting the continued growth of Woking.”

Truro in Cornwall will receive £47 million for a new northern access road, connecting sites from the A390 in the west to the Royal Cornwall Hospital and an employment hub in the east.

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for housing Andrew Mitchell said: “Building homes for local people is a key priority of this council. We have already agreed to invest to bring forward and coordinate a high quality housing scheme to establish a community rather than a series of housing estates. This government funding announcement means that the proposed council intervention to provide access to kick start house building is a step closer.

“We want to reduce reliance on the car in support of our climate change commitments, so the new route will provide walking and cycling along its entire length. The funding will help us integrate the route with our wider ambition for cycle routes from the north coast into Truro.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
11 June 2019

Places for People has announced a joint venture with off-site construction builder ilke Homes to deliver 750 modular units.

The property management, development and regeneration company will purchase the units from ilke Homes.

Five hundred homes are for sites that Places for People already owns, while 250 units are for new schemes it will partner on to deliver affordable and market-priced housing.

David Cowans, chief executive of Places for People, commented: “This is just the start for off-site manufacturing and as placemakers, we are going to invest even more in modular. We will implement efficient processes and new design techniques which not only raise the bar for the industry – but crucially, give people across the country affordable homes to live in. Our partnership is about pioneering a new way of delivering homes and disrupting the market through making socially responsible decisions and working with best-in-class partners to improve quality, speed up housing delivery and minimise environmental impact.”

Benefits of factory-engineered modules that are assembled on site include:

  • The light gauge steel construction can be clad in traditional brick, making it look like a traditional house.
  • Development time on site is halved so that income can be generated quicker in factories while foundations are dug.

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said: “Ride-hailing apps have replaced standing in the rain to flag taxis, so it makes sense that we embrace the benefits of manufacturing homes in dry factories. A mature OSM market could create an ‘Uber moment’ for construction, speeding up delivery, cutting cost and giving our customers unrivalled choice and quality. Our deal with Places for People will help continue to grow our capacity and is a huge vote of confidence in modular housing and Homes England deserves huge praise for its entrepreneurial approach to accelerating delivery.”

Housing minister Kit Malthouse backed the deal, saying it supports the government's mission “to deliver more, better and faster home construction”.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
3 June 2019

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has ruled out construction of a stretch of new M4 motorway around Newport, citing economic and environmental issues.

The plan would have seen a 14-mile motorway built to relieve traffic congestion around Newport. It would have involved building across the protected wetlands south of the city known as the Gwent Levels.

The £1.6 billion relief road had been proposed by the administration’s predecessor and was recommended for approval by Bill Wadrup, the planning inspector who held a public inquiry into the proposals. He has since died.

He contended that there was “a compelling case for the scheme to be implemented to relieve an acute problem on the strategic motorway network”.

“It is accordingly my view that the scheme is in the public interest and should be allowed to proceed despite the sensitive landscape and environment through which it would pass.  

“The scheme would not, to my mind, have any disproportionate adverse impacts. In coming to this view, I have had regard to all statutory and non-statutory objections, representations and statements made in writing and oral presentations to the inquiry, but individually or collectively, they do not outweigh the conclusions I have reached."

However, the first minister told AMs yesterday that the cabinet has decided that the project was too expensive in the current uncertain economic climate and was too environmentally damaging.

Originally proposed in 1991 as a solution to congestion at the Brynglas Tunnels, the new motorway would have been six lanes wide, stretching from Castleton, west of Newport, to Magor, east of the city. It would have replaced the existing M4, which would have been downgraded.

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, Drakeford was adamant that even if the scheme had been less expensive he would have rejected it because of the environmental impact.

Ministers acknowledge that there is a traffic problem at Newport and are setting up a commission of transport experts to advise on measures to counter the congestion.

Environmentalists welcomed yesterday’s decision, but industry groups voiced frustration. Newport Council leader Debbie Wilcox said the authority was disappointed with the outcome but recognised “this decision was always going to be a delicate balance”.

Business lobby group CBI Wales warned: “Economic growth will be stifled, confidence in the region will weaken and the cost of an eventual relief road will rise.”

Roger Milne, The Planner
5 June 2019

A round-up of planning news

London landlord fined for unsafe HMO

Islington Council has successfully prosecuted a rogue landlord for failing to comply with fire safety regulations and carry out repairs to his property.

A complaint from a tenant living at Flat C, 98 Petherton Road saw a council environmental health officer inspect the property, which had four unrelated occupants sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities.

The house in multiple occupation (HMO) did not have a mains wired smoke alarm system, or a fire door to the kitchen as required by HMO licensing. The officer issued an improvement notice under section 12 of The Housing Act 2004 to the owner David Simons, requiring him to remedy these defects and provide an electrical installation condition report.

Simons was found guilty of failing to complying with the notice at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on 11 April. He was sentenced on 16 May and fined £12,400. Costs of £600 were awarded with a victim’s surcharge of £175.

A428 upgrade plans on show

Plans to update one of the busiest road links in the East of England have gone on show.

Up to an hour-and-a-half a week could be saved by commuters on the A428 as a result of the plans, said the government.

The new 10-mile dual carriageway would link the Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire to the Caxton Gibbet roundabout in Cambridgeshire, replacing the only remaining section of single carriageway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge. The plans would see both roundabouts upgraded into modern, free-flowing junctions and a new junction would be added at Cambridge Road near St Neots.

In February, Highways England announced the preferred choices from a 2017 public consultation on three route options for the new dual carriageway and three options for improving the Black Cat roundabout.

The details behind that announcement are now out for an eight-week consultation before the final plans go forward for planning consent early next year.

The consultation can be found here.

HS2 design consultation

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has launched a consultation on 11 proposed design refinements to the HS2 phase 2b route.

There are 11 proposed changes. The consultation asks for views, based on the information included in the design refinement consultation document, which will be independently analysed and reported and then considered by the secretary of state when making a decision about the final route.

The consultation can be found on the UK Government website.

Consultation Elland town plans

A consultation has been launched so that the public can have its say on proposals to improve Elland town centre.

One of the oldest settlements in Calderdale, Elland has “high-quality historic buildings” and a variety of independent retailers, but areas have been identified as requiring improvements.

A draft masterplan has been created by Elland Development Board and Calderdale Council, as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Elland Station Gateway project.

The Elland masterplan aims to develop a vision of regeneration for the town centre, building on its unique characteristics and creating a vibrant heart to the town.

Improvement proposals include changes to the transport network, improving pedestrian access, creating more green spaces and making the most of the town’s heritage elements. There are also a number of complementary initiatives proposed, including expanded market events, and community growing projects, all designed to increase the amount of time people spend in the town.


York seeks views on local plan changes

The City of York Council is inviting residents, businesses and other interested groups to comment on additional evidence and proposed modifications to the city’s local plan.

The consultation is seeking views on several changes, including:

  • removing housing site allocations at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall and land at Howard Road, Strensall;
  • formally revising the objectively assessed housing need (OAN) from 867 to 790 dwellings in York each year for the duration of the plan;
  • amendments to the green belt boundary to take into account recent change, such as planning decisions in York and the removal of the Strensall Barracks site.

The consultation closes on 22 July. It can be found here on the City of York Council website.

London funding for tackling toxic air

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has invested £6 million into 15 new projects that are being established across London in an attempt to improve air quality in the capital.

The new schemes include initiatives to cut pollution from river craft and construction machinery, as well as establishing hundreds of car-free and pedestrianisation schemes.

The money comes from the mayor's Air Quality Fund.

Four new Low Emission Neighbourhoods (LENs) will be established in Hackney, Dagenham, Southwark and Camden. LENs receive funding and support to install electric vehicle charge points, expand cycle lanes, establish green walls and investigate traffic reduction schemes. This funding will be matched with almost £3 million from the relevant boroughs.

The other 11 projects include a project to tackle emissions from South London construction sites, a zero-emission zone in the City, cargo bikes in Camden and retrofitting boats to cut emissions on the Thames. These projects will share £4 million from the mayor, match funded by almost £6 million from the boroughs.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
11 June 2019