The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review unveiled this week (25 November) committed the Government to a new target for affordable housing starts (400,000 units by 2021) and further reforms to the planning system which included a proposal to allow previously developed brownfield sites in the green belt to be developed in the same way as other brownfield land.
The administration also announced 18 new Enterprise Zones and extended eight zones, promised to spend £2bn to protect 300,000 homes from flooding and £1m to help bankroll activities surrounding Hull‘s status as UK City of Culture in 2017.
Other planning reforms signaled will involve establishing a new delivery test on local authorities to ensure “delivery against the number of homes set out in local plans”.
The Statement also promised measures to accelerate the release of public land for housing and ensure the release of unused and previously undeveloped commercial, retail, and industrial land for ‘Starter Homes’.
Planning policy will also be amended to support small sites. Small and medium-sized builder activity will be helped by the extension of the £1bn Builders’ Finance Fund to 2020-21, and by the halving of the length of the planning guarantee for minor developments.
A sum of £2.3bn is being made available in loans to help regenerate large council estates and invest in infrastructure needed for major housing developments. The Government has committed to £310m to deliver the first new garden city in nearly 100 years, at Ebbsfleet in Kent.
The statement said the Government will consult on reforms to the New Homes Bonus, including means of sharpening the incentive to reward communities for additional homes and reducing the length of payments from six years to four years.
The Review and Statement provides £475m over the next five years to fund large local transport projects, enabling local areas to bid for funding for projects that would be too expensive for them to pay for by themselves, such as the Lowestoft Third River Crossing and the North Devon Link Road.
In addition the Government has promised £300m over the next five years for a new Transport Development Fund. This could include providing development funding for projects such as Crossrail 2 and proposals emerging from the Northern Transport Strategy.
Ministers have announced an independent review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This will “assess the extent to which CIL does or can provide an effective mechanism for funding infrastructure, as well as recommend changes that would improve its operation in support of the Government’s wider housing and growth objectives”.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said the exercise, to be led by Liz Peace, former chief executive of the British Property Federation, would assess whether CIL is meeting its objectives of providing a faster, fairer, more certain and transparent means of funding infrastructure via developer contributions.
The review will look at the relationship between CIL and s106 agreements and consider how reliefs and exemptions operate and whether the neighbourhood element of CIL is helping to increase community support for development. Also under scrutiny will be the impact of CIL on development viability.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “This independent review will examine how we can improve the CIL to ensure it best benefits local communities whilst delivering the houses the country needs.”
The review group includes representatives from developers, the Planning Advisory Service, a planning consultancy and local authorities. The review team is due to prepare a report plus recommendations by the end of March 2016.
New research from Knight Frank and planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore has identified local authority areas where economic and planning data, combined with regional knowledge, suggest good fundamentals for residential development in the short to medium term.
Factors taken into account include forecast economic and employment growth, as well as future housing supply and demand. Sales to stock ratios, social environment, infrastructure and affordability were also measured.
Local planning knowledge was then added, examining which planning authorities had a five-year land supply and where a local plan was in place, as well as looking at policy support for housing and economic growth.
This, along with input from Knight Frank land agents, resulted in a list of areas where the fundamentals suggested development opportunities.
Key findings highlighted that:
- Manchester and Leeds are expected to be among the councils which will experience the strongest rates of household growth over the next ten years
- In the Midlands, Warwick scores highly on “liveability”, and also has strong employment growth forecasts, while robust household growth is projected in Leicester
- Brentwood is one of the hotspots with the strongest forecasts for future employment increases, as well as showing one of the largest imbalances between pipeline supply and household growth over the next five years
- South Cambridgeshire also has a particularly strong forecast for employment growth and has been rated highest in an independent survey of rural locations across the UK
- Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset local authorities have a local plan and a five-year housing supply, and the determination to step up development
- Guildford and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey are well positioned to take advantage of the housing need generated by the capital.
Iain Painting, Senior Planning Partner, Barton Wilmore, said: “Our shortlist of development opportunities is aligned with an increased emphasis on urbanisation, focusing on many of England’s key cities both in and well beyond the South East.
“Opportunities exist where local authorities are struggling to source a five-year land supply through the local plan system, such as York, but also where councils have a positive appetite for growth, supported by policy, such as Leeds and Bath.”
MPs on the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee have raised serious concerns about rail investment in the UK in a report just published. This highlighted severe planning and budgeting failures in Network Rail’s current five-year investment programme.
In particular it points to “staggering and unacceptable” cost increases in the project to electrify the Great Western Main Line from London to Cardiff, which is now expected to cost up to £1.2bn more than the £1.6bn estimated a year ago.
The all-party committee said there was still “far too much uncertainty” on costs and eventual delivery dates for the electrification of both the Trans Pennine route and the Midland Main Line and warned more projects could be delayed in order to balance Network Rail’s budget.
In the light of its findings, the committee has called for a fundamental review of the rail regulator’s role and effectiveness in planning rail infrastructure.
It has also urged the Government to publish a revised and re-costed programme of electrification improvements, including the rationale for prioritising different schemes, following a review by Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP insisted: “Network Rail has lost its grip on managing large infrastructure projects.”
Two major energy infrastructure projects have hit problems in the last week. A huge Welsh onshore wind farm has been rejected by the UK Government while ministers have delayed a decision on a key pipeline project designed to transport carbon dioxide captured from a new coal-fired power station in Yorkshire and inject it into a saline storage site under the North Sea.
The Mynydd y Gwynt Wind Farm was refused development consent by Energy Secretary Amber Rudd against the advice of the planning inspector who examined the 27-turbine proposal earmarked for a site east of Aberystwyth.
Rudd’s decision letter said consent could not be granted because the SoS could not be sure there would not be an adverse effect on the red kite population in the nearby Elenydd-Mallaen Special Protection Area (SPA).
Meanwhile Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has announced there will be six-month delay in a government decision on National Grid’s Yorkshire and Humber carbon capture and storage (CCS) cross country pipeline scheme.
The pipeline would transport CO2 from the proposed White Rose CCS-equipped coal-fired power station via a multi-junction at Camblesforth (North Yorkshire) to a coastal point near Barmston (East Riding of Yorkshire).
The project had been the subject of an application for development consent under the planning regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).
The scheme had been examined by the Planning Inspectorate and a recommendation submitted to ministers three months ago. A decision was due by 19 November.
Ministers have now exercised the right to insist on an extension before making a decision. In this case the six-month delay will allow time for a development consent decision to be made on the White Rose CCS plant. This is due next spring.
Latest housing stats
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published statistics on house building starts in England for the September quarter 2015.
These indicated that seasonally adjusted starts are now 100 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009 but 30 per cent below the March quarter 2007 peak. Completions are 28 per cent below their March quarter 2007 peak.
Annual housing starts totalled 137,490 in the 12 months to September 2015, down by one per cent compared with the year before. Annual housing completions in England totalled 135,050 in the 12 months to September 2015, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.
Other findings showed that seasonally adjusted house building starts in England were estimated at 34,250 in the September quarter 2015, a two per cent increase compared to the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted level of starts in the September quarter 2015 increased by two per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.
Private enterprise housing starts (seasonally adjusted) were one per cent higher in the September quarter 2015 than the previous quarter, whilst starts by housing associations were 10 per cent higher.
Lewis urges pragmatic s106 affordable homes renegotiations
Planning minister Brandon Lewis has written to English councils asking them to be flexible and pragmatic when asked by developers to renegotiate affordable housing delivery.
In the letter Lewis voiced concerns that, following a government announcement that social rents will be reduced from 2016-17, schemes for the development of housing association properties “are not being built out at the anticipated rate”.
The minister predicted developers would be approaching councils to renegotiate section 106 agreements to adjust the type of affordable housing provision.
He urged local authorities “to respond constructively, rapidly and positively to requests for such renegotiations and to take a pragmatic and proportionate approach to viability”.
Lewis said the “minimum amount of viability information necessary” should be sought where developers proposed a reduction in affordable housing contributions. He said proposals to change the mix of tenures provided without reducing the overall affordable housing contribution were unlikely to warrant new viability assessments.
He also recommended that section 106 agreements should be drafted to allow for “the delivery of alternative forms of affordable housing if this becomes necessary”.
The minister said officials would be contacting councils to gauge the extent of renegotiations and what action was being taken.
Report highlights growth deal variations
Analysis of the first suite of English Growth Deals agreed between central government and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) undertaken by consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield Partners (NLP) has highlighted that transport schemes are the main focus of the funding and the level of private sector investment leveraged by the deals varies “widely”.
The funding is based on a formula approach and most LEPs have extended this through a process of making competitive bids to government. This means that some LEPs have received a lot more public funding and identified greater private sector leverage than others (a key condition of this public grant), particularly in comparison to relative population size.
As a result of the dual system of formula allocation and competitive bidding, the NLP assessment found there was no overall national pattern of investment to areas of relative economic strength or weakness.
The anticipated impacts of the new projects in terms of potential number of new jobs supported and new dwellings also varied widely. Individual LEP estimates of the impact of every additional £1m of funding from the extension of the Growth Deals ranged between 25 to 748 additional jobs supported and between 15 to 304 new dwellings.
- London Mayor Boris Johnson has given his seal of approval for the capital’s largest single regeneration development, a scheme earmarked for the Greenwich Peninsula. A revised master plan for nearly 12,678 homes and 12,000 jobs on a previously disused 80 hectare former gasworks site has been signed off. The proposals are designed to create an entire new district formed of five neighbourhood zones.
- Transport for London is pushing ahead with plans to build 10,000 homes across the capital during the next decade, as it submits planning applications for three sites in Nine Elms, Northwood and Parsons Green. The group that runs London’s public-transport network has begun the first wave of its property development programme that will see it build homes across 75 sites, spanning 121 hectares of land.
- Housing developer HUB has submitted plans for 239 homes on the former site of the Chesterfield House council building in Wembley. The north west London development will be made up of two blocks of 26 and 21 storeys, one consisting entirely of affordable housing, some 43 per cent of the total provision.
- Ed Watson has been named as Westminster City Council’ new Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing. He will start his new role in January 2016. He is currently Camden Council’s Director of Culture and Environment.
Development plan pilots fund
A £600,000 challenge fund to enable local authorities to make changes to their planning service to help them deliver neighbourhood and local plans has been unveiled by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The funding is being made available in the 2015-16 financial year to pilot authorities to help them:
- Support neighbourhood planning by piloting ways of making neighbourhood planning an integral part of their planning service, for example in relation to local plan-making
- To identify ways of involving or delegating planning decisions to neighbourhood planning groups
- To make changes to their service to ensure that they have an up-to-date local plan in place by 2017.
Pilot authorities will also be expected to deliver resources, toolkits and reports that can assist other local authorities in supporting neighbourhood and local plans. DCLG has said un-ring-fenced grants of up to £60,000 will be available to successful planning authorities.
Garden village viability report
Private sector-led garden villages providing up to 5,000 homes could play a significant role in meeting the country’s housing shortage, a discussion paper prepared by house builder Barratt Developments has argued.
The builder has looked at a notional development of 5,000 mixed tenure homes, office and employment space, community services and transport and green infrastructure.
It said such a settlement could be entirely privately financed and require no public money. It would however require amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework.
Delivery could involve Garden Village Creation Company, in effect an Asset Backed Vehicle with developer(s), participating landowners and financial institutions(s), plus a so-called Promotion Vehicle to deliver the development and a Stewardship Vehicle to manage the legacy.
The paper said an economic appraisal identified total costs for the settlement of £800m and revenues that generate surpluses of £300m and an internal rate of return well in excess of 20 per cent.
The paper said: “Garden Villages present a solution for meeting housing needs because they are of a sufficient scale to deliver infrastructure and benefits for residents, but not so large as to necessitate costs and intervention that erect major barriers to delivery”.
Fewer Welsh councils will mean £650m savings claims minister
Welsh Public Services Minister Leighton James claimed this week that plans to cut the existing 22 local authorities to eight or nine would result in £650m savings over 10 years.
That claim was made as the Welsh administration published the draft legislation required to slim-down Welsh local government and halve the number of planning authorities. The bill is not intended to become law until after the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2016.
- A High Court judge has ruled that Lambeth Council’s decision to stop consulting on refurbishment options for a south London housing estate and focus on regeneration alone was unlawful.
- Tarmac has won a Court of Appeal battle over whether the use of waste in restoring a quarry was waste disposal or waste recovery.
- Slough Borough Council has secured a £300,000 confiscation order, its largest ever under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, in a case involving an outbuilding used for housing without planning permission.
- A QC is seeking to raise £20,000 through crowd funding to take a planning case through to the Court of Appeal. Chiswick resident Simon Kverndal QC is seeking to challenge Hounslow Council’s decision to give Lend Lease permission to develop a residential complex of 13, 8, 7 and 6 storey buildings on Chiswick High Road overlooking Turnham Green in west London.
European lessons on how to do it
New insights from Europe show how France, Germany and the Netherlands have successfully tackled housing and regeneration by using planning skills and tools to stimulate, not just regulate, development in a way that is markedly different from the UK, according to a RTPI report.
In this new study, researchers from the University of Liverpool have identified five specific stratagems, seldom used in the UK, that have led to faster and better development, especially housing development, in Western Europe.
- Upfront infrastructure investment to shape future development
- This investment builds support for urban extensions, so tackling ‘NIMBYism’
- Land assembly and readjustment whereby an overarching body actively seeks out and temporarily pools together private development rights
- Strong planning institutions to coordinate this development
- Regional coalition-building and strategic planning across administrative boundaries to reflect functional economic areas.
Stroud local plan made
The Stroud District Local Plan has been formally adopted by the council. It is the first planning authority in Gloucestershire to have an up to date development plan.
The strategy has made provision for at least 11,400 homes to be built over the 25-year period between 2006 and 2031. The number includes over 7,700 homes which have already been built or have planning permission and 4,200 homes to be developed on sites identified in the plan. Some 1,350 new homes are planned for a development west of Stonehouse.
On average, 470 homes need to be built each year over the next 16 years to accommodate the expected needs of the district. The plan also supports the development of 58 hectares of employment land over the plan period.
Tallest Welsh building planned for Cardiff
Bangor-based developer Watkin Jones has submitted plans for a 42-storey student residential block for a site in Cardiff city centre which would be Wales’s tallest building.
The proposed 132metre building would dwarf the Meridian Tower in Swansea, currently the tallest in Wales.
The scheme would provide some 447 student bedrooms in a mix of cluster flats, studios and one bedroom flats, along with communal and management facilities and a commercial unit at ground floor level.
Three more successful NP referendums
Three more neighborhood plans (NPs) have passed muster following referendums organised by the relevant local authorities in, respectively, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.
The Welbourn NP had an approval rating of 88.4 per cent on a 48 per cent turn-out; Brancaster NP obtained 82 per cent of the votes on a 33 per cent turn-out, while the East Leake NP polled 94 per cent yes-votes on a turn-out of nearly 25 per cent.
NOMA, a central Manchester regeneration project on land owned by The Co-operative Group and Hermes Real Estate, has received planning permission for two office developments at Angel Square.
The buildings will collectively provide more than 32,516 square metres of commercial floor space over nine and 11 storeys, and have been designed by AHR architects. The site is opposite the newly refurbished Victoria Station.
Ipswich listed brewery makeover
An outline planning application has been lodged with Ipswich Borough Council to turn the listed Tolly Cobbold brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, into a mixed-use development providing a cafe, restaurant, business start-ups, an auditorium and a conference space with other parts of the site being turned into a health club and 222 flats.
A separate full planning application has been submitted by Pigeon Developments for a change of use from a redundant Victorian brewery to mixed commercial and residential use.
Chef to trash home
TV chef Gordon Ramsay has announced proposals to demolish his £4.4m home in Rock, Cornwall and replace it with a luxury five-bedroom villa with a swimming pool, and a three-bedroom boathouse.
Petition to save illegal mock Tudor castle
More than a thousand people have signed a petition backing calls to halt the proposed demolition of a mock-Tudor castle built without planning permission which has been at the centre of a planning and legal saga involving Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.
Farmer Robert Fidler hid the castle behind bales for four years when he built it in Redhill, Surrey. A High Court judge has ordered him to demolish it by June. If he fails to do so he will be jailed for three months.
A petition, with 1,200 signatures, calls on the council to stop the “wasteful” enforcement.
I wanted to take a moment to update you on where we are with our service redevelopment plans. We’re currently in testing with the new site, rebuilt from the foundations upwards.
While we aimed to get this live this year we’re now looking at a launch in early 2016 but after a quick overview I hope you’ll agree it’ll be worth the wait. We understand how much business and government relies on the service so we don’t want to go live until we’re sure it’s right.
Over the next few weeks I want to give you a few insights into what we’ve been working on. I’m going to start with a sneaky peak at the new home page most importantly to talk a little about the values and principles we hold dear.
We pride ourselves on having worked in partnership with local authorities and professional applicants for the best part of 13 years. Now we are outside government I thought I’d talk about a few things that aren’t changing and then a few things that are.
Firstly, we intend to remain a national and free service – no upfront (or hidden) costs. We don’t intend to charge for applications. Yes, we obviously intend to raise revenues but these will be from value-adding services that complement and not replace the free, core services we’ve had your support developing.
Secondly, we’re proud to remain a trusted and integrated partner with every local planning authority in England and Wales.
Thirdly, we will continue to work with our corporate customers to drive the uptake of online applications through our dedicated account management team and our Smarter Planning scheme.
Now on to what is changing.
Early in 2016 we will deliver a faster, mobile-friendly website with better focus on key user tasks.
We’re not going to be turning the service on its head – we’ve had a strong focus on continuity in development. Everything will look familiar but we’ve introduced some exciting improvements to make the application process faster and easier.
It’s the Planning Portal you know and trust only better.
We’ll also be introducing some major new improvements in 2016 – all of which have been requested from you over the past months and years. So in no particular order, next year we plan to roll out the following…
- A seamless and integrated planning and building control application service
- A suite of tools to make the application service work even better for professionals
- An improved range of online payment options to address validation issues – including a secure method for applicants to pay directly for applications submitted by their agent
- An intuitive, redesigned interactive house
- A facility for LPAs to increase supporting document file sizes – where they are able to process them
Finally, here’s a sneak peak of our home page. We’ve worked hard to focus on the key user tasks.
We can’t wait to roll this out to you. I’ll be sharing more information and features in the coming weeks.
Two more devolution deals involving city regions were announced this week, one for the West Midlands and the other for Merseyside.
The West Midlands agreement signed between ministers and members of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Shadow Board will translate into over £1bn of government investment to boost the regional authority economy.
The deal puts Britain’s second city and the wider West Midlands in line to be governed by a metro-mayor. They will work together across an area that runs from Telford and Wolverhampton in the west to Coventry and Nuneaton in the east and from Tamworth in the north to Redditch in the south.
Voters in the West Midlands will now choose a directly elected mayor in 2017, who will take on a raft of new powers including local transport budgets and franchised bus services and increased responsibility over employment support and skills provision.
The Government has also backed key transport ambitions for the region including funding the Curzon Street Enterprise Zone extension and funding the Metro extension to Eastside, subject to a business case.
Planning powers will be conferred on the mayor, to drive housing delivery and improvements in housing stock, and give the same competencies as the Homes and Communities Agency.
The Government will also work with the WMCA Land Commission, has committed to support the first part of the HS2 Growth Strategy and will work with the Combined Authority through the development of the second Roads Investment Strategy to explore options for reducing congestion on the strategic road network in the West Midlands.
In respect of Merseyside the agreement is scheduled to provide some £900m in government spending to help unlock the economic potential of the River Mersey and its new super port as well as maximising the opportunities from HS2.
The deal also includes support for Liverpool’s strengths in attracting major international events, with backing for the city’s International Festival for Business as well as its cultural attractions.
The new, directly elected Liverpool City Region Mayor will act as chair to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and will exercise the following powers and functions devolved from central government:
- Responsibility for a devolved and consolidated local transport budget
- Responsibility for franchised bus services, which will support the Combined Authority’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing
- Powers over strategic planning, including the responsibility to create a Single Statutory City Region Framework, a Mayoral Development Corporation and to develop with government a Land Commission and a Joint Assets Board for economic assets.
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Andrew Adonis, interim Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, has set out his organisation’s immediate priorities and launched a major call for evidence which focuses on three of the UK’s most critical infrastructure challenges.
The call for evidence puts the spotlight on:
- Northern Connectivity: Particularly identifying priorities for future investment in the North’s strategic transport infrastructure to improve connectivity between cities, especially east-west across the Pennines
- London’s Transport System: Particularly reviewing strategic options for future investment in large scale transport improvements on road, rail and underground including Crossrail 2
- Energy: Reviewing how the UK can better balance supply and demand.
The call for evidence will close on 8 January 2016. The Commission has been asked to publish its report on these three areas before next year’s Budget. It will welcome submissions from local government, NGOs, academics and all interested parties involved with infrastructure provision.
In a related development ministers have decided to merge the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK to create the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA).
The IPA will bring together government expertise in the financing, delivery and assurance for projects, which range from large scale infrastructure schemes such as Crossrail and the Thames Tideway Tunnel to major transformation programmes such as Universal Credit.
This new body will be formally created on 1 January 2016 and will report to both the Chancellor and the Minister for the Cabinet Office. Its first chief executive will be the existing chief executive of the MPA, Tony Meggs.
Over the last decade 12,500 new homes and businesses have been built in coastal areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which are at risk of significant erosion or flooding, according to a report compiled for conservation charity National Trust (NT).
It has urged greater action from the Government and environmental agencies to make sure all coastal areas are ready for the challenges presented by more frequent sever storm and rising sea-levels. The NT pointed out that coastal development had gone ahead despite strong official advice to the contrary.
The report also highlighted that only one in three coastal planning authorities in England have up-to-date planning policies in place to deal with the impact of climate change caused by global warming.
The Trust has argued for what it called a bolder and more imaginative approach to coastal management, one that relied more on understanding how nature works and is based on adaptation rather than engineered defences.
The report said this would mean an end to the ineffective cycle of continually rebuilding concrete sea defences and instead relocating buildings, infrastructure and habitats to safe areas further inland.
Phil Dyke, Coastal Marine Adviser at the charity, said: “We need to actively transition from maintaining old defences to working with natural processes, where and when it’s appropriate, to conserve the beauty and wildlife of our coastline.”