Have a look at our November 2017 edition of The Source.
Welcome to the latest edition of “The Source” – prepared by the team at Gladman with the specific aim to inform you of curent news and views in land & planning.
We’re pleased to extend this welcome to our many readers who have recently joined our continually expanding list of subscribers. Please use the links below to view all the back issues of “The Source” from the experts in the strategic residential development industry.
A New Debate About Green Belt is Needed
It is widely accepted that England is in the midst of a national housing crisis and it is leading to calls for a new debate on the future of the Green Belt. A talk by John Rhodes, director at Quod consultancy declared that unless there is a mature debate on the green belt, London and the South East will get nowhere near meeting their housing needs. Mr Rhodes points towards the increased politicisation of green belt, with politicians turning it into a slogan as a main hindrance to any future debate and put forward the opinion that green belt should not be a political issue.
Healthy and Happier in the Inner City?
A study by Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong has concluded that residents of higher-density areas lead more active lifestyles, are more socially engaged and of a healthier weight than those who live in suburbia.
Labour to Reap the Rewards of Tory Failures on Housing Delivery and Affordability
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has, in an outspoken attack on his own party, said that ‘failure on housing’ is putting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party within reach of Downing Street.
Research produced by law firm Irwin Mitchell has identified and interesting pattern in communities secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to call-in planning applications. Since taking office, 64 out of the 69 decisions Mr Javid has issued, have all related to proposed development in Conservative Constituencies.
Latest news from the sector
Bellway Achieves “Record” Completions
Bellway reports “record” completions during its financial year, seeing 9,644 home completions, an increase of 10.6% against the equivalent period in 2016. This significantly contributed to the 16.2% rise in operating profit to £571.6 million, the company said.
Bellway’s pre-tax profit lifted 12.6% to £560.7 million, with revenue up 14.2% to £2,558.6 million.
The average selling price of its homes rose 3% to £260,354. The private average selling price improved 6.3% to £296,018, driven by the company’s previous investment in higher value locations alongside some modest house price inflation.
Bellway said that demand for new housing remained strong across the country during its financial year; its average reservations per week increased 10.7% to 187.
The weekly reservation rate for the second half was 14.8% stronger against the same period last year at 209, aided partly by new site openings and “seemingly unaffected by the general election and the wider uncertainty arising from the ongoing EU negotiations”.
Bellway’s trading has remained robust into its current financial year, with reservations per week up 5.6% to 171 during the first nine weeks.
As of October 1, the order book was £1,361.5 million, up 17.4% against October 2 2016, comprising 5,034 homes against 2016’s 4,701.
The housebuilder said that the outlook remained positive, “and the board expects the group to grow volume by at least 5% and the overall average selling price to increase to around £280,000 in the current financial year”.
Countryside Continues to Grow
Countryside Properties’ Housebuilding division has enjoyed an “excellent year of growth. Issuing a trading update ahead of its full year results for the year ending September 30 2017, Countryside said that the performance of its Housebuilding division demonstrated a “step change in the scale of the business,” with total completions up 53% to 1,197 homes against 2016. Of these 837 were for private homes, up 68%.
The private average selling price of these homes dropped 23% to £515,000, relating to Countryside’s plans to reduce its exposure to higher end properties. This was also a result of slower sales rates at the higher end of the market.
With the increase in sales reservations and completions, several of Countryside’s Housebuilding sales outlets closed ahead of time, with the business possessing 24 open sales outlets as of September 30 against 25 the previous year. But Countryside said it had a further 18 sites under construction to ensure that the number of open selling outlets would increase in FY18.
Its Partnerships division also performed strongly, with total completions up 17% to 2,192 homes. Those for private homes under this division rose 31% to 825 homes.
Countryside said that demand had remained strong across all tenures.
NHBC reports that new home registrations saw their highest third quarter total for a decade.
Meanwhile in the affordable sector, registrations dropped 5% to 8,853 new homes.During the July to September period, (Q3 2017) 37,936 new homes were registered, a 6% increase on the same period last year. Of these 29,083 were for the private sector, a 9% increase on Q3 2016.
NHBC said that seven out of 12 UK regions saw registration growth during Q3 2017 against 2016. Among those with the most significant growth were Scotland which experienced a 50% rise to 3,056 new homes registered, the East Midlands at 42% growth to 3,575, and the North East, seeing registrations improve 34% to 2,078. But Greater London’s registrations dropped from 3,860 in Q3 2016 to 2,494 during the July to September period this year.
NHBC’s CEO Steve Wood, said: “We have seen encouraging growth in terms of the number of new homes being registered over the last three months, across many parts of the country.
“With demand for high quality new homes as strong as ever, this is positive news for the industry and prospective homebuyers, particularly in light of the current political and economic uncertainties.”
Interesting Appeal Decisions
At Gladman, we monitor all residential appeal decisions issued by the Planning Inspectorate, to better understand current interpretations of government planning policy.
An appeal by Tata Steel for 35 dwellings in Winchcombe, Tewkesbury has been dismissed by Inspector David Richards owing to impact on the AONB. The site’s location entirely within the AONB was the main issue and, whilst the landscape report stated that there would be ‘low adverse’ impact the Inspector concluded there would still be an intrusion of built development into the AONB. The appellant questioned the council’s 5 year supply position and while the Inspector agreed that some of the Council’s predictions on deliverability were unrealistic, he concluded that the Council could demonstrate sufficient supply. The Inspector concluded that the social and economic benefits of the scheme did not outweigh the environmental harm of the site and therefore concluded that the scheme should be dismissed.
Inspector Kevin Gleeson has allowed an appeal for 423 dwellings in Fleet, Hart District Council. Although there would be harm to the direct character of the development area and some harm to the valued landscape on the eastern side of the site, the impact would be localised and would not affect the wider setting; therefore, it would have a limited effect. Despite the development being in the local gap, it would not coalesce with nor effect the setting of Crookham village. The Inspector concluded that the access proposals demonstrate how the site can be accessed safely. Whilst the Council argued the development would be outside the settlement boundary, they can only claim a five-year housing land supply by approving other sites outside settlement boundaries; therefore, this policy is deemed out of date. The Inspector also concluded that several other policies were out of date and with the significant economic benefits that the scheme will bring, decided to allow the appeal.
An appeal for 900 dwellings surrounding a golf course by Haddon Property Development Ltd was dismissed due to its harm to the open Cheshire countryside. The Secretary of State concluded that the provision of facilities and services, (to which the Secretary of State gives modest weight) and the contribution to the supply of housing, including affordable, self-build plots and retirement homes and the benefit to the local economy, did not outweigh the significant harm that would arise due to the scale of the development within the open countryside.
Inspector Alexander Walker has allowed an appeal for 14 dwellings by The DMA Trust near Newport, Telford and Wrekin. Main issues were the impact on highway safety and neighbour’s living conditions with regard to noise and disturbance. The Council’s highway safety concerns centred on the narrowness of parts of the road rather than the free-flow of traffic. The inspector found that whilst two cars would not be able to pass each other at the 3m wide section, given the scale of the development and the clear forward visibility along the length of the road, it would not result in any detrimental effect on pedestrian or highway safety. The inspector found that construction would cause noise and disturbance, but this would be temporary and could be adequately controlled through imposition of an appropriately worded condition. As such, the appeal was allowed.
Inspector Robert Parker dismissed an appeal for ten dwellings by Rectory Homes Limited in Dinton. The appeal was split into two cases with appeal A representing the application for ten or more dwellings. The inspector found that the proposal would cause significant harm to character and appearance, as well as reducing the gap with the neighbouring settlement of Gibraltar. Loss of best and most versatile (BMV) agricultural land was thought to be limited in both appeal cases. Locationally, the proposals were found to be unsustainable, although good public transport links were in place meaning future residents would have reasonable access to shops and services. Finally, in the absence of any up-to-date housing requirement in the development plan, the Council’s assessment of OAN – accepted in a number of s78 appeals – was considered the best figure on which to base calculations. The Council accepted that the housing supply policies in the AVDLP are out-of-date and this in itself was sufficient to trigger the ‘tilted balance’ within Paragraph 14 of the Framework. The harm to character and appearance and the small loss of BMV, meant the proposal would not constitute sustainable development and the appeal was dismissed.
An appeal for 10 dwellings in Pentlow, Braintree was dismissed by the Inspector who concluded that any modest benefits that the development would bring, were outweighed by the lack of sustainability, harm to the countryside enivronment and significant harm to the character & appearance of the area. Although the inspector concluded that the council could not demonstrate a 5YHLS, he concluded its absence did not automatically reduce weight attached to policies in the development framework. As such, due to the development being at odds with policies CS5, CS7, & CS8 of the Core Strategy, the appeal was dismissed.