Have a look at our November issue of The Source
Development in the Green Belt
With an ever-growing need for more housing, research carried out by The Times and the Campaign to Protect Rural England suggests that construction of more than 5,000 homes per month is planned on the 14 protected Green Belt areas around our cities.
Despite the Government’s continued pledge to protect the Green Belt, with Sajid Javid stating in July 2016 that, “The Green Belt remains special. Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, we should not be carrying out any development on it”, expansion into the Green Belt, for many local authorities, is simply the only option remaining to them in the quest to fulfil the one million new homes by 2020 target.
In the last few months, no less than 22,000 new homes in the Green Belt have been proposed by local authorities as part of their various draft local plans. Poole in Dorset has proposed 5,300; New Forest in Hampshire 4,000; Waverley in Surrey 2,400; and Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire: 800 and the Draft Greater Manchester Framework is proposing 4,900 hectares be removed from the Green Belt in order to meet the housing requirements of the region.
With many groups and organisations raising significant objections and concerns about such plans, CPRE questioned whether planning policies are allowing or pushing local authorities into releasing Green Belt land for the purposes for housing development. Given the constraints, density and size of the UK, it simply makes no sense to prevent development on such a scale, and in order to meet the housing needs of future generations, local authorities will have no option but to explore growth into these restricted areas.
Horsham Neighbourhood Plan Quashed
Horsham District Council has had the dubious honour of playing host to one of the few neighbourhood plans to be quashed through a High Court challenge. Henfield Neighbourhood Plan was found to fall short on four grounds:
Henfield Parish Council had prepared the Plan on the basis of a spatial strategy that favoured sites to the east of the settlement rather than those to the west because the development of the latter were said to give rise to unsustainable transport pressure in the centre of the village. However, this proposition was in conflict with the findings of an Inspector determining a s.78 appeal in respect of the largest site to the west and the conduct of the LPA in withdrawing a highways reason for refusal in relation to the second largest site in the west.
Although this material was available to the promoters of the Neighbourhood Plan, the Independent Examiner and the District Council, they all failed to grapple in any way with the prospect of expansion to the west as a reasonable alternative at the SA/SEA stage of the plan.
The third ground arose from the related issue that the Plan excluded the consented site to the west from the built-up-area boundary, but had inconsistently included the site to the east which likewise had been granted planning permission at appeal.
England’s Over 55s Sitting on Trove of Property Wealth
England’s over-55 demographic is one of the richest in the world in terms of property ownership, according to new research undertaken by retirement firm Age Partnership.
Collectively worth an eye-watering £1.5tn, it exceeds the GDP of Spain, Brazil and Italy by £600bn, £300bn and £100bn respectively.
If current trends in population growth and house prices continue, this value could almost double to £2.9tn by 2036.
Age Partnership consider the wealth to be presently “locked away”. Equity release expert Simon Chalk states:
“This stored wealth cannot be ignored: housing must become a primary part of retirement financial planning and we need to open up more channels to help over-55s benefit from it. Over the next 20 years housing wealth will become increasingly important, as the baby-boomers generation reach retirement en masse.”
New Build Measures Announced
At the Conservative Party Conference the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, and the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced new measures to build more houses.
The launch of a £3 billion Home Builders Fund
Accelerated Construction project will step in to address failures in the market
For more information see the Home Builders Federation article.
New Homes, Old Problems
The new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, has criticised, among others, the attitude of local communities towards new housing development in light of the nation’s continuing housing crisis.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham in October, Javid highlighted tackling ‘nimbyism’ as a component of addressing the country’s dire housing needs for both the current and next generations.
“Everyone agrees we need more homes, but too many object to them being next to us; we’ve got to change that attitude ~ All of us have a duty to think about the long-term consequences of every decision we make”
But of course the burden of turning the country’s housing crisis around does not lie solely with local people. In his speech, Javid also shines the spotlight on housing developers and the trove of housing land they purportedly sit on, which has the green light from local planning authorities, yet remains undeveloped.
“The big developers must release their stranglehold on supply. It’s time to stop sitting on landbanks, delaying build-out: the homebuyers must come first.”
Local authorities, MPs and Councillors were also not exempt of responsibility:
“Of course, there are valid reasons to oppose some planning applications. If they’re in the wrong place, or there’s not enough infrastructure, or they’re just plain ugly. But all of us have a duty to think about the long-term consequences of every decision we make. As elected representatives, we are here to take the right decisions – not the easy ones ~ Local leaders must be prepared to make difficult calls, even if they’re unpopular. And so must MPs and councillors.”
This comes as recent research by Indigo Planning revealed the number of homes allowed at planning appeal is set to treble compared to five years ago, if current trends continue.
With too much resistance at the local level, and a drawn out appeal procedure that, in some cases, can last well over two years, does the answer to the country’s housing woes lie with greater co-operation and positivity at the delegated or committee level?
Neighbourhood Planning Bill Gains Shape & Meaning
In a sign of the reshaped Government’s priorities during the remainder of its term, the first day after summer recess saw the Neighbourhood Planning Bill receive its Second Reading (10 October). In the ensuing debate, Sajid Javid agreed with the ‘central thrust’ of the Local Plan Expert Group’s (LPEG) recommendations, submitted to Cameron’s government in March, in relation to reinforcing the duty-to-co-operate and ensuring that all areas have a plan in place as a statutory requirement. The LPEG report had also proposed changing the test of a plan’s soundness and reducing the evidence base required.
The Bill evidently covers Neighbourhood Planning, but also the planning register, compulsory purchase and planning conditions, including the requirement to seek an applicants’ agreement to pre-commencement conditions. On this, the acting shadow communities secretary Teresa Pearce said that, “it is not pre-commencement planning conditions that slow planning consent, but the chronic underfunding of local planning authorities … It is not pre-commencement planning conditions that slow new schemes coming forward, but the lack of strategic infrastructure involvement”.
Notably, the bill does not elevate the National Infrastructure Commission to a statutory body, which some believe could assist in housing delivery. Also conspicuous by its absence from the Bill, particularly to the opposition who seized on the Government’s backtracking, was the abandonment of the Land Registry privatisation which Javid said ‘will be [a decision] for the Government to make in future’; the second time this move has been postponed by the Tories.
In a further twist, Gavin Barwell tabled further amendments, whilst giving evidence to The Neighbourhood Planning Bill’s Scrutiny Committee, signalling abandonment of direct Government intervention in plan-making. Instead, the amendment would allow, “The Secretary of State to direct two or more authorities to work together to produce a joint development plan document where that would ensure effective local planning in an area, for example, to address housing needs.’’
The Pursuit of a sub-regional planning agenda represents a significant change in Conservative strategy and even lead to Labour’s Roberta Blackman-Woods to remark, “I am very impressed by the new Minister’s reading of the Lyons report that Labour produced a couple of years ago, because it is gradually being rolled out.”
Planning System Holding Steady
The Fifth Annual Planning Survey produced by the British Property Federation and GL Hearn suggests that the planning system has remained stable over the past 12 months, with major planning application determination numbers, approval rates and average determination times having remained steady.
The largest ever independent assessment of the planning system has also revealed that despite a deficiency in resources within some local planning authorities, the planning system has broadly stabilised after some years of unrest.
Speaking in the foreword to the survey, BPF Chief Executive Melanie Leech said:
“Last year, the 2015 report issued a stark warning that significant investment would be required if we were to see any improvement in how the current planning system operates… While the investment gap remains, government has taken small steps in the right direction through the introduction of a number of initiatives in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.”
Average decision making times remained stable at 31 weeks, generally approval ratings for major applications held steady at approximately 87 per cent and there was a minimal dip in the overall volume of major applications decided.
Despite this, the survey showed that overall feeling within the planning sector is the worst it has ever been, with more planning officers (65 per cent) and developers (36 per cent) than ever concerned that the system is getting worse and continuing to fail to deliver the housing and employment land required to meet the needs of a growing population.
Some 80 per cent of applicants were dissatisfied with the time it takes for planning applications to be determined, the highest figure since the survey began in 2012.
Further to this, the report finds that the Northern Powerhouse is delivering more major planning application decisions per capita than Greater London.
For the first time, the research examined major application decisions across 25 boroughs in the Northern Powerhouse, showing that they made 11 major planning application decisions per 100,000 residents, compared to nine decisions per 100,000 residents in Greater London.
Latest news from the sector
Seven years of growth for Bellway
Total revenue at Bellway rose by 26.9% to £2,240 million in the year to July 31 as a result of the firm selling a record number of homes in the period.
In the group’s seventh successive year of volume growth, Bellway sold 8,721 homes, 12.5% up on the year before (7,752). Of these 7,345 were private sale homes, up 19% year on year, while social housing sales were down 12.5% to 1,376. Average selling price rose 12.9% to £252,793 (2015 – £223,821).The performance has resulted in an operating margin of 22.0%.
Bellway chairman John Watson said: “The long term outlook continues to be positive, supported by strong customer demand, a substantial forward order book and favourable trading conditions across all areas of the country where Bellway operates. Whilst there is some uncertainty following the result of the EU referendum, trading since that date has remained resilient. Bellway has invested significantly in high quality land opportunities and infrastructure over recent years. As a result, with its strong balance sheet and structure of 19 operating divisions, the group is well placed to deliver additional value for shareholders through further disciplined volume growth in the current financial year.”
The firms said that reservations net of cancellations, since the EU vote in June until 31 July, were 13% ahead of the same period in the prior year.
Countryside and Telford enjoy positive post-referendum trading
Countryside Properties and Telford Homes are the latest housebuilders to report good trading conditions following the result of the EU referendum.
Countryside, which specialises in place making and urban regeneration, said that trading over the summer months into the autumn selling season had been “robust”.
During the three months following the referendum, it witnessed an initial increase in cancellation rates, “but this has been more than offset by trading since”.
During the three months following the referendum, it witnessed an initial increase in cancellation rates, “but this has been more than offset by trading since”.
Giving an update to the city, Countryside said that for the year ending September 30 2016, total completions rose 12% to 2,657 units against the equivalent period in 2015.
Its Housebuilding division “performed well,” with total completions increasing 20% to 783 homes. Private average selling prices increased 14% to £667,000.
Countryside said that its premium brand Millgate continued to progress well despite the slower market for higher value product. This achieved 81 private completions against 52 in 2015 at a private ASP of £1.3 million, the same as last year.
And Countryside’s Partnerships division saw its total completions climb 10% to 1,874 homes. Its private ASP jumped 27% to £307,000.
The housebuilder said it was entering 2017 with strong outlet growth and a “record” private forward order book, rising 64% to £225.4 million, “which leaves us well positioned to meet market expectations”.
Meanwhile, London-based Telford Homes said that, following the outcome of June’s referendum, it had not revised its growth targets. It said that it was confident about the current and future market in non-prime areas of London thanks to the capital’s significant supply and demand imbalance.
It added that since the start of September, it had seen an increased number of reservations.
Telford built fewer homes during the six months ending September 30 2016 compared to last year. This was a result of development timings, it explained. A &ldquoldquo;substantially higher proportion of profits” was expected in the second half.
The company reported a forward order book exceeding £650 million of revenue.
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.
This appeal for 11 dwellings in Woodham Walter, Maldon, Essex was dismissed by the inspector. It was concluded that the proposal would result in significant harm to nearby heritage assets including the Grade II* listed Church of St. Michael and a row of houses containing two Grade II listed buildings. The inspector stated that the proposal would harmfully detract from the significance of the church as a development within its setting and therefore given the weight this argument carried, the appeal should be dismissed..
An appeal for 40 dwellings in Gislingham, Suffolk was allowed at appeal after the inspector concluded that the harm to heritage assets would be insufficient to outweigh the benefits of the scheme. The inspector stated that the he recognised the appeal site contributes to the significance of the Farmhouse, in a small way, but the provision of housing and open space outweighed the less than substantial harm.
An appeal for 90 dwellings was allowed in Colne, Pendle, Lancashire despite the inspector agreeing there were concerns relating to the impact of the proposal on the landscape and character of the area. However, it was found that given the sustainability of the location and the provision of the wider choice of housing that the proposal would deliver, that the appeal should be allowed. This appeal also had a part B for 270 dwellings. This appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the proposal would have a significant impact on heritage assets, despite the inspector recognising the social and economic benefits of the scheme.
An appeal for 270 dwellings was dismissed in Colne, Pendle, Lancashire after the inspector concluded that the impact on heritage assets was significant and outweighed the social and economic benefits of the proposal. The site was within close proximity of the settlement’s conservation area and therefore a number of listed buildings. Harm from the scheme would conflict with Policy ENV1 which seeks to conserve heritage assets and specifically identifies the pre-industrial farming heritage and development of the textile industry, including weaver’s cottages which would be affected by the proposal. The appeal also had a part A for 90 dwellings. This appeal was allowed despite concerns relating to the impact on character and landscape, however the same inspector found that the provision and mix of housing proposed outweighed the harm in this case.
An appeal for 31 dwellings within the settlement of Wadhurst in Wealden was dismissed on the grounds of its impact upon the High Weald AONB, the impact upon the highways within the area and the issue of flood risk. Initially it was clarified that the Council were unable to demonstrate a 5YHLS equating to a figure of roughly 3.96 years. Furthermore, the Inspector concluded that there has been no identification through the emerging plan of development that could alleviate the deficit in housing experienced within the district. Furthermore, the High Weald AONB lay close to the appeal site and although not located directly next to the site, the Inspector concluded that the appeal site would neither enhance nor conserve the AONB designation. Additionally, the site is poorly connected to the existing facilities within the settlement and the extra pressure on on-street parking would result in the scheme causing highway safety issues. Finally, the appeal site would not make the appropriate provision towards drainage systems on-site, leading to conflict within the adopted Core Strategy. Conclusively, the Inspector dismissed the appeal.
An appeal for the erection of up to 51 dwellings (Alford, East Lindsey) was dismissed by the Inspector despite a lack of 5 year housing land supply. Firstly, the Inspector considered the landscape within which the site is set, the Holton le Clay Landscape Character Area. the Inspector concluded that the proposal would give rise to significant visual and landscape impacts, which weigh heavily against the scheme. Furthermore, the listed building sited within close proximity of the site would be impacted from the development and although harm would be less than substantial, great weight was attached to that harm. The appeal site does benefit from providing market and affordable housing to an authority that does not currently possess a 5YHLS. Additionally, the site is in a location that can have access to services and facilities by a transport means other than the private car. Ultimately, the impact upon the landscape and the heritage asset weighed heavily against the appeal scheme and lead to its dismissal.
An appeal for 10 exemplar sustainable self-build plots has been dismissed in St Austell, Cornwell. Inspector R J Jackson had significant concerns regarding the isolated nature of the appeal site, and its proximity to light industrial units, as opposed to residential dwellings. Despite the Council accepting that they are unable to demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing, the Inspector concluded that the harm the proposed development would cause to the environment and the character and appearance of the surrounding area, including encroachment into the open countryside, outweighed any potential benefits, and subsequently the appeal was dismissed.
This appeal for 167 dwellings in Barrow, Ribble Valley was dismissed after the inspector concluded that the proposal would cause significant harm to the safe and efficient operation of the wider highway network contrary to the policy laid out in the Core Strategy. The site was also located as a main location for employment within the borough and this lead to concerns relating to future economic growth. Despite Barrow being a sustainable tier 1 settlement the inspector also found that the there was a zero requirement attached to it due to the significant housing commitments that were present up to March 2014.
The inspector allowed an appeal for 118 dwellings in Sandford, North Somerset. Despite concerns relating to the sustainability of the settlement and that Sandford is a small settlement with only limited facilities, he agreed that the bus services were sufficient and accepted that most people are likely to use cars for journeys to work and in order to reach the larger towns and settlements. Whether or not the authority currently has a 5-year housing land supply was greatly contested throughout the appeal The inspector concluded that North Somerset cannot prove a 5-year supply of housing land supply. In assessing the sustainability and with the absence of a 5-year supply in mind, the appeal was allowed.
An appeal for 90 dwellings in Kineton, Stratford was called in by the Secretary of State due to the emergence of the village’s Neighbourhood Plan and its imminent adoption alongside publication of the Core Strategy Inspector’s Report (now an adopted plan). The SoS attached significant weight to the Kineton Neighbourhood Plan, which was approved at referendum on 1st September 2016. The Neighbourhood Plan did not envisage growth at the appeal site and the SoS considered this an importat factor in the decision making process. Furthermore, the impact of the scheme on the surrounding landscape was deemed unsuitable particularly the abrupt edge to the built development. However, the SoS did not agree that the proposal would have an heritage impact upon the registered Edgehill Battlefield. As concluded by the Inspector, the SoS agreed that the Council were making the right steps towards obtaining a 5YHLS and were in fact, able to demonstrate a housing land supply of 5.3 years. Ultimately, the SoS believed that the conflict with the adopted Neighbourhood Plan and the scheme’s insensitivity to the surrounding landscape and settlement setting, the appeal scheme had to be dismissed.
Inspector D M Young has dismissed an appeal for 18 dwellings in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. Despite Aylesbury Vale District Council openly agreeing that they are unable to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply and that subsequently, their adopted policies are considered out of date, the scheme was rejected due to concerns regarding the effect on the character and appearance of the area. The Inspector concluded that the proposed development would impose a considerable extent of discordant built development upon the landscape contrary to the Framework’s aspirations for planning to recognise the itnrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. The Inspector also has considerations regarding the potential for bats in the empty buildings on the site. For these reasons the appeal was dismissed.
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