August Monthly Update

 

michael goveGove announces that the UK will ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK roads by 2040, in a bid to meet challenging emissions targets.

Gove explained that the increasing number of petrol and diesel cars on our roads is having a damaging effect on people’s health, the environment and the UK’s ability to reach its climate change target.

The UK is not the first country to come up with this initiative. Gove’s announcement follows a very similar one made by Nicolas Hulot, the Environment Minister for France. In his speech, he made the same pledge that France would ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. However, France made the announcement to remain in line with EU policy and as part of a wider plan.

By contrast, Gove’s announcement is, ironically, EU policy dressed up as one of his own initiatives. It appears to have been slipped into the Government’s Clean Air plan at the last minute, only making the introduction of the detailed plan but headlining the associated press release.

Other countries, like the Netherlands and Norway have made similar promises, although they aim to enforce the ban much sooner. This pattern shows a global shift in the way the protection of the environment is being tackled.

Gove said that it would be the responsibility of Local Government as they know and understand what is needed in each individual city in order to successfully implement the strategy. It will be the role of the national Government to offer advice and the monetary funds for them to carry it out.

The policy will mean that National Grid will need to find another 30 gigawatts of capacity at peak times over and above the existing 61-gigawatt demand.  Of course, it is worth noting that electric cars are only as clean as the energy supplier and many back -up generators run on … diesel. If the energy supplier uses dirty fuel, then there won’t be such a great impact on a reduction in air pollution, it will merely mean that the air pollution is coming from a different place.

The provision of charging stations for cars will also need to be considered. Looking into the future, each household will need a charging station. This is possible in new developments but perhaps harder to retrofit to existing homes, particularly in inner cities.  The impact won’t only fall on residential buildings, it will also be important when developing town centres, and train stations, and car parks. It will also be particularly important when thinking about surrounding infrastructure, and building on surrounding roads.

 

Sajid Javid to crack down on leasehold abusesSajid_Javid_(cropped)

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced today radical new proposals to crack down on the use of leaseholds in new-build homes.

Leaseholds have previously been used for flats with shared communal areas however the number of houses sold as leaseholds has increased significantly in recent years. In many of these cases, there are clauses within the leaseholds that specify significant increases in ‘ground rent’ charges. A common example is for the ground rent to double every ten years. This has led to some leaseholders being left with homes that are almost impossible to sell.

In other instances, the freehold has been sold onto a third party, with well-publicised issues when leaseholders seek to buy the freehold only to find the cost has shot up or find that even making changes to their homes ends up costing significant sums.

Sajid Javid has announced the government will crack down on this practice, potentially even banning leaseholds on all new houses. The government’s proposals include:

A ban on all leaseholds on new-build homes;

  • Restricting ground rent increases to as low as zero;
  • Closing ‘legal loopholes’ such as leaseholders potentially being subject to possession orders;
  • Help to Buy equity loans will only be able to be used to support new build homes ‘on acceptable terms’

These proposals will be subject to an eight-week consultation which need to update this with correct date and can be viewed here.

Sir Peter Bottomley, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold Reform and Conservative MP for Worthing West, welcomed the announcement but called for the proposals to be applied retrospectively to those who currently have leasehold properties. The announcement has also been well-received by the press, however questions are beginning to be asked about how existing leaseholders will be affected by the new legislation.

The plans are likely to be popular with both Labour and Conservative voters so may be passed with relative ease – one of many quick wins Theresa May will be desperate for. However, there could be significant implications for developers. At present, there is little detail on how the new proposals would be enforced and how the government will use the feedback it receives from the consultation. Chelgate will closely monitor this policy for further developments.

 

Gove on delivering a ‘Green Brexit’PR for large scale solar applications

The Green Brexit announced by Michael Gove was a stark reminder of his ambitions. Despite much of the policy being EU policy, Gove’s rhetoric was distinctly anti-EU as he said ‘nowhere more so than in the area of environmental policy’ would the UK have more opportunity to decide its own policy.

For developers, these changes will have a significant impact as the Government is thinking of new ways to protect the environment. The European Union introduced a huge number of laws and regulations that have helped protect our environment, and the UK Government seems keen to uphold these after our exit from the Union. However, Gove indicated that there are now things the Government wishes to build upon and improve. Something the UK Government did not have the freedom to do as a member of the EU, as he says “the EU has not always been a force for good environmentally”. This rhetoric stems from his views as a Brexit supporter, and by undermining the current environment policies we have in place, he is cementing his reputation, putting him in good stead with his Brexiteer colleagues and many farming stakeholders.

Planting trees is a key priority for Gove, showing the Government’s commitment to meet their quota of planting eleven million more trees. They will provide support for woodland creation and tree planting, because trees are an investment for future generations. They are a carbon sink, a way to manage flood risk and a habitat for precious species. Gove explains that the Government will support land owners and cultivators who seek to protect these values and understand the importance of maintaining current landscape and building upon what is already there.

Gove says that it is “important that Government and the private sector work together” to save, protect and maintain the environment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that local authorities will be more willing to work with developers on the issue of the environment. However, it does mean that certain factors like the provision of trees in a planning application would be seen as a benefit to council stakeholders.

Overall, Gove’s speech on ensuring the Government carries out a ‘Green Brexit” was filled with big ambitions for the future of the environment. For developers, this will mean abiding by new or updated regulations. However, changes definitely won’t happen immediately and will take some time to come into effect. They will be fed through the legal system in such a way that the industry will slowly adapt to them. European Union regulations will more than likely stay in place, and the Government will add to them.

Chelgate will monitor any updates from DEFRA and there will be more to follow in September when Parliament returns from recess.

 

Housing PhotoGovernment review could potentially see the end of Help to Buy

The Government is reviewing its current Help to Buy scheme, sparking belief that it may end before it is scheduled to in 2021. The Government has tried to ease concern over its early ending, hinting at a taper, although they admit that they have not ruled out a quick halt to the scheme.

DCLG has confirmed it is considering the future of Help to Buy, a scheme launched by George Osborne in 2015.  The scheme has seen thousands of house buyers get on the housing ladder for the first time and is condiered to have been a factor in keeping house building going during the crash since 2008.

Now DCLG has asked London School of Economics to review the scheme to see if it is still providing value for money in the belief that it is too expensive and wide ranging in its current form.

Developers and housebuilders view the scheme positively and believe it has played a key role in boosting the delivery of new homes, playing a role in the sales of 15% of new build homes in recent years. However, critics, including Shelter, say that the scheme has artificially raised house prices around the county, preventing a much needed house price adjustment.

Developers will be hoping that the independent review will highlight to the Government the important role Help to Buy has played and will continue to play in delivering new homes, particularly in the midst of the current housing climate. As a minimum they will want to see the scheme tapered off to prevent a potential cliff edge.

 

Local Plan updates

Oxford City Council – The City Council is currently in the midst of its preferred option consultation on their Local Plan, which will close on 25 August. The Council has already acknowledged it will not be able to meet its own housing needs within its administrative borders and is working with neighbouring Oxfordshire authorities to place the remaining 12,000 homes needed.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council – After the Local Plan consultation closed, the planning inspector, Melvyn Middleton, has responded with a detailed set of questions. The Inspector’s questions have focussed on why the authority has failed to meet its full objectively assessed need within its borders and how the authority has conducted its Duty to Co-operate. The first hearing session is scheduled for 21 September.

Tandridge District Council – Reg 19 consultation starts on 14 August and ends 9 October. There are five strategic sites being proposed to take the bulk of the Tandridge’s housing allocation; South Godstone, Blindley Heath, Edenbridge, Redhill Aerodrome and Chaldon. The consultation is being used to help decide which one is put forward as a garden village. Each site has a public exhibition which will run throughout one afternoon across this period of time. The dates and times of these exhibitions can be found here.

Cherwell District Council – Reg 19 consultation has been extended until 10 October to provide a longer period for public responses to be received.

Chelmsford City Council – The preferred options consultation ended in May this year and the council is currently in reviewing the feedback, which will continue throughout the summer. The final draft of the local plan will be released between September and October this year.

East Herts District Council – The Department for Work and Pensions has appointed Christine Thorby as the Inspector to carry out an independent examination of the East Herts District Plan. The draft timetable for the Examination hearing sessions has been released, with the first session commencing on 3 October.

Surrey Heath – Following a call for sites in early 2017, SHBC is gearing up its local plan process to update the Core Strategy which was adopted in 2012.

Guildford Borough Council – The Reg 19 consultation closed on 24 July and the Council is now considering all of the representations. Their Consultation Statement will be published later this year and the comments will be available to the Inspector who examines the plan. The Council estimate that the Inspector will hold a pre-examination meeting around February 2018 and the Examination in Public will be held between April and July 2018.

Elmbridge Borough Council – Due to the scale of responses the Council received from the Strategic Options Consultation, which closed in February this year, the deadlines that the Council had previously set have been pushed back significantly. It is estimated that a minimum of six months will be required to prepare the required evidence base. Therefore, consultation on a more detailed Preferred Approach Local Plan is unlikely until early 2018.

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council – We are awaiting the Council’s publication of the Local Plan, which is to be expected around September time.

Mole Valley District Council – The Council is about to start work on its next Local Plan, ‘Future Mole Valley’. The consultation has already commenced, and will be running until 1 September. Details of public exhibitions can be found here.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council – After the Regulation 18 consultation in 2016, a further consultation is programmed for early 2018 when further comments can be made on the draft Plan developed from this consultation.

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