UK Housing Numbers, Garden Villages and Westminster Hostility… 

Housing PhotoA boost for housing

The Department for Communities and Local Government has attempted a bold new step in addressing our housing crisis. A new formula to calculate housing targets means that 150 local authorities across the UK have seen their housing targets increase by as much as 35 percent.

 

For the local authorities baffled by the new formula, it comprises of three steps:

 

  1. Looking at household growth projections published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to establish how many new homes are needed to meet rising need, revealing the bare minimum necessary.
  2. Increasing the number of homes needed in less affordable areas, with the aim of driving down house prices. This specifically targets areas where house prices exceed four times average salary.
  3. Setting a cap on the level of increase. If the local authority has an adopted Local Plan that is less than five years old then a 40 percent cap on the increase will be enforced. However, if the authority does not have an adopted plan, then the 40 percent will apply to either the ONS figure or the figure projected in the Council’s draft plan, which ever one is highest.

 

It is the final step which really sets aside this method from what was in place previously. Previous housing need assessments were commissioned by individual authorities and undertaken by external examiners.  The Government considered this allowed too much leeway for authorities seeking to minimise growth, and created a complicated system open to challenge (and indeed authorities frequently were and area challenged).

 

While 150 local authorities saw an increase in housing need, around 140 saw a decline in their housing numbers. Surprisingly, Oxfordshire, one of the least affordable places in the South East of England, and one with the highest projected housing need under current rules, was one of these areas. This is because Oxfordshire authorities will all hit the 40%, detailed in stage 3 of the new process, helped to lower the numbers. If the standardised test goes through unchanged, for example, South Oxfordshire District Council’s numbers reduced from 725-825 per year, to 617 per year, a result that the Council was not expecting but will certainly be very pleased with and may well have a knock-on effect of when they decide to submit their Local Plan for Inspection.

 

 

The new formula now being consulted on allows a lot less room for manoeuvre by individual local authorities. While it is not yet finalised and there remains scope for change, most recent consultations by government have seen few updates on the original drafts. However, in this case it seems likely that the Government will have to allow for some flexibility if areas of acute need such as Oxfordshire are going to be addressed sensibly and overall house building in the UK is to meet the required target.

 

Essex authorities in favour of the garden village model

housing developmentA new development corporation has been proposed in Essex to bring forward plans for three new garden villages. Principal stakeholders Colchester, Tendring, Braintree and Essex County Councils are already working together on plans for three new garden communities in Essex and are now proposing a Development Corporation to give themselves more power to buy land, borrow money and build infrastructure.

 

The plans for a Development Corporation were signed off at a meeting on the 19th September but have yet to be put to Government.  Should it be successful they believe its gives them the best chance of meeting their goal of building up to 45,000 homes in three new garden communities.

 

The authorities are placing emphasis on the delivery of infrastructure, including improving transport links between new and existing villages. They say that this will make the surrounding areas of Essex more accessible and works well in ensuring that sufficient infrastructure is in place to support the extra households in Essex.

 

Despite all the grand words, the public’s response to the councillors’ comments has been hostile. There is a sense of distrust in the community, and residents believe that the Councils are doing this for their own benefit and without consultation. One commented on the importance of ensuring that the housing is affordable, as so often they rarely help people on the lowest incomes to get on the housing ladder.

 

However, despite the opposition, John Spence, Chairman of the North Essex Garden Community Ltd has said that the councils are doing the right thing in working so closely together. He has even suggested that other councils may wish to follow their example for housing delivery.

 

Overall, the initiative shows a willingness of these authorities trying to address the housing crisis and it certainly meets the Duty to Cooperate.  It shows a shift in thinking of local authorities and a push to really reach housing targets.

 

Designed, Sealed, Delivered – Offsite housing manufacturing in LondonSadiq Khan

The ‘Designed, Sealed and Delivered’ report from the Planning Committee of the London Assembly calls on Sadiq Khan, to promote the ‘Off Site Manufacturing’ (OSM) to speed up London’s housing building.

Nicky Gavron, former Labour Deputy Mayor of London and Chair of the Planning Committee, lambasted London’s housing delivery since the 1970s as ‘consistent failure to meet housing demand’. She stated that it is impossible to meet London’s 50,000 home requirements using ‘traditional’ construction methods.

The Planning Committee reports OSM could be the solution and is particularly suitable for London. For example, as OSM units are around20-25% less than ‘traditional’ homes they can be built on land which would previously have been considered unviable such as at Bacton Low Rise in Camden where homes were built very close to the West Coast Main Line.

OSM is of particular value to the growing ‘Build to Rent’ sector as the faster delivery means rent is paid more quickly, and is being utilised by Quintain at Wembley.

The report found the main barriers to OSM are a lack of strategic guidance and no design code resulting a nervousness towards the new idea within notoriously conservative planning departments and with the industry.

The report makes four key recommendations:

  1. Provide strong leadership by promoting awareness and confidence in the sector that OSM can be used to solve London’s housing crisis.
  2. The Mayor should work with designers, manufacturers and housing providers to devise and adopt a ‘Manufactured Housing Design Code’.
  3. Announce a further round of the ‘Innovation Fund’ that is concentrated on OSM as the initial round did not give enough time for bids to be submitted.
  4. Consider the use of Greater London Authority and Transport for London land for homes that can be delivered quickly and produce rent.

The London Assembly’s Planning Committee report offers comprehensive analysis of OSM and how it can be utilised to deliver the housing that London so desperately needs. The strong evidence base demonstrates that the solution is viable in solving the city’s housing crisis and the Committee is confident that the Mayor supports OSM in principle. The report calls for a bolder approach to embracing OSM which if successful, could lead to a major revolution to the UK housebuilding sector.

Will Sadiq listen? We can only hope so.

 

New housing design and high drama in Parliament?  

alok sharmaNew Housing Design was the subject of a piece of high political theatre on Parliament’s first day back from the summer recess in Westminster Hall as a Tory MP sought to hold the new Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP to account.

Neil Parish MP, who represents the rural seat of Tiverton and Honiton, secured the debate after concerns about the quality of new homes in the UK from the design phase onwards. His solution? To include communities from the outset in the design of new homes and neighbourhoods.

This complaint is certainly nothing new but it was perhaps interesting to understand his angle of attack. Neil Parish wants to see developers and house builders held to account through the creation of a new post of New Homes Ombudsman who could at least help new home owners ensure that any issues with the quality of the build of their dream house are addressed quickly.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this call was echoed by members from both sides of the chamber, including Gavin Barwell’s former parliamentary aide Rebecca Pow, and the only chartered planner in the Chamber, Helen Hayes MP. All speakers suggested that high quality developments and homes would be much more likely to get local support, although this is probably difficult to prove.

In response, Alok Sharma hid behind existing and planned policy. He proclaimed that there is a robust framework in place which emphasises the importance of high quality design and encourages engaging with the local community. He went on to say that the Housing White Paper would reinforce this further- but declined to say when or how the White Paper (or the changes to the NPPF) will be taken forward. The debate ended with the Minister concluded by saying that he would consider the role of an ombudsman.

As a debate it certainly won’t be one for the annuals, but Neil Parish has raised an interesting point at a time when Tory back benchers know they need to be listened to.  The Minister won’t be able to bat these calls away and there may be some action on an ombudsman – beating the housing industry always goes down well with voters.

However, it is harder to see what can be done about getting communities involved earlier in the design process. This is something the government would rather leave to local councils. We might also conclude that the government needs to see new homes built now and worry about fixing the issues later. . .

 

Creating a brain beltKeble_College_Chapel_-_Oct_2006

The National Infrastructure Commission, led by Labour Peer Lord Adonis, is planning a 130-mile transport corridor linking Britain’s most renowned Universities.

 

Lord Adonis wants to establish a new economic region, dubbed the Brain Belt, using new railway, which Adonis says should never have been closed in the first place, and road connections. Along the way will be the dynamic economic centres of Milton Keynes, Bedford, Bicester and Buckingham, with Northampton marking the northern boundary and Aylesbury marking the south.

 

A direct link between the two cities will end the need to travel through London, theoretically cutting journey times and promoting the sharing of expertise. The planned train route will be delivered by East West Rail, a new organisation created specifically for this project. The Government believe that this region could become a massive driver for the UK economy and has the ability to compete on the world stage.

 

With new transport links via a fast-road and railway link, comes opportunity for a lot more housing, much of which is already needed. With the supporting infrastructure planned in terms of transport, housing developers need only concentrate on other forms of infrastructure like schools and doctors’ surgeries. The desperate need for housing around Oxford and Cambridge has driven the initial talks of development between the two cities and authorities recognise the severe lack of supply.

 

Other towns along the route between Oxford and Cambridge are relatively built up and economically active, adding to the anticipated success of this ‘new region’. Places within the region are already growing and expanding. The new Didcot garden town at the region’s western end is fast growing.

 

Milton Keynes, which lies in the centre of the new region, is slowly but surely expanding and spreading across the region, becoming a real economic hub.

 

Development of improved transport links now seems almost inevitable. It is now a question of how it will come forward, how it will be funded and when it could happen. These are all questions which are likely to take a long time to answer (and already have). Watch this space.

 

Local Plan Updates

The updates are based on published timetables for each of the authorities. However, there may be some re-assessment in light of the consultation of standardised housing need calculations. Authorities where housing numbers are projected to increase will be rushing to get their plans submitted before the deadline of March 2018, while those where numbers may fall, may delay.

 

 

Chelmsford City Council – Consultation for the pre-submission document is now expected to take place in early 2018, not Autumn 2017 as was previously anticipated. The Council has extended the period of assessing responses to the consultation and allowed more time to engage with other Councils and key partners. The Development Policy Committee will meet on 28 September to discuss the Local Plan and provide an update on the Local Development Scheme timetable. It is not expected that site allocations will be discussed at these meetings.

 

Cherwell District Council – The Council’s Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) and Interim Statement on Open Space, Sport and Recreation have been published and are available to read online here. The Reg 19 consultation period is still running and will close on 10 October.

 

Chiltern and South Bucks District Council (joint plan) – The Councils have only recently, in July, been able to agree the unmet housing need for the district. However, Slough has raised concerns about its ability to meet its own need within its boundaries and has requested that South Bucks take some of the overage. on the ongoing discussions on duty to cooperate are unlikely to be resolved in the time needed to publish a draft Local Plan for consultation in October/November 2017, as previously expected. Therefore, the timetable has been pushed back and delayed.

 

East Herts District Council – The Council has submitted its District Plan to the Secretary of State and is currently awaiting dates for examination hearings. The Examination Webpages can be viewed here.

 

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council – Although it was previously anticipated that the Council would launch its Issues and Options Consultation from September and run it until November, there is no word of it starting just yet. The Council states that it is coming soon.

 

Guildford Borough Council – After being criticised for their initial Reg 19 consultation, the Council ran a second Reg 19 consultation which ended on 24 July. The Council is currently analysing the representations received during the consultation and taking the Local Plan through the Council’s committee process. The Council anticipates that its draft Local Plan will be submitted to the planning inspectorate for Examination in December this year if not before.

 

Medway Council – The Development Options consultation (Reg 18) ended in May this year and the Council’s Planning Service is currently assessing the consultation responses. Medway expect that publication of the draft plan will be at the end of this year or early 2018.

 

Mole Valley District Council – The ‘Future Mole Valley’ consultation closed on 1 September, which hosted 16 events through the district and further 11 meetings organised by Parish Councils, Neighbourhood Forums and Residents’ Associations. A large amount of responses were received, and these are now being analysed by the Planning Team at the Council.

 

Oxford City Council – The Preferred Options consultation ended on 25 August and the Council is currently reviewing the comments received.

 

Sevenoaks District Council – Sevenoaks has been running its Issues and Options Consultation as the first stage of its Local Plan consultation throughout the Summer. The consultation closes at 5pm on 5 October. Link to online consultation here.

 

South Oxfordshire District Council – South Oxfordshire District Council is about to launch its Regulation 19 consultation of its local plan, despite ongoing concern about at least two of its preferred strategic sites. The consultation, which runs for six weeks from October, will see residents asked specific questions. All comments will be sent along with the draft plan to the Inspectorate at the end of the year.

 

However, with the publication of the Standard housing needs test, South Oxfordshire’s housing allocation could be dramatically reduced, so we may see a slowing of progress and reassessment of housing allocations as the council steps into line with the new policy.

 

Surrey Heath Borough Council – Surrey Heath Borough Council are in the process of beginning to write a new Local Plan. However, they have not released a timetable yet.

 

Tandridge District Council – The five public exhibitions for Tandridge District Council’s Garden Village Consultation have concluded. The sites being exhibited were; South Godstone Garden Village, Blindley Heath, Redhill Aerodrome and Land West of Edenbridge. Members of the public still have time to submit their comments online, as the consultation closes on Monday 9 October. Link to online consultation here.

 

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council – The Planning Inspector is currently looking through the submitted Plan and has released a guide to the timeframe he will look at each section. The Inspector started looking at Stage 1, Duty to Cooperate, this month. He will look at Stage 2, Overarching Strategy, in November and will move on to Stages 3 and 4 on undisclosed dates in 2018. Stages 3 and 4 will include discussions around specific sites that have been allocated in the Plan.


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.


Javid Announces Ban on Controversial Leaseholds

Sajid_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 opens today 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.


July Monthly Update

A year on from Brexit

A year on from the infamous referendum we know that “Brexit means Brexit” but precious little else. All that is certain is that discussions started in June and have to finish by March 2019.

Prior to the General Election Theresa May pledged to carry out a ‘hard’ Brexit. Although the Conservatives received a staggering 43 percent of the vote share, she did not receive the mandate she was hoping for, and the Tory majority in Parliament decreased. This has seen the Tory’s cling to power with a £1bn agreement with the DUP.

The agreement has opened up unhealed splits between the right and left of the Conservative Party with an unknown impact on our stance in Brexit negotiations. Theresa May finds herself in quite the predicament, as she is weaker in the Commons, announcing that she will work with all parties, and worries about an internal back bench rebellion run high. Only a minority of MPs are hard Brexiteers, but they are influential, so she has a tight rope to run (not walk) to get a deal that everyone can accept within a very short space of time.

In that vein, David Davis, Secretary of State for exiting the European Union, has begun his discussions with the European Council and first on the agenda was immigration. This is vital for the development and construction industry as up to two thirds of the workforce comes from the EU. Experts have predicted that should no labour deal be secured, costs may increase by around 15 to 20 percent as the labour market tightens.

Import and export of goods is another concern for the development industry. The single market allows for quick, easy and cheap trade of materials with our nearest neighbours but is that trade is undoubtedly going to be restricted if the UK doesn’t bring home a deal – and the signs aren’t looking good so far. Eurocrats insist that being part of the single market is a privilege offered to countries which agree to the free movement of people – given as the number one reason for Brexit.

Of course, there are many more possible implications of Brexit to the industry. Questions remain unanswered and it is unlikely that anything will start to become clearer until the Government is well into their discussions with the European Union. The only thing we have to go on at the moment are rumours, counter rumours and experts predictions of what will come of the Brexit talks. So all in all, not much.

 

Potential changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Steve Quartermain, the Chief Planner of the DCLG has said that the Government will be looking to make the much discussed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework this year.

The department anticipate that a consultation will be launched no later than this summer, and that the department will be working on a revised NPPF towards the back end of this year. Savid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has said that the consultation would look at introducing a different approach to assessing housing requirements.

The department also announced that they want to see a greater use of neighbourhood development orders, which can grant planning permission for specific developments in a neighbourhood area, particularly rural areas. This would give rural communities a say in the developments that will affect them in their neighbourhood.

However, the department has previously announced that it is going to re-look at the NPPF, with little outcome. Watch this space for more updates.

 

A Weak and Wobbly Great Repeal Bill

After much speculation, the Government has now published details of its so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’. It is safe to say that majority of people will have found it a great disappointment.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, bringing an end to Britain’s membership of the European Union. European laws will no longer take precedence over UK laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will be removed. So just how much control are we taking back?

Untangling European law will be a messy affair. In reality, if and when the Bill becomes the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, it simply means that all existing EU legislation will become UK law. This is to ensure the process of leaving the European Union runs as smoothly as possible. Parliament will then decide which European laws it wants to keep, get rid of or amend.

However, this will be easier said than done as the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee warned that EU law is found in many different places in many different forms. The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ must become an Act of Parliament before Britain’s official exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019. Due to the complexity of detangling EU law, the Committee is concerned that the Government will use some of the delegated powers outlined within the Bill.

This means that the Government will potentially be able to amend legislation on everything from workers’ rights to food standards and banking regulations without the agreement of Parliament. Brexit Secretary David Davis has stated any major changes to UK law will be voted on through primary legislation. However, if the Government finds itself running out of time it will not put at risk the entire Brexit process for the sake of Parliamentary scrutiny.

The re-election of Remain supporter Hilary Benn MP as Chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the EU could throw another spanner in the works. Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, has warned the Government that Labour will vote against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ if it does not get a number of concessions including protecting workers’ rights, copying the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law and limiting the use of delegated powers. Starmer has denied that Labour are trying to block Brexit however just a few votes against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could be catastrophic.

As well as a potential collision course with Westminster, Theresa May could face a battle with the devolved administrations who must also agree to the Bill under the Sewel Convention. A joint statement (released mere hours after the Bill was published) from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon states that they cannot support the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ in its present form.

The Government will therefore most likely be forced in to making several concessions Labour is seeking such as retaining the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Opposition parties are likely to threaten to derail the Bill if they believe they are not getting enough control over what laws stay and what laws go. Far from being strong and stable, Theresa May’s government is looking increasingly weak and wobbly.

 

New St Albans Leader

In late May, Councillor Alec Campbell was elected the new Leader of St Albans City and District Council, taking over from Cllr Julian Daly.

Alec Campbell has been on the District Council for St Peter’s ward since 2011. During his time on the Council he has been heavily involved on the Planning Committee, following the same route as former leader Julian Daly. Before being elected as Leader of the Council, he was Portfolio Holder for Planning since 2013 and is considered a strong voice on the Council when it comes to planning proposals.

In order to become leader of the Council he had to give up his position on the Planning Committee, so that the roles do not coincide. This is following a previous backlash that his successor Julian Daly received when he was Chair of the Planning Committee whilst being Leader of the Council. In the back of his mind he will also be hoping to be popular amongst his colleagues and do a good job, this would have influenced his decision.

Cllr Daly admitted that as his work commitments outside of the Council have become more demanding over the past year, and he has decided to relinquish the leadership role. However, he will remain a rank and file member representing Harpenden West.

The Council’s Chief Executive and head of Legal have also announced that they will be stepping down this summer, leaving the council with a potential leadership vacuum at a time when its Local Plan is being challenged by the Inspectorate.

 

Local Plan updates

 

Sevenoaks – The Planning Advisory Committee voted to progress the ‘Issues and Options’ document to Cabinet. The Issues and Options document has not yet been published but it is expected soon, following its approval at Cabinet on 3rd July. Sevenoaks are remaining steadfast in their position that they will not allocate Green Belt land – and as a result will likely be told by the Planning Inspector they need to provide more housing than the numbers they have currently planned for.

Tandridge – Tandridge District Council’s Local Plan: Garden Village Consultation will run from 14 August to 9 October. With 94% of its land in the Green Belt, Tandridge has the highest proportion of Green Belt in the country. The council’s preferred option is a single large site – a new garden village comprising 4,000 houses at Chaldon however Chaldon Village Council have raised their objections.

Guildford – Draft Local Plan currently out for a second Reg 19 consultation. Guildford Borough Council was criticised in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last week for including sites which contain Green Belt land. The leader was critical of the programme which failed to speak to the authority prior to going on air. The consultation only relates to changes to the previous Reg 19 version and runs until 24 July.

Welwyn Hatfield – Local Plan has been submitted for examination by Melvyn Middleton BA(Econ) DipTP DipMgmt MRTPI. The Examination in Public will take place in the Autumn. The authority is is allocating sites for around 12,000 homes over the Plan period.

Aylesbury Vale – Aylesbury Vale District Council has announced that it is delaying the publication of its local plan due to the need for extra time to complete a critical piece of the evidence base.

The plan intends to introduce around 27,000 new homes to the district by 2033.

Work that was scheduled for July will now carry on throughout the whole of the Summer and the submission plan will now be considered by the scrutiny committee on 26 September. This will be followed by a review by the full Council and Cabinet in October. The plan will then be submitted to an independent examination in January, which is two months later than originally anticipated.

Councillor Carole Patemaster, portfolio holder for growth strategy has said, “we believe this short extension is essential to making absolutely sure we have all the necessary evidence to support us in this goal.”

The Aylesbury Vale District Council local plan is thought to be complicated and they Council are prioritising getting every detail correct.

Chelgate will monitor the progress of the local plan, as there may be more delays in its progress.

Basildon Council – The council switched from a cabinet system back to a committee system in June. This was a coup by the combined UKIP and Labour groups putting the largest party into opposition. The first meeting of the Infrastructure Growth and Development Committee, which will oversee the local plan, took place on July 19. The plans to have the draft local plan independently reviewed will progress, with terms of reference being agreed at the next meeting (August 1st). It is clear that the local plan programme of both the pre-submission consultation and examination in public taking place in the autumn will slip, although it will not be until the September meeting until we find out by how much.

The other news from the meeting, which surprisingly did not prompt any particular debate, was that a review of the SHMA to 2034 increased the OAN in Basildon from 16,000 to just about 20,000, in effect a 25 per cent increase.

East Herts – Following the Inspector’s comments, the council undertook a review of the housing numbers, re-assessing the OAN for the HMA, submitting further evidence at the beginning of July. The housing need for EHDC was increased by 2,207 from 16,189 to 18,396. It is not clear how the Inspector will deal with these numbers, whether he will require the council to accommodate them immediately or agree to an early review.

Epping Forest –  The word is that the analysis of the Regulation 18 consultation recorded significant opposition to nearly all the designated sites within the district, especially the urban green spaces. Epping is watching the outcome of the East Herts examination, and will now need to review its housing numbers as the review of the OAN for the HMA includes Epping: its numbers increase by 1,508 from 11,065 to 12,573. It is not yet clear how the council will respond to this change in numbers.

Harlow – Harlow Council revealed a further delay in its local plan, instead of early 2017, it is likely to be early 2018, now largely in line with Epping. It is also in the same boat as Epping and East Herts, being part of the same HMA. Its OAN increase is some 13 per cent, from 6,520 to 7,409. Again, it is not clear how the council will respond to this increase.

Uttlesford – After a delay to ensure the evidence base was sound, Uttlesford launched its Regulation 18 consultation this month. It will conclude on September 4th.

St. Albans –  The council was not successful in its judicial review of the inspector’s findings that it had failed in its duty to cooperate. It is likely to withdraw the local plan and undertake a review of its engagement with its neighbours before announcing what it needs to do to bring forward a new local plan. The district is not likely to lose its record as having the country’s oldest local plan (1994) any time soon.

Waverley –  The examination in public of the local plan concluded earlier this month with the inspector indicating a modest increase of numbers – around 1,300. The public inquiry into Dunsfold has also started and due to run for 12 days from July 18. This will also have an impact upon the local plan as the aerodrome accounts for a large chunk of the housing numbers.

The judicial reviews of the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan by three developers failed, which means the plan can now be adopted following the positive referendum result in May. With the adoption of the new local plan, however, the NP will effectively be out of date as it conformed with the previous local plan.

Thurrock –  Work is forging ahead on traffic modelling now that the preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing Link Road has been announced. This will allow Thurrock Council to progress its local plan, although it does have a fairly unambitious timetable of adoption in 2020.

Central Bedfordshire –  This council delayed its local plan process in anticipation of changing requirement in the Housing White Paper. As these never materialised, the council has now published its local plan for a Regulation 18 consultation this month, running for eight weeks from July 4.


A Weak and Wobbly Great Repeal Bill

 

Theresa MayAfter much speculation, the Government has now published details of its so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’. It is safe to say that majority of people will have found it a great disappointment.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, bringing an end to Britain’s membership of the European Union. European laws will no longer take precedence over UK laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will be removed. So just how much control are we taking back?

Untangling European law will be a messy affair. In reality, if and when the Bill becomes the European Union (Withdrawl) Act, it simply means that all existing EU legislation will become UK law. This is to ensure the process of leaving the European Union runs as smoothly as possible. Parliament will then decide which European laws it wants to keep, get rid of or amend.

However, this will be easier said than done as the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee warned that EU law is found in many different places in many different forms. The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ must become an Act of Parliament before Britain’s official exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019. Due to the complexity of detangling EU law, the Committee is concerned that the Government will use some of the delegated powers outlined within the Bill.

This means that the Government will potentially be able to amend legislation on everything from workers’ rights to food standards and banking regulations without the agreement of Parliament. Brexit Secretary David Davis has stated any major changes to UK law will be voted on through primary legislation. However, if the Government finds itself running out of time it will not put at risk the entire Brexit process for the sake of Parliamentary scrutiny.

The re-election of Remain supporter Hilary Benn MP as Chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the EU could throw another spanner in the works. Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, has warned the Government that Labour will vote against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ if it does not get a number of concessions including protecting workers’ rights, copying the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law and limiting the use of delegated powers. Starmer has denied that Labour are trying to block Brexit however just a few votes against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could be catastrophic.

As well as a potential collision course with Westminster, Theresa May could face a battle with the devolved administrations who must also agree to the Bill under the Sewel Convention. A joint statement (released mere hours after the Bill was published) from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon states that they cannot support the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ in its present form.

The Government will therefore most likely be forced in to making several concessions Labour is seeking such as retaining the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Opposition parties are likely to threaten to derail the Bill if they believe they are not getting enough control over what laws stay and what laws go. Far from being strong and stable, Theresa May’s government is looking increasingly weak and wobbly.


Hertfordshire Council Challenge Fails

 

St Albans council has failed in its bid to overturn an inspector’s view that its local plan was unsound.

The council launched a judicial review to challenge David Hogger’s interim findings that the council had failed to fulfil its duty to cooperate. The case was heard in the High Court last month, and the decision was announced today.

In dismissing St Albans Council’s challenge, the judge, Sir Ross Cranston, said he could detect no legal flaw in the inspector’s decision. He went on to say that Hogger’s conclusions were neither irrational nor unlawful and there was nothing wrong with him “expressing concern” about the soundness of St Albans’ strategic housing plan.

St Albans has yet to comment but it is thought the council will now need to withdraw its local plan and may well need to repeat stages of the local plan process, engaging properly with its neighbours. Nine councils were named as “interested parties” in the case. They were: Dacorum, Hertsmere, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Central Bedfordshire and North Hertfordshire.

St Albans is infamous as having the oldest local plan in England, dating back to 1994. This issue falls now to the new leader of the council, Cllr Alec Campbell, to resolve, following Cllr Julian Daly’s resignation earlier this year.

R on the Application of St Albans City and District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/26/2017


Waverley Plan Under Fire

 

The examination in public (EiP) of Part 1 of the Waverley Local Plan, allocating strategic sites across the borough up to 2032, got off to a rocky start in Farnham last week. Such was local interest in the EiP that two additional rooms had to be provided at the council’s offices to accommodate the numbers.

In April, in preparation for the EiP, the inspector had posed a series of questions to the council. These included questioning the allocation at Dunsfold aerodrome, the lack of allocation around Haslemere, Farnham and Godalming, and the high numbers around Cranleigh. He also questioned Waverley’s decision to defer proposed green belt changes to Part 2 of the plan and whether the whole approach provided certainty to developers and land owners.

The inspector, Jonathan Bore, gave a refreshing introduction to the EiP saying he would give guidance and rulings as he went along, instead of the usual delay at the conclusion of the EiP, which can often be several months. Without too much ceremony, the inspector went straight into the matters at hand by starting with the housing numbers.

He drew gasps of surprise when he bluntly stated to the room, which included the council, residents’ groups including Protect Our Waverley (POW), and CPRE, that no authority is an island and immune to providing much needed additional housing required in this country, singling out the county of Surrey in particular.

Basing the housing need on 2012 household figures when the 2014 figures were available meant the housing numbers were not up to date, and so inadequate. He asked the council to come up with a better starting figure. The inspector was looking for a significant increase, perhaps 25 per cent, to take into account affordability and possibly meeting 50 per cent of the HMA’s shortfall in provision caused by Woking’s inability to meet its OAN.

The local plan EiP has been further complicated by the Secretary of State call-in earlier this spring of Waverley’s decision to approve 1,800 new homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome, which is key strategic site allocated for 2,400 new homes for the borough. The Communities Secretary refused a previous application in 2009 for a 2,600-home development on the site on the grounds of transport impacts and prematurity. It has been announced that the public inquiry for the latest call-in will start on July 18 and run for 12 days. If the approval is overturned, the council will have to find 2,400 new homes elsewhere in the borough, on top of the additional numbers the inspector has already indicated.

The local plan EiP itself will resume again tomorrow (July 4), concluding on Thursday.


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