Rural broadband still a second-class service

Owl says: it will drag down the “doubling of growth” our LEP promised us. But perhaps they mean in urban areas only.

“There has been a marked improvement in home broadband, according to an annual survey by the UK’s communications watchdog Ofcom.

It said that average fixed-line download speeds rose by 28% over the year to 46.2 megabits per second, while uploads gained by 44% to 6.2 Mbps.

It added that the typical household now consumed 190 gigabytes of data a month, in large part due to the use of Netflix and other streamed TV services.

But rural consumers still lag behind.

Ofcom said:

in urban areas, 59% of connections delivered average speeds topping 30 Mbps over the 20:00-22:00 peak-time period – meeting the watchdog’s definition of “superfast” – while 17% were under 10 Mbps.

but in rural areas, only 23% of connections surpassed 30 Mbps over the same hours, while 53% were under 10 Mbps.

The regulator said the primary reasons for the discrepancy were less availability and reduced take-up of cable and fibre services in the countryside.

Later this month, internet service providers will be obliged to quote average peak-time speeds in their adverts and other promotional materials, rather than the “up to” figures that have been more common.”

“Will the Tories’ starter homes initiative ever get off the ground?”

“Q Is anything ever likely to come of the starter homes initiative? It was launched amid much fanfare by George Osborne towards the end of 2014 but there has been little news since, beyond a few stories regarding funding concerns.

Meanwhile, the starter homes newsletter, which was getting increasingly infrequent and was only ever a series of adverts for developments (none of which contained starter homes) seems to have dried up, and the dedicated starter homes website simply links back to a generic new homes website, as it did when it was launched.

I had been holding off buying a house as the promised minimum discount of 20% sounds worth waiting for, but I’m beginning to question whether it was only ever a cynical attempt to woo millennial voters, to be abandoned at the first opportunity.

A Given the dearth of news about the starter homes scheme, it’s tempting to think that it has been quietly shelved – not least because it was an initiative announced when the Tories were in coalition with the Lib Dems.

But in fact, shortly after the current government came to power, it was announced that the original target of 100,000 new starter homes to be built by 2020 would be doubled. So potentially 200,000 first-time buyers aged between 23 and 40 with a household income of £80,000 or less (£90,000 in London) will be able to buy new-build properties at a discount of at least 20% where the discounted price is less than £450,000 in London but £250,000 everywhere else in England. The starter homes will generally be built on underused or unviable brownfield land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes.

Those first-time buyers shouldn’t hold their breath, however, as no starter homes have yet been completed. And at the beginning of last year only 71 sites across England had received grants from the Starter Home Land Fund to enable local authorities to acquire and/or prepare suitable land for starter home developments. So a lot depends on where you live if you want to take advantage of the scheme. First-time buyers in Burnley won’t have to wait much longer as, in partnership with Barnfield Investment Properties, Burnley council started work on the first phase of residential apartments back in February 2017.

If you don’t happen to live in Burnley, finding out about starter home developments in your local area is hard and the new homes website you mention is no help at all. The alternative to waiting for a discounted starter home would be to look into the help-to-buy scheme where you get a loan of up to 20% from government towards the purchase of a new-build property.”

Parish council successfully overturns officer “delegated authority” decision

“A parish council recently enjoyed success in a legal challenge over a purported exercise of delegated authority. Meyric Lewis explains how.

Newton Longville Parish Council has secured a quashing order by consent in their judicial review challenge to a grant of planning permission by Aylesbury Vale District Council under purported exercise of delegated authority.

District Council members resolved to grant planning permission for residential development “delegated to officers… subject to such conditions as are considered appropriate and to include a condition requiring that a reserved matters application be made within 18 months of the date of permission and that any permission arising from that application be implemented within 18 months”.

In exercising their delegated authority, officers took the view that there was insufficient justification for shortening the period for applying for reserved matters and for requiring implementation within 18 months. But that matter was neither raised with members nor addressed in the delegated report published by the Council.

In committee, members had wished to impose these short timeframes because they were concerned about the length of time that the site had remained undeveloped notwithstanding the existence of planning permission granted in 2007 and then renewed in 2011 and so they wished to encourage the building out of the site more swiftly than if longer timeframes were allowed.

Permission to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on the ground that the decision went beyond the terms of the delegated authority because it conflicted with the confined terms of the members’ resolution.

Permission was also granted on a ground concerning the related section 106 agreement and in respect of officers’ failure to provide adequate reasons, as required by under reg. 7 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, in that they did not address the matters relied on as justifying a departure from the terms of the members’ resolution in the delegated report.

The District Council and Interested Party have now signed a consent order submitting to judgment on all grounds.

Significant points to note on the case are that:

The parish council’s grounds distinguished Ouseley J’s decision on implied delegated authority in R (Couves) v. Gravesham BC [2015] EWHC 504 (Admin) because of the specific requirements as to time frames stipulated by members, see Couves at 47

It highlights the importance of officers going back to the terms of any resolution delegating authority to them and ensuring that their proposed action complies with its terms.

Developers and potential challengers will be astute to perform the exercise under (2) to see if a challenge can be mounted.

So there are practical consequences for officers, similar to when they receive an engrossment of a section 106, that they check the terms of what was resolved/agreed before issuing a formal grant of permission.”