US luxury property website: “Rental Values Sink in London, Rise in the South West of England”

“The capital might still hold its title as the most expensive rental region across England and Wales—prices average £1,271 (US$1,652) per month—but price growth went negative in the year to June, as values dipped 0.5%.

The South West of England was home to the fastest rising rents in the same time frame, the report said. Prices in this region—which includes rural areas of Cornwall and Devon, along with cities like Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter—rose by 3.4%, bringing the average rental price to £686 (US$891).

“Plymouth is a particular hotspot,” said Martyn Alderton, national lettings director at Your Move, in the report. “As well as stunning countryside and lower cost of living, current multi-million pound developments are creating employment opportunities. …”

Another (Tory) council bites the dust …

“Fresh evidence of the funding crisis facing local government has emerged after a second Tory-run council said it was preparing to cut back services to the bare legal minimum to cope with a cash shortfall that could leave it bankrupt within three years.

East Sussex county council said growing financial pressures and rising demand for social care were forcing it to restrict services to the most vulnerable residents only. Under this “core offer”, many of its services will be severely cut or shut down completely.

It said families and neighbourhood voluntary groups would have to take increasing responsibility for supporting those older people who would no longer qualify for social care support from the council under the new arrangements.

Northamptonshire council plans cuts to all services and workforce
East Sussex’s outline of its strategic approach, revealed in a council paper last month, appears to have been adopted wholesale by Tory-run Northamptonshire county council, which this week adopted an emergency cuts plan to reduce services to skeleton levels as it attempts to close a £70m black hole in its budget during the next few months.

Northamptonshire’s financial collapse has been portrayed by ministers as being down to chronic mismanagement rather than lack of government funding. However, East Sussex is regarded as a stable and well-run council, giving authority and credibility to its shock warnings of the consequences of underfunding.

East Sussex said that without more government funding, stripping services back to a core offer would be the best it could afford to deliver, although it added that without a sea change in local authority finances even this most basic model of municipal service might be unaffordable by 2021. …”

Property tycoon who refuses to house single mothers raises rents by up to 10% immediately after bank rate rise

Landlord Fergus Wilson hikes rent within minutes of interest rate rise

The 69-year-old, one of the UK’s biggest buy-to-let landlords, said in a statement: “Following the interest rate rise I have increased rents in all our properties by £50 per month.

“It is merely passing onto the tenant the additional mortgage charge.

“This increase starts immediately.”

When asked how many homes would be affected he said: “About 400.”

The Bank of England revealed at midday it had voted to boost interest rates to their highest level for more than nine years, from 0.5% to 0.75%.

Within an hour – at 12.50pm – Mr Wilson released a statement to media organisations detailing plans for his rent hike. …

… It comes after Mr Wilson, who runs a portfolio of Kent homes with wife Judith, came under scrutiny for declaring he was evicting mothers last month.”

“Soaring rents rose 60% faster than pay since 2011 – Shelter”

“Rents have risen 60% faster than wages across England since 2011, according to analysis from housing charity Shelter, which claims the crisis is spilling out of cities into “Middle England” towns such as Tunbridge Wells.

The figures show that private rents have risen by 16% since 2011, outpacing average wages which have only risen by 10% over that period. Shelter analysed official data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices.

The charity said the rental crisis was spreading out from London to cities like Cambridge, Bristol and Birmingham, and to “middle England” towns such as Tunbridge Wells and Milton Keynes, where people are increasingly unable to afford soaring rents while their wages lag behind. …”

The Times: “The ruinous planning policy MPs don’t want you to know about”

If The Times is worried, everyone should be worried!

“To save you the eye strain, or possibly to sublimate some Freudian desire for self-flagellation, I have waded through all 73 pages of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Slipped out last week under cover of Brexit, the document that will shape the look of England for years to come was duly awarded minimal coverage by the press.

I partly blame its clunky title. If the NPPF were called “Why a ghastly housing estate will soon be built just outside your favourite village” it would get a lot more attention. Still, at least the name of the minister responsible for it — the housing and communities secretary, James Brokenshire — has an ominous ring.

The trouble with having a “national plan” for anything, as Russia found in the 1930s, is that what seem like good ideas to centralised bureaucrats tend to collide with overlooked local realities to produce unforeseen catastrophes. I fear that’s the case with the NPPF, particularly since it covers everything from new housing and the future of town centres to protecting the environment, dealing with floods, promoting sustainable transport, rolling out broadband and preserving historic buildings.

Take its emphasis on “good design”. On paper, that’s admirable. Theoretically it gives local councils the power to reject those soulless estates of identical, boxy homes beloved of the big developers. The aim is to ensure that all new developments excite the eye, please their residents and enhance their environments as much as, say, Ralph Erskine’s celebrated Byker Wall in Newcastle. That would be a fine aspiration if local councils had the experts, time, resources and money to match what any big housing developer can deploy in a planning battle.

Unfortunately, thanks to central government’s ruinous cuts to their budgets, they don’t. Some, such as almost bankrupt Northamptonshire, can hardly run their bin collections let alone turn themselves into architectural watchdogs. For every Byker Wall built in the future, there are still likely to be a hundred soulless “off-the-peg” estates nodded through by councillors too helpless to resist.

And there’s a new threat. From November local authorities will have to comply with a “housing delivery test”. It will penalise those that fail to conjure up an agreed number of new homes in their area. Again the intentions are good: to bridge the enormous gap between the number of new homes given planning permission by councils and the number actually built by the developers. Councils will have to police much more thoroughly the progress of approved building applications — another strain on their scant resources.

The real worry, though, is that councils will panic because they aren’t meeting the set targets and will nod through schemes of scant architectural and social merit, repeating the appalling mistakes made in the 1950s and 1960s. No wonder that the Campaign to Protect Rural England has called the combined effect of the new planning rulebook and the housing delivery test “a speculative developers’ charter” that will result in councils and communities having “little control over the location and type of developments that take place”.

On town centres too, the NPPF seems to be living in a bygone age. The big problem in the next ten years won’t be banning ugly shopfronts or propping up small independent butchers and bookshops, or even halting the march of out-of-town shopping malls. It will be ensuring that there are any shops left, as the relentless shift to online retail gathers pace. As town centres fast become boarded-up wastelands, local authorities need the power (and the money) to make much more imaginative interventions. Yet the NPPF has nothing to say about this.

I find its paragraphs about protecting England’s green belts a bit weaselly too. These sacrosanct meadows are apparently safe from development except where local authorities have “exhausted all other reasonable options”. OK, but who decides what “exhausted” and “reasonable” mean? And there’s another glaring loophole. When it comes to brownfield sites inside green belt areas, it’s apparently a free-for-all.

There’s much that is sensible in the NPPF, of course. If I were an ancient woodland, for instance, I would feel better protected from rape by chainsaw. Nevertheless, my overall impression is that the bureaucrats who penned this well-meaning document imagine that England is still a country of communities safeguarded by strong, efficient local authorities. The sad truth is that government ministers have spent the past eight years paying lip service to “localism” while running down the democratic institutions that preserve it. Brokenshire’s legacy could well be broken shires.”

Source: Times (pay wall)