“Builders criticised for lobbying against accessible homes”

“Private housebuilders have been accused of “appalling self-interest” over their lobbying against building more accessible homes for disabled residents.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has been objecting to councils across England that wish to fix new targets to increase the number of homes with room for wheelchair users and which could be adaptable.

It has made submissions to at least 17 authorities, from Liverpool to Sevenoaks, arguing that new local planning policies seeking more accessible housing could make it unprofitable to build new homes. The submissions also question whether predictions of an ageing population mean an increased demand for adaptable and accessible housing would be certain.

Charities including Age UK, the Centre for Ageing Better and Disability Rights UK said on Tuesday they were alarmed at its objections to planning policy proposals to make greater disability access mandatory. It said only 7% of homes were classed as accessible and that building to a higher accessibility standard would cost about £500 more.

The HBF represents highly profitable housing firms including Persimmon, which recorded gross profits of £565m in the first six months of this year, during which it built 8,000 new homes – a margin per home of about £70,000.

“Without homes that enable us to live safely and independently for as long as possible, we will see increased and unsustainable pressure on our health and social care services and much-reduced quality of life for people in older age,” the charities told the HBF in an open letter.

Unless it was enshrined in local planning policy, it remains optional under national regulations to incorporate features that make new homes suitable for people with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users. It also remains voluntary to make them fully wheelchair accessible, unless town halls make it mandatory.

In one submission to Broxbourne council in Hertfordshire, the HBF said: “The key issue we have with … policies that add financial burdens on the development industry in this local plan is that they have not been effectively tested.”

Objections have been raised by the HBF where it believes councils have not taken into account the financial impact of the proposals alongside other demands such as the provision of affordable housing, and said that if a council wanted to prioritise disabled access, it should reduce its demands for affordable homes.

An HBF spokesman said: “New homes are already more accessible than those built previously, but not all homebuyers want a home that has been adapted for accessible use.

“If government deemed that all homes should be built to higher accessibility standards it could make it a requirement. Currently levels are set by the planning system, which specifically requires local authorities to provide evidence to support their demands.”

“Their attitude is appalling self-interest,” said Cllr Pam Thomas, a wheelchair user and cabinet member for inclusive and accessible city at Liverpool city council, which has faced objections from the HBF to its plan to make 10% of new homes wheelchair accessible. “If they looked at this properly they would realise there wasn’t a problem with the cost or [extending] the footprint. They need to have a social conscience here.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/28/builders-criticised-for-lobbying-against-accessible-homes

Reuse, repurpose, refurbish: “The rise of the ‘meanwhile space’: how empty properties are finding second lives”

“Hospitals are rarely places of cheer and creativity, but the former Saint-Vincent-de-Paul hospital in Paris’s 14th district is one of the most exciting places on the left bank. Former ambulance bays and car parks now house allotments, a boules court, a makeshift football pitch and an urban campsite, and up to 1,000 visitors a day come to browse its market, eat at its cafes or catch a free live performance.

Renamed Les Grands Voisins, or The Great Neighbours, the site is a magnet for Parisians and tourists alike, its former treatment rooms, A&E building and wards now a hub of social and commercial enterprise. Alongside a hostel providing 600 beds for the homeless are artisan studios, pop-up shops and startups.

It’s like a village, an inclusive space with social areas and job opportunities where different people can interact,” says William Dufourcq, director of Aurore, the charity that runs the homeless shelter. “We were overwhelmed with its success.”

Closed since 2011, the hospital is slated for redevelopment into a new neighbourhood with eco credentials, private and social housing, shops, commercial and public facilities and green space.

Planning, clearance and construction on such a large scale takes time and, rather than leave the 3.4-hectare site empty for years, the developer, Paris Batignolles Aménagement, opened it to local organisations rent-free. The lease was scheduled to end this year, but has been extended until mid-2020 while construction begins on other parts of the site.

Les Grands Voisins is an example of a “meanwhile space”: a disused site temporarily leased or loaned by developers or the public sector to local community groups, arts organisations, start-ups and charities. Calls for making use of such spaces in other crowded urban centres are getting louder. A report published in October by the thinktank Centre for London highlights both the need for and positive possibilities of utilising empty urban sites and how this could transform the landscape of cities around the globe.

“The aim was to show the value ‘meanwhile use’ can add in cities where there is pressure on space,” says Nicolas Bosetti, one of the report researchers. He says public and private operators in Paris are more ambitious than those in London in exploring the use of disused buildings from metro stations to former nightclubs for short-term use as charity and cultural venues.

Other meanwhile spaces in Paris include Exelmans, a former police residence repurposed as a shelter for the homeless and refugees, run by Aurore on a two-year lease, and the Parmentier electricity substation, where the art collective La Générale has operated since 2008.

The substation, which is soon to be redeveloped, was included in Paris Reinvented, an initiative from the mayor’s office currently in its second year. Disused public sites are put up for auction to developers and architects who compete with plans for their redevelopment. “Les Grands Voisins showed how something like this can change an area and help plan future urban projects,” says Marion Waller, adviser to Paris’s deputy mayor for urban planning. “We didn’t want to sell buildings to the highest bidder but to the most innovative solution.”

The idea of loaning empty urban spaces to worthwhile causes is gaining ground elsewhere, with thriving projects in the Danish city of Aarhus and Philadelphia in the US, where it’s called “temporary urbanism”. However, in space-squeezed London, urban sites can remain empty for years, mainly because they have no obvious commercial potential or are waiting for permission to be developed.

The Centre for London found that an estimated 24,400 commercial properties in London are currently empty, with around half having been unused for more than two years. The total available vacant space, 6.5m sq metres, is equivalent to 27 times the footprint of Westfield London, Europe’s largest shopping centre. The majority of such places are owned by local authorities and developers. “Only one of 33 London borough councils publishes a database of vacant property and only one council keeps a list of groups interested in vacant spaces,” says Bosetti.

Bosetti thinks property owners could do more to match available sites with needy groups but says local authorities are afraid of squatters or allowing in destructive elements. “One of the main barriers to meanwhile use is the perception that hoarding a site is safer,” he says. “Often the opposite is true. Opening a site to a community and encouraging interaction with residents usually sees a reduction in antisocial activity.”

Squatting and vandalism are more likely if a building remains empty for too long, so one benefit of temporary tenants is the reduction in security costs. Another, according to Simon Hesketh, director of regeneration with the British developer U+I, is the connection a meanwhile space can forge with the community prior to redevelopment.

“We’ll try to organise events in temporary spaces for the widest cross-section of residents, to get their views and ask what they’d like and what works,” he says. “Not just to smooth the planning process, but because we can learn what we might include in our proposals.” …

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/nov/28/the-rise-of-the-meanwhile-space-how-empty-properties-are-finding-second-lives

Sidmouth flood defences delayed so PegasusLife can gobble up car parks and meadows to store building materials!

“A £750,000 scheme to protect hundreds of town-centre homes and businesses from flooding looks set to be delayed until the building of a controversial 113-home retirement community at Knowle is completed.

The news comes after the district council agreed with developers PegasusLife to allow the use of the lower car park and nearby flower meadow for storage space during construction. It is not yet clear on what basis the council’s car park is being used.

The use of the lower car park would mean phase two of the £759,000 Sidmouth Surface Water Improvement Scheme will have to be redrawn as the proposed lagoon feature and above ground storage area are located adjacent to the car park.

Devon county councillor Stuart Hughes said officers will meet the district council on Thursday (November 29) to discuss options at the site.

Cllr Hughes said: “After all the work that’s gone into getting the funding for the scheme, it will be delayed.

“East Devon District Council [EDDC] has agreed to the storage equipment of PegasusLife for their construction and will not allow county to use this area until after construction is complete.

“Hopefully the officers will find out at the meeting which option they prefer and whether we can achieve the level of flood improvements we desire.

“I do hope that we can find an alternative for the lagoon SUDS system so that the 300 properties and businesses in the town will be protected from future flood events.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said the authority is in discussion with the partners involved.

In January, PegasusLife won an appeal to turn EDDC’s headquarters at Knowle into a large scale 113-home retirement community after its application was rejected in December 2016.

Campaigner Ed Dolphin has slammed the use of the car park as a ‘slap in the face’ and claims it is likely to be a blow to Sidmouth’s economy as it might affect the park and walk service into town.

Mr Dolphin said: “Many people objected to the Knowle development as a blight on the green corridor as visitors entered the town. This move will bring it to the forefront, right down to the roadside.

“Even worse, it seems that the developers need even more space and so they are to be given the flower meadow next to the car park as well, the one that was mown by mistake in the summer and which EDDC promised to care for in the future. The meadow is already waterlogged for the winter and storing building materials and machinery on it will probably ruin it for years.

“I do not see why PegasusLife need this extra space, their site has three large car park areas that could be used for storage at various times in the development.”

He called the park and walk car park in Station Road a ‘valuable asset’ as it reduced the strain on the town centre, was popular in the winter and boosted the town’s independent traders.

PegasusLife has been approached for a comment.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/eddc-pegasuslife-throw-flood-scheme-at-knowle-into-question-1-5798537

CEO of Clinton Devon Estates shows how to be a gamekeeper and poacher at the same time!

It seems that, to CDE CEO Varley it’s a case of “Don’t do as we do, do as we say”:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/11/04/east-budleigh-rare-bats-or-bulldozers-special-council-meeting-7-november-2018/

and the fact that they are happy to cut down vegetation wilky-nilly at Blackhill Quarry to expand the engineering company!

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/09/06/gove-wasting-his-time-wild-woodbury-responds-to-blackhill-quarry-incursion-further-into-aonb/

When it comes to Network Rail it seems things are totally different!

“Twigged: rail chiefs behind the misery of leaves on the line”

Leaves on the line have been causing misery for rail commuters for decades. Far from Network Rail solving it, however, the problem has become worse under the public company that runs the tracks.

A government review that is published today has revealed that delays caused by falling branches and leaves on the line have increased by two thirds since the start of the decade.

Network Rail’s failure to manage vegetation by the side of the 20,000-mile network had the “potential to impact as much on safety and performance as on biodiversity”, the review concluded.

There are about six million trees on Network Rail land, typically a boundary of 10 metres either side of the line, but the review, commissioned by the Department for Transport, said they were often viewed as an “afterthought”.
In 2009-10, there were 11,500 incidents of trees and branches falling on to lines, rising to almost 19,000 in 2017-18. Last year more than 1,750 trains were cancelled by falling trees. Separate figures showed that leaves on the line, which can cause train wheels to slip, caused 3,261 hours of delays last year, a 70 per cent rise in a decade.

John Varley, the chief executive of Clinton Devon Estates who led the review, said that management of vegetation had been “under-resourced for decades”. His team found that “overstretched resource and no dedicated budget results in the maintenance of line-side vegetation being squeezed by other priorities”. Network Rail has spent £40 million a year over the past four years on vegetation management, up from £15 million, but the company still has a huge backlog.

The company’s bosses also face losing their bonuses for over-running engineering work under new plans. The Office of Rail and Road said that senior staff could be required to surrender a proportion of performance-related pay, which totalled more than £52 million last year, to fund improvements.

Network Rail said that it welcomed the review’s findings and that it would provide a plan to implement its recommendations in the next six months.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

New UK report: “Spending cuts breach UK’s human rights obligations”

“Cuts to public services and benefits that disproportionately affect the least well-off, single parents and disabled people put the government in breach of its human rights obligations, a study for the UK equalities watchdog has found.

Echoing the recent findings of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, the study concluded the scale of the cuts and their lopsided impact on the most disadvantaged were a policy choice, rather than inevitable.

“There were a lot of choices, and the government chose to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest,” said the study’s co-author, Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics at King’s College London.

The study examined the impact of spending on the NHS, social care, police, transport, housing and education between 2010 and 2015 on various groups in England, Scotland and Wales. It also looked at the expected impact of spending plans for these sectors to 2021-22, and tax and benefit changes.

On a per-head basis, reductions since 2010 were significantly higher in England – equivalent to about 18% – than in Wales (5.5%) and Scotland (1%), in part because the devolved governments chose to mitigate some effects of the cuts, it said.

The poorest 20% of people in England lost an average of 11% of their incomes as a result of austerity, compared with zero losses for the top fifth of households.

Measured in cash terms, total spending on public services will have fallen by £1,500 per household in England by 2021-22, compared with just under £500 in Wales and £200 in Scotland, according to the study commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/28/spending-cuts-uk-human-rights-obligations-report

Michael Caines to open new restaurant on Exmouth seafront

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/michael-caines-restaurant-confirmed-exmouth-2266592

Let’s hope prices won’t be too high for locals. Bed and breakfast at his nearby Lympstone Manor starts at a cool £250 per person per night – or a reasonable offer of £330 per room on Hotels.com.

Lunch costs £39 for 2 courses, £49 for three courses with a nice dinner for £125 per person – lobster, grouse, passion fruit souffle as an example.

Perhaps the seafront restaurant will use the leftovers!