“An open letter on Permitted Development Rights”

This open letter on permitted development rights was sent to the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 21 January 2019 and published on 28 January 2019.

“Dear Secretary of State,

Re: An open letter on Permitted Development Rights

Latest Shelter research shows that in England today, there are more than 270,000 people without a home. At the heart of the reasons for this is the simple fact that for a generation we have failed to build the homes the country needs.

In addressing this, however, it is important to think not only about the number but also the type of homes we build and where they need to be built. In particular, there is a pressing need to ensure that the homes we build are genuinely affordable. Last year we delivered just 6,463 social rent homes despite having more than 1.2 million households on council house waiting lists. These statistics begin to underline the scale of the crisis we face and the level of ambition we need to resolve it.

As well as increasing the focus on affordability, new housing development should also provide homes that are high quality, well designed, and served by the necessary community infrastructure.

These ambitions are currently in jeopardy, because of national policies that enable developers to avoid making such vital contributions. One of the most significant of these is permitted development rights allowing offices to convert to residential homes without the need for planning permission.

Since 2013, developers have had a national right to convert office space into residential homes, a right they have wholly embraced with nearly seven per cent of new homes provided in this way in the last three years. Unfortunately, because they are exempt from the full local planning process, they come forward with minimal scrutiny and outside of local authority control.

These homes are also delivered without making any contribution towards affordable housing, which other forms of developments are required to do. This means that we are losing out on thousands of affordable homes which would be delivered if these homes went through the planning system.

Separate research by both the LGA and Shelter has shown the scale of this loss. Both organisations have calculated that more than 10,000 affordable homes have potentially been lost in the last three years.

The result of this is that thousands of families remain in temporary accommodation and on council house waiting lists for years, despite levels of housebuilding rising – underlining that we need to think more about what we build as well as how many homes we build.

Permitted development rights have caused extensive problems. Therefore, we consider that the current proposals to allow for demolition of existing buildings and replacement with new residential ones, and for upwards extensions to existing buildings for new homes through a permitted development right, should not be pursued.

We call on the government to instead focus on delivering the affordable, high quality homes that people want and need through the local planning process. This would support the government’s own ambitions to improve the quality of homes and places, as outlined in the terms of reference of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ commission launched in November.

We also consider that there should be an independent review of the wide-ranging impacts of permitted development rights allowing change of use into residential homes.”

Yours sincerely
18 individuals or organisations – see below for link:


Budleigh Salterton and Tesco … accelerating high street decline

Tesco has announced it is cutting out butchers, fishmongers, bakeries and delis from its stores.

Spare a thought then for the poor traders of Budleigh Salterton High Street.
The Budleigh Salterton Journal of 23rd January reports that a variation of an approved planning application has been submitted to EDDC by Tesco because “a review has concluded that a smaller store could work better in this site than that of the approved plan”

Many inhabitants of the town are fearful, as before in 2014, that its wonderful delicatessens, butcher, greengrocer, florist, stationers and its 2 invaluable general stores would be put at risk of surviving with the opening of a Tesco. Locals had all dared to hope that the 5 years that this project had been gestating meant that it was no longer viable.

This move just doesn’t make sense when as Owl of 28th January highlights:

“TESCO is set to axe 15,000 jobs as part of £1.5bn cost-saving measure that will see fish, meat and deli counters across the country close down. Bakeries will also be overhauled, with the supermarket giant now ordering staff to use pre-frozen dough instead of making it on site. ..”

Many in Budleigh Salterton will not be happy to contribute to (last year’s) CEO Dave Lewis’ £4.87million pay packet and the chief executive’s short-term bonus of £2.28million on top of his base salary of £1.25million.

AND on top of that see the decimation of Budleigh Salterton’s High Street.

Greendale owner 30th most influential Devonian

Our old friend Karime Hassan (CEO Exeter City Council) is in 19th place, Steve Hindley (Chair,Local Enterprise Partnership) is 18th, Alison Hernandez (Police and Crime Commissioner) in 12th place, John Varley (CEO, Clinton Devon Estates) in 9th place, with Devon County Council’s CEO Phil Norey in 2nd place and DCC Leader John Hart in first place.

“30. Rowan Carter, Director Greendale Group

The company behind the Greendale Farm Shop and Waterdance fishing fleet, incorporates a diverse range of businesses. From its beginning as a farming enterprise set up by the Carter family more than 150 years ago, the group includes the farm shop, Waterdance Fishing, Greendale Living, Greendale Business Park, Greendale Haulage, Exmouth Marina and Greendale Leisure. Last year, the Carter family unveiled major expansion plans for the Greendale Farm Shop to create 30 jobs and provide ‘significant benefits’ to East Devon.

The family has also made a £5million commission of two new fishing boats, including the largest beam trawler to be launched under the British flag in over 20 years. The company also wants to build more agricultural buildings and intends to acquire more farmland in order to expand its farming business.”


Will Swire have anything to auction at this year’s Tory fundraising ball?

The annual Tory Black and White Ball is in trouble:

“Tory insiders have revealed that the annual Black and White fundraiser (it used to be called a ‘ball’, it’s now a mere ‘party’) is struggling to attract interest from donors and activists.

Less than a fortnight to go, mimimum-priced £500 tickets are not shifting, PoliticsHome reports.


”Most donors now see the Prime Minister as toxic so prefer the private events, not the event that ends up on the front page of Mail Online,” one donor says.

Intriguingly, leadership contenders are now inviting donors for private dinners instead. An activist adds: “The obscene ticket prices go directly into CCHQ’s coffers and then local associations have to beg for that money back during elections.”

Source: The Waugh Zone, Huffington Post

So, will its usual auctioneer of very expensive goodies, Hugo Swire, have anything to flog?



And why, oh why wasn’t he employed to flog off the contents of The Knowle!

Information Commissioner wants Freedom of Information Act extended to outsourced companies

“The Information Commissioner has called for the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) to be updated to include organisations providing a public function.

In a report to Parliament, ‘Outsourcing Oversight? The case for reforming access to information law’, Elizabeth Denham said: “In the modern age, public services are delivered in many ways by many organisations. Yet not all of these organisations are subject to access to information laws.

“Maintaining accountable and transparent services is a challenge because the current regime does not always extend beyond public authorities and, when it does, it is complicated. The laws are no longer fit for purpose.”

She added: “Urgent action is required because progress has been too slow. It is now time to act. This report sets out solutions that can extend the law to make it fit for the modern age.”

Denham said the main aim her report was to make an evidence-based case to extend the reach of FOIA and the EIR “to enable greater transparency and accountability in modern public services, which in turn improves services”.
The Commissioner said in the report that she would welcome a Parliamentary Inquiry via a select committee into the issues raised. The ICO has submitted the report to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and PACAC for their consideration. …”


More on Swire’s business pal Lord Barker

“… The lifting of sanctions [by Donald Trump yesterday, on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska – see post below] comes after a lobbying campaign led by Lord Gregory Barker, a former UK energy minister and now chairman of En+.

Lord Barker reportedly used lobbyists with ties to the Trump administration, law firms and public relations experts to make the argument Mr Deripaska was committed to giving up control of his companies.

Mr Deripaska is one of Russia’s wealthiest men. He amassed his fortune under Mr Putin and has bought assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin’s interests.

US diplomatic cables from 2006 described him as “among the two or three oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad”.

The 50-year-old achieved a deal of fame in the UK in 2008 when the then-business secretary, Lord Mandelson, and shadow chancellor George Osborne found themselves aboard his yacht off the coast of Corfu last summer.”


Swire, eagle and sham … an unfortunate choice of company name …

Swire has a dormant company (Eaglesham Investments) owned 50/50 with his friend Lord Barker, a former energy minister. It was originally described as being a vehicle for “emerging markets” but is now described as being for “renewable energy”.

Given recent developments involving Lord Barker, he and Swire pmight want to consider a change of name for the company – having an association with the eagle (symbol of the Russian Federation) and “sham” (dictionary: “something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax” (online distionary.com) might not be such good PR!

Lord Barker is Chair of a UK-based Russian company set up by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Owl reported the links between Deripaska and Barker recently:

“… Among the UK-based companies that have aroused the interest of congressional investigators is EN+, the energy company owned by Oleg Deripaska and chaired by Tory peer Lord Barker of Battle.

Mr Deripaska, a close ally of Mr Putin, is already under investigation from congressional committees over allegations, which the oligarch denies, that he was involved in efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.

Recent documents released by the FBI revealed Mr Deripaska loaned $10 million to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, who has been charged with fraud and money-laundering. Mr Deripaska is one of several Russian oligarchs who were hit with U.S. sanctions in April.

Now US investigators say they are interested in apparent links between British-based companies owned by Russian oligarchs and Russian intelligence agencies.

Their interest in EN+ comes after FBI officers identified Evgeny Fokin, who is the company’s Director of International Cooperation, as formerly being the SVR’s declared liaison officer with U.S. intelligence agencies in Washington DC in the mid-1990s.

Apart from being employed by EN+, Mr Fokin, who is said to be a close ally of Mr Deripaska, has previously been employed by Basic Element, another company owned by Mr Deripaska.

“There is particular concern in Congress about the links between Russian businesses owned by oligarchs and the Russian intelligence agencies,” a U.S. official told the Daily Telegraph.

“There is concern about the large numbers of former Russian intelligence officers who now hold senior positions in major Russian businesses.

“There are growing suspicions in Congress that the distinction between the Russian state and businesses owned by Putin’s supporters may be on paper only.”

Lord Barker, a former energy minister under David Cameron, provoked criticism from MPs earlier this year after he helped EN+ raise £1 billion on the London Stock Exchange, money that was then used to pay off Russian banks subject to U.S. sanctions.”


Mr Deripaska hit the headlines again this weekend when Donald Trump made good on his promise to make Mr Deripaska’s business life in the USA much easier as reported here:

“President Donald Trump officially lifted sanctions against Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on Sunday afternoon. At least one reporter is wondering if it’s because Trump is hoping the news will slip through the cracks of the news cycle.

As Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was taking the stage in Oakland, California to formally announce her presidential campaign, the news was released Trump made Deripaska’s life easier.

“Ukraine-/Russia-related Designations Removals,” reads the headline on the Treasury Department’s sanctions site.

“The timing of this (Sunday evening) is not a coincidence,” said behavioral scientist and ArcDigi associate editor Caroline Orr. “This is a huge gift to Putin and his cronies, and the Trump administration is hoping this will slip through the cracks. Don’t let that happen.”…


Will Tesco cuts revitalise high streets? Almost certainly not

“TESCO is set to axe 15,000 jobs as part of £1.5bn cost-saving measure that will see fish, meat and deli counters across the country close down.

Bakeries will also be overhauled, with the supermarket giant now ordering staff to use pre-frozen dough instead of making it on site. …”


After putting so many butchers, fishmongers, bakeries and delis out of business, will this revitalise high streets?

Owl thinks not. The killer combination of high business rates, increased town centre parking charges and poorer public transport makes it uneconomic for small businesses to return to high streets.

Big business wins over public services with corporation tax black hole

“The government’s planned cuts to corporation tax look set to cost the public purse billions more in lost revenue than previously thought, according to new analysis.

The tax rate on company profits is slated to be cut from its current level of 19% to just 17% by the end of the decade. But even before the planned cuts, the UK already had one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the developed world.

An analysis based on HMRC data suggests that the loss of revenue from the planned cuts, initiated by former chancellor George Osborne but supported by incumbent Philip Hammond, could add up to more than £6bn.

HMRC recently raised its estimate for the amount a 1 percentage point increase in corporation tax could bring in for the Treasury from £2.8bn to £3.1bn per year – meaning the plan to cut taxes by 2p in the £1 could cost about £6.2bn.

Hammond confirmed in the autumn that he would go ahead with Osborne’s promises, despite the need to find £20bn a year more for the NHS by 2023-24.

There has been mounting opposition to the planned tax cuts, particularly as Britain’s public finances could come under huge strain from a disorderly Brexit.

Rupert Harrison, a former adviser to Osborne who now works at City investment firm BlackRock, said last week on Twitter that it was “hard to see why further cuts to corporation tax are good value,” while Labour seized on his comments.

Peter Dowd, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Even Osborne’s former adviser knows that further cuts to corporation tax are a bad use of public funds. Philip Hammond should cancel his plans for more corporate giveaways and invest in our public services.” …”


Government finally admits there is a teacher crisis

“Cash incentives and a better work-life balance are part of a new attempt to solve England’s teacher shortage.

Plans published on Monday by ministers will offer some young secondary teachers £5,000 in their third and fifth years in the classroom – on top of initial £20,000 training bursaries.

Young teachers could also have some protected time for extra training.
Head teachers’ unions said more help for young recruits was essential to tackle the crisis in teacher numbers.

Currently, teachers in subjects with shortages, such as physics, chemistry, and languages, can receive a bursary of up to £26,000, but there are no further payments.

The so-called “early career payment” scheme, which rewards teachers for staying in the classroom, has already been trialled for maths teachers.
Labour has criticised the plan, saying the plan will not reverse “six consecutive years” of missed teacher recruitment targets.

What’s the problem?

By 2025 the number of secondary school pupils in England will have gone up by 15%.

For several years England has had an unfolding teacher crisis, with too few starting to train and too many leaving.

In 2018/19 the number starting training as secondary school teachers was 17% below target.

Subjects such as physics, chemistry and computing face the largest shortfalls.

This has led to a growing proportion of lessons in some secondary schools being taught by teachers who are not specialists.

And there has been growing concern that young teachers are leaving because they feel overworked, burnt out and disillusioned.

Of those that started in 2012, a third were not teaching five years later. …”