“Government £200m brownfields building fund falls flat, as number of new homes declines”

A £200million Government fund to pay for more homes on industrial land has resulted in the opposite effect, with fewer homes built on brownfield areas than before it was set up.

Official Government’s land use change statistics show that the proportion of new homes registered on previously developed land has fallen by 4 percentage points since 2014, when the fund was set up.

Yet over the same period the number of new residential addresses on supposedly heavily protected Green Belt land has increased by the same proportion – 4 per cent.

Separately, over the same period – 2013/14 to 2016/17 – the proportion of new residential addresses on the protected Green Belt land increased from 3 per cent to 4 per cent of all new homes built.

The Government’s record on building on brownfield sites was attacked by Labour which said minister’s commitment to building on brownfield sites was “hot air”.

The £200million fund was announced by Brandon Lewis, the current Tory party chairman and then then-Housing minister, in August 2014 so “councils across the country can now team up with developers and bid for government assistance to build thousands of new homes on previously-developed land”.

Mr Lewis published bidding criteria to create 10 housing zones on brownfield land, each able to deliver up to 2,000 new homes each.

The new zones, which will be outside London, should be large enough to deliver 750 to 2,000 properties and would help councils boost housebuilding on previously-developed land while safeguading the countryside, he said.

However John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said the figures showed that the Government had gone backwards on its pledge to encourage more building on brownfield sites.

He said: “If hot air built homes then Ministers would have fixed our housing crisis. Despite big promises to get building on brownfield land, official Government figures show we’ve gone backwards.

“It’s clear that Ministers are failing to get good value-for-money for taxpayers.

“By giving developers a free rein to do what they want, the Government is failing [to] get homes for local people built where they are needed.”

Matt Thomson, Head of Planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, backed the findings, saying that “promises to build the homes the nation needs while protecting the countryside are not being carried through.

“Our analysis of the government’s new ‘planning rulebook’ suggests that despite a lot of warm words current trends will continue, to the detriment of both town and country.

The government must stick to its guns and end this constant cycle of broken promises.

“They need to rein back greenfield development where suitable brownfield land is available, and discourage growth where it cannot happen without compromising their own policies intended to manage sprawl and protect open land.

Last week the CPRE warned that green belt was disappearing at an “alarming rate” with the equivalent of 5,000 football pitches lost because of a relaxation of planning laws.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Gentrification and brownfield New York style

6pm today, BBC 2:

“Ade heads to Harlem and meets residents who are benefiting and suffering at the hands of gentrification. Ant is at Hudson Yards on the west side of Manhattan where an entirely new district is being built on top of a functioning rail depot.”

Greenfield to concrete

England is losing an area the size of Glasgow every year because of a record number of developments on greenfield land.

Forests, fields and parks are disappearing under concrete at the fastest rate for a quarter of a century, an investigation by The Times has found.

“On average, 170 sq km of greenfield land were built on every year from 2013 to 2016 after the government relaxed planning rules to ease the housing shortage.

The rate of development is more than two-and-a-half times the 25-year average and five times higher than the rate between 2006 and 2011.

If the construction of new homes, shops and infrastructure continues at the present pace, an area the size of Greater London will have been built on by 2028.

Greenfield land — not to be confused with green belt — refers to “previously undeveloped land” that includes farmland, gardens, forests and “grassed areas” in towns and cities.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said that the government figures were “startling”. Graeme Willis, head of rural campaigns, said: “To use land more sustainably, we must start using it more efficiently. This rate of loss cannot be endured without losing huge swathes of our countryside. It is a non-renewable resource. Once built on, [it] is lost forever.”

The government changed the planning laws in 2012 to increase the rate of building with “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which required local authorities to allocate land for development.

“What you saw after 2012 was local authorities getting their houses in order in terms of land supply,” Duncan Hartley, director of planning at Rural Solutions, a property consultancy, said. “They have been allocating sites for development and those sites have had to be substantial to meet housing needs.” The single biggest use for greenfield sites once developed was housing at 17 per cent. The other significant uses were for industrial sites, transport infrastructure, offices and shops.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing said: “We will be working to put the environment at the heart of planning, making sure any new development improves the environment locally and nationally, while contributing to the wider commitment to build 300,000 homes a year.”

From 1989 to 2011, most developments were on brownfield sites.

From 2013-16, the pendulum swung the other way, with greenfield sites supplying 54 per cent of the land.”

Source The Times, paywall

Planners not to blame for housing crisis says Telegraph

FINALLY planners are NOT to blame for the housing crisis, building rates are not increasing substantially, 50% of permissions are not being built but land banked, subsidies aren’t having much impact, Shelter says land should be compulsorily purchased at “current value” by councils to build council housing, developers drag out S106 negotiations so that councils get into trouble for not getting enough houses built, housebuilders exist to maximise profits not units built, the market isn’t working.

And it took this long to get to this point!


Government cuts funds for remediation of brownfield sites

“The government has drastically cut funds needed to encourage new building on “brownfield” sites, despite claiming that such sites would be key to solving the housing crisis.

Many sites that have previously held buildings or other developments need remediation – a process to remove potentially dangerous toxins from the soil – in order to be considered for new houses, of which the government plans to build hundreds of thousands a year to ease the pressure on the UK’s over-stretched stock.

At least 300,000 hectares (741,000 acres) of contaminated land have been identified, according to a report from an influential committee of MPs. Many of these sites could be used for housing, farmland, industry or other developments, which could both ease the housing crisis and reduce the need to claim more of the UK’s diminishing stock of “green belt” or agricultural land for building.

Doing so would require work to remove remaining toxins from the soil, which is technically feasible but carries a cost. To date, that cost has often been borne by the government and local authorities, but the MPs on the environmental audit committee found that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had drastically cut its funding for remediation, and is planning to phase it out in 2017.

This would discourage developers from planning new building in areas of housing shortage, particularly those in poor areas, the committee heard from experts. In richer areas, hopeful developers frequently pay for decontamination themselves, but in poor districts they rely on the council or central government to do so in order to render the site suitable. …”


Local Plan: more than 1,000 extra homes already projected – 18,391 not 17,100

As we expected, too many unaffordable, greenfield properties being built.

“83% of completions [in East Devon] on Greenfield sites (including fields and undeveloped greenspaces, barn conversions and garden sites)” …

… “A grand total of 18,391 net new dwellings are now projected to have been completed over the full plan period (2013-2031). This is above the 17,100 minimum figure of housing need outlined by the new Local Plan.” …

… “3.1 The final page of the HMU sets out the five year land supply calculation based on the 30 September 2015 monitor. It shows that East Devon can demonstrate 5.54 years supply of land for housing taking account of a 20% buffer as required by paragraph 47 of the NPPF for authorities that have persistently under-delivered in previous years.

3.2 Paragraph 47 of the NPPF sets out that in calculating the five year land supply authorities should apply a 5% buffer, or a 20% buffer where there has been a record of persistent under delivery. Application of the 20% buffer is a conservative approach to take. The Council could be more bullish and say that clearly it is now delivering above requirements and so the 5% buffer should apply in which case the Council could demonstrate a higher land supply figure, but it is recommended to apply the 20% figure for the time being.

3.3 This, along with the application of SHLAA methodology build-out rates and a robust but conservative assessment of future windfalls means that it is harder for an appellant to argue the five year supply figure down.

3.4 The calculation shows that over the five year period a surplus of 617 net new dwellings are projected to be built over the district as a whole. This is a healthy surplus that means that should certain sites not deliver or under-deliver there is an added buffer of supply. …”


“Land bank statistics undermine attacks on planning”

New figures from the LGA show conclusively that numbers of unbuilt consented housing plots have been growing rapidly since 2012.

New research for the Local Government Association has confirmed that England has a vast surplus of consented but unbuilt housing developments, with 475,647 in builders’ land banks.

The study, carried out by Glenigan, shows unbuilt consented plots have grown rapidly since the National Planning Policy Framework was imposed in 2012. In 2012-13 there were 381,390 unimplemented plots and in 2013-14 there 443,265 despite a rapidly improving market.

“These figures conclusively prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building,” said LGA housing spokesman Peter Box. “In fact the opposite is true, councils are approving almost half a million more houses than are being built, and this gap is increasing.”

He pointed out that, while private builders have a key role to play, they cannot solve housing shortages alone, so councils need the power to invest in homes and to force developers to build more quickly. He called for measures to address the construction skills shortage.

The analysis showed that the average time between planning consent and completion has also risen sharply. In 2008-9 it was 21 months, in 2012-13 it was 27 months but by 2014-15 it had risen to 32 months.”


East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge recognised as developers’ friend

The three councils make up the “Greater Exeter” consortium and, along with other chosen council Mid-Devon, ensures a speeded-up planning process in a continuous ring centred on Exeter.

Half a dozen councils across Devon and Cornwall have been chosen to pilot a new Government scheme designed to speed up the creation of new homes.

Housing ministers have selected the six local authorities to take part in the trial launch of their brownfield register initiative.

Under the policy, councils will draw up lists of derelict land and other underused sites which could be used for new developments.

Records will then be available to investors and construction companies to highlight prime redevelopment opportunities. …

… Cornwall, East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, Torbay and Teignbridge council have all had their bids to pilot the scheme accepted. They will join 70 other local planning authorities in trialing the scheme, and helping to shape the future implementation of the policy.

Registers will eventually become mandatory for all councils under proposals going through Parliament in the Housing and Planning Bill. Other measures in the Bill will enable “permission in principle” to be granted for registered sites, giving developers “a greater degree of certainty” and ultimately speeding up the planning process. …”


The keywords are “under-used” and “prime redevelopment opportunities”- who decides? EDDC, helped by developers, of course!

Bye bye countryside, bye bye localism, hello urban sprawl

“Tens of thousands of new homes in greenfield areas in England will be given automatic planning permission amid fears that communities will have inappropriate developments forced on them.

Ministers have quietly given developers the right to be granted “planning in principle” in areas that are earmarked for new housing schemes.

Rural campaigners said the new powers will restrict the rights of council planning officers to ensure that the design, density, size and location of homes is in keeping with local areas.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to protect Rural England, said: ““The country needs more house building, but the way to achieve this is through well-planned developments that win public consent. Imposing development without local democratic oversight is a recipe for discord. …”


Brownfield sites -where’s yours?

What are the brownfield sites in each locality that could – without too much trouble – be turned into housing sites? Anyone got any bright ideas?

Remember, it has to be accessible, remediable without too much money being spent (e.g. the Exmouth site that has millions of plastic bags under it) and able to support not just housing but to be in an area where schools, doctors, etc are not overloaded already.

EDDC has already identified Manstone Depot – anyone else see brownfield opportunities?

Developers prefer green field sites – they can build the expensive houses they want in the locations people want to buy in. How are we going to persuade them that there are brownfield sites that local people will welcome development on? Are there any?

Osborne’s planning reforms risk creating ‘slums of the future’

… “Zoning is certainly not a panacea for speed,” says Janet Askew, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, whose research has focused on regulatory systems in planning. “It is an incredibly complex process, with zonal plans undergoing convoluted discussions before they are agreed. The fact that land is zoned for housing doesn’t mean it goes through the planning system more quickly aht all.”

To Askew, introducing a zonal system makes little sense, because once land has been designated for housing in a local plan (which goes through a statutory consultation process), it will almost certainly get permission. “It simply threatens to remove power from the local authorities to negotiate over the crucial details of a scheme, in terms of mitigating what impacts it could have on the area,” she adds. “It completely flies in the face of localism.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, agrees, arguing that granting automatic planning permission for housing schemes would “undermine any possibility for making good quality places where people want to live.”

“Our real concern is if you can’t have a conversation about things like internal space standards, accessibility and green space, we’re really risking creating slums of the future,” she says. “We appreciate the government wants to speed things up, but it shouldn’t just be about quantity but quality. If planning is deregulated any further, we’ll end up with places that we’re going to regret building.” …”

…”“What we really need is to rebuild the planning service,” says Henderson. “It is demoralised, deregulated and poorly resourced, which makes it challenging to make decisions quickly and efficiently. Rather than imposing harsher penalties, it should be about investing in skills.”

By prioritising his abstract dream of productivity over the reality of making decent places to live, Osborne risks ushering in a new generation of poorly planned and hastily built housing that will bring none of the community benefits the planning system is there to provide. Instead of relentlessly chipping away at local authorities (as a distraction from addressing the real obstacles to housing supply) he should be strengthening planners’ ability to plan – not to mention lifting the borrowing cap, reviving affordable housing grants and stopping developers squatting on empty land for years.”