“We need ‘a steady supply’ of new homes in our National Parks, says Michael Gove adviser”

First they came for the green field sites, then they came for the green belt, then they came for the national parks … and by renaming AONBS they came for them too ….. The developer lobby has now come for everything.

Sit back and watch those developers get even richer … while those who need affordable (TRULY AFFORDABLE) housing get shafted again.

“People living in the countryside have to accept a “steady supply” of new homes need to be built in National Parks, the Government adviser in charge of a major review has said.

Julian Glover, who is running a review of whether to add to England’s 10 National Parks, said more homes had to be built in these protected areas.

Mr Glover also raised the prospect that new national parks will be created on the edge of major cities like Birmingham so people who live in urban areas can easily access them.

Another idea is to find new names for England’s 30 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. …”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/10/19/need-steady-supply-new-homes-national-parks-says-michael-gove/

“Delivery driver forced to axe business after Persimmon Homes ban him from parking on his own drive at new £190k home”

“The dad-of-one was given just 14 days to move the van from his property, because small print in the terms of his freehold said he couldn’t park ‘commercial vehicles’ outside his own home.

As he was planning to use the van for his delivery business, the jobsworth inspector said the vehicle was illicitly parked.

The order came just days after the 25-year-old handed in his notice to focus on his new start-up.

Reece, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, told The Sun Online: “It’s pathetic – they’re saying you can’t have this house unless you’re an accountant or something.

“They have no respect for people who work 70 hours a week to provide for their families unless it’s the right kind of job.

“I paid £192k for the freehold, why can’t I park a van on my drive? It’s elitist.

“None of my neighbors have complained – they think it’s ridiculous that I’m being forced to sell it. A lot of them have vans themselves.

“I grew my side business enough to go full-time, and even handed in my notice at work – then Persimmon wrecked all my plans.

“Thankfully I got my old job back, but it was still a bit sour. I haven’t done any deliveries for ages, and I’ve had to go back to square one.

“I’m just trying to sell the house so I can move on with my life.”

Reece was eventually forced to sell his van – and temporarily shelve his dreams of becoming his own boss.

He insists he wasn’t told about the bonkers contract clause – and says even his solicitor failed to pick up on it.

He blasted: “There’s no way I would have bought the place had I known about it. Setting up a business has been a dream of mine for years.

“When we first moved in there were about 50 things wrong with the house. The build quality was shocking, I’ve had to spend £2k on really basic renovations just so I can sell it.

“The carpet is coming up everywhere, and the paint comes off the walls if it gets slightly damp.

“The door frames are the wrong size and the skirting boards are all wrong. It’s been a nightmare, I’m never buying a house from them again.”

It comes after Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn sparked fury by walking out of an interview when pressed on his staggering £75m bonus.

When asked if he had any regrets about the furore, he sneered: “I’d rather not talk about that, it’s been well covered actually.”

He then stormed off, adding: “I think that’s really unfortunate actually that you’ve done that.”

Last year we revealed a couple in Newquay, Cornwall, plastered their windows with posters warning potential buyers to stay away from their Persimmon-built estate.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7535824/delivery-driver-forced-close-business-after-persimmon-homes-parking-ban/

“A land banking scandal is controlling the future of British housing”

“How often have you heard private developers and their allies say they can’t build more homes because planning rules have created a shortage of land?

Kate Andrews of the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) summed up this view in The Daily Telegraph, saying: “There is only one way to solve the housing crisis and bring down the extortionate cost of homes: liberalise the planning system and build more houses. A bold but pragmatic policy would be to release greenbelt land – just a small fraction of which would be enough to build the million homes needed to address supply.”

A million more homes? That’s a tantalising prospect. So is there any basis for her argument that the only way to solve this problem is to liberalise (or deregulate) planning?

A little digging into the latest financial reports of the top 10 housebuilders reveals a very different story. Between them, they have a staggering 632,785 building plots on their books, of which more than half have planning permission. At the same time, these 10 companies reported building a total of just 79,704 homes – which means they have, on average, eight-years’ worth of plots in their land banks at the current rate of construction.

Among the top 10, there is a wide variation. At the upper end, Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey are hoarding 15 and 13 years’ worth of land respectively. At the lower end, McCarthy & Stone and Bellway have land banks equivalent to four years’ current output. The difference is mainly in what are known as the ‘strategic’ land banks – reserves that have not yet gained planning permission. All ten have ample land with consent, ranging from three to five years’ worth of output.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017.

It is often the case that the stories an industry feeds to the media are at odds with the trading information individual companies give shareholders via regulated stock market announcements. A classic example of this is car insurance where the industry body complained of an “epidemic of fraud” while the major providers told the market that claims volumes were falling.

In the case of housing, the market reports of the top 10 builders are brimming with confidence about future trading. You might expect Bellway, for example, to be feeling the pinch from a supposedly burdensome planning system because of its smaller-than-average land bank. But its trading update in August said that it had detailed planning permission on all its 2019 building plots and had increased land acquisition by 12 per cent to an annual level 30 per cent higher than its output. “The land market remains favourable and continues to provide attractive opportunities,” the company said.

The top 10 builders accounted for about half of the 159,510 homes completed by the private sector in 2017. So, what about the other players? Information is patchy because many are private companies, but random checks on those that are publicly listed suggest that smaller housebuilders also hold enough land to keep them going for years.

And then there are the companies that combine building homes with developing sites to sell on to other builders. The latest trading update from Inland Homes, for example, said that in the first six months of this year it has built 357 units and sold 837 plots to other housebuilders but still has 6,808 in its land bank – nearly six times as many as it built on or sold.

The pattern is clear: across the private housebuilding sector big land banks are the norm. If the top 10 companies – equating to half the market – are hoarding 600,000-plus plots, it is safe to assume that well over a million plots are in the land banks of the sector as a whole. Far from needing greenbelt land, the builders already have enough plots to deliver a step-change.

But will they? The IEA believes ‘markets’ solve economic and social problems, but the last 30 years have shown that is certainly not the case with housebuilding. When Margaret Thatcher slashed funding for council housing in the 1980s, the idea was that the private sector would fill the gap. But it didn’t happen: while the number of homes built by councils slumped from 110,170 in 1978 to 1,740 in 1996, private sector output stayed at much the same level as it was under Labour in the 1970s. With housing association output also virtually unchanged, total housebuilding has halved from more than 300,000 annually under Jim Callaghan to an average of 154,000 since 2010.

This situation suits housebuilders nicely. Constrained supply has helped push up the average price of a new house by 38 per cent since 2010, against an average of 30 per cent for all houses. And booming prices have in turn generated record-breaking profits and dividends. Taylor Wimpey, for example, cleared a £52,947 profit on each of the 6,497 houses it sold (at an average price of £295,000) in the first six months of 2018 and was able to promise shareholders that it would pay out £600m in dividends in 2019, a 20 per cent increase on 2018.

The government has responded to growing anger about land banks by setting up a review under Tory MP Oliver Letwin to “explain” why the “build-out rate” on land with planning permission is so slow. Letwin’s interim report has already admitted that housebuilders complete homes at a pace “designed to protect their profits”. His final report is due in time for the Autumn Budget, but don’t expect anything radical: he has made clear that his recommendations won’t “impair” the housebuilders.

Labour, meanwhile, has published a wide-ranging green paper promising “the biggest council housebuilding programme for over 30 years” delivering more than 100,000 “genuinely affordable” homes annually. To achieve this, Labour would use existing public land, such as sites owned by the NHS and the Ministry of Defence, and set up a Sovereign Land Trust to work with local authorities in England to help them acquire land at lower prices. Taking inspiration from the 1945 Labour government, it would also legislate to create another generation of new towns and garden cities.

Labour’s policy would, in effect, draw a line under the Thatcher era by restoring to the public sector the proactive role it played in providing housing prior to the 1980s. In doing so, it would limit the scope for the big housebuilders to hoover up nearly all the available sites and hoard them in order to drive up prices and profits. As for planning, far from being the cause of the housing crisis, it would be a means of solving it.

Steve Howell is a journalist and author of Game Changer, the story of Labour’s 2017 election campaign.”

https://www.bigissue.com/latest/finance/a-land-banking-scandal-is-controlling-the-future-of-british-housing/

Open spaces: to little and so very, very late

The Mail on Sunday today has launched a petition stop parks being sold off.

If only they had created it BEFORE the massive sell-off, instead of after.

But then Tory donor developers – who bought the parks – wouldn’t have liked it.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6273471/Petition-launched-rescue-open-spaces-sold-cash-strapped-councils.html

Say No to Sidford Business Park meeting

Owl says: notable by his absence was District Councillor and DCC Transport supremo Stuart Hughes, who, it seems, may have preferred going to his gym than attending the meeting:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/10/10/where-was-eddc-and-dcc-transport-councillor-during-the-say-no-to-sidford-business-park-meeting/

“The only way to ensure proposals like the Sidford Business Park and others like it stay in the dustbin of history is for the community to buy it themselves.

Those are the words of campaigners who would like to see the Two Bridges site, where the multi-million pound scheme is proposed, turned into an area for the good of the community – but it would only work if the plans were rejected and the landowners agreed to sell.

More than 100 people attended the latest No Sidford Business Park meeting on Wednesday at St Peter’s Church Hall, Sidford.

Permission is being sought to build 8,445sqm of employment floor space but among the concerns raised are flooding risks and the extra traffic, especially lorries, it could bring to the area’s ‘inadequate’ roads.

During the meeting, John Loudoun from the group, revealed they now had 1,379 signatures on their petition, which opposed the plans and was only carried out in Sidford and Sidbury. And by the time they present the petition to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Development and Management Committee, campaigners say it will have more than 1,400 names on it.

John said: “The call to you and everybody out there – and your friends, your family, your neighbours – is please come along on Tuesday, October 30, at 9.15am at The Knowle and be with us when we present the 1,400 signatures to the committee.

“Let’s try now and make sure that this is the second time that we actually kick this planning application and any others like it into the dustbin of history.”

Councillor Marianne Rixson said: “I really can’t see what has changed since last time.

“If we are lucky, it could be refused again, which would leave us potentially facing yet another revised application at some date in the future. But personally, I don’t relish the prospect of wading through another 500-plus pages of documents so I have a radical suggestion. How would you feel about trying to raise the money to buy this land. I can’t promise they would agree to sell but this is the only way we can guarantee that this development or something similar couldn’t happen. Once the Japanese knotweed on the site has been eradicated it could then be a community asset and used for the public good.”

Cllr Rixson said she believed the landowner, Tim Ford, paid around £402,000 for the site.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/nearly-1-400-residents-say-no-to-sidford-business-park-1-5733085

893 gifts or hospitality from developers in 6 years did not influence councillor’s decisions says Monitoring Officer [insert hollow laugh here]

On average accepted gifts or hospitality 3 times a week, every week for 6 years! But he resigned anyway ….. deja vu, deja vu says Owl!

“The Deputy Leader of Westminster Council has resigned following an internal investigation into his conduct.

Deputy Leader Robert Davis announced today he is to resign “with immediate effect” after 36 years of service.

Mr Davis’s resignation comes after he reportedly accepted hospitality or gifts 893 times over six years. These gifts frequently came from property developers who were seeking planning permission, according to the Guardian.

In a statement, Mr Davis said: “I am very proud of my 36 years’ service in local government during which I made a major contribution to the wellbeing of the City and its people.

“Earlier this year there was some press coverage concerning the hospitality I received during the course of my duties. To avoid this becoming an issue in this year’s elections, I agreed to refer myself to the Monitoring Officer, and stand aside as Deputy Leader while an investigation was carried out.”

Mr Davis, who chaired the Conservative borough’s planning committee for 17 years, continued: “My approach to declarations has always been to be honest, open and transparent. I have nothing to hide.

“I registered all my hospitality and it was posted by officers on the Council’s website. I have been making such declarations since 2007 when the requirement was first introduced.

“I also declared any relevant interests at the beginning of every planning committee I chaired during this time. I have acted with the utmost transparency and probity at all times and have only ever taken decisions on the basis of what I thought was best for Westminster.

“An inquiry has been completed by the Council. They have confirmed that none of the declarations I made or hospitality I received influenced decisions I took as a councillor and that nothing I did was unlawful.”

He said his actions “created a perception that was negative to the Council.

“While I dispute this, I wish to draw a line under the matter. It is now time for me to move on to the next stage in my life, and for the next generation of councillors to lead Westminster.”

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/westminster-council-deputy-leader-resigns-after-hospitality-inquiry-a3958681.html

Ageing-friendly cities [towns and villages]

Given East Devon’s demographic of a large elderly population, some of the points made in this article about designing ageing-friendly cities apply to our towns and villages too. There appear to be few (or no) design features for the older population in, say, Cranbrook, where it seems people are expected to move on if they grow older.

“…Getting out and about

The quality of the environment outside the home has a huge bearing on an older person’s quality of life. Joe Oldman, Age UK’s policy manager for housing and transport, says paying attention to the built environment can make the difference between someone participating in life, and them being isolated at home. “Accessible public transport, level pavements, places to sit, the removal of trip hazards, good street lighting and public toilets are all vital components to encouraging older people to stay engaged with their local community.”

New York City has added 1,500 new benches and 3,500 new or improved bus shelters in the last decade, in consultation with senior centres on their placement – such as within 250 metres from hospitals or community facilities. In the UK, 300 businesses in Nottingham have signed up to the city’s Take a Seat scheme, identifying shops where older and disabled people are welcome to rest with a “We are age-friendly” sticker.

With older people less likely to drive, affordable, accessible public transport is crucial to an age-friendly city. In January a UK study of 18,000 over-50s found that free public transport resulted in fewer cases of depression, after researchers tracked changes in mental health before and after people became eligible for free travel.

Natalie Turner of the UK charity, the Centre for Ageing Better, believes cities need inclusive transport strategies. “Good transport links help everyone, whatever their age, to access vital services such as doctors and social and cultural amenities, so that they can be involved in city life, stay independent and keep up social connections.”

Many cities, including Washington DC and Bilbao in northern Spain, have identified improving access to transport as a cornerstone of their ageing strategies. Proposals include making bus drivers aware of the needs of vulnerable community members, maintaining bus stops and pavements, and ensuring route information is accessible.

Innovative schemes are making cycling more accessible to older people. In south London, disability charity Wheels for Wellbeing offers sessions on specially adapted bikes, encouraging users to keep mobile, independent and fit. For those who no longer have the physical ability, Cycling Without Age – piloted in Copenhagen and now in 40 countries – enables the elderly to go out in tricycle rickshaws pedalled by volunteers.

Participation

An age-friendly city should provide opportunities for people to participate in public life and contribute to their communities, through paid or voluntary work. Evidence shows doing so increases social contact and good health. In Hong Kong the elder friendly employment practice helps older people to continue flexible employment post-retirement, through initiatives such as employment fairs and an online job-matching.

Roger Battersby, an architectural consultant to PRP Architects, specialising in age-friendly housing in China, says many members of the country’s growing population of over-65s are employed by local government in landscaping services. “One sees armies of older people tending the urban landscapes which, as a consequence, are generally of a high quality.”

But Professor Chris Phillipson says an age-friendly city needs to go far beyond work, housing and infrastructure to take in global factorssuch as climate change and pollution, to which older people are particularly vulnerable.

Unless the bigger picture is tackled, Phillipson says, we are likely to see an increasingly unequal society in the future, with the elderly among those bearing the brunt. “There will be a significant number of people in their 50s still renting. One-third of over 50s don’t own property. They will have rented for a long time and won’t have equity or savings. Gentrification has also had an appalling effect on older people.”

One example is Berlin, where low-income flats are being sold to private developers, leading to rent increases that have made many areas unaffordable to older people.

“We need policies that have a real impact on the urban development that is taking place,” says Phillipson. “If the environment is hostile to people on low incomes, that impacts disproportionally on older residents. Cities must not think about housing and town planning policies in isolation. Age-friendliness needs to be part of the debate about urban development.”

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/oct/10/what-would-an-age-friendly-city-look-like