Housing Viennese-style

Vienna effortlessly tops the world’s most liveable city surveys, and for good reason. Its citizens – 1.8 million at the last count – enjoy affordable public transport, abundant greenery and rents UK citizens could only dream of. In fact, acccommodation in Vienna is plentiful and cheap, making it one of the most affordable places to live.

In this compact city, dominated by four- and five-storey, walk-up mansion blocks, tenants have been known to snag flats with palace views, free heating and Alps mineral water on tap. More than 80% of residents rent, and two-thirds of Viennese citizens live in municipal or publicly subsidised housing.

Eight out of ten flats built in the city today are financed by Vienna’s housing subsidy scheme. This quality and range helps push down rental prices, meaning low-paid workers can afford to live in the Austrian capital, even in the city centre. They often live centrally and enjoy its cheap amenities, short commutes and, thanks to a sound economy, jobs – even when renting on the partially regulated private market. …

…Vienna spends more than €570m a year on subsidising, constructing and preserving public housing despite having a population nearly eight times smaller than the UK capital. Annual government funding for affordable housing in London, with a population of around 8.7m, is only around £500m, less than half the amount spent in 2009/10 and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, says this needs to increase to 2.7bn a year to prevent the housing crisis from getting worse. Vienna also wants to do more, last year committing to increasing annual housing production by 30% in order to meet demand.

… “It’s been so very important to be close to my working place and that is possible in Vienna (especially after the night shift),” says Hammer.

“Tenancy regulations are so important for living sanely, so, yes, I’m a big fan of rent controls and of Vienna. If I had to spend 79% of my income [on rent, like in London] then I think I’d have to leave Vienna because that’s insanely expensive,” she says.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/12/vienna-housing-policy-uk-rent-controls

The Times: “Builders shun brownfield sites” [what a surprise!]

Are we surprised? Oh, come on – of course not. And interesting that a council, for example, might spend, say, £10 million on a new HQ, but not have the “resources” to identify all suitable brownfield sites for housing in their district!

Parts of the countryside are being needlessly sacrificed to build homes because thousands of small plots of previously developed land are being overlooked by councils, a study has found.

Sites with room for almost 200,000 homes are missing from official registers of brownfield, according to research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). These include former builders’ yards, disused warehouses and blocks of garages no longer used for parking.

The government says that it has a “brownfield first” policy when identifying land for more homes. To help to achieve this it has ordered all councils in England to publish registers by the end of this month of brownfield land suitable for development.

The CPRE examined 43 of the registers already published and found that only 4 per cent of the brownfield land they identified was on small sites that could accommodate up to ten homes.

In the budget last month the government announced that it wanted councils to identify enough small sites to provide 20 per cent of the new homes needed.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, also said that the government would “ensure that our brownfield and scarce urban land is used as efficiently as possible”.

The CPRE found that if councils met the 20 per cent target on small brownfield sites, an additional 189,000 homes could be built in England.

It asked a sample of local authorities how they identified land for their brownfield registers and found that they “routinely disregarded small brownfield sites”.

Councils overlooked the sites even though they usually had infrastructure in place, such as rail and road links and schools and hospitals, which were less likely to be available for greenfield sites.

The reasons given by councils for not listing small brownfield sites included that they lacked the resources to identify them and that housebuilders did not favour them because of the perception that the planning system was too burdensome for small plots.

The CPRE said that the failure to identify small brownfield sites was resulting in councils allocating land for development in the green belt, the protected land around 14 cities.

It has called on the government to amend official guidance to ensure that councils identified all the available brownfield sites in their areas.

Rebecca Pullinger, CPRE’s planning campaigner, said: “Up and down the country tens of thousands of small brownfield sites are not included in brownfield land registers and their housing development potential missed.

“The current system of collecting this data must be improved if we are to unlock the potential of brownfield and stop developers finding an excuse to build on greenfield areas.”

In October Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “I don’t believe that we need to focus on the green belt, there is lots of brownfield land, and brownfield first has been a policy of ours for a while.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis”

One of the examples cited in the article is from Cranbrook. See last paragraph of this post. Though most problems in this area seem to centre on Axminster.

Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, faces a potential class-action lawsuit from a group of buyers who accuse it of selling houses riddled with defects.

Puneet Verma bought a five-bedroom house with his wife for £485,000 in Milton Keynes two years ago but says he still has a list of 120 snags. He is now consulting two law firms, Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon, about taking group action.

“I have had a survey done by a chartered surveyor that categorically states the workmanship is extremely poor and that Bovis is not in compliance with building regulations,” Verma says. “Bovis has treated, and continues to treat, its customers appallingly and now the only way to get our problems resolved is to take legal action.”

Verma is aiming to raise a £100,000 fund through a £100 contribution per homeowner, assuming 1,000 of the 2,500-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook sign up.

It has been almost a year since the housebuilder issued a profit warning and was accused of paying thousands of pounds in cash incentives to get buyers to move into unfinished homes. As the scandal widened, the company set aside £7m to fix defects and appointed a new chief executive.

A year on, some Bovis homeowners say they will be spending Christmas in houses that are riddled with faults, including leaks, moving and creaking floors, lack of insulation and sewage backups, as well coping with shoddy workmanship.

Ian Tyler, the chairman of Bovis, apologised to buyers in May for “letting them down” and admitted the firm had been cutting corners to hit ambitious targets. The company says it slowed production to iron out build problems, retrained sales staff and set up an advisory homebuyers panel, which has met once.

Dave Howard, who set up the Facebook group with his wife, Ann, and who sits on the panel, doubts whether Bovis has made any progress on improving build standards and customer service. He claims homeowners who report problems are being referred to the National House Building Council (NHBC), the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK. But in the first two years after purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects.

“We have had constructive contact with the new customer experience director, but there are too many people hitting brick walls with Bovis and NHBC,” Howard says. “Some new customers have had better experiences but that seems to have slipped too.”

Bovis says: “We have made significant changes to how we operate in 2017 and a growing majority of our customers would now recommend us to family and friends.

“We remain determined to make things right for customers who raise warranty items and apologise to those to whom we have not previously delivered the high levels of quality and service they rightly expected.” …”

[The article concludes with several examples of bad workmanship in various parts of the country including this one] …

Pete Oldham and his wife, a retired couple, bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Cranbrook, Devon, for £234,995 in December 2015. “All the floors move,” Oldham says. “When you walk into a room the furniture moves. They haven’t fitted things properly but are in denial.” He says the floor joists should be 400mm apart, not 600mm. There has been a breakdown in communication with Bovis and he has been referred to NHBC.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/09/bovis-homebuyers-class-action-lawsuit-property-defects

Developments in AONBs must have environmental impact assessments taken into account and documented

… Lord Carnwath said special duties arose under the EIA Regulations where an application (as in this case) involved a development which was “likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of factors such as its nature, size or location” (an “EIA development”).

Regulation 3(4) provides that decision-makers shall not grant planning permission, where the application involves an EIA development, without first taking the environmental information into consideration, and that they must state in their decision that they have done so.

The judge also noted that article 6.9 of the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), to which the United Kingdom is a party, also required each party to make accessible to the public the text of certain decisions involving an EIA, along with reasons and the considerations on which it is based.

Lord Carnwath said that “where there is a legal requirement to give reasons, what is needed is an adequate explanation of the ultimate decision”.
He added: “The content of that duty should not in principle turn on differences in the procedures by which the decision is arrived at. Local planning authorities are under an unqualified statutory duty to give reasons for refusing permission. There is no reason in principle why the duty to give reasons for grant of permission should become any more onerous.”
The essence of the duty, and the central issue for the court, was whether the information so provided by the authority leaves room for genuine doubt as to what it has decided and why.

The Supreme Court rejected Dover’s argument that a breach of the EIA duty alone should be remedied by a mere declaration of the breach.

Dover had sought to rely on R (Richardson) v North Yorkshire County Council [2004] 1 WLR 1920 in which the Court of Appeal remedied a failure to provide a statement of reasons without quashing the decision, by ordering only that the statement be provided.

However, Lord Carnwath said in that case it was possible to take the planning committee as adopting the reasoning in the officer’s report which had recommended granting permission.

The Supreme Court judge said that in view of the specific duty to give reasons under the EIA regulations, it was strictly unnecessary to decide what common law duty there may be on a local planning authority to give reasons for grant of a planning permission. “However, since it has been a matter of some controversy in planning circles, and since we have heard full argument, it is right that we should consider it.”

Lord Carnwath said the particular circumstances of the Dover case would, if necessary, have justified the imposition of a common law duty to provide reasons for the grant of permission.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

Parish wants better-designed new homes – too late for Axminster!

Er, he seems to not have spoken out in Axminster which is in his constituency, where problems with new housing abounds! Owl noted it here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/09/22/poor-quality-of-new-housing-in-axminster/

“ …Not only do we need traditional designs in keeping with the natural built environment, we a need a new homes Ombudsman to focus on complaints with new build homes. The fact the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, has backed this proposal – will be welcome news to hundreds of thousands of new housing residents in the coming years. It’s vital we get both the design and quality of these new homes right – because we won’t get a second chance. …”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/news-opinion/its-vital-design-quality-new-879515

Stable … horse …

“Knowle developer will only pay for affordable housing if profits exceed expectations” – yeah, right!

Over 100 flats selling at around £400,000 or more with massive service charges. Will they make a profit? Of course not – developers never do in these circumstances!

“PegasusLife had argued its proposals should be classed under ‘residential institutions’ – branded ‘C2’ in planning terms – meaning it would not need to make a contribution.

Landowner East Devon District Council (EDDC) had contested it should be classed as C3 for housing, meaning there would normally be a payment towards off-site affordable housing.

An agreement between the parties, revealed last week, shows there is an ‘overage’ clause, so PegasusLife would only pay out if the scheme exceeds its forecasts.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “PegasusLife has submitted viability evidence to demonstrate that the scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing, which the council has accepted.

“The council has had this information independently assessed by specialists in development viability who have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing.

“Accordingly, the council has required an overage clause to be included within the section 106 agreement, which will seek to obtain a contribution towards affordable housing in the event that the scheme is more profitable than currently envisaged.

“This approach has been used before and supported by planning inspectors at appeal. If the development is found to be C2 by the inspector then there would be no affordable housing required to be provided.

“However, the Knowle inquiry is still ongoing and is timetabled to conclude today (Tuesday).

“We anticipate receiving a final decision from the inspector in January.”

The section 106 agreement shows that the land is valued at £5.8million.

The deal with PegasusLife is worth £7.5million to EDDC, which will put the cash towards its £10million relocation to Exmouth and Honiton.

The dispute about whether the development should be classed as C2 or C3, as well as concerns about overdevelopment and the impact on the site’s listed summerhouse, led councillors to refuse planning permission last December.

The developer took its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The inspector, Michael Boniface, is set to make a site visit this afternoon to inform his decision.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/knowle-developer-will-only-pay-for-affordable-housing-if-profits-exceed-expectations-1-5308352

Swire fails to save another hospital

In August 2017 Swire spearheaded a campaign to keep heart services going at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital (having miserably failed to lead similar campaigns in East Devon, leaving Claire Wright to fight for us:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/05/more-on-swire-saving-services-at-royal-brompton-hospital-london/

Well, his attempts in London don’t seem to have worked either:

“The world-leading Royal Brompton Hospital in London, recently ‘saved’ by NHS bosses, is being lined up for a billion pound sale to make way for luxury flats. …”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5140315/World-class-heart-hospital-make-way-luxury-flats.html