“Since Margaret Thatcher came to power, 10% of the area of Britain has left public ownership. No wonder there’s a housing crisis”

“… in all the proliferating discussion about the rights and wrongs of the history of privatisation in Britain – both from those determined to row back against the neoliberal tide and those convinced that renationalisation is the wrong answer – Britain’s biggest privatisation of all never merits a mention. This is partly because so few people are aware that it has even taken place, and partly because it has never been properly studied. What is this mega-privatisation? The privatisation of land.

Some activists have hinted at it. Last October, for instance, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), a progressive thinktank, called in this newspaper for the government to stop selling public land. But the NEF’s is solely a present-day story, picturing land privatisation as a new phenomenon. It gives no sense of the fact that this has been occurring on a massive scale for fully 39 years, since the day that Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street. During that period, all types of public land have been targeted, held by local and central government alike. And while disposals have generally been heaviest under Tory and Tory-led administrations, they definitely did not abate under New Labour; indeed the NHS estate, in particular, was ravaged during the Blair years.

All told, around 2 million hectares of public land have been privatised during the past four decades. This amounts to an eye-watering 10% of the entire British land mass, and about half of all the land that was owned by public bodies when Thatcher assumed power. How much is the land that has been privatised in Britain worth? It is impossible to say for sure. But my conservative estimate, explained in my forthcoming book on this historic privatisation, called The New Enclosure, is somewhere in the region of £400bn in today’s prices. This dwarfs the value of all of Britain’s other, better known, and often bitterly contested, privatisations. …”



“A Tory minister has been taken to task for juvenile political point scoring by an unlikely source – a senior Tory MP.

The incredible spat between two of the Tories’ most prolific tweeters broke out when Treasury Secretary Liz Truss took a cheap shot at a housing policy being considered by Labour.

Under the plan, which is revealed on the front page of today’s Guardian, landowners would no longer be allowed to inflate the price of land sold for property development:

[There then follows a nasty Twitter spat between Tories Liz Truss and Nick Boles where Bowles sticks up for Corbyn!!!]

Truss responded by trying to tar the attempt to get more council homes built as some kind of Stalinist land grab.

But Nick Boles, himself a former planning minister, was having none of it.

The pair continued to spar until Truss brought the embarrassing blue-on-blue battle to a curt conclusion.

The clash comes after Boles made clear his dissatisfaction with abject lack of policy ideas coming from the Government and his party. …

The Conservative family is not a happy one.

As for Truss’ objections to Labour’s policy, we were reminded of a policy included in the last budget by her boss, Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Hammond announced an anti-land banking policy which the Tories had described as “Mugabe-style expropriation” when Labour floated the idea.

Liz Truss will be defending this “sinister confiscation” before you know it…


Tories disagree about compulsory land purchase for housing

Wonder where Swire stands on this?

“Labour’s plan to force the cheap sale of land to the state to boost housebuilding has been branded “deeply sinister” by Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, but the proposal has exposed a split in the Conservatives with influential Tory backbenchers backing the plan.

The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, told the Guardian on Thursday that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government could use compulsory purchase powers to buy land at closer to agricultural value rather than paying up to 100 times more, the kind of mark-up that land zoned for housing can currently fetch.

The proposal is intended to reduce the cost of building new council housing but Truss responded on Twitter saying: “First the utility companies, then the landowners. Who next? #freedomerosion #confiscation”.

She said she could not support the state imposing prices on landowners or private companies, adding: “We need more market not less.”

Nick Boles, the former Tory planning minister, who supports a similar policy to Labour, denied it was sinister and replied to Truss: “Why should a few landowners receive all of the windfall profit from planning permission when the taxpayer bears the cost of infrastructure?”

He argued that existing prices of development land aren’t the product of market forces.

“They’re the product of artificial scarcity created by the nationalisation of development rights and the introduction of the planning system,” he said.

Former education minister Robert Halfon also said he was sympathetic to the idea and said it was “an option we should look at”.

“We have to rapidly solve our housing crisis and we need to build social housing quickly,” he said. “We need to seriously look at this kind of thing and see the evidence on whether it would make a difference or not.”

Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, is examining proposals to remove planning permission from those who build too slowly. Oliver Letwin, the former Downing Street policy chief, is due to publish a review of land-banking later this year.

Landowners warned that small farms could suffer from the Labour proposal, which they described as “seeking to forcibly remove their assets at artificially low prices”.

“Compulsory purchase of land should only ever be a last resort and in practice it is far more likely to be small family farms that suffer, not the big players who have far more means to defend themselves,” said Christopher Price, policy director at the Country Land and Business Association which represents over 30,000 landowners across rural England and Wales.

Paul Smith, managing director of Strategic Land Group which makes money by securing planning permission for greenfield sites and sharing in the uplift in value, also attacked the plan.

“Land values are a consequence, not a cause, of house prices,” he said. “The industry and government should pool its collective wisdom and have a proper conversation around finding a workable solution to freeing up land – there are surely more straightforward ways to release land for development which should be fully explored.”


“Labour plans to make landowners sell to state for fraction of [development] value

Won’t that put the cat amongst the East Devon land-holding fat pigeons! And to add insult to land-owning injury – some top Tories agree!!!

“… Landowners currently sell at a price that factors in the dramatic increase in value planning consent is granted. It means a hectare of agricultural land worth around £20,000 can sell for closer to £2m if it is zoned for housing.

Labour believes this is slowing down housebuilding by dramatically increasing costs. It is planning a new English Sovereign Land Trust with powers to buy sites at closer to the lower price.

This would be enabled by a change in the 1961 Land Compensation Act so the state could compulsorily purchase land at a price that excluded the potential for future planning consent.

Healey’s analysis suggests that it would cut the cost of building 100,000 council houses a year by almost £10bn to around £16bn.

… With the “hope value” removed from the price of land, the cost of building a two-bed flat in Wandsworth, south-west London, would be cut from £380,000 to £250,000, in Chelmsford it would fall from £210,000 to £130,000 and in Tamworth in the West Midlands, where land values are lower, it would drop from £150,000 to £130,000.

“Rather than letting private landowners benefit from this windfall gain – and making everyone else pay for it – enabling public acquisition of land at nearer pre-planning-permission value would mean cheaper land which could help fund cheaper housing,” said Healey.

The proposal is expected to face strong opposition from landowners, including many pension fund investors, who would risk losing considerable sums on what they expected to receive. Savills, the property consultancy, warned that owners might launch legal challenges claiming the move infringed their property rights.

Companies known as strategic landowners make money for investors by buying agricultural land that may be needed for future housing at low prices, securing planning consent and selling it on for significant profits. They include Legal & General, which boasts “a strategic land portfolio of 3,550 acres stretching from Luton to Cardiff”.

… A similar policy has been advocated by some leading Conservatives, including the former planning minister Nick Boles. In a sign of growing political consensus, he said the huge windfalls gained by some landowners were inequitable and that the current system of capturing the uplift in land value through section 106 agreements was “incredibly inefficient”, because private developers could afford to outwit planners with expensive lawyers and consultants.

“There will be mass opposition, but there aren’t that many landowners and they are not a huge voting block,” Boles said. “Not all Conservatives would naturally feel comfortable with this but I have been struck by the positive reaction.”

Speaking earlier this week Javid indicated he would like to change the system. He said: “I think it’s right that the state takes a portion of that uplift to support local infrastructure and development.” …


Oliver Letwin in charge of investigating land banking! First target Tories identify – NHS land!

Owl says: A High Tory who adores privatisation in charge of investigating developers! Pull the other one! AND this is the man who:

“… Speaking to consultancy firm KPMG on 27 July 2011, Letwin caused controversy after stating that you cannot have “innovation and excellence” without “real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers” in the public sector. This was widely reported, with The Guardian headline stating Letwin says ‘public sector workers need “discipline and fear.”

This is the Tory Conservative Home press release says about this – and identifies NHS land as ripe for fast development:

“Sir Oliver Letwin is undertaking a review for the Government on “land banking” by property developers. It will seek to “explain the significant gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned and make recommendations for closing the gap”.

The delays are certainly a source of frustration. “Use it, or lose it,” is that great rallying cry – forgetting that planning permission routinely expires after three years under the current rules. In any case if property developers expect prices to be going up why would that be a reason not to build the homes – which they could then delay selling? I suspect delays are more usually caused by the planning system and difficulties raising the required capital.

We will see what Sir Oliver makes of it. But as he knows better than anyone, the worst culprit when it comes to land banking is the state itself – at least based on the broad definition of sitting on surplus land that could be developed. I have quoted from his memoirs, the examples of the Ministry of Defence and Network Rail. Even in London where we are all so squashed, Transport for London owns land equivalent to the size of Camden.

Another prime culprit is the National Health Service Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, wrote on this site last month that:

“The NHS alone sits on enough surplus land for more than 500,000 homes.”

In his paper for the Centre for Policy Studies, Homes for Everyone, Philp elaborates:

“In its 2017 report on surplus land, NHS Digital identified 1,332 hectares of surplus land across a total of 563 sites. Just 91 hectares of surplus land had been sold previously, with 11 hectares of those sold during 2016/17 – less than 1% of the potential total. At that rate, it would take 112 years to dispose of all the surplus NHS land. (A further 135 hectares is set to be sold by 2020, which is still only ten per cent of the available spare land.) If the NHS was to release its entire 1,332 hectares of surplus land for housing, as many as 533,000 new homes could be created.”

Actually if you look at the data it is likely that the potential is much greater. The NHS Trusts were marking their own homework. They can always say that some bit of unused land isn’t surplus as they might think of something to do with it some time. Then we had 75 of the 236 Trusts that responded denying having any surplus land.

But anyway, the acknowledged 1,332 hectares (that’s 3,291 acres since you ask) is a useful starting point. Surely this is something that councillors should help to pursue? After all, the housing shortage and the financial pressure on the NHS are two of the biggest political concerns of our time – releasing this land for development could help with both.

Perhaps the scrutiny remit of Health and Wellbeing Boards could be extended to cover it. But council leaders should also be chasing the NHS about all these derelict sites. They should be actively encouraged to seek outline planning permission so that the proceeds from sales could be increased. Of course Philip is right that central Government should doing far more. But let’s also get some pressure going locally.”


How to stop developers using the “viability assessment” loophole to avoid building affordable housing

Excellent report on the current disgraceful situation and what needs to be done about it. Part of the conclusion of the 38 page report of November 2017 which should be required reading for all council planning officers:

“… On its own, Section 106 will never meet the country’s need for new affordable housing supply. But the current use and abuse of viability assessments means that we are getting less affordable housing out of private developments than we were before and during the crash, and certainly less than we could.

Flexibility in the viability system has driven down affordable housing provision at the expense of land price inflation, essentially making development more expensive.

By amending the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance to close the viability loophole, we can maximise developer contributions to affordable housing, with knock-on positive effects for overall housing supply, build out rates and community support for new housing.

The government is already consulting on the changes needed to turn affordable housing policies into cast iron pledges. It is now vital that they follow through on these plans.”

Click to access 2017.11.01_Slipping_through_the_loophole.pdf

Is EDDC gearing up for even greater development for 5-year Local Plan review?

All Local Plans have to be reviewed every five years. Though it is likely that the next Local Plan won’t be very local as “Greater Exeter” will almost certainly be what is put forward, East Devon being only one part of it.

Now it seems the current Local Plan didn’t go to plan!

The number of new homes being built in East Devon has dramatically dropped, government data has revealed.

In total, 620 new properties were completed by private developers and housing associations in 2016/17.

But this is more than 250 homes fewer than were built in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 – where an average of 836 new properties were finished each year.

In the last decade, a total of 4,690 properties have been built and completed in the district and more than 12,600 new homes were finished across Devon. …


In fact 2013/14 and 2014/15 and 2015/16 were the result of the years during which the developer free-for-all took place when EDDC had no Local Plan and no 5 year land supply so we had a situation where, under government rules, developers could build any amount of houses practically anywhere. So it’s hardly surprising there was a boom.

So, it now appears that, in fact, the number of houses EDDC had expected to see built this year haven’t materialised.

That could mean that more will be front-loaded to a revised (probably Greater Exeter) plan. And/or the whole area might be back to not having a 5-year land supply so it will be a developer free-for-all – again.

What is VERY interesting is that around 37% of all new homes in the whole of Devon have been built in East Devon in the last decade.

Perhaps time for other parts of Greater Exeter to take the strain in the coming decade?

“Greater Exeter Strategic Plan”: are we already shafted?

Time is running out to comment on the “Greater Exeter Strategic Plan” initial consultation on “Issues”. Comments must be in by

10 April 2017

and the document is here:


and the full (12 page) document is here:

Click to access Greater-Exeter-Strategic-Plan-proof-v14.pdf

Owl thinks that there is precious little in the document that points either to a strategy or a plan! There are, however, many issues not covered such as:

– inequality ( how are the “just managing”, the “barely managing” and the “not managing at all going to access Greater Exeter’s resources (housing, transport, infrastructure, environment, health care, education) none of which is geared to them – only to the “managing very nicely thank you and ready to trade up to a bigger property or luxury retirement village” group

– the effect of Brexit, labour and skills shortages on the much-vaunted “economic growth”

– landbanking and housing supply – how they undermine all strategic planning projects

Owl also thinks this “plan” is shutting the door well after several horses have bolted, as already in the pipeline are massive developments planned to circle the city:

– west of Exeter: the 5,000-plus houses planned for “Culm Village” (Mid Devon)
– north/east of Exeter: the more than doubling in size of Cranbrook (East Devon) and the connected developments at Tithebarn Green, Pinn Brook Pinhoe and Monkerton (East Devon and Exeter City)
– south of Exeter: the massive development of Alphington and similar plans for doubling the size of Newton Abbott
– not to mention city developments such as St James’s Park and the thousands of student units in the city centre
– Local Enterprise Partnership plans to build extra houses just about everywhere else

Can anyone tell Owl which bits of “Greater Exeter” are left to consult on?

“UK government woos world’s housebuilders”

“The housing minister, Gavin Barwell, has told the world’s housebuilders that if they cannot find enough land on which to build new homes they can “come and see me” and he will try to help.

Barwell told developers at the world’s biggest property conference in Cannes on Thursday that he wanted to be “clear and unequivocal” that he was there to help them build hundreds of thousands of new homes to help fix the UK’s housing crisis.

“If you’ve got parts of the country where you want to build homes and you’re struggling to find land, you come and see me and I will then raise those issues with the relevant local authorities,” he told investors at the UK government’s first promotional stand on the famous waterfront in the south of France. “I don’t want people who want to build unable to do so because they can’t find the sites they want.

“That’s an offer to anyone in this room – if you’re struggling to find sites you [can] come talk to me and I’ll try and do something about it.” …

… Barwell told property industry figures that he wanted to “change the politics” of housebuilding so that local people did not automatically protest at the suggestion of new construction. The Croydon MP also vowed to have “hard discussions” with local politicians who held up development.

Barwell said he would try to make sure housebuilding projects came with fresh infrastructure investments to allow communities to cope with additional residents. He also said more needed to be done to ensure newbuild homes were of good quality and design.

“People welcome homes that are really innovative in design, or fit in with the local area,” he said. “What they don’t like are homes that look like they could have been plonked down in any area of the country.”


Government response to petition – “Give communities back the right to decide where houses are built.”.

OWL SAYS: if you believe this, you will believe anything. Have we been consulted about where our Local Enterprise Partnership is going to build extra houses? No. What say do we have about extra houses for Greater Exeter? Almost none. Do (favoured) developers get just about anything and everything they ask for in East Devon? Yes, they do.

Truly we live in a parallel universe to the government!

“Local communities are not forced to accept large housing developments. Communities are consulted throughout the Local Plan process and on individual planning applications.

Read the response in full

The National Planning Policy Framework strongly encourages all local planning authorities to get up-to-date Local Plans in place as soon as possible, in consultation with the local community. Up-to-date Local Plans ensure that communities get the right development, in the right place, at the right time, reflecting the principles of sustainable development. Through the White Paper we are ensuring that every part of the country produces, maintains and implements an up-to-date plan, yet with the flexibility for local areas to decide how to plan in a way that best meets their needs.

A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made.

The Framework recognises the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. That is why our proposals are focussed on development in built up areas.
We are also absolutely clear that Green Belt must be protected and that there are other areas that local authorities must pursue first, such as brownfield land and taking steps to increase density on urban sites. The Government is committed to maximising the use of brownfield land and has already embarked on an ambitious programme to bring brownfield land back into use.

We believe that developers should mitigate the impacts of development. This is vital to make it acceptable to the local community and to addresses the cumulative impact of development in an area. Both the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 agreements can be used by local planning authorities to help fund supporting infrastructure and address the cumulative demand that development places on infrastructure. Through the White Paper, the Government announced that it will examine the options for reforming the existing system of developer contributions to see how this can be simplified, with further announcements at Autumn Budget 2017.

The £2.3billion Housing Infrastructure Fund will deliver up to 100,000 new homes by putting in the right infrastructure, in the right place, at the right time. We expect the fund to be able to deliver a variety of types of infrastructure necessary to unlock housing growth in high demand areas.

There is nothing automatic about grants of planning permission where there is not yet an up-to-date Local Plan. It is still up to local decision-makers to interpret and apply national policy to local circumstances, alongside the views of the local community. Applications should not be approved if the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits; or if specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted.

Communities are also able to make representations on individual planning applications and in response to most appeals by the applicant against a local authority decision. Interested parties can raise all the issues that concern them during the planning process, in the knowledge that the decision maker will take their views into account, along with other material considerations, in reaching a decision.

We therefore do not believe a right of appeal against the grant of planning permission for communities is necessary. It is considered that communities already have plenty of opportunity to have their say on local planning issues, and it would be wrong for them to be able to delay a development at the last minute, through a community right of appeal, when any issues they would raise at that point could have been raised and should have been considered during the earlier planning application process.

Department for Communities and Local Government”


Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation – only one public meeting to discuss implications for East Devon




Greater Exeter Strategic Plan Consultation: Issues

The local authorities of East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge in partnership with Devon County Council are working together to prepare a Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP). This formal statutory document will provide the overall spatial strategy and level of housing and employment land to be provided up to 2040. Please visit http://www.gesp.org.uk for more information.

Engagement with stakeholders and communities will be critical to the success of the Plan. At this first stage, the authorities are consulting on an initial ‘issues document’ which, after setting out some background information, looks to explain the scope and content of the plan as well as describing the key issues facing the Greater Exeter area. This early stage of consultation is designed to stimulate debate and the local planning authorities are seeking your views on the scope and content of the plan as well as the key issues facing your area.

A number of other associated documents are also being consulted on:

Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report:

· The Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report is the first stage of work in undertaking the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) for the plan. This process is used to assess the sustainability of the plan content as it develops.

Statement of Community Involvement:

· The joint Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) sets out the approach for consultation in the GESP. The SCI sets out the way in which we will be engaging with communities and other interested parties throughout the process.

The consultation will run from 27 February 2017 until 10 April 2017. To view the consultation material and to make your comments please visit http://www.gesp.org.uk/consultations/issues/.

Alternatively, paper copies of the consultation document are available to view at your local library and Council Office.

A series of exhibitions are being held during the consultation period in the following locations:

Honiton: Mackarness Hall, High Street, EX14 1PG – Wednesday 8 March 2017, 2pm-8pm

Tiverton: Mid Devon District Council Office, Phoenix House, Phoenix Lane, EX16 6PP – Wednesday 15 March 2017, 2-8pm
Exeter: The Guildhall, High Street, EX4 3EB – Thursday 16 March 2017, 2-8pm
Newton Abbot: Old Forde House, Brunel Road, TQ12 4XX – Thursday 23 March 2017, 2- 8pm

A ‘call for sites’ has also been arranged to run alongside the consultation. This is a technical exercise which allows interested parties to submit potential sites for development to the Local Authorities. The sites are then assessed to consider whether they are suitable for possible inclusion in the plan. Further information is http://gesp.org.uk/call-for-sites/.

If you need further information please visit the website, email GESP@devon.gov.uk or contact your Local Council using the phone numbers below:

East Devon: 01395 571533
Exeter: 01392 265615
Mid Devon: 01884 234221
Teignbridge: 01626 215735

As there are four Councils contacting their stakeholders for the consultation and call for sites, you may receive duplicate letters/emails. Please accept my apologies if this is the case.”

“Evidence” for housing need in the post-truth era

As the country quietly celebrates annual economic growth of 2%, it is worth reminding ourselves that our housing and employment land allocations were based upon an expectation of a 3% annual economic growth rate over the entire length of the East Devon Local Plan. This is because Plans must be “evidence-based”.

The problem with East Devon’s various plans is that the evidence was hopelessly optimistic and pre-dated the recession, based on consistent “high growth”. When the recession came along, the powers that be just ignored its implications and carried on with their highly optimistic projections.

So today, Britain’s economy has shown only 8% growth since 2007, when the numbers for our Plan were first formulated. But according to our Plan we should be 34.5% ahead of where we were then.

No wonder that Skypark and the Science Park are windswept desolate areas festooned with tumbleweed, and Sidford is looking like complete economic nonsense.

Even if the incredibly unlikely happens, and we see 3% growth until the end of the plan period, we will never fulfil the assumptions that gave us these huge allocations. And when – not if – we fail to reach those optimistic figures, no doubt the government will fine us by telling us our plans must be MORE optimistic next time – and probably will say we have no five-year land supply, so it will be a developer free-for-all again.

So much for evidenced-based Plans: stick your finger in the air, check which way the wind is blowing, make a complete guess (that favours developers) and stick with it, regardless.

Diviani has “withdrawn” his plan to continue as a DCC councillor to “concentrate on being Leader of EDDC” – and a board member of the Local Enterprise Partnership. Owl wonders where the Leader is leading us – by the nose.

AONB – pah, build, build, build!

“A loophole in planning rules is allowing developers to build housing estates in England’s finest countryside.

Ministers are waving through applications for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) despite promising to protect them.

The High Weald in Sussex, the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds are among the protected areas being built on.

Six hundred homes, a hospice and a school were approved last month near Pease Pottage in the High Weald despite objections from Natural England, the government’s advisory body on protecting the natural environment.

Campaigners said that the rules were being swept aside in the rush to meet housing targets. Ministers are threatening councils with a “presumption” in favour of development unless they allocate enough land.”


Recall that, when EDDC dragged out its Local Plan process for years and years (abandoning the first secret attempts run by Councillors Brown and Skinner and starting again) developers had a free run in East Devon.

Should we find that we do NOT have a 5 year land supply when the Local Plan comes up for review (due every 5 years so we should be starting now) then, presumably, that will happen all over again.

Recently (November 2016) EDDC brought up the idea of external auditors being consultants for the review, but the auditors themselves quickly pointed out that they had no experience in such projects and it should be led by an organisation with proper expertise:

“Problem (page 134 of agenda papers):
“Undertake a Review of the process for writing the Local Plan in future”

The solution
“A meeting has been held with our external auditors to scope out this review but it was quickly determined that they are not the right people to undertake this review due to their lack of knowledge of the plan making process. Other options including using the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) are now being pursued.”

Click to access 241116-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

Things seem to have gone quiet again since then, with no public announcement of a new consulting organisation.

Questions: Shouldn’t external auditors anyway be at “arms length” from council business? Which bright spark thought of offering them the job?

“Greater Exeter” and its impact on housing and infrastructure in East Devon

We learned recently that the current Stagecoach depot opposite the bus station in Exeter is going to be turned into a massive block of student housing – 557 units.

Now we hear that there are plans for the site of the Honiton Inn, on the roundabout opposite the bus station to be another student block of 101 flats with their own private gym and cinema – opposite a public gym and cinema!


What effect will this have on East Devon?

Well, “Greater Exeter” – whose “Visioning Board” like all such development and regeneration boards in “Greater Exeter” meets in secret – is making arrangements to do the next revision to its 3 Local Plans (Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge) together.

It will be totally evident (in fact it is already) that Exeter’s main growth in housing will remain student housing. So, where will housing for other people go? Obviously East Devon and Teignbridge.

Cranbrook has natural boundaries beyond which it will soon make its further expansion much more difficult than heretofore. Therefore, it will be towns such as Exmouth, Honiton and Sidmouth – and the green fields in-between – that must be expanded to take in the commuters into Exeter, with a possible massive impact.

None of this is being put before the general public in any of the three areas nor is adequate infrastructure being planned for this big change (or at least we cannot be allowed know of any). And, of course, our Local Enterprise Partnership will “own” the business rates of the Exeter “Growth Area” and will have its fingers in the many development pies.

Time to start talking about the NEXT revision of the Local Plan which may well see even more massive development in East Devon on a much bigger scale than we could ever have imagined and could dwarf the extra numbers already agreed..

“Developers deliberately restricting housing supply to keep prices high”

“Developers have been accused of deliberately restricting the supply of new houses to keep prices high after figures suggested that planning permission has been granted for 750,000 homes which have not been built.

A report by Civitas, a respected right of centre thinktank, found that overall more than two million planning permits were issued between 2006 and 2015, a rate which would be enough to build average of 204,000 new homes a year.

However, foundations were only been laid on 1.26 million of them, suggesting that developers and land owners are sitting on the permissions rather than building new homes. …

… campaigners said that they should have included a “sunset clause” which would have forced developers to build on land granted planning permission within a set time period. …

… The analysis shows that between 2011 – the last full year before the changes were introduced – and 2015, the number of unused planning permits jumped by 88 per cent, while new housing starts increased by just 26 per cent.

One third of “unbuilt planning permissions” were thought to be held by non-builders, Civitas said, which “points to land hoarding in the hope of further rises in land values”.

Civitas accused housebuilders of reducing sales to a “drip-feed” to maintain profit margins.

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said: “David Cameron’s relaxation of the planning rules has so far only been to the advantage of developers, who have banked the additional planning permissions and topped up their pipelines for future years without increasing output.

“The challenge for Theresa May’s government now is to break the stranglehold that the major housebuilders are exerting on the supply of new homes.”

He added: “It is increasingly evident that the brake on development is being applied by those who are sitting on land which is ripe for new homes and has been given the all-clear by planning authorities.

“This includes land speculators, who are content to sit tight while their holdings spiral in value, but is mostly housebuilders, who lack any incentive to get on and build the homes the country needs.

“Housebuilders are drip-feeding the market in order to push up prices and maximise their profits.”

Last night MPs said they would investigate the figures as part of a new cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into the UK’s sluggish house building rates.

Clive Betts MP, the chairman of the Communities and Local Government select committee, said: “Planning reforms will be a failure unless the Government can act and turn planning permissions into completions.


Taxpayers Alliance wants most planning rules to be abolished

“The government should scrap stamp duty and ease planning restrictions to address the worsening housing crisis, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has said today.

In a new report, the group called for “real reform” to tackle the housing shortage accusing successive governments of merely tinkering around the edges instead of dealing with underlying issues facing the sector. …

… the fundamental problem with housing markets in Britain is overly tight planning restrictions, the group suggests. The alliance urges the government to declassify swathes of green-belt land to tackle the chronic lack of new house building. For example, it estimates that allowing just 5% of the greenbelt around London to be built on will enable the city to grow by one sixth.

Taller, denser housing construction should be also encouraged, as well as more infilling, despite the likely increased pressure on traffic systems and public services.

The alliance cites the work of groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Victorian Society, and the “thousands” of local groups who successfully protect the character of communities.

However, protecting land from development restricts the supply of new properties and inevitably raises the cost of housing, the alliance argues. It says: “The political fact is that housing cannot become more affordable unless it becomes cheaper and easier to build more of it in the places where … groups object.”

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “For decades politicians have failed to tackle the root causes of the housing crisis: a chronic lack of supply. What’s more, stamp duty is still punitively high and gimmicky tweaks to the tax system will ultimately end up penalising tenants and increasing rents.”

Isaby is urging new chancellor Phillip Hammond to seize the opportunity “to drastically simplify and reduce property taxes, while removing planning restrictions which prevent huge swathes of land from being built on for no good reason at all”.


Brexit, developers, local plans and devolution

So, we voted out – and suddenly housebuilders (developers) shares plunged by 40%.

There does not seem to be an immediate link with voting out, but there is. We are in for an unstable time. There will be a recession and pundits differ only on whether it will be short (around 2 years) or long (anywhere from 5-20 years depending on who you listen to). House prices will reflect this by falling and mortgage rates may well rise, pushing some into negative equity and others wary of buying in case they fall into negative equity.

Housebuilders will also need to factor in higher import costs coming in the near future when EU trade reduces and new trade agreements have not begun, along with a local skills gap as workers from the EU dry up. Plus likely (possibly temporary)increases in income tax to cover lost government income from (again possibly temporary) shrinking markets. Not to mention higher unemployment benefits to those whose jobs currently depend directly and indirectly on those employers who would normally benefit from being in the EU.

To compound this, many developers have recently taken their huge profits out of their businesses by giving their directors massive bonuses.

All these factors cause a “perfect storm” for Local Plans and the general East Devon economy. Our Local Plan is predicated on continuous growth and increasing employment, fuelling a constant demand for new housing. And, more worryingly, there are penalties if this does not happen. If we (and all other councils) do not maintain a 5-year land supply, we are penalised by having our housing numbers INCREASED by 20%.

Another complication is that, currently, our council (and others) depend for income on the government’s “New Homes Bonus” – the more new homes it gets a developer to build, the more income it gets.

All this conspires to suddenly make our local plans hardly worth the paper they were written on.

Then there is devolution – which in Devon and Somerset also highly depends on housebuilding – having “promised” an extra 176,000 houses over and above Local Plans, and also dependent on continuous growth and constantly increasing employment. It is no coincidence that the Chairman of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP: the lead in the devolution bid) is Chairman of big developer, Midas.

Our LEP was also promised “jam tomorrow” funds (over 30 years) from the government AND anticipated masses of EU funding, all riding on the back of a new Hinkley C nuclear power station. All other devolved areas were given similar promises.

Our new government will now have its hands full attempting to negotiate its way out of the EU, rewriting or scrapping those EU laws we have (including those on environmental protection and workers rights) and trying desperately to work out where this notional extra £350 million a week is eventually going to be spent. It has already been promised to the health service, areas currently in receipt of EU regeneration funding and academic research programmes currently supported by EU grants. That is simply an arithmetical nightmare and almost certainly an impossibility.

This leaves East Devon in a precarious position: heavily dependant on new housebuilding and continuous year on year economic growth with constant employment growth and receipt of funds from a distracted government which has also promised to stem immigration – many having voted for this as its first priority. These two priorities will mean little time for other things. Not to mention having to deal at the same time with the implications of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s differing position on their future in the UK and EU.

The Local Plan and devolution deals are now almost certainly of much lower priority to this beleaguered government and this may well lead to unintended consequences the like of which our council and our LEP can only imagine and for which they have no plan B.

Many warned that economic growth and increasing employment between now and 2030, when our local plan ends, was unattainable and that at least one event would intervene for which there was no contingency. Few expected it to happen quite so quickly.

As expected: EDDC will build more than the 17,100 houses in the Local Plan

Many, many more ….

EDDC says a grand total of 18,391 net new dwellings are now projected to have been completed over the full plan period – well above the minimum figure for housing need.”


So, if it is above the figure for housing need – who needs the extra ones?

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. …”