“Developers Have Used A Legal Loophole To Dodge Building 10,000 Affordable Homes”

“Developers have dodged providing more than 10,000 affordable homes due to the government’s failure to close a loophole in the law, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Using ‘permitted development rights’, builders have sidestepped their duty to provide affordable homes when they convert non-residential buildings like office blocks.

The rules were designed to speed up the planning process, as they allow developers to transform a property without having to apply for town halls’ planning permission – something which could see council chiefs demand social housing as part of planning conditions.

Housing charity Shelter handed an analysis to HuffPost which shows that 10,340 affordable homes have been lost over the last three years in England as a result.

Polly Neate, chief executive, said: “With hundreds of thousands of people homeless today, it’s obvious that we need as many social homes as we can get. But despite this, the government is now considering new plans that could supercharge a social housing get out clause for developers.

“Developers shouldn’t have a license to dodge social housing when so many are without a home they can afford. Instead of creating a social housing black hole, the government should halt these plans and bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

The government says the rules simplify the planning process, but for every 10 homes built using the conversion rules, three affordable homes have been lost.

As the housing crisis deepens, ministers are now considering a new plan which could allow developers to further exploit the rules.

Using the same legal mechanism, developers may be able to demolish and replace commercial buildings.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey said the government must act.

“We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes, but Conservative ministers are letting developers cash in without making any contribution to the community,” he said.

We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes Labour shadow housing minister, John Healey
“These changes have given developers a free hand to dodge their duty to build homes that are affordable to local people.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government underlined that more than 32,000 homes had been provided using permitted development rights.

“We’re committed to speeding up the planning system to help deliver the homes the country needs,” she said.

“By introducing additional permitted development rules we’re providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy and making the most effective use of existing buildings.

“Our £9bn affordable homes programme is set to deliver 250,000 affordable homes by March 2022 and we’re scrapping councils’ borrowing caps, setting them free to build a new generation of council housing.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/exclusive-legal-loophole-let-developers-dodge-building-10000-affordable-homes_uk_5c0a5b6ee4b0de79357bc719

Raynsford Report on planning: hot on problems, cold on solutions!

Executive summary here:
https://www.tcpa.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx

Honestly, Owl can barely raise a talon. Nothing new, so let’s just stick with this paragraph:

” …The defining challenge for the future of planning is not to be found in any technical fix, but in the degree to which there is consensus in favour of an effective and democratic system to manage the future development of our communities and our nation.

The institutional and technical changes are possible and achievable.

The question is whether we have the will and foresight to secure the health and wellbeing of all our communities now and for the future …”

… rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb….

Yeah, right, ok …. zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Yet Another Planning Saga at Greendale!

Clearly FWS Carter and Sons, the owners of Greendale Business Park are not taking “no” for an answer!

They have submitted two further retrospective planning applications 18/2661/COU and 18/2660/COU for two compounds on Hogsbrook Lane between Greendale Business Park and their farm at Hogsbrook.

There is a very long history going back 12 years for these two Industrial Compounds known as Compound East 6 at Greendale Business Park.

The area was an agricultural field up to 2007 when a Gas Pipeline Contractor building a new Gas Main through Devon used a “permitted development rights” application to construct a service yard for contractor’s equipment and storage, but with an agreed condition that it had to be returned to agricultural use following the completion of the project.

However, FWS Carter and Sons submitted a planning application APP 09/0099/FUL for the retention of hard standing and security fence for growing fruit! The retention was claimed by the applicant to be justified as fruit growing was an agricultural use and the project needed security fencing and a hard standing.

However, immediately after the approval, the site was used for the storage of scrapped vehicles by Woodbury Carbreakers. As the site did not have the appropriate planning nor Environment Agency permit a court case followed against the tenant and the site was eventually cleared after 3 years.

The Site Owners then used it for commercial and industrial purposes and finally submitted a retrospective planning application App 16/0568/FUL for Storage of HGVs in the Fruit Farm Enclosure. However, this application was refused. East Devon District Council were informed that the applicant would appeal. The applicant had 6 months up to 23/11/2016 to lodge an appeal, but no appeal was submitted, but the industrial use continued.

During this time EDDC Local Plan was approved in 2016 which included Policy E7 which allows extensions to Employment sites (except Greendale and Hill Barton that were considered too large for their rural locations). The East Devon Villages Plans approved in Feb 2018 also included a section on the “Greendale Employment Area” which excludes these specific locations off Hogsbrook Lane.

FWS Carter and sons in 2017 then applied for a Planning Variation order 17/2350/VAR to remove a planning condition to the original 2009 application which required the security fence and hardstanding to be removed if the fruit farm business failed. This application was held up for approximately 12 months due to legal matters. The Application was finally agreed in Oct 2018 but with a condition stating that the use must remain agricultural.
East of Compound 6 and further from the Hogsbrook Lane is an area that over the years has become a storage area for Industrial and agricultural products and equipment. It was originally used for the Gas Pipe line contractors and following their departure in 2009 it has been used by the landowners and their tenants.

In 2017 the owners submitted a Certificate of Lawfulness 17/2441/CPE. These Certificates are used by landowners who have used a specific area for more than 10 years without the correct planning permission and therefore are able to claim that the current use is now “lawful” after 10 years illegal use.

However, it was highlighted to the Planning Authority by the local “Woodbury Salterton Residents Association” that some of the use was agricultural and anyway the Gas Pipe Line Compound was “permitted development”, so the application failed the 10-year time requirement. Therefore, the submission failed.

It is normal practice that a planning Authority would inform landowners that an “Enforcement Notice” would eventually be served in cases like this where there has been breaches in planning regulations.

To presumably delay the Enforcement Notice, FWS Carter and sons have now submitted two further retrospective applications for a change of use application 18/2661/COU at compound East 6 and a further application 18/2660/COU for the compound relating to the failed “Certificate of Lawfulness”

Therefore, the Enforcement Notices will not be served whilst these applications are considered, with the decision to serve the Enforcement Notices being subject to the decision on these latest two applications.

The Saga of Hogsbrook Lane therefore continues!

A parish councillor says planning system is broken

Guardian letters:

“The planning system is broken. At the London launch this week of Nick Raynsford’s Review of Planning in England, speakers described demoralised councillors and planners; frustration over constant changes of policy; and anger that the system is not delivering what people want. Parish councils are at the sharp end of this failure to reform the system. Communities here in Kent and across Britain are facing the threat of opportunistic, unplanned development. Landowners and developers are exploiting the fact that it takes time to prepare, consult on and get approval for a new local plan, to bring forward applications for housing development on unsuitable sites.

Additionally, where a local authority does not have a five-year “housing supply” (an arbitrary figure and a rather nebulous concept as the number of houses in the pipeline fluctuates continually), the new national planning policy framework (NPPF) dictates that councils must grant permission, unless there are overriding reasons to refuse. A developer-led planning process, crude housing targets, no joined-up regional thinking, and flawed “consultation” has resulted in communities being pitted against each other as they try to protect the environment and their health.

The Raynsford review makes 24 recommendations to create a simpler, fairer system. These include strategic regional planning, a (limited) community right to challenge in an attempt to redress the balance of power, and a duty on local authorities to plan for high-quality and genuinely affordable homes. I hope the government will listen carefully to the arguments for reform. Change is desperately needed.
Richard Byatt
Chair, planning committee, West Malling parish council, Kent”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/30/our-broken-housing-market-urgently-needs-fixing

Reuse, repurpose, refurbish: “The rise of the ‘meanwhile space’: how empty properties are finding second lives”

“Hospitals are rarely places of cheer and creativity, but the former Saint-Vincent-de-Paul hospital in Paris’s 14th district is one of the most exciting places on the left bank. Former ambulance bays and car parks now house allotments, a boules court, a makeshift football pitch and an urban campsite, and up to 1,000 visitors a day come to browse its market, eat at its cafes or catch a free live performance.

Renamed Les Grands Voisins, or The Great Neighbours, the site is a magnet for Parisians and tourists alike, its former treatment rooms, A&E building and wards now a hub of social and commercial enterprise. Alongside a hostel providing 600 beds for the homeless are artisan studios, pop-up shops and startups.

It’s like a village, an inclusive space with social areas and job opportunities where different people can interact,” says William Dufourcq, director of Aurore, the charity that runs the homeless shelter. “We were overwhelmed with its success.”

Closed since 2011, the hospital is slated for redevelopment into a new neighbourhood with eco credentials, private and social housing, shops, commercial and public facilities and green space.

Planning, clearance and construction on such a large scale takes time and, rather than leave the 3.4-hectare site empty for years, the developer, Paris Batignolles Aménagement, opened it to local organisations rent-free. The lease was scheduled to end this year, but has been extended until mid-2020 while construction begins on other parts of the site.

Les Grands Voisins is an example of a “meanwhile space”: a disused site temporarily leased or loaned by developers or the public sector to local community groups, arts organisations, start-ups and charities. Calls for making use of such spaces in other crowded urban centres are getting louder. A report published in October by the thinktank Centre for London highlights both the need for and positive possibilities of utilising empty urban sites and how this could transform the landscape of cities around the globe.

“The aim was to show the value ‘meanwhile use’ can add in cities where there is pressure on space,” says Nicolas Bosetti, one of the report researchers. He says public and private operators in Paris are more ambitious than those in London in exploring the use of disused buildings from metro stations to former nightclubs for short-term use as charity and cultural venues.

Other meanwhile spaces in Paris include Exelmans, a former police residence repurposed as a shelter for the homeless and refugees, run by Aurore on a two-year lease, and the Parmentier electricity substation, where the art collective La Générale has operated since 2008.

The substation, which is soon to be redeveloped, was included in Paris Reinvented, an initiative from the mayor’s office currently in its second year. Disused public sites are put up for auction to developers and architects who compete with plans for their redevelopment. “Les Grands Voisins showed how something like this can change an area and help plan future urban projects,” says Marion Waller, adviser to Paris’s deputy mayor for urban planning. “We didn’t want to sell buildings to the highest bidder but to the most innovative solution.”

The idea of loaning empty urban spaces to worthwhile causes is gaining ground elsewhere, with thriving projects in the Danish city of Aarhus and Philadelphia in the US, where it’s called “temporary urbanism”. However, in space-squeezed London, urban sites can remain empty for years, mainly because they have no obvious commercial potential or are waiting for permission to be developed.

The Centre for London found that an estimated 24,400 commercial properties in London are currently empty, with around half having been unused for more than two years. The total available vacant space, 6.5m sq metres, is equivalent to 27 times the footprint of Westfield London, Europe’s largest shopping centre. The majority of such places are owned by local authorities and developers. “Only one of 33 London borough councils publishes a database of vacant property and only one council keeps a list of groups interested in vacant spaces,” says Bosetti.

Bosetti thinks property owners could do more to match available sites with needy groups but says local authorities are afraid of squatters or allowing in destructive elements. “One of the main barriers to meanwhile use is the perception that hoarding a site is safer,” he says. “Often the opposite is true. Opening a site to a community and encouraging interaction with residents usually sees a reduction in antisocial activity.”

Squatting and vandalism are more likely if a building remains empty for too long, so one benefit of temporary tenants is the reduction in security costs. Another, according to Simon Hesketh, director of regeneration with the British developer U+I, is the connection a meanwhile space can forge with the community prior to redevelopment.

“We’ll try to organise events in temporary spaces for the widest cross-section of residents, to get their views and ask what they’d like and what works,” he says. “Not just to smooth the planning process, but because we can learn what we might include in our proposals.” …

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/nov/28/the-rise-of-the-meanwhile-space-how-empty-properties-are-finding-second-lives

Local Government Association wants two affordable housing loopholes to be closed

Permitted development rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis and should be scrapped, the Local Government Association has said.

The LGA has also urged the government to drop proposed plans, contained in the Budget, to extend the rules to allow upwards extensions to be built without planning permission and allow the demolition of existing commercial buildings for new homes without planning consent.

The Association claimed that communities had missed out on more than 10,000 affordable homes in the past three years as a result of government rules on permitted development.

According to the LGA, latest figures show that since 2015, a total of 42,130 housing units in England have been converted from offices to flats without having to go through the planning system. “As a result, they included no affordable housing or supporting investment in infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services.”

The LGA added that while this amounted to approximately 7% of new homes nationally, in some parts of the country it represented a much higher proportion of all new housing. Office to residential conversions under permitted development rules accounted for 40% of new homes in Islington, Welwyn Hatfield, Mole Valley, Croydon and Derby in 2017/18.

A survey of councils in England has meanwhile found concerns about the rules, finding that:

Around nine out of 10 councils were concerned about the quality/design and the appropriateness of the location of housing as a result and almost six out of 10 were concerned about safety.

Around two-thirds thought that both contributions by developers to affordable housing and contributions for other infrastructure through section 106 agreements had reduced. A similar proportion (61%) thought that demands on local infrastructure/services had increased.

60% of councils said they were concerned about the demand being placed on health and social care services and school place planning as a result of homes being built through permitted development rules

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules are taking away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensures homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes.

“The loss of office space is also leaving businesses and start-ups without any premises in which to base themselves.

“Extending permitted development rules risks exacerbating these problems.”

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

People using self-storage units permanently because their homes are too small

“… The average household in the UK is 2.4 persons, larger than both Germany and France, yet we have the smallest average property size, making the UK population “one of the most squeezed in Europe”, according to the SSA.

So it’s not surprising that people are turning to self-storage, with it cheaper to rent extra space than it is to buy or rent a bigger home, says Rennie Schafer, chief executive of the SSA.

A “room away from home” is how he describes it. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46100793