More storms, more floods

“Homeowners in the South West are being warned intense bouts of flooding are set to become more frequent.

The Environment Agency has launched the Flood Action Campaign to raise awareness.

Younger people are being encouraged to check flood risks as research shows 18 to 34 year olds are at the highest risk of fatality due to being less likely to perceive personal risk, the agency said.

Met Office records show intense storms are becoming more frequent, sea levels are rising, and since 1910 there have been 17 record breaking rainfall months or seasons – with nine since 2000.”

“Developers leave 420,000 homes with planning permission unbuilt, new figures show”

“The number of homes that have not been built despite receiving planning permission has soared in the last year, new figures reveal, meaning sites for hundreds of thousands of new properties are being left undeveloped.

More than 400,000 homes have been granted permission but are still waiting to be built, according to analysis published by the Local Government Association (LGA) – a rise of 16 per cent in the past year.

The data also shows developers are taking significantly longer to build homes than they were four years ago. It now takes an average of 40 months from planning permission for a property to be completed – eight months longer than in 2013-14.

The findings will probably raise questions over why developers are taking more than three years to complete homes, and in many cases failing to build them at all, at a time when the UK is building around 50,000 fewer properties per year than is needed to meet current demand.

In 2015-16, the number of homes in England and Wales that had received planning permission but not been built was


A year later that had risen to


Developers argue that a burdensome planning system stops them building properties more quickly, but the LGA said the new figures prove that delays are the fault of developers, not councils.

Councillor Martin Tett, the organisation’s housing spokesman, said: “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building. In fact the opposite is true. In the last year, councils and their communities granted twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed.

“No one can live in a planning permission. Councils need greater powers to act where house building has stalled.”

Arguing that town halls need to be given greater freedom to borrow money to fund new homes, Mr Tett added: “Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 house-building target set by the Government on their own.

“We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

“Further defects found at housing [new-build apartments] with Grenfell-style cladding”

“More than a dozen fire safety concerns have been uncovered in a new housing complex covered in Grenfell-style flammable cladding, built by one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, Galliard Homes.

In the weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 71 lives, defective fire doors, missing fire-stopping, dangerous fire escapes and holes in plasterboard meant to stop the spread of flames and smoke were identified by fire officials at New Capital Quay in Greenwich, London, which is home to about 2,000 people and opened in 2013.

The Guardian has learned that another deficiency notice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was issued on 25 January in relation to all 11 blocks in the complex.

It identified 16 fire safety issues, including a lack of arrangements to evacuate vulnerable and elderly residents, an ineffective maintenance regime, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks.

It also found that “the procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate”, raising residents’ fears about being trapped in the event of a fire.

Ruth Montlake, 85, who lives on the seventh floor of one of the blocks, said: “The fire situation is very worrying. I am hard of hearing; how will I know to evacuate?”

Simone Joseph, 35, a fashion buyer and mother of a seven-year-old boy, said there had been three fires in her block in the time she had lived there.

“To know that seven months down the line we are living in this property with this cladding is upsetting,” said Joseph, who rents from Hyde Housing, the head leaseholder of two of the blocks. “People have been cutting corners for so many years and are putting people’s lives at risk and they have to be held accountable.”

With more than 1,000 homes, New Capital Quay is believed to be one of the biggest single private housing developments in the country discovered to have flammable cladding in the wake of Grenfell. Galliard sold two-bedroom apartments for £700,000.

A fire warden patrol was put in place when the cladding was discovered last summer, but residents are concerned that it is still in place seven months after the west London disaster.

“We simply do not feel safe living in buildings with defective cladding that could rapidly go up in flames while we are sleeping,” one woman told the local council in an email exchange.

Galliard said some of the defects identified in July had been addressed and there had been no issue with missing fire-stopping material, just an error during the inspection.

It said the building was different to Grenfell: “Totally unlike Grenfell, NCQ was built and still has full and proper fire precautions with fire doors, fire-stopping, fire alarms, smoke-extract systems and no gas in apartments. The block at NCQ which has the most cladding has a full sprinkler system throughout.”

It also said that three of the 16 issues raised by fire authorities in its latest report were “not true” and questioned two further issues.

Asked whether residents were safe, Galliard said LFEPA was the leading expert. “They have the statutory power to issue notices to evacuate the homes. They have to date decided not to do so,” it said.

While residents fear their lives are at risk while the cladding remains, they are also concerned they will be asked to pay the estimated £20m-£40m bill – between £20,000 and £40,000 a flat – to make it safe. In addition, they face a £1.25m bill for round-the-clock fire patrols.

But they are particularly concerned about how difficult it is to get information and said they were forced to use a freedom of information request to uncover the fire safety notices from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Galliard, which is facing a bill of up to £40m, is planning to sue the warranty and insurance provider, National House Building Council. NHBC has indicated it will defend the claim.

Meanwhile, 30 fire marshals are patrolling the 11 buildings 24 hours a day at an estimated cost of £25,000 a week. But residents are concerned that wardens are not the solution.

Annabel Parsons, 54, a business psychologist who lives in the complex, said one marshal had been spotted asleep and another had brought a blanket with him. Before they were equipped with hand-held klaxons, one warden said their plan to raise the alarm in the event of a fire involved throwing stones at windows, residents claimed. Galliard said that without a date, time, name and other details of the fire marshal, it was an “impossible allegation to investigate”.

Hyde Housing, which has interests in six of the blocks as well as being head leaseholder in two, said the situation was “very distressing” for residents.

“We urge all those bodies involved in resolving this matter to do so speedily,” said Brent O’Halloran, director of asset management at Hyde.

A recent tribunal regarding a building in Croydon was told that official guidance was that fire wardens were the “least-efficient, most resource-intensive” solution of three recommended by LFB.”

Swire says developers “gamed” Cranbrook to its detriment and Neighbourhood Plans aren’t working!

He says developers refused to create a town centre because there weren’t enough people living there! He says the council is now having to step in to rectify this!

Owl thinks that perhaps there are not enough people living there (question: how many is enough?) because there is no town centre!

Unitary authorities – the austerity measure that can’t be stopped?

Wonder what that new £10m EDDC HQ will be used for?

“Simon Heffer writes in the Sunday Telegraph to call on the Government to simplify and streamline the UK’s councils, replacing the system of county and district councils with county-level unitary authorities.

The need for “wholesale reform”, he says, has been made urgent by the problem of “social care that will break local government” and former chancellor George Osborne’s “disastrously flawed business rate system, which has had a profound effect on revenue-raising”.

He says that a system of unitary authorities would reduce payroll, offer the chance to sell off assets, and improve the handling of planning decisions, while the Government should remove “huge strategic questions such as social care from council control altogether”.

The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 21


“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.”