Land: the new rhodium (the most expensive metal in the world)

“What is the most neglected issue in British politics? I would say land. Literally and metaphorically, land underlies our lives, but its ownership and control have been captured by a tiny number of people. The results include soaring inequality and exclusion; the massive cost of renting or buying a decent home; the collapse of wildlife and ecosystems; repeated financial crises; and the loss of public space. Yet for 70 years this crucial issue has scarcely featured in political discussions.

Today, I hope, this changes, with the publication of the report to the Labour party – Land for the Many – that I’ve written with six experts in the field. Our aim is to put this neglected issue where it belongs: at the heart of political debate and discussion.

Since 1995, land values in this country have risen by 412%. Land now accounts for an astonishing 51% of the UK’s net worth. Why? In large part because successive governments have used tax exemptions and other advantages to turn the ground beneath our feet into a speculative money machine. A report published this week by Tax Justice UK reveals that, through owning agricultural land, 261 rich families escaped £208m in inheritance tax in 2015-16. Because farmland is used as a tax shelter, farmers are being priced out. In 2011, farmers bought 60% of the land that was on the market; within six years this had fallen to 40%.

Homes are so expensive not because of the price of bricks and mortar, but because land now accounts for 70% of the price

Worse still, when planning permission is granted on agricultural land, its value can rise 250-fold. Though this jackpot was created by society, the owner gets to keep most of it. We pay for this vast inflation in land values through outrageous rents and mortgages. Capital gains tax is lower than income tax, and council tax is proportionately more expensive for the poor than for the rich. As a result of such giveaways, and the amazing opacity of the system, land in the UK has become a magnet for international criminals seeking to launder their money.

We pay for these distortions every day. Homes have become so expensive not because the price of bricks and mortar has risen, but because the land that underlies them now accounts for 70% of their price. Twenty years ago, the average working family needed to save for three years to afford a deposit. Today, it must save for 19 years. Life is even worse for renters. While housing costs swallow 12% of average household incomes for those with mortgages, renters pay 36%.

Because we hear so little about the underlying issues, we blame the wrong causes for the cost and scarcity of housing: immigration, population growth, the green belt, red tape. In reality, the power of landowners and building companies, their tax and financial advantages and the vast shift in bank lending towards the housing sector have inflated prices so much that even a massive housebuilding programme could not counteract them.

The same forces are responsible for the loss of public space in cities, a right to roam that covers only 10% of the land, the lack of provision for allotments and of opportunities for new farmers, and the wholesale destruction of the living world. Our report aims to confront these structural forces and take back control of the fabric of the nation. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/04/tackle-inequality-land-ownership-laws?

A new way of planning: are no-overall-control councillors up for it?

” Participation not Consultation:

At Civic Voice we are aware of the growth agenda and the need for more homes to be built. Our members understand this too, yet all over England many of these members, who are knowledgeable and positive people, have had to engage in fighting Local Plans and planning proposals that they feel passionately are not right for their places.

It is time to change the way things are done and to bring communities genuinely to the heart of planning and place-making. ‘Participation not Consultation’ is about bringing people in at an early stage to develop the proposals through collaborative planning processes, also known as Charrettes.

The Charrette approach involves community members working alongside local authorities and developers to co-create design-led, visual plans and strategies. It is an inspirational and energising activity where the results of collaboration are seen immediately, with the knowledge that an individual’s input actually matters. It also has the potential to greatly increase the speed of the formal planning and design process.

Civic Voice has launched a campaign to bring these collaborative processes into mainstream planning so that, through shared working from an early stage, communities can help shape and support growth and development that is right for their place.”

http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/uploads/files/Collaborative_planning_1.pdf

Cranbrook – Town Council tries to explain why it has no town centre

Cranbrook Town Council Facebook page – the first major headache for the 3 new district councillors:

“CRANBROOK TOWN CENTRE DEVELOPMENTS

The Town Council is very aware that there is considerable interest in the town centre and many demands to deliver it. There is an assumption that the Town Council, East Devon District Council and the Developer Consortium should be delivering shops and cafes.

But this is not how a town centre is delivered. The Developer Consortium owns the land but beyond that delivery of commercial activity and some buildings depends on commercial interest. With around 1,900 occupied dwellings in the town we understand there is not yet the level of footfall to attract a great deal of commercial interest from large stores, supermarkets and others with the ability to build commercial properties.

In addition the Consortium are not currently required to have provided such development as the triggers have not yet been reached which are set out in the legal agreements which were signed when Cranbrook first received planning permission.

So the question is what is being done?

Members of the Town Council are meeting weekly with East Devon District Council’s planning team, the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point, the Developer Consortium and their architect.

The aim is to identify particular uses which can be delivered and strategies for their delivery. Importantly uses which are being discussed are the town hall, health and wellbeing hub, children’s centre, youth centre, town square and a market hall.

The work will lead on to ways of unlocking funding for this infrastructure and that is very much linked to the development of the expansion areas. Without that investment there would not be sufficient funding within the current legal agreement (“Section 106”) terms to deliver what the town requires in key buildings.

The challenge is to design and create a town for the 21st century. We are all aware of the pressures on high streets, especially from competition by on-line retailers. What we do not want is a town centre which is designed on traditional grounds which could result in empty premises.

Cranbrook is a 21st century town and we need a town centre which delivers what we cannot do online and a town centre which complements and enhances online business rather than competes with it. The town centre should incorporate social and green space as well. This is a massive challenge but one which we are meeting.

We will communicate updates when progress has been made.”

6 days to local elections – today’s picture

This:

Credit: Standing up for Milton Keynes

reminded Owl of this article about ex-EDDC ex-councillor Graham Brown (the video included in the clip is well worth watching!).

The article made the front page of the Daily Telegraph with the headline:

” ‘If I can’t get planning nobody will’ says [EDDC] Devon councillor and planning consultant.”

and includes the priceless recorded comment:

I don’t come cheap,” the planning consultant added, stating that he was normally paid £80 an hour or between £1000 and £20,000 for a project.
His fees would vary “depending on the viability of the scheme, if we get it, like if I turned a greenfield into a housing estate and I’m earning a developer two or three million, then I ain’t doing it for peanuts… Especially if I’m the difference between winning it and losing it.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9920971/If-I-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-says-Devon-councillor-and-planning-consultant.html

VERY IMPORTANT update on Sidmouth Business Park appeal

NOTE: a planning inquiry is much more formal than a hearing and usually involves lawywers, examination of evidence and cross-examination:

Public Inquiries & Hearings

We have now been advised by the District Council that the Planning Inspector has determined that instead of holding a Hearing into the planning appeal as we previously had been told, the Inspector has now decided to hold an Inquiry which could last up to three days. The first of these days is due to start on 16 July. We are assuming that the Inspector will therefore have penciled in the Inquiry to be held on

16, 17 and 18 July

The Inquiry will be held in public and will be held locally. If you have any interest in attending then put these dates in your diary now!

In our last Update we asked you to consider submitting additional evidence to the Planning Inspector and we know that a number have done so, and thank you to those who have.

The District Council’s latest communication advises that the Inspector has put back the date by which additional submissions can be made. The new deadline by which any additional comments have to be received by the Inspector is now

17 May 2019

We again would encourage as many of you as possible who wish to, to submit comments even at this late stage. As the District Council refused planning permission solely on grounds related to highways matters you should only submit highways related comments. In doing so you might want to address matters that include –

Evidence or statements regarding the effect of noise, vibration, damage and pollution on your properties (and vehicles) due to HGV or other traffic

Effect on the health of residents attributable to air quality

Effect of pollution on children walking to school and in the playground of the primary school

Road safety issues – lack of pavements or narrow pavements, plus no lollipop lady, crossing nor traffic lights to help you cross safely with your children

Traffic delays due to congestion at the various pinch points on the A375 in both Sidford and Sidbury

Evidence of vehicles mounting and/or diving on pavements

Where possible your comments should be supported by photographic evidence.

We believe that it is important for as many photographs and/or videos are submitted to the Planning Inspector showing images of traffic congestion/difficulties along the A375 at any point between Sidford and Cotford in Sidbury.

Attached, once again, is a brief guide as to how to present any submission that you make.

Best wishes

Campaign Team

GUIDE TO PRESENTATION OF SUBMISSIONS:

Guidance on submitting additional evidence to the Planning Inspector

All comments and evidence must –

• be received by the Planning Inspector by no later than 22 April 2019. Anything received after this date will not be considered by the Inspector.

• quote the planning appeal reference for in order for it to be considered by the Inspector. The reference is – APP/U1105/W/19/3221978.

• quote the address of the appeal site i.e. the Business Park. The address to be quoted is – Land East of Two Bridges, Two Bridges Road, Sidford.

• your name and address

• state “I am against the appeal proposals” and explain whether it is for the same reasons as given by the District Council or, if not, explain your own reasons

The reasons given by the District Council in refusing the planning application were –

“1. The proposed development, by virtue of the proposed B8 uses, would result in an increase of HGV traffic on the surrounding road network, both in the vicinity of the site and through Sidbury which both suffer from inadequate road widths and a lack of footways. As such increased HGV movements within this area will result in conflicts between vehicles, and between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, to the detriment of highway safety. The proposed development is therefore considered contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework and Strategies 26 (Development at Sidmouth), and Policies TC7 (Adequacy of Road Network and Site Access) of the adopted East Devon Local Plan 2013 – 2031.”

The Planning Inspector asks that any additional submissions are –

• in a font such as Arial or Verdana in a size of 11 point or larger

• use A4 paper wherever possible

• number the pages of the documents

• make sure photocopied and scanned documents are clear and legible

• use black and white for documents unless colour is essential

• put any photographs (both originals and photocopies should be in colour),
maps, plans, etc, in a separate appendix and cross reference them within the main body of the document

• print documents on both sides of a page. You should use paper of good enough quality that something printed on one side of the page does not show through to the other side

• do not send original documents

• if possible, send 3 copies

You should send your written submission and/or photographs/videos –
By post to:

The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/C Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol BS1 6PN

By email to: west2@pins.gsi.gov.uk
Planning Portal: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk

Remember all evidence must be received by the Planning Inspector by no later than

17 May 2019

Today’s promise of 30,000 housing association dwellings put into perspective

Owl says note that the “affordable” hoysing will still be 80% of market value … making these homes still unaffordable for those on low incomes.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has today committed £3billion in extra borrowing to deliver 30,000 new affordable homes in England.

In the Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced that the Government will guarantee the extra borrowing by housing associations to support the delivery of the homes, but did not supply a timetable for delivery.

The Chancellor also announced that £717million from the £5.5billion Housing Infrastructure Fund will be used to help ‘unlock’ up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire. …”

BUT IN THE SAME ARTICLE:

“In November This is Money revealed that local councils have fallen over six years behind their own house building targets.

Councils’ own figures revealed that development across the UK is moving at such a glacial pace that 316 sites will have fallen short of targets by 889,803 homes within the next eight years. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-6804561/Spring-Statement-Housing-associations-borrow-3bn-build-new-affordable-homes.html

“The ‘absurd’ planning loophole that could end up blighting your home”

And remember, this can be done to new houses too … And when you read below what can be done to agricultural buildings, certain local landowners must be champing at the bit … Use your vote wisely in the forthcoming local elections on 2 May …

It was by accident that Damien Flannagan discovered the new neighbour who had bought the bungalow behind his house had sought planning permission for a loft conversion with two dormer windows. The proposals would mean that the occupant could gaze across his garden and through his back windows from five metres away.

To his relief, the council planning officer ruled that the windows would compromise Flannagan’s privacy and the plans were withdrawn.

But, five months later, Flannagan arrived home to find work had started on a bigger dormer extension. After being thwarted by council planners, the neighbour had expanded the proposals and gone ahead under permitted-development rules. These allow homeowners to extend their property without planning permission and there’s not a thing Flannagan or Leeds city council can do about it.

“Our house is now unsaleable,” says Flannagan. “The entire back of our property faces these huge windows and new staircase, and there’s not one room in our house that isn’t filled with this structure. We can’t understand why this is being allowed. Anyone with an ounce of common sense who stands in our house or garden can see this is completely wrong from a planning, legal and moral perspective.”

The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2015 (GPDO) was designed to free homeowners and councils from expensive red tape when “uncontentious” modifications to properties are planned. The rules allow both homeowners and developers to extend accommodation by up to 75% without planning permission.

Opinions differ, however, on what counts as “uncontentious”. Single and double-storey side and rear extensions of up to eight metres in length are permitted under the order, as well as loft conversions and large outbuildings covering up to 50% of a property’s land.

Some residents have found their detached houses turned into semis by encroaching side extensions. Others have had their homes blighted by large outbuildings under their windows or, as in Flannagan’s case, looming roof extensions invading their private space. Worse, commercial buildings can be redeveloped into residential accommodation, allowing developers to bypass building regulations and quality control.

The government is proposing to relax the rules still further to stimulate housing capacity when the current order expires in May, including allowing homeowners and developers to extend upwards without planning permission.

However, critics warn that the policy has been badly drawn, allowing eyesores to blight residential areas and substandard accommodation to creep beneath the official radar. It has pitted neighbours against each other as the rules have left councils and homeowners powerless.

Back in 2014 when the draft proposals were announced, Birmingham city council urged the government to drop the “absurd” new rules. Its planning committee described permitted development as a planning disaster which had blighted suburbs with “monstrosities” and caused conflict between neighbours.

The government went ahead regardless, and since then the regulations have also forced the hand of councils to grant planning permission for unsuitable developments for fear, if they refused, that a landowner would come up with something worse under GPDO.

A year ago the court of appeal upheld a high court ruling that a council was justified in granting permission to a landowner to replace an agricultural building and bungalow with four houses, even though the plan was in conflict with the local development plan, because otherwise the landowner might develop the land piecemeal under permitted-development rules.

The plan was bitterly opposed by neighbours but the appeal court decided that, since the landowner was determined to maximise the value of the site, it would be better for the council to sanction a proposal over which it could retain some control.

The court rulings and Flannagan’s predicament show that permitted-development rights, while intended to benefit ordinary people who want to improve their homes, have given commercial developers a weapon with which to subdue councils.

After Leeds city council declared it would not permit the dormers proposed by Flannagan’s neighbour, the neighbour applied for a certificate of lawful development for an even more unsuitable plan.

The council tells the Observer it had to approve it, even though it had concerns about the impact, as the work qualified as a permitted development. A loophole in these rules means that although rear extensions have to be at least seven metres from the rear boundary, there is no restriction on rear dormers, which could be close enough for occupants to see neighbours in their homes.

Property lawyer Thomas Pertaia at DAS Law says those in Flannagan’s situation have little recourse, as permitted developers have essentially been given advance parliamentary approval over the heads of local planning authorities. “Unfortunately, there may be cases where easing of development rules results in a grave inconvenience to neighbours – as in this case,” he says.

Even more concerning is the fact that developers can exploit permitted-development rights to convert commercial buildings into homes without council oversight and without having to conform to minimum space, safety and living standards.

A report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors called the policy a “fiscal giveaway” from the state to private developers, and it has resulted in some appalling housing.

This month the Guardian reported on the creation of bedsits of just 18 sq metres, some lacking outside windows, in London. A few miles away, an office block on a six-lane carriageway has been converted into 60 rental units as small as 13 square metres. The government space standard requires newbuild homes for one person to be at least 37 square metres.

The Royal Town Planning Institute says government proposals to ease the rules still further and bypass local scrutiny to increase housing stock “fly in the face of democracy”.

Kit Malthouse, the minister of state for housing, said: “Increasing the availability of affordable housing is vital and, under permitted-development rules, 32,000 homes have been delivered in the past two years, providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy, and helping us provide more properties that suit a range of needs … we are currently considering responses to our proposals to extend permitted-development rights, and a decision will be made in due course.”

It’s a vision that may look progressive on paper, but Flannagan and many others are paying a punitive price. “The government claimed the necessary checks and balances would be included to prevent the nightmare that my family now finds itself in, but clearly the rules are a set-up to benefit developers with total disregard for the environment and neighbouring properties,” he says.

His neighbour did not respond to requests for comment.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/10/planning-rules-loophole-home-permitted-development