Cranbrook – town centre and skateboard park problematical

Developers need to build another 500 houses to trigger skateboard park – but even then, it isn’t certain – nor is a new town centre.

“The district council said it is a ‘difficult and uncertain time’ to be planning a new town centre amid the collapse of several big high street stores.

The authority reiterated the importance of getting the ‘right balance’ between community facilities, retail and leisure space, and homes, adding: “We are developing an understanding of what a 21st century town centre should be and how we can deliver a viable town centre for now and the future in partnership with the town council and the developers.

“The location of the skate park is a key element of the town centre and a decision on its location cannot be made in isolation of other key decisions.

“We are working hard to avoid conflict with other uses that are also proposed within the town centre such as a care home, library and town hall and to ensure that it is well related to other youth facilities.

“This work is complex but vital to ensure that the town centre at Cranbrook meets the needs of all groups in the community and pulls in people from the surrounding area.

“It is not the council’s intention to delay delivery of the skateboard park – indeed there has been no delay to date, but it is important that the right location for this and other key activities are found, so we can ensure that Cranbrook’s town centre is a big success.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/hundreds-of-homes-still-need-to-be-occupied-before-cranbrook-s-first-skatepark-can-be-built-1-5685261

East Devon has more than £5 million of unspent money from developers – topping Exeter and Plymouth for non-spending

A Freedom of Information request revealed East Devon has received nearly £8.4 million from developers of Section 106 money, of which it has spent only about £4.4 million.

The exact amount not spent is £5,139,000.

Section 106 contributions are paid to local authorities by developers when planning permission is agreed. The contributions are discussed and agreed before developments are given the go ahead. The money is ringfenced for certain projects and has to be spent within a time period – usually five years [after that the money is lost and can never be reclaimed, any interest on the money is presumably retained by EDDC].

It is by far the highest amount of all the local councils which responded.

Exeter has £872,183 unspent; Teignbridge nearly £4 million; Plymouth nearly £2.5 million.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/councils-millions-pounds-developers-cash-1951395

Cranbrook Town Council and EDDC at loggerheads over “country park resource centre”

“A bid has been launched by Cranbrook Town Council (CTC) to halt the building of the new country park resource centre.

The move comes a month after permission was granted by district planning chiefs for the 135sqm centre on land west of Stone Barton.

However, a report by CTC clerk Sarah Jenkins said East Devon District Council (EDDC) went back on an ‘understanding’ to adopt the country park resource centre, which its country park ranger would use it as a base.

However, EDDC cite the ‘economic climate’ and ‘availability of local authority funding’ as the reason it prefers to merge a number of facilities into a single building.

In her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “Under the section 106 agreement (private agreements made between local authorities and developers), the Consortium are required to provide a country park resource centre, hence the recent planning application.

“At the time, there was an understanding that EDDC would adopt the centre and their country park ranger would use it as a base. Since then, EDDC has decided that it does not want to adopt the centre.”

In January this year, councillors at CTC resolved to agree in principle that it would take ownership of the centre direct from the Consortium, once it is delivered.

They also resolved to enter negotiations with EDDC to determine the future role of the country park ranger and their future employment arrangements.

But in her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “The country park ranger has since left and EDDC has made the decision not to recruit a replacement ranger.

“Having been faced with the EDDC withdrawal, the town council has indicated to the Consortium and EDDC that it may not wish to have resource centre.”

At a meeting last month, CTC resolved to request the centre is not built and that the function of the facility and country park ranger be accommodated instead in Cranbrook’s future town hall.

Councillors also resolved to request that the section 106 funding for the country park centre be transferred to the town to provide other ‘much-needed’ facilities.

A spokesperson for EDDC said: “The section 106 agreement that secures developer contributions and obligations in relation to the country park resource centre and other infrastructure at Cranbrook was originally signed in 2010.

“At the time, it was envisaged that the town would be served by a number of individual buildings to accommodate civic and community uses.

“When the original legal agreement was approved, EDDC had been indicated as taking ownership of the country park resource centre.

“In the absence of having responsibility over any part of the country park, that now sits with Cranbrook Town Council, it was decided to offer the asset to the town council for adoption.

“From April 2018, Cranbrook Town Council adopted the country park in the town and is now responsible for its management and maintenance.

“A building housing the permanent offices of Cranbrook Town Council (as well as the library) is envisaged to be built on land immediately south of the country park in the town centre, a location where many of the functions of a country park resource centre could be accommodated.

“The community space element of the previously proposed country park resource centre could be accommodated in another community building and this could be part-funded by some of the monies that would have otherwise been spent on the centre.

“The Cranbrook country park ranger had been employed by East Devon District Council but the ranger left post earlier in 2018 and before the end of the developer funding for the position.

“A new legal agreement to pass the remaining funding to Cranbrook Town Council to enable them to employ a ranger to manage the land they have adopted is under way.

“In the interim there is currently no Cranbrook country park ranger in post.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/council-launches-bid-to-block-build-of-cranbrook-s-country-park-resource-centre-1-5649550

Affordable housing: Housing Minister promises to, er, look into things!!!

Owl says: Since when did “addressing issues” and “looking into measures” ever count for ANYTHING? More meaningless claptrap.

“In his first major speech as housing, communities and local government secretary today, Brokenshire said communities felt let down when developers reneged on pledges to build essential local infrastructure or affordable housing.

“We’re addressing these issues head on through our consultation into reforming developer contributions,” he said in his speech to think-tank Policy Exchange.

“These will ensure that developers are left in no doubt about what’s expected of them. Local authorities will hold them to account.” …

Brokenshire added that, in future, government would require much more transparency from developers on the pace and timing of delivery. “We’re currently looking at measures to make this reporting a compulsory requirement.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/07/brokenshire-issues-warning-developers-avoiding-planning-obligations

Yet another loophole cuts affordable housing

Turning offices into flats does not require planning permission so no Section 106 payments towards affordable housing:

“Lack of investment and deregulation of planning were the main reasons given for hampering councils’ ability to help provide the number of homes needed in the UK, the report published by the not-for-profit Association for Public Service Excellence found.

Of 141 UK councils surveyed, 63% described the need for affordable housing as ‘severe’ while 35% describe their need as ‘moderate’.

Seventy per cent of 124 councils in England noted an increase in statutory homelessness in the last year, the survey revealed. It was researched and written by the campaigning organisation the Town and Country Planning Association on behalf of APSE and released last week.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: “Investment in high quality social housing can also save public funds, such as through reducing poor physical and mental health outcomes that are currently experienced by those living in an unstable private rented sector or those in temporary accommodation.”

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive added: “We are not providing anywhere near enough genuinely affordable homes and homelessness is rising.

“Our latest research highlights that councils want to provide more affordable housing for their local communities, but their ability to do so is being undermined by planning deregulation.”

The report noted that while relaxing planning regulations allowing developers to convert offices into homes without the need for full planning permission had created more accommodation it had made it more difficult for councils to secure ‘affordable properties’. If development plans go through the full planning process local authorities can secure ‘affordable homes’ through section 106.

“Relaxing permitted development has led to tens of thousands of new homes being created without having to get full planning permission and this means that councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer”, Henderson said.

The research by the TCPA showed that one in three councils in England believed these changes to permitted development had a negative impact on the delivery of affordable homes.

The report called on the change to be reversed and for planning powers to be given back to local authorities allowing them to make decisions to “reflect local circumstances”.

O’Brien said the report showed that insecure private rented sector tenancies had contributed to the rise in homelessness.

He said local authorities needed to bring “stability and capacity to the social rented sector, which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping”.

The government must be “bold and ambitious in challenging the shortfall of housing for hose in the most need in society,” O’Brien added.

It must also help councils return to their historic role as a provider of homes, he urged.

APSE is a non-profit membership organisation for local government officers.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/05/local-authorities-warn-severe-need-more-affordable-homes

Parish council successfully overturns officer “delegated authority” decision

“A parish council recently enjoyed success in a legal challenge over a purported exercise of delegated authority. Meyric Lewis explains how.

Newton Longville Parish Council has secured a quashing order by consent in their judicial review challenge to a grant of planning permission by Aylesbury Vale District Council under purported exercise of delegated authority.

District Council members resolved to grant planning permission for residential development “delegated to officers… subject to such conditions as are considered appropriate and to include a condition requiring that a reserved matters application be made within 18 months of the date of permission and that any permission arising from that application be implemented within 18 months”.

In exercising their delegated authority, officers took the view that there was insufficient justification for shortening the period for applying for reserved matters and for requiring implementation within 18 months. But that matter was neither raised with members nor addressed in the delegated report published by the Council.

In committee, members had wished to impose these short timeframes because they were concerned about the length of time that the site had remained undeveloped notwithstanding the existence of planning permission granted in 2007 and then renewed in 2011 and so they wished to encourage the building out of the site more swiftly than if longer timeframes were allowed.

Permission to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on the ground that the decision went beyond the terms of the delegated authority because it conflicted with the confined terms of the members’ resolution.

Permission was also granted on a ground concerning the related section 106 agreement and in respect of officers’ failure to provide adequate reasons, as required by under reg. 7 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, in that they did not address the matters relied on as justifying a departure from the terms of the members’ resolution in the delegated report.

The District Council and Interested Party have now signed a consent order submitting to judgment on all grounds.

Significant points to note on the case are that:

The parish council’s grounds distinguished Ouseley J’s decision on implied delegated authority in R (Couves) v. Gravesham BC [2015] EWHC 504 (Admin) because of the specific requirements as to time frames stipulated by members, see Couves at 47

It highlights the importance of officers going back to the terms of any resolution delegating authority to them and ensuring that their proposed action complies with its terms.

Developers and potential challengers will be astute to perform the exercise under (2) to see if a challenge can be mounted.

So there are practical consequences for officers, similar to when they receive an engrossment of a section 106, that they check the terms of what was resolved/agreed before issuing a formal grant of permission.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?view=article&catid=63%3Aplanning-articles&id=35128%3Aexercising-delegated-authority-in-planning&format=pdf&option=com_content&Itemid=31

“Councils sit on £375m earmarked for affordable housing”

“Local councils in England are sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of money designated for affordable housing.

A total of £375m is available, £100m of which has not even been earmarked for a specific project. This is despite a survey last year for the Town and Country Planning Association showing that 98% of councils described their need for affordable homes as either “severe” or “moderate”.

The cash has been accumulated under so-called section 106 agreements by which builders and developers give a council a ringfenced amount of money instead of building affordable homes within a development themselves.

James Prestwich, the head of policy at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said it confirmed the federation’s view that section 106 was flawed. “Affordable housing should be delivered within new developments, rather than developers simply funding its delivery elsewhere,” he said. “This would guarantee that affordable housing will be built alongside other homes.”

Some of the worst offenders shown up by research carried out by the Huffington Post are in London and the south-east. The housing minister Dominic Raab’s own local council, Elmbridge in Surrey, has £8m waiting to be invested.

Raab was criticised this month after he blamed high levels of immigration for increasing house prices. A review by the statistics watchdog found that his department had used an outdated statistical method to calculate the causes of housing pressure and their relationship with house prices.

The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which has yet to find new homes for two-thirds of the Grenfell survivors and other families affected by the disaster, has £21m of dedicated reserves. It says £19m has been set aside for Grenfell families.

Two Labour-held councils also in London, Southwark and Camden, between them have more than £90m that could be spent on affordable homes. Altogether, just 14 councils account for two-thirds of the unspent cash.

Rough sleeping in London has risen by at least 18% over the past year; in England as a whole, it is up 15%. Although a shortage of affordable homes is only one of many causes that explains the continuous rise over the past seven years, its consequences have a series of knock-on effects.

A spokesman for Southwark said the money it had was already allocated and the projects for which it was intended would be completed within the next five years.

Camden has set up a new scheme for affordable home building, the community investment programme, which is intended to create 1,400 affordable homes over 15 years.

Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, said nearly a decade of cuts had left council capacity to manage big projects “hollowed out”.

“Average cuts of between 25% and 30% over eight years and the way they have protected children’s and adult social care services have led to bigger cuts in departments like housing and planning. There is no question that their capacity to handle major projects has been eroded.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/22/councils-sit-on-375m-earmarked-for-affordable-housing