Government Cabinet reshuffle results in new Housing Minister

This week’s cabinet reshuffle has resulted in Mark Prisk being replaced by Kris Hopkins who is the Conservative MP for Keighley in Yorkshire. This reshuffle has made way for ‘a younger generation’. During Prisk’s tenure as Minister for Housing he oversaw the fast-tracking of the second phase of the Help to Buy scheme. As parliamentary under-secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Kris Hopkins has responsibility for housing, local growth, cities & regeneration, Thames Gateway, wind farms and trouble families. Brandon Lewis has been given the high streets, town centres and markets brief.

New policy on basements proposed in Westminster

Westminster has been subject to an increase in the number of basement conversations and extensions over recent years and a new policy currently open for consultation, aims to control their future development. The proposed policy is recommending that basement extensions of more than one storey and over 50% of a property’s garden size will be recommended for refusal. The council aims to implement this new policy by 2015 and will be the first council in the UK to tackle the issue of mega-basements. The consultation is open and can be found here.

Retrospective consent granted due to office to residential permitted development rights

Two enforcement notices for the conversion of offices to residential in East Sussex have been quashed. The recently introduced office to residential permitted development rights demonstrated that this development met the conditions for conversion so the inspector concluded that this represented an important material consideration in determining the enforcement appeal.

Core Strategies Update

Councils are continuing to struggle to produce ‘sound’ planning strategies. Four recent examples underline the need for councils to meet their housing needs to co-operate with neighbouring authorities.

Waverley Borough Council –withdrawn. The Core Strategy significantly underestimated the housing need. Withdrawing the document and starting a new process of review and amendment would be the quickest route of getting a new plan adopted as stated by the Planning Inspector.

North West Leicester District Council – withdrawn. The Core Strategy failed to meet the Planning Inspectors concerns over the shortfall in housing land supply.

Hart District Council – Withdrawn: The Inspector concluded the council "has not engaged constructively and on an ongoing basis" with neighbouring authorities in preparing its core strategy, concluding that "the council has not complied with the duty" (to co-operate).

Kirklees Council – Withdrawn: The Inspector accepted "that the council has made efforts" to seek the views of the Leeds City Region authorities, but "this involved consultation on an already chosen strategy" and "cannot take the place of co-operation through the plan preparation stages.

Lack of staff hindering planning at Surrey Heath Council

The lack of trained planning staff at Surrey Health Council has resulted in the council withdrawing its pre-application service on all planning applications. The following is an extract from an email sent in response to why this service is no longer available:

‘The service was suspended due a high vacancy rate in the team and as a result, the very difficult decision was taken to suspend this discretionary service to allow the team to concentrate on its regulatory function of determining planning applications. At the time of writing, it seems unlikely that the service will be reinstated before the end of the year’

The NPPF states that councils have a duty to cooperate and work proactively with the applicant, without the pre-application advice it is difficult to see how this will be possible.

Staffordshire Borough Council – lack of 5 year housing supply

Staffordshire Borough Council can only demonstrate a 2.2year housing supply and so the presumption in favour of development in the NPPF will override the local plan.

New mixed-use scheme on the Southbank receives planning permission

The London Borough of Southwark has granted planning permission for a new 130,000sqm mixed use scheme which will replace a data centre and office building on the Southbank. The proposal includes 490 homes, offices, shops, open space and will comprise nine buildings between 5 and 48 stores. The developer will contribute £75million in section 106 fees of which £65milllion will go to the council’s Affordable Housing Fund to help meet the councils target to provide 11,000 affordable homes by 2020.

Housing – update

The new Housing minister announced this week that 10,000 people have used the right to buy scheme to take their first step on the property ladder. This takes the total number of households supported into home ownership under Government backed schemes to nearly 40,000.

The Government has delivered over 150,000 affordable homes over the past three years, which means at this rate, the level of affordable housing being built with be at its highest level for two decades.

LOCAL PLAN NEWS

Guildford Borough Council – Local Plan Strategy and Sites Issues and Options document is open for consultation and can be found here.

Colliers News – 10th Biennial of European Towns and Town Planners

Jonathan Manns, in the London Planning team was part of the UK working group which presented and took part in the 10th Biennial of European Towns and Town Planners in Lisbon last month. The UK group which included planners in both the private and public sectors set out the British approach to ‘Bridging the Funding Gap: Urban Regeneration in Age of Austerity’. This report and the reports from the other European countries will be published later this year.