The separate legal challenges by the London Borough of Islington (supported by Camden and Richmond) and Lambeth to the government’s introduction of the permitted development rights which allow the change of use of offices to residential has failed. The councils argued that the loss of office space is damaging their economies due to the loss of valuable employment space and jobs. 17 councils gained exemptions and these two legal challenges claimed the process was unfair but the judge concluded that the government’s actions were not unlawful.

Review of Labour’s Independent Housing Commission

In the run up to Christmas, Ed Miliband launched the Labour’s Independent Housing report which is his party’s road map for increasing the supply of new homes in England to over 200,000 by the end of the next parliament should they be elected. This target will be achieved in part by:

• Right to Grow: the Planning Inspectorate would examine local plans and arbitrate between local authorities by allocating housing on need and fast track the consultation process. This will help stop ‘home blocker’ councils from stopping development of their neighbours. Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York Councils have signed up to be the first ‘Right to Grow’ local authorities which could provide 40,000 new homes.

• Use it, or Lose it: a Labour Government would give powers to communities to stop land with planning permission being hoarded by developers. Councils will be given powers to charge fees or purchase such land so that developers have an incentive to use the planning permission.

Eric Pickles responded to this report by saying that ‘Labour’s policy shows this is the same old Labour Party which would allow Labour councils to forcibly rip up Green Belt protection in neighbouring councils, while their tax on planning permission would reduce house building and discourage regeneration.

Tower Hamlets receives the most cash from the New Homes Bonus scheme

The Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme matches the council tax on all new homes built and empty homes bought back into use, for a period of 6 years. The latest published accounts indicating the amount received by individual councils reveals that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has topped the list at nearly £20m, Birmingham City Council received the second highest at £15.1m, while the lowest amount received was by the Isles of Scilly at £47,934. The DCLG has to date paid out more than £2billon to councils.

Central Lincolnshire Councils told to withdraw Core Strategy due to housing gap

The Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee (JSPC), made up of North Kesteven District Council, City of Lincoln Council, West Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council, are producing a joint Core Strategy to cover their four administrative areas.  The strategy proposes 42,800 homes in the area over the next 20 years. A separate allocations plan, which would identify specific sites for new homes, will be produced subsequently and adopted in 2016.

The Inspector considering the joint Core Strategy has recommended that the plan be withdrawn as he is concerned about a "delivery gap" between the publication of the Core Strategy and the allocations plan. He considered the Core Strategy needed to include sufficient housing allocations to cover the three-year gap because Central Lincolnshire only has a three-and-a-half year housing land supply instead of six years. Under the NPPF, a 20 per cent ‘buffer’ is required on top of the normal five-year supply where there has been persistent under-delivery in the past, such as in Central Lincolnshire.

The joint committee has announced it is likely to withdraw the core strategy.

Residential scheme approved adjacent to Ministry of Sound

Boris Johnson has overruled Southwark Council’s rejection of a new 335-home development next to the world famous Ministry of Sound nightclub after reaching the decision that the amended plans would allow the new homes and club to co-exist. The club had feared that a residential tower so close to the club would lead to noise complaints which could lead to the council closing the club down. Since the council rejected the plans the developer has altered the design to include acoustic glazing and sealed windows to address these concerns. The London Mayor said that the club will be at the heart of the transformation of the local area.

Watford Health Campus allotment issue resolved

The proposed mixed–use health campus will serve up to 500,000 people and create 1,600 jobs. One of the stumbling blocks to the development was that the scheme would be built on the allotments. The Allotments Act 1925 requires ministerial approval for any change of use of council allotments which includes strict policies that state that any loss of allotment land should be matched by like-for-like new allotments elsewhere within the area. The DCLG said ministers are now satisfied that the council will be creating new allotments elsewhere in the borough to the replace those lost and this meets the requirements of the 1925 Act. The Government has indicated it will be releasing new guidance to help clarify the strict conditions under which councils can dispose of allotments sometime this year.

Garden Cities off the Governments Agenda

Last year it was reported that Nick Boles, the Planning Minister didn’t feel that garden cities were the answer to delivering new homes. The beginning of this year has seen the PM drop his support of garden cities and has even reportedly forbidden MPs from identifying new sites for new towns in the run up to next year’s general election in fear of a NIMBY backlash at the polls.

Research shows hope for the retail sector in 2014

Research of small online-only retailers by the Royal Mail has found that 40% are considering seeking a physical store or space in an existing one this year. The research found that the reasons for this are lower rents, flexible leases and greater online competition has made having a physical store more attractive.

LOCAL PLAN NEWS

Cannock Chase Council – Community Infrastructure Levy, Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation.

Runnymede Borough Council – Community Infrastructure Levy, Draft Charging Schedule is open for consultation.