Tag Archives: development

Raynsford Review

Planning Ahead – December 2018

This month: Raynsford Review, understanding councillors, super-prime market steadies, Castlepoint crisis and new homes growth slow.

Raynsford reins in ‘patchwork’ planning system
There is a ‘chaotic patchwork’ of different planning responsibilities in the country, the long-awaited Raynsford Review of the planning system warned… Read more

STOP PRESS: First council intervention now on the cards…
Castle Point council this week voted its draft local plan down. As the council is on the Secretary of State’s ‘naughty list’ it looks likely… Read more

Understanding councillors
We have all at some point come out of a planning committee wondering what had just happened… Read more

Growth in new homes slows as Local Plan deadline looms
The growth in the number of new homes in England has slowed significantly despite more than 222,000 homes being built in England last year… Read more

Pent-up demand for penthouses?
The super-prime market is rarely affected by the vagaries of the general housing market, but it is a very good guide to confidence in the economy… Read more

Local Plan updates
Chelgate Local brings you Local Plan updates for Aylesbury Vale, Basildon, Brentwood, Central Beds, Chelmsford, Chiltern and South Bucks, Dacorum, East Herts, Epping, Epsom and Ewell, Harlow, Medway, Milton Keynes, Mole Valley and many more…

Chelgate Local invites you to our January Breakfast Briefing in Maidstone, Kent
Our breakfast briefing in January is on the impact of an ageing population on housing provision. We have a keynote speaker from MHCLG to explain the new guidance and policies the ministry is due to publish later in December.

You will also hear from planning consultants, local politicians and developers on their views about housing provision and the impact of an increasingly ageing population.

Come along on 22nd January, 8-10am at the Macure Maidstone Great Dane Hotel.

Click here to register.

planning committee

Understanding councillors

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

We have all at some point come out of a planning committee wondering what had just happened. A perfectly reasonable policy-compliant planning application had been unexpectedly refused for vague and perhaps spurious reasons, or on an issue which you were not aware of.

Although planning committees are not supposed to be political, politics can sometimes get in the way. Members consider applications on their merits, but occasionally conflicting priorities can influence decisions.

Politics never goes away

After all, councillors are politicians. They were elected to represent their wards – if they do not then they will not be elected next time. This is a key motivation and becomes more significant the closer to an election you get. In councils where elections are by thirds, the politics never goes away. Although councillors are still elected for four years, the political groups are always in election mode as there are local elections every year – even on the fourth year, the elections are for counties.

This is exacerbated where a council has a small overall majority. The controlling parties will understandably be paranoid about losing any seats and so will not take decisions which are politically risky. The opposition will be all fired-up as taking control is only an election away – they will be challenging every decision vociferously, probably out of all proportion to the issue at hand!

Similarly, councillors in marginal wards will be particularly susceptible to politics: they know that one wrong move will change that majority resulting in their, or their colleagues, being beaten at the next election. They will want to be seen to be campaigning for the community, fighting for what it wants, and sticking-up for every resident who has an injustice. This, even if it goes against their own personal views, and possibly against those of their party. Similarly, opposition candidates will be over-critical of everything.

Any proposed development will always motivate the noisy minority, creating a perception the community is against these. A good ward councillor will be able to judge whether that is the case and act accordingly. More often than not, however, we will see the ward councillor campaigning against a proposed development for the reasons outlined above.

Even without the influence of elections, there is an inherent conflict of interests: although ward councillors are elected to represent their wards, they are also bound to consider what is good for the community as a whole. This is where the planning committee system works well – the committee is drawn from the wider area and so will have a more detached view and will be able to consider the wider benefits of a proposal. Ward councillors will always be allowed to speak on applications affecting their wards, and where they sit on the committee, may be able to participate in the debate and vote, although they will need to declare the interest. Other councils, however, exclude sitting ward councillors in these circumstances either for that item or for the whole meeting, requiring a substitution.

Avoiding googlies at planning committee

But it is the ‘googly’ at the committee meeting which is the most frustrating: an issue which has not come up before, or you thought had been addressed, suddenly becomes huge on the night and results in a refusal or deferment. Although politics sometimes is the cause of these, it is more often a late issue raised by residents which touches a nerve, or through rumour or hearsay has been blown out of all proportion. Conversations with members before committees should identify these, and hopefully provide time for them to be addressed ahead of the committee.

Whenever contemplating a planning application, it is important for you to understand the political environment you are entering from the outset: the make-up of the council, the balance of power, what wards are up for election and the marginality of those wards. It is also important to know the general position on development, the local issues and the potential for opposition for your development before you start.

Kit Malthouse becomes eighth Housing Minister in eight years

In a day of turmoil for the Government, Kit Malthouse, the little known former Department of Work and Pensions Minister, has been appointed as the new Housing Minister.

Elected as MP for North West Hampshire in 2015 Malthouse has maintained a low but fairly well-respected profile, serving as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the DWP, Deputy London Mayor for Business and Enterprise, and Deputy Leader of Westminster Council.

With a range of experience under his belt, Malthouse’s arrival will be met with muted enthusiasm from across the board as a sensible appointment given the circumstances and the need for stability.

But as a supporter of localism and a strong plan-led system to increase housing supply it is just possible Malthouse could emerge as the Housing Minister to provide the planning reforms we need.

Malthouse on Housing
Malthouse has previously spoken out in the House of Commons in support of a plan-led system and strongly supported the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans to maintain local input during the strong growth in housing.

He also welcomed the standardisation of the calculation of housing supply for local authorities, which will be vital to drive through the new NPPF in the coming months.

Interestingly he has criticised the role of the Planning Inspectorate for its involvement in planning in the past, saying that it is often used as an excuse to slow things down as a “complicated game of chicken is played between developer, local authority and local community”.

Elsewhere he has written for the Times, arguing that local authorities should let flats to rough sleepers for free as a basis for providing support to the homeless.

Shaky Foundations
Theresa May’s promise that housing is “at the top of the Government’s agenda” rings somewhat hollow now, given she in on her fourth Housing Minister since her appointment as Prime Minister two years ago.

Malthouse replaces Dominic Raab, the ardent Vote Leave campaigner and former lawyer who has been confirmed as the man to lead Theresa May’s Cabinet as the new Brexit Secretary.

Raab managed a grand total of six months as Housing Minister following his appointment to Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle in January, replacing Alok Sharma who spent just seven months in the role. His credibility took something of a hit this year over accusations of ‘dog whistle’ politics as he used discredited statistics to link the housing crisis to immigration.

In a year that has also seen MHCLG lose Sajid Javid as Communities Secretary and Marcus Jones as Local Government Minister, Malthouse will be tasked with bringing stability to a Housing agenda undermined by constant change.

A Tall Order
Malthouse will immediately take over the mantle of delivering a housing agenda to build on million new homes by 2020. And he will have his work cut out for him.

July will be an incredibly busy month with both the Social Housing Green Paper and revised NPPF due for publication. Alongside this, work will continue on reforms to the rental sector while allocation of funds such as the £3billion Home Building Fund will need to be addressed.

MHCLG have committed to delivering the revised NPPF, which has already been delayed and tinkered with over the last year, this month. Given Raab’s departure today and the need to bring Malthouse up to speed with complex regulations, it is looking increasingly unlikely they will be able to deliver to this timescale before Parliament breaks for Summer Recess next Friday 20th July.

If he gets up to speed quickly and heals the hurt left by yet another departing Housing Minister, Malthouse has every opportunity to stamp his mark on the portfolio at a time when bold and stable leadership is desperately needed.

Chelgate Local
Chelgate Local has been providing strategic communications advice to residential and commercial developers for 30 years. We are working on 30 projects across London, Home Counties, East Anglia and the East Midlands which could provide 92,000 new homes.

To discuss how we could help your business navigate the planning system get in touch with Mike Hardware on 020 7939 7949 or mhardware@chelgate.com.

Homes growth slows

Letwin Review highlights need for more housing variation

Sir Oliver Letwin, who was charged with the task of explaining the “significant gap” between housing completions and the amount of land allocated in areas of high demand, has released his eagerly awaited interim report.

As in his letter in March, Letwin does stress that the “homogeneity of the types and tenures of the homes on offer and the limit on the rate at which the market will absorb them are the fundamental drivers of the slow rate of build out”.

He urges house builders to diversify the homes constructed within each site to cater to different markets simultaneously – thus accelerating build out rates.

Different strokes for different folks

Letwin suggests developers look at providing different types of tenure – open market sale, open market private rented, ‘affordable’ rented and ‘social’ rented – as well as different forms of accommodation, such as retirement housing and student living blocks, all as part of the same scheme.

The report finds that buyers for these different tenure types don’t compete, so developers could develop more of a site at once without driving property prices down and threatening their business model.

In addition, rather than building rows of identikit semi-detached homes with monotonous landscaping and bland interiors, house builders could also offer custom- and self-build options, or simply provide a variety of looks to appeal to different tastes.

Whether builders accept this or not is another matter – they stand to lose out if they are forced to diversify their housing offer across sites.

Letwin is also cagey on how this diversification will take place, saying the ‘policy levers’ to bring this about while not harming sites economically will form the second half of his review, reporting to Budget.

Banking on land?

Significantly, Letwin finds that none of the UK’s biggest housebuilders deliberately ‘land bank’, with no evidence that developers sit on land they own and then wait for it to rise in value to maximise their profits.

He states: “Their business models depend on generating profits out of sales of housing, rather than out of the increasing value of land holdings; and it is the profitability of the sale of housing that they are trying to protect by building only at the ‘market absorption rate’ for their products.”

We absolutely didn’t need a drawn-out Government Review to tell us this, of course, but having official evidence could aid future Government funding decisions on driving up housebuilding.

What’s more, by moving towards a more varied housing model and accelerating build out rates, developers might finally be able to disprove the myth of land banking once and for all.

You can read the full report here.


Theresa tasks Brokenshire to fix Broken Housing Market


Former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire MP has today been confirmed as the new Communities Secretary.

The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP replaces Sajid David, who has moved to replace Amber Rudd as Home Secretary.

Brokenshire resigned from his role as Northern Ireland Secretary earlier this year, ahead of an operation to remove a tumour on his lung.

He returns to Government tasked with delivering on Theresa May’s pledge in March 2018 to “tackle one of the biggest barriers to social mobility we face today: the national housing crisis.”

In a year that has already seen MHCLG lose Alok Sharma MP as Housing Minister and Marcus Jones as Local Government Minister, he will be tasked with bringing stability to a department which has seen all too much change.

He will face a significant inbox including the revised National Planning Policy Framework which is being consulted on until 10th May, the Social Housing Green Paper, the Grenfell inquiry and the Letwin Review.

Brokenshire was born in 1968 in Southend-On-Sea and went to school Loughton, Essex before attending graduating in Law from Exeter University.

When the Conservatives won the 2010 general election, Brokenshire was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime Reduction, although in May 2011 was transferred to Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security, before being appointed Minister for Security and Immigration in February 2014.

Brokenshire actively campaigned for the U.K. to remain inside the European Union, and on housing issues consistently voted for phasing out secure tenancies for life and for charging a market rent to high earners renting council homes.

In a tweet this morning, Brokenshire said: “Honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government. Looking forward to taking the Government’s agenda forward especially on building the homes our country needs.”

Chelgate Local has been providing strategic communications advice to residential and commercial developers for 30 years. It’s working on 30 projects across London, Home Counties, East Anglia and the East Midlands which could provide 92,000 new homes.

To discuss how we could help your business navigate the planning system then get in touch with David Mills at dmills@chelgate.com or 020 7939 7949.

National Infrastructure Commission

Two wheels good, four wheels bad for Cambridge-Oxford competition winner

A cluster of green, car-free villages connected by cycle routes, with swathes of common land and shared amenities to make sure communities interact with each other. This is future of growth in the Oxford-Cambridge-Milton Keynes corridor, if the winning entry to the National Infrastructure Commission competition is anything to go by.

Launched in June, the competition looked for inspirational visions for future development and new homes within the Growth Arc around Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford.

Led by Velocity – an all-female team of designers, planners and engineers from Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design – the team’s vision sees six new communities created along the planned East-West rail line, along with environmentally friendly new homes connected to shared amenities.

The team initially met each other through a women’s cycling event, and went on to work together through a shared interest in designing places that “put the pedestrian and cyclist first”.

Announcing the award last week, Bridget Rosewell, competition jury Chair, said she was struck by Velocity ‘commitment to ensuring new settlements would be communities from the get-go’, with large common land at the heart of each development providing a focus for residents to co-operate.

A striking vision for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc

The competition ties in with the NIC’s ‘Partnering for prosperity: a new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc’ report last month, which set out how Government investment would double housebuilding rates and deliver one million new homes and jobs by 2050. At the crux of the report is the proposal for the Government to fund a £1bn commuter service between Bicester and Bedford by 2023, and a new East West Rail line between Bedford and Cambridge by 2030.

The Chancellor subsequently backed the Commission’s vision for one million new homes by 2050, and announced plans to complete both a new East-West Rail link and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway by 2030.

The Commission launched the competition in June, and received more than 50 first-stage submissions from teams across the country. Entries from Barton Willmore, Mae, and Fletcher Priest Architects were also shortlisted by the panel, and received an honorarium of £10,000. The next steps now are for VeloCity’s vision to be showcased, along with all earlier submissions, at a conference and public exhibition on the Growth Arc in early 2018. The National Infrastructure Commission are expected to release further details in the coming weeks.

With Government having committed to helping deliver significant growth in the Growth Arc area, developers and local authorities will now need to work together to demonstrate their ambitious visions to sustainably deliver a million new homes for the area.