Tag Archives: government

Planning Ahead: news, views and insights – October 2022

In this issue of Planning Ahead we have five articles. We review the Conservative Party Conference, look at yet another local plan being delayed and provide insights into the new DLUHC ministerial team. We also have two interesting snippets from the Government on planning consents and the size of the green belt.  Please do feel free to get in touch and share your thoughts.

  • Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham 2022 As always, the annual party conference was a hectic affair, but this year had the added spice of yet another new Government and Prime Minister, but all did not go to plan! We summarise the key elements relating to development and planning.  More…
  • Another local plan pushed into the long grass Basildon Council agreed last month the new LDS for its local plan, having withdrawn its previous one back in April. It has the new local plan adoption in 2027! This is the latest in a long line of councils dragging their feet – Uttlesford, St Albans, Castle Point, Hertsmere to name but a few. More…
  • New DLUHC Ministerial Team The new ministerial team at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and communities (DLUHC) is led by new Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Simon Clarke MP. More…
  • Planning consents fall The number of planning applications in England has fallen by 12 per cent, when compared with the same period in 2021. More…
  • Green belt is actually growing According to latest government statistics the green belt has grown by 24,150 hectares, or 1.5 per cent of the total. More…

Skills Summit: Social value from planning and procurement

Willmott Dixon hosted a skills summit at Harlow College in October. Speakers included Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, who is chair of the Education Select Committee, together with Brentwood Council, Essex County Council and Westminster City Council. A full write-up of this will appear in the next issue.

Local Plan updates

Chelgate Local brings you Local Plan updates for councils across the south east: Basildon, Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow, Medway, Sevenoaks and many more…

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.

Dominic Raab ousts Sharma as new Housing Minister

Minister for Housing

Dominic Raab MP has today been confirmed as the new Minister for Housing. An up-and-coming MP who was part of the 2010 intake, Raab is thought of as veering towards the right wing of the party, and will be a controversial choice for some in the housing and planning sector due to his tough views on immigration.

Raab becomes the 16th housing minister in just 20 years, and will work with the newly re-appointed Secretary of State Sajid Javid to keep Housing at the top of the Government’s agenda.

Leaving his post as Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Raab will immediately take over the mantle of delivering a housing agenda to deliver 1 million homes by the end of 2020, and a further half a million more by the end of 2022.

Safe as houses?

Raab, 43, is highly regarded within the Conservative Party and has been an MP for seven years, having had an earlier career as a solicitor. Elected as the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton in May 2010, he has previously worked as a lawyer and at the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

With a whopping 50% majority of just less than 30,000 votes Raab is in absolutely no danger of being displaced via an election loss any time soon, as former Minister for Housing Gavin Barwell was.

Raab will arrive at his office at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) this afternoon to find a pile of urgent papers awaiting his decision, including: the Social Housing Green Paper, the completion of the overdue NPPF reforms, the Letwin Review of land banking, and the findings of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

The NPPF and Letwin reviews are both significant pieces of work that will require Raab to quickly get up to speed with England’s complex planning laws. The findings of the Letwin review are due by the Spring statement on 13th March, and the NPPF has been touted for a March launch by civil servants.

Raab’s appointment as the new Minister for Housing may come as something of a blow to the development sector, as Raab has been staunch in his opposition of building anything on the Green Belt. In February last year, Raab wrote to Elmbridge Borough Council stressing that “every effort must be made to avoid building on green belt” in the Council’s plans to meet housing need in the area.

Raab has also previously nailed his colours to the mast on immigration, stating in 2010 that “tides of inward population movement” in the South East have increased the “local pressures on housing” and that “there are more people, and finite resources”. In a 2009 blog post, he also seemed to set out his view that the ‘first’ cause of the housing crisis was ‘open door immigration’.

Sajid’s stance has consistently been to deny that the housing crisis is down in any part to mass immigration. If Raab can make his presence felt at MHCLG, we can expect to see the Government’s rhetoric around immigration and housing shift in coming weeks.

Sharma shuffled out of the deck

After a torrid six-month stretch that was mostly been spent reacting to the Grenfell crisis, Sharma will now take up a role as Minister of State for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The move will come as an unwanted demotion for Sharma, who has relished playing a more senior role and will not jump at the junior position on the same footing as his housing role.

Ministry for HCLG

The Prime Minister’s ‘personal commitment’ to ensure housing is the Government’s key priority has led her to rebrand the Department of Communities and Local Government as the ‘Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’. Sajid Javid says that the change reflects how much importance is being put on housing within Government, saying: “Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.”

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.

A vision for homes?


Just a few weeks ago Theresa May dedicated what remains of her premiership to fixing the housing problem. A bold claim and one which she almost immediately passed to besieged Phillip Hammond to deliver in his Budget today. A housing solution?

And Spreadsheet Phil has come up with an interesting package of measures, but is there any real substance here?

The answer is not really. The Chancellor has announced a few new measures, repackaged a few older measures and carefully sought to break down the dominance of the big house builders but there is no grand plan – and of course the Green Belt will remain sacrosanct.

One eye catching measure was a commitment to use New Town Development Corporations to deliver five “locally agreed” new towns in areas of “demand pressure”. These will be delivered through public private partnership to attract international investment. There appeared to be a loose link between the New Town measures and the Infrastructure Commissions report into the brain belt. The Commissions vision of 1m homes in the area by 2050 and the attendant road and rail infrastructure was whole heartedly “backed” but any form of funding to support the warm words was absent.

Another initiative is to rebrand the HCA to become Homes England with a remit to deliver new homes where they are needed, complete with new CPO powers. This had been trailed in the White Paper in February but has now been given new impetus. A lot may depend on who heads the new agency and their drive to deliver change.

Hammond’s commitment to get Britain building is to be backed by £44bn of funds for capital investment, loans and guarantees – most of which has already been announced in one form or another. But, disappointingly, the date to reach the delivery target of 300,000 new homes a year has been pushed out to the mid-2020s.

To help reach those rates of delivery there will be new money to support SME house builders and there will be an urgent review of the gap between granted permissions and actual building rates. The review will be chaired by Oliver Letwin and will be expected to report back in time for the Spring statement next year.  Both of these measures are expected to put pressure on the bigger house builders.

Infrastructure also got a boost with the doubling of the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), which so many authorities are depending on to unlock significant proportions of their local plans. For the bigger cities, £400m, a relative drop in the ocean, was given to estate regeneration while £1.1bn was given to unlocking strategic sites and urban regeneration schemes.

For councils “in high demand areas” the Housing Revenue Account borrowing limits are to be relaxed. The measure is in line with a DCLG report from April (Capacity in the Home Building Industry) to allow councils to make a more significant contribution to house building in their areas. Or put another way, this can be seen as the Government seeking another means to breaking the dominance of the biggest house builders.

While the industry may be looking at the measures and thinking “where are the big ideas we were promised”, many of the most interesting measures have been saved for the demand side. The Tories have finally realised that first time buyers are also voters and that currently, Corbyn has a strangle hold on them.

For properties of £300,000 or less, stamp duty for first time buyers will be wiped out forever (or at least until a different government comes to office). For those in London or other high value areas, there will be no stamp duty on the first £300,000 of properties worth up to £500,000.

So does this all add up to a whole hill of beans (to borrow a phrase)? Not really. More reheated announcements and re-branded funding pots. A bit of new cash and an eye-catching reduction in stamp duty for politically important voters. Perhaps the most deflating part of this set of bold initiatives is the pushing out of the 300,000 homes a year target to the mid-2020s. Not so bold after all then….

Now we just have to wait for the promised statement from Sajid Javid to find out what the Chancellor really meant (queue frantic work behind the scenes by civil servants).

Teetering on the brink


Today’s Budget has been billed as make or break for the Chancellor, and no one can deny that he is in a difficult spot. He’s become the target of the more avid Brexiteers for sounding a note of caution and amongst the public for failing to put austerity aside. Here is our Budget analysis!

The politics has been fierce with ministers, civic servants and others using national platforms to beg for more investment, while behind the scenes there has been bitter infighting with re-writes still being finalised last night. So, what did we get? Well a surprisingly amusing speech at least, with jokes (which were actually funny) at the expense of Gove, himself and Labour.

As is usual we started off with the “econonicky stuff”. No Chancellor has been out there saying that the economy is going in the wrong direction and this one was no different. A sunny picture of economic growth and jobs growth was painted, if in somewhat dull colours as the growth rates were reduced to less than 2% until 2020 – something Corbyn was quick to attack.

More positively national debt is expected to peak this year before falling in the coming few years until it hits around 80% of GDP with borrowing hovering around 1% per year in the mid-2020s. As has been pointed out overall debt is more than 30% higher than it was when the UK was forced to go to the IMF to ask for emergency funds in the 1970s.

So what of the future? The Chancellor laid out a rosy vision of a prosperous, outward looking, free trade Britain which is investing in infrastructure for the future with road building, rail projects. Alongside the harder stuff a £6bn increase in the National Productivity Investment fund to £31bn and investment in driverless cars and start-up businesses were given a nod.  The R&D tax credit will rise to 12% and a total of £500m is being invested in Artificial Intelligence, full fibre broadband and 5G technology, while the British Business Bank will be given seed funding of £2.5bn.

The Budget was also used to push the social agenda. Electric vehicles were promoted over diesel cars, with white van men and women carefully protected (Phil is not one to make the same mistake twice). Single use plastic items – think take away Nespresso pods / coffee cups – will be subject to an investigation into future tax. This is particularly pertinent on a day when it has been revealed that Defra staff have used more than three million takeaway cups over the last three years…

Maths in schools was singled out for particular attention. New money was announced to attract maths teachers and to encourage schools to become maths academies. Also on the cards is more money for IT and retraining the existing workforce although the sums are relatively small.

For the regions, the Chancellor (re)announced agreements for Local Industrial Strategies in Manchester and the West Midlands. There may also be a future City deal for Belfast and other towns and cities. Billions more for Scotland, Wales and £650m for Northern Ireland (on top of the £1bn already announced) also got headlines. For London a pilot scheme to retain 100% of business rates for next year was announced and could quickly be rolled out to other cities and areas.

Making work pay remains a continuing theme, with the rate of the minimum wage rising in April 2018 in line with recommendations (to £7.83 per hour) while there will be no backing down from Universal Credit, but in a move to assuage back benchers on both sides, there will be some reforms to ease the transition period for those suffering delayed payments.

The NHS will be given more support with £10bn capital investment over the course of this Parliament, with an additional £2.8bn for operational resources. With concerns the extra resource would be swallowed up by any pay increases, Hammond deftly promised to cover any pay increases with further additional funds. The additional money to the NHS falls short of the services demands but is a significant nod in their direction on a day when other branches of government were noticeably absent.

To shoot Labour’s fox, there was a necessary piece on clamping down on tax avoidance by companies and individuals. Hammond moved to tax internal company royalties within multinationals which move money off shore. The measures are admittedly small by the Chancellor’s own admission but are symbolically significant. Meanwhile there were some technical changes to reduce costs for small businesses by changing inflation measures from RPI to CPI starting from April 2018.

Another popular measure to raise funds and bring more properties into use is a commitment to allow councils to charge a 100% premium on council tax for empty properties. This is a politically popular move and could bring a few more properties in central locations back into use for local people – as long as councils can prove that properties are not occupied.

The Chancellor kept his best material for the housing section which we have covered here. After all that, it’s time for a drink – and thanks to the Chancellor for freezing the rates on booze (except for white cider!)

He’s probably done enough to keep his position for now. So cheers Phil.