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The UK’s population is set to grow
by about 6 million people, from 64
to 70 million, over the next 15 years.
Office for National Statistics, October 2015
How Sajid Javid has ignored inspectors’ advice in Tory seats
22 October 2017

The vast majority of recent ministerial decisions on housing appeals have been in Conservative seats and a disproportionate amount are being refused against inspectors’ advice.

64 of the 69 housing decisions (93%) called-in or recovered by Sajid Javid since last June were in Conservative constituencies. As the Conservatives control only 56% of English seats this suggests something other than the merit of the proposals is being taken account of.

The research, completed by Carl Dyer of solicitors Irwin Mitchell, also highlights 14 cases involving some 2,500 homes in which Javid refused permission against inspectors’ recommendations. All but one was in a Conservative constituency. The exception was Speaker John Bercow’s Buckingham constituency, where plans for 130 homes were refused in July following a call-in inquiry.

Closer analysis shows that those 2,500 homes accounted for around 15% of the total units in schemes decided by Javid. During his tenure, he has endorsed inspectors’ recommendations to refuse 25 schemes comprising around 6,000 homes but approved 28 schemes providing more than 8,000 units. In only two cases has he gone against a recommendation to refuse permission.

The research suggests that the recovery threshold for ministerial intervention, currently set at 150 units outside neighbourhood plan areas, should be raised to something like 1,000 homes.

Landform’s own very recent experience is of a scheme in Arun DC, approved locally for 50 units where there is only a 3.2 YHLS coupled to an outdated neighbourhood plan, that was called-in through local MP intervention. With a call-in threshold this low and a failing housing supply this is close to conceding that the local planning system is unfit for purpose. 

Conflict with emerging or adopted neighbourhood development plans featured in 8 of the 14 schemes refused against inspectors’ advice. It appears that the SoS is giving more weight than his inspectors to neighbourhood plans. Given that NPs are more prevalent in the south of England, where the Conservatives have more seats, one might be forgiven for thinking that this was the intension, or at least a known consequence, behind NPs all along.

We all know that the housing shortage is not going away and however successful their efforts to retain local political support by opposing housing the Conservatives need to make sure they don’t lose the wider national battle to provide much needed housing for all of our society.

So, the square peg of national need meets the narrow round hole of local self-interest and the resulting impact is the politics we all encounter. However, I am beginning to think that this is increasingly recognised by the Conservative leadership and Sajid Javid’s statement over the weekend that the Government should borrow more to fund the costs of building 300,000 homes per year is proof of this. Let’s then see if the peg and hole can be fitted together. 

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Please Release Me Let Me Go
(not Tom Jones but the Green Belt!)
27 July 2017

We all know there is a housing crisis, that enough homes aren’t being built and that the problem is not going away. So why are large areas of perfectly suitable land, often the most suitable land, not being used? Because it is green belt and this is the last hiding place of the NIMBY.

Done correctly the strategic release of green belt land would go a long way to solving the housing problem in areas close to existing settlements that have clear potential to support development without any noticeable harm. Only approximately 9% of all land in the UK is developed and less than half of that is for housing. We are not the high density, over developed country most people think we are. Test any of your non-property friends over dinner and they will all get this statistic quite wrong.

In fact, many of the towns and villages where Landform is working are in dire need of new development to support underused shops, modernise services and to combat ageing populations. Some of these settlements are surprisingly close to London with good quality transport connections but local politicians seem oblivious to the economic hollowing out that is taking place around them and do not have a vision for their younger aspiring inhabitants. Perhaps there should be a new rule so that all parish council members must be less than 50 years old. I think this would go a long way.

This narrowness of view both misses the opportunity and increases the cost of housing, which especially impacts on the lower and middle-income groups, and particularly the young. The first retort from a NIMBY is to claim that green belt land is environmentally precious, high quality open countryside to be preserved at all costs. However, this is just a convenient smokescreen for them to hide their NIMBY’ism behind, as the reality is frequently quite the opposite and green belt land is often poor quality, underused backland that serves no useful purpose for anyone.

This is because green belt boundaries were established by a broad sweep of the policy brush with little or no technical assessment to inform them. This was reasonable given that their purpose was political and not environmental. However, the political dynamics have changed and many towns and villages are missing an opportunity to improve and modernise themselves, whilst the housing need remains unmet.

Because developers cannot test reluctant green belt authorities with departure applications, other than in the most exceptional of cases, this is an area where national politicians need to show some courage and force through the correct OAN and not allow delays or claims to one dubious constraint or another to limit supply. Keep what is good and use what isn’t.

I have heard some talk that following the Grenfell Tower tragedy there might be a general mood change across the country regarding housing provision, a softening perhaps of peoples’ anti-housing resolve. Unfortunately, I do not detect any widespread will to make this happen (from any of the political parties in fact) and we will have to content ourselves with a replay of Tom Jones’ plaintive cry instead!

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Land at Bognor Regis - SOLD
17 July 2017

Linden Homes completed the purchase of Landform’s site for 90 new homes at Bersted near Bognor Regis on July 14 2017.

Landform Estates, having secured planning consent for 90 new houses on their 9 acres site at New Barn Lane, Bersted, has taken the land to the open market and sold it to Linden Homes, one of the UK’s biggest housebuilders.

The New Barn Lane site has planning permission for a mix of two, three and four bed-roomed houses along with a number of bungalows to be built in landscaped formal and informal public spaces.

The development also provides 30% affordable housing to be delivered by Southern Housing Group. Generous car parking space has been allocated in the development for new and existing local residents.

Linden Homes is the housebuilding arm of Galliford Try and has an excellent reputation for building award-winning and sustainable homes to the highest quality. 

Outline Planning consent was granted by Arun District Council in January so we are delighted to complete the land purchase so swiftly

Caroline Rogers
Landform Estates Ltd.
Does the UK really want more houses?
01 June 2017
Every politician claims they want more houses built in the UK. Every one of them says they want new and better houses to relieve the chronic shortage and help the young get on the housing ladder.

Indeed, the Conservatives made releasing land a central part of their strategy well before the Prime Minister called the election. So, what did they do?

Well, in one of the Government’s final acts before the start of the election purdah, the Secretary of State did the complete opposite. In one day, he issued seven recovered appeal decisions covering 805 potential new homes.

What’s more, he stopped all but one of the appeals, so that’s only 80 out of the total 805 new homes. Adding insult to injury, the minister rejected the other appeals for all the usual reasons. What a surprise!

These are the reasons given for refusal: three of the appeals were overturned on the basis of a conflict with the local Neighbourhood Plan - even though in all the cases the local planning authority did not have a five-year housing land supply. Quite the reverse, they all had big shortfalls. It will not surprise you to know that the planning inspectors involved had recommended the appeals be approved.

Another case - also against the inspector’s recommendation- was refused because it was deemed ‘inappropriate’ development within the Green Belt. However, another appeal, also refused, did follow the inspector’s recommendation.   In brief, 580 of the 725 homes which were refused planning permission had been recommended for approval by the Secretary of State’s planning inspectors. Once again, the Nimbys have won. They have won because they were able to persuade government that localism, protecting the Green Belt and conservation are more important than providing new housing for the next generation.

These cases illustrate not that NPPF is failing but that it is working and district and parish councils don’t like it. They are resorting to lobbying their MPs to get applications called-in that should never be anywhere near the SoS’s desk to circumvent policy in the hope of getting lucky and they are succeeding!

However, there is some good news to report. The latest ONS figures show housing completions were up 6% in the year to March 2017 and, more pertinently, the increase in starts is 15% higher at 162,880, a decent rise but nowhere near enough.   The Conservatives are still the favourites to win the election, although it’s unlikely they will win the landslide they were hoping for. Even so, let’s hope the next government is brave enough to stick to its housing pledge for more and better housing. Cutting stamp duty would help too. 

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
The White Paper and Custom Build
20 March 2017

Wouldn't it be nice if we were bolder?

Then we wouldn't have to wait so long

And wouldn't it be nice to live together

In the kind of house in which we want?

I'm afraid my reading of the White Paper immediately threw me back 50 years to 1966 when the Beach Boys reigned over the airwaves and Harold Wilson’s Labour Government was in power. This was a period of drastic housing policy change, seeing a relative boom in construction and a wave of New Towns such as Milton Keynes.

The White Paper seems to be sending us in the direction of the 1960s, unfortunately though, only in the sense of capturing the ethos of the Beach Boys – “Wouldn’t it be nice”.  Now, such feel good tunes are great for pop stars, but our government has a real responsibility for tackling the housing crisis. Indeed, they fought two elections on the issue.  Custom and self build housing have a real role to play in this, broadening the supply of housing, placing the customer at the heart of the design process, and providing new avenues to home ownership.

The last two governments have done excellent work in laying the foundation for a custom build revolution, bringing this exciting and achievable method of housebuilding out of the fringes and giving it a place on the main stage. We have seen the custom and self build housing act bring about a requirement for local councils to keep a register of demand in their area, and for this to be addressed when taking key decisions. Cherwell Council in Oxfordshire, seizing the initiative and seeing its benefits, have driven forward a custom build scheme at a former military depot near Bicester. The result: nearly 3,000 people have registered a demand in that area – 6 times higher than the next highest area. The demand clearly exists.

But not all councils are as capable of driving forward public sector acquisitions, especially when other hands of government take resourcing away from councils. There is therefore a need for stronger direction from government to make the market deliver this; as the White Paper clearly states, the main barriers to custom build are finance and land. The incentives offered over the last several years in terms of CIL exemptions and positive messages of support have helped a handful of smaller sites come forward, but we are now ready to take the next step and think bigger.

In December last year, we attended the Right to Build Expo hosted by NaCSBA. We argued that simply relying on smaller custom build sites to come forward would only deliver on average three custom and self build homes per council a year; hardly the boom in this industry government expects.

We need to think bigger and we need to make the land available. We need national government to strengthen national policies to give Councils the confidence they can allocate privately owned land for custom build, that they can defend these policies, and they can expect planning applications to genuinely respond to this.

I'm afraid the White Paper lacks teeth in this regard. There is no proposition for how to unlock land at the scale we need for custom build to take off; just a series of ‘promote’, ‘support’ and ‘working with’ aspirations. If the government is dedicated to pumping out feel good lyrics, perhaps we should be turning to the likes of One Direction to create a definitive policy direction on housing?

“Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true

Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do…”

Build more and better houses to stop the Nimby’s
16 January 2017

Housebuilding is again at the top of the domestic political agenda. Not only is Theresa May’s government promising radical reform of the housing market but it has also set the ambitious target of building one million new homes by 2020.

The housing White Paper, due out in the next week or two, will reveal exactly how the Government plans to do this. The Government currently enjoys political capital and it must be prepared to use some if it's serious about solving the housing crisis.

However, the recent Commons statement by Gavin Barwell regarding the weight to be given to Neighbourhood Plans does not bode well and reveals a lack of confidence. Barwell’s statement was made, not because the NPPF is failing but precisely because it is working and neighbourhoods with inadequate housing numbers don’t like it!  

Both the Prime Minister and Sajid Javid, her Communities and Local Government Secretary, say they will help the so-called ‘just about managing’ voters by bringing down house prices, forcing councils to build more homes, increasing private rented space and converting more brownfield properties into housing.

Housebuilding has recovered a bit from its post-crash lows of 140,000 new homes. But there were still only about 165,000 new homes built between 2015 and 2016 - some way below the 250,000 new homes needed to match annual need.

That’s why Javid is right to say he doesn’t want just a few ‘tweaks’ to the housing market “here and there with a 1,000 or so new homes” but long-term structural reform. We’ll have to see what the White Paper says.

But does the government have any hope of pulling it off? It’s got two big obstacles to overcome; uncertainty around Brexit and, as always, Middle England gearing up for a NIMBY backlash.  The Campaign to Protect Rural England is warning of a toxic fight if ministers force councils to raise their numbers.

So, what’s to be done? How can Javid push through his reforms? Here’s my five-point plan to help him:

  • Ensure that Neighbourhood Plans actually plan for the identified need and are not just a smokescreen used to frustrate and prevent development.
  • Ministers should be allowed to punish councils by excluding them from funding such as the new Housing Infrastructure Fund.
  • The Build to Rent sector should be given more incentives on top of the £1bn fund recently launched to support private investment, planning and construction in the rented sector.
  • Encourage more self and custom build homes which are proving highly popular with new homeowners and local councils.
  • Introduce more incentives for housing associations and smaller housebuilders.
Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
New data shows deepening of housing crisis
17 October 2016

In a busy week for official data releases, DCLG has published an update to its affordability dataset for England, providing figures for 2014 and 2015.

Affordability, expressed as the ratio between average house prices and average earnings, is a key metric for understanding the scale of the housing crisis at the local level.  This release (the first in more than two years) is therefore of great importance for those involved in the planning and delivery of housing.

Some of the key headlines include:

• The Median Affordability Ratio for England as a whole is now 7.5, meaning that the average house now costs 7.5 times the average gross salary. This is up from 6.9 in 2013

84 Districts now have a ratio of 10 or greater – up from 49 in 2013. This includes districts in the Midlands (Bromsgrove, Rutland and Stratford-on-Avon) and Yorkshire (Harrogate)

• Districts in the London commuter belt have seen some of the largest increases – including Sevenoaks (rising from 10.4 to 13.9), Maldon (from 7.2 to 10.7), Dacorum (8.9 to 12.0) and Three Rivers (10.7 to 12.3)

Just 27 districts across England have ratios lower than 5.0 – the maximum income multiple that mortgage providers will typically lend to an individual

Although the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) made it clear that local plans should seek to address adverse ‘market signals’ (such as worsening affordability) back in 2013, the issue has gained little traction with Inspectors and there are only a handful of examples where housing requirements have been explicitly increased on grounds of adverse market signals.

This new data makes two things clear:  That current level of housing supply is not sufficient to improve affordability; and that the issue is not confined to London and its immediate commuter belt.

Affordability Map created by Barton Willmore
Review can only make planning easier if the numbers are valid
05 September 2016

Every few years, the government decides that the planning system is not working. Four years ago, it wiped the slate clean with the National Planning Policy Framework and new guidance. Now, another review from the Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG) has considered how planning can deliver the homes that the nation needs.

The group makes many good suggestions, which should make planning simpler and faster. But there is a problem, hidden in appendix six of the report. Here, the LPEG puts forward a new method for calculating “objectively assessed housing need”. This calculation is behind the all-important target in each authority’s local plan.

There are two problems with it. First, it is technically flawed. In many places, the results will not make sense, so planning will be slower and more complex, as authorities, developers and many barristers struggle to find practical solutions.

To pick one example, the group advises that the government’s population and household projections should not be questioned. For most places, most of the time, this is good advice.

But sometimes they include errors, which must be corrected if we are to plan properly for housing.

Take Cambridge, where the projection shows about half the number of new houses that experts agree will be needed. If this low figure were accepted, planning would be blocking growth in one of the most dynamic economies in England.

Housing needs 40% above government projections

The second problem is worse. Under the new method, the total land allocated for housing across England would far exceed demand. Estimates suggest that over a 20-year period, we would be planning for 320,000 new dwellings a year.

This is about 40% above the government projections and 2.5 times the recent level of housebuilding.

Politically, a large number is good. It says that the government wants to see a step increase in land supply, so land becomes cheaper, house prices fall (or rise more slowly), and homes become more affordable. But the scale is wrong. If sites are allocated in line with the new numbers, many will not be developed because there are not enough people to occupy them - especially people with enough money to make development viable.

Social housing will not fill the gap, because it is mostly paid for by developer contributions levied on market housing. With lower land prices, there will be fewer developer contributions to pay for social housing and for infrastructure.

Britain leaves - housing need remains
04 July 2016

A week in and it seems as though the country is still coming to terms with a future outside of the European Union. Short-term instability was to be expected, but as this settles down, thoughts turn to what leaving will actually mean for the property industry

It is far too early to understand the impact on planning system overall. While there could be a future impact relating to long-term investment and population, the fact remains that we still urgently need more homes. In fact, new build completions totalled only 140,000 in 2015/16 - a significant shortfall against both the Government’s commitment to build 1 million new homes by 2020, and the projected level of household growth – approximately 215,000 per annum.

The settlement that the UK negotiates with the EU will have a significant bearing on what happens to immigration from EU countries as well to the amount of funds received by the regions for their growth agenda, therefore the impact of Brexit on local housing demand will not be fully understood for some time. Factors include the UK’s standing within the global economy, availability of EU Structural Funding (or alternative), as well as details of the UK Government’s Policy Response, including any limits and measures which may be imposed on the movement of people. Until these points become clear, local authorities and the housebuilding industry must work on the basis of business as usual – particularly given the long standing crisis in the housing market and the housing shortfall that still remains.

Planning Application submitted: 350 new homes at Cleve Park, Thornbury
13 June 2016

A planning application for the new Cleve Park housing development in Thornbury, which includes self-built plots and a care home, has now been submitted to South Gloucestershire District Council by Landform Estates.

The proposals for the Cleve Park neighbourhood, adjoining Morton Way and Grovesend Road, include plans for 350 new homes, including bungalows, 14 self-build plots, a 70 bed care home for elderly residents, public open spaces as well as community facilities and shops.

The plans submitted last week have incorporated many of the ideas put forward by local residents at the Community Planning Day held in February to discuss the masterplan for the site, and at the subsequent exhibition held in April. The feedback from both events, which were each attended by around 200 people from Thornbury and adjoining communities, have been positive and many of the concerns and good ideas expressed by residents have been taken on board by the masterplanners.

Mr Tom Symes, a director of Landform said: "Working together with the local community, and council officers, has been very encouraging. As a result of this dialogue, we hope we have come forward with a far better scheme which will fit well with the natural landscaping of the environment."

He added: “Enthusiasm for the site's self-build plots - whereby individuals can buy their own plot and either build themselves or have their own homes designed and built for them -  has surprised us and is very encouraging. Local residents and community self-build promoters have already been in contact with us to see how they can work with us to bring the self-build plots forward.”  

JTP, the masterplanner of the site, has made adjustments to the plans to meet concerns over access routes. JTP's Charles Campion said: “A number of new features to help with traffic calming measures, such as reducing the speed limit on Morton Way and signal controlled pedestrian crossings, have been introduced. The roof-level of the care home has also been reduced to two storeys following concerns raised by local residents.”

The plans also include strict safeguarding measures on the future upkeep of the two ancient woodlands, Crossways Wood and Cleve Wood, which are close to the site. A new management plan, to be overseen by a local wildlife trust, will be set up and will include public access arrangements.

It is expected that the District Council could make a decision on the outline planning application in the autumn.

Tom Symes
Landform Estates Ltd.
Norwich - A Fine City
26 May 2016

Landform has acquired a 42-acre site in Norwich with the aim of seeking consent for around 300 new homes, a new two form entry primary school and other community facilities.

The new development, known as Green Lane Orchard, is to the east of the cathedral city between the new Northern Distributor Road and the Broadland Business Park, adjacent to the recently opened Postwick Hub.

Landform plans to take the site, once home to a substantial commercial market garden and orchard facility, to planning in the autumn

Caroline Rogers
Landform Estates Ltd.
Green Belt - We Need to Talk
04 April 2016

It strikes me as increasingly absurd that the current government refuses to meaningfully engage in the Green Belt debate, particularly given the inextricably linked housing crisis. Green Belt is one of the most controversial aspects of planning policy; emotions run high and views are typically polarized.

I’d welcome a debate that considers the history and function of the Green Belt and how it’s been applied; one that evaluates its success, failures and consequences. This doesn’t diminish the potential value of the Green Belt, it will enable us to ensure that the policy, together with many others, shapes our cities, towns and villages in the best way possible.

The unintended consequences of Green Belt policy are worrying. Development is directed away from sustainable locations or to landscapes more sensitive to new development but with less capacity to accommodate it. This potentially chokes the towns ostensibly being ‘protected’, whilst adding fuel to the housing crisis and rising house prices.

One of the reasons I love living in cities is the myriad of historic town and village centres and their neighbourhoods. They offer the best of both worlds: being part of a global, dynamic place whilst living with a sense of community, identity and history at a more manageable scale. This very phenomenon, using the language of the purposes of the Green Belt, could be characterised as ‘undesirable urban sprawl and merging’.

In any city or town, it’s the full range of open spaces and public realm that enhance people’s wellbeing and access to open space. Our towns and cities are best shaped by a range of policies creating and protecting different types of open space, which includes Green Belt at a strategic level.

By engaging in a rational debate about Green Belt across all sectors, we’ll be able to ensure Green Belt policy promotes sustainable growth, considers alternative forms and challenges assumptions about the form of Green Belt, beyond those that the word “belt” evokes.

As a landscape architect I believe my purpose is to find the synergy between protecting and enhancing our landscapes. I’m not anti-development. Despite my deep love of open space, I appreciate the way that people shape, transform and layer the landscape.

However, in my work, I have encountered land that has the protection of Green Belt policy designation that looks like this:

…and like this:

Please, we need to talk.

Read more on the Landscape Institute’s Green Belt Consultation

Community have their say at Cleve Park, Thornbury
Report from Community Planning Day
18 February 2016

Community Participation

Over 150 local people attended the Cleve Park Community Planning Day at Thornbury on Saturday 6 February 2016 to discuss Landform’s proposed development of a new neighbourhood to the south-east of the town. The new neighbourhood will provide 350 homes, including self-build plots, a care home and GP facility. There are also opportunities to provide significant open spaces and community uses, enhance biodiversity between the areas of woodland, and invest in the local infrastructure.

“This Community Planning Day is a great opportunity, and all previous developers should have done that.”

See the Event Flyer

Principle of development

Participants at the Community Planning Day had a range of views about the need and desirability of building new homes at Cleve Park. Participation at the event was not taken for support for the principle of new homes, rather that, if the development does happen participants wanted to ensure Cleve Park would be the best possible addition to Thornbury. 

“I was previously against any new building in Thornbury but realised we need new housing.”“I’m not against housing, I’m against the wrong housing!”

“We welcome new houses, as long as you listen to the local people about what is appropriate and what isn’t!!"

See the Background Exhibition

A Vision for Cleve Park

Ideas to emerge for the new neighbourhood included: the provision of a mix of housing types in a green setting to serve the needs of young and old, families and single people, including bungalows and apartments; the preservation of the ancient woodland connected with an ecological link and protected with a landscape buffer; the inclusion of a mixed-use heart for the scheme including community amenities such a medical centre; and working with the community to ensure that community benefits resulting from the development serve the needs of the existing and new residents in Thornbury.

See the Report Back Part 1 & Part 2

Self-build housing

At Cleve Park, there is potential for serviced self and custom build plots to be available for purchase, with the buyers having the freedom to design and construct their own property. Michael Holmes, Chair of the National Custom and Self-Build Association gave a special lunchtime presentation at the event and answered questions about how self-building works.

Report Back and Planning Submission

Following the Community Planning Day, the design team analysed and summarised the outcomes and drew up a Vision for Cleve Park, which was reported back to the community on Wednesday evening 17 February.  The team is now preparing an outline planning application, which it is anticipated will be submitted to South Gloucestershire Council before Easter.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Consent received at New Barn Lane, Bognor Regis
Landform has received planning consent for a new site of 90 homes in North Bersted, Bognor Regis, in record time.
01 February 2016

The planning process for New Barn Lane started last September and we gained approval at planning committee in January from Arun District Council.

The new development is for 90 homes; a mixture of high-quality two, three and four bedroomed houses, affordable homes and some self-build to be set in well-designed gardens and more informal public space.

One of the reasons for the speed of approval was that Landform worked closely with local residents and planners on their requirements for the site. For example, there were fears that the site would bring increased risk to local flooding and add to already existing drainage problems. However, Landform met these fears head-on and demonstrated that the development would improve existing pipework and drainage and bring improvements to the district.

This is an excellent example of how Landforms works closely with local communities and councils to deliver homes that bring benefits to all.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Custom and self build sector set to double by 2018
03 December 2015

More than 130 local councils are already taking action to help boost the opportunities available for people who want to build their own homes.

The National Custom & Self Build Association is spearheading an initiative researching international best practice working with local councils to help them create opportunities for the provision and building of more affordable homes by private homebuilders.

Other key findings include:

  • One in five councils have already set up a local custom and self build ‘Register’ or carried out assessments to measure local demand for people who want to build their own homes;
  • Seventy seven councils are already creating opportunities for private homebuilders through their Local Plans and programmes. These involve a range of initiatives from policies asking for a mix of homes on sites and promoting private homebuilding as part of affordable housing initiatives, to requiring building plots on larger housing sites, supporting collective projects and commitments to work with industry and local communities to identify suitable opportunities and, in some cases, providing finance support;
  • More than 30 councils are identifying suitable sites or locations where private homebuilding is encouraged and, in some cases, disposing of public land or buying land;
  • A number of councils are identifying more significant opportunities. These include the re-use of former public sector sites, proposals to include private homebuilding opportunities as part of future urban and village extensions and introducing new planning policies that encourage affordable self and custom build homes in rural areas;
  • Councils in the North East are currently the most proactive with 70% progressing initiatives to make it easier for people who want to build their own homes. Two other regions (South West and West Midlands) have half or more of all councils bringing forward initiatives. The least active region is currently London, where just 21 per cent of Councils have so far taken action;
  • Since 2012 the overall level of local authority activity across England has approximately trebled.
Landform submit application for 90 new homes at Bognor Regis
28 September 2015
Landform has submitted a planning application for 90 new homes at New Barn Lane in Bognor Regis to Arun District Council.

Landform is working closely with local planners to design new homes that meet the needs of the community and which fit comfortably within the landscape. This is an attractive site that fits in neatly with the current dwellings in New Barn Lane and will provide much-needed housing for the area and benefits to the wider community.

Southern Housing Group are working with Landform to deliver the affordable housing element of the scheme.

The plans were presented at a public exhibition and discussion group hosted by the Parish Council on 1 September together with local residents.

The scheme has the potential to help fix some local flood and drainage problems and ensure that high-quality new facilities will be built for the new site. The development will also provide generous parking within the site for individual house plots, on-street parking and further spaces at the entrance to the footpath to help relieve current parking problems. Landform is proposing access to the site wider than the West Sussex CC Highways requirement and is also working with the Highway footpath officer to provide improvements to the local footpath and cycleway network.

The development will help Arun Council to achieve its target for building new homes, which has recently increased from 580 per annum to a minimum of 758 per annum follow a preliminary hearing of the Local Plan Examination.

Caroline Rogers
Landform Estates Ltd.
Green light for 450 houses at Mickle Well Park, Daventry
 
15 September 2015

Landform Estates is delighted to confirm the go-ahead for 450 new homes at its Mickle Well Park site in Daventry. Consent was granted by Daventry District Council in July following the signing of the Section 106 agreement and will provide substantial new facilities, including a primary school and other amenities for the surrounding areas. 

Landform's Erik Pagano said: "As Mickle Well Park was an unallocated site we were gratified that consent was obtained at the committee stage. We engaged comprehensively with the local community throughout the planning process by holding design days and exhibitions when the public gave their views and participated in the design process."

"Our hands-on approach to the planning process meant that the public were genuinely able to be part of the design process and shape the proposals. The result is that we arrived at a masterplan which is supported by the community, which we find hugely encouraging." 

As part of the section 106 agreement, Landform has agreed to contribute £5m towards providing serviced land for a new 420 pupil primary school at the site, together with a major financial contribution towards the Daventry Development Link road and other town centre improvements. It also includes £900,000 to the Phoenix Youth Centre to extend the gym and modernise the premises. The scheme also includes a neighbourhood centre with health, community and retail facilities. 

Landform hopes that work on the 450 homes will begin over the next six months, and think it could take three to four years to complete.  The masterplan includes 24 plots for self-build homes, and 25% of the new homes will be for affordable housing.  Landform is working with Orbit Homes, the country's biggest affordable homes provider, on this part of the scheme. Up to 400 new jobs are likely to be created because of the demand for skilled and unskilled workers.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
What does the future hold for protected landscapes?
02 July 2015
  • Development is possible in protected landscapes, but it needs to be approached sensitively, with care.
  • Let’s celebrate that all landscapes change; protected landscapes are no exception.

The Conservative manifesto calls for stronger protection for natural landscapes, but it doesn’t flesh out what this means. Perhaps it means little. It calls for protection of countryside, planting of 11 million trees, and pledges 200,000 starter homes

There’s nothing in the Conservative’s manifesto or the Queen's Speech on protected landscapes, nor are there any changes to the national planning policy guidance.

The Planner advises the new government to concentrate on, among other things, reducing the backlog at the planning Inspectorate (this despite a rumoured 20% cut to the Civil Service).

Big investments and delayed decisions will be forthcoming, many of which may have major effects on protected landscapes. There is no change to the NPPF. Therefore the Government's advice remains: do not build in protected landscapes.

But I ask: why not, if it is done properly?

Take, for example a 250 house site within the AONB, at Brixham, which took 2 appeals and 6 years to obtain planning permission.

The former holiday camp site lay actually within the AONB, but the boundaries of the AONB were out of date. Officers were supportive but members refused the scheme, despite the landscape led approach. At appeal it was then refused on the grounds of major development within an AONB.

Did we give up? No, we revised the scheme further to accord with landscape principles, produced photomontages and sketches and, above all, carried out extensive consultations with members and local interest groups. We proposed restoration of the landscape to its former 19 century character. We let people know what was happening and brought them with us.

Development is coming, we are a small island with limited space. The time may have come to consider at least some development in protected landscapes.

If some development in protected landscapes is becoming more attractive, I believe that we shouldn’t be unduly worried. Landscapes have always changed. To avoid long term irreversible damage and we need to understand the character, history and features of the landscape, thereby preserving what’s important. We can use 3D modelling to show the nature of what we propose, because it is often the case that we may understand the scheme, but that others won’t.

AONBs, National Parks and Green Belts will continue into the future, and they should attract our full support. We should be proud of this heritage. Landscapes will continue to be protected more by criteria rather than by policy. We need to understand landscape character and the history and process of that landscape and, if we do, then development can be successfully accommodated within it.

area of outstanding natural beauty, Brixham
area of outstanding natural beauty, Brixham
Self Build Revolution
Queen's Speech progresses Right to Build
04 June 2015

A potential step-change in the delivery of more custom and self-build housing took place last week with the announcement in the Queen’s Speech progressing the Right to Build, which will enable people wanting to build their own home to request a building plot from their local authority.

There will be much work over the coming months developing the details of the process and regulations, but the principle of giving everyone who wants to build their own home ‘the Right to Build’ is now set to become law. Creating an individual, sustainable and affordable home should now become an option for the many and not just the few.

The National Custom & Self Build Association believes that local planning authorities will take the role of facilitator and in some instances as enabler. The traditional self-build market (currently around 10,000 units per annum) has scope to double to around 20,000 new homes, mostly from infill and replacement dwellings.

It is felt that further growth will come in the form of larger scale multi-plot sites, including parts of volume housebuilding sites, such as those being delivered by Landform, with serviced plots offered for sale to individuals together with the option to a buy a fully custom built home. Whilst the market will offer a choice of delivery solutions it is expected that most buyers will leave it to the custom build developer, effectively offering bespoke homes sold off-plan.

This is the model seen across much of the developed world where self-build and custom build housing constitutes a far higher proportion of new homes than in the UK.

We anticipate the new Bill will provide much more detail drawing on the findings of the work carried out by the 11 vanguard local authorities already running trials and we think that the volume house builders will follow suit. If it works, it could be the first steps in creating the biggest revolution in the UK housing market in the past 60 years.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
A Lawyer’s view of Section 106
11 May 2015

All of us involved in the planning world have horror stories regarding the time taken to complete a S106 agreement.  There are a number of reasons for such delays, the difficulty agreeing the contributions, the legal process and failure to engage with drafting the agreement at an early stage and the number of parties. It is a universal recognition in the industry section 106 agreements significantly delay the planning application process.

Following the March consultation the Government published revised guidance on planning obligations. The updates are;

  • Section 106 agreement should be concluded within statutory timescales (usually 13 weeks for major development, 8 weeks for others unless an application is subject to an EIA which is 16 weeks)
  • There is an expectation of earlier engagement at the pre-application stage by all parties
  • Use of standardised clauses to minimise the need to prepare different agreements for every application
  • A flexible approach should be taken to boost the local planning authorities capacity using collaborative agreements to make use of skills of officers from other local planning authorities
  • Promote greater transparency about what funding has been raised through section 106 and what it has been spent on

The government is also considering strengthening the legislative framework for resolving delays in negotiating section 106 agreements. This may include stricter timescales for completing section 106 agreements and creating dispute resolution mechanisms.

While the updated guidance is welcomed in principle, it raises a number of issues such as:

  • How are already stretched LPAs going to deal with these new timescales?
  • It could be costlier for developers: at present, many councils start section 106 talks after permission is granted, so that applicants neither pay the council’s legal costs for drafting agreements nor use their own resources to produce the relevant documents unless there is a resolution to grant permission. These costs should, however, be balanced against the expectation of having the S106 issued more quickly.
  • The administrative costs for LPAs in recording what has been raised by S106 agreements. Although this will be a useful exercise in determining whether or not a proposed S106 contribution falls foul of the anti-pooling provisions (remember no pooling of more than 5 obligations) which have been in effect since April.

In addition, there is also discussion regarding the creation of a dispute resolution mechanism; being an "external body or suitably qualified individual, who would help determine what was necessary to make a proposed development acceptable, and their judgement would need to be binding on the parties to the section 106 agreement".

It is my view such a mechanism would not necessarily be helpful to developers as: The post would have to be filled by someone with a broad skill set to deal with the complicated issues regarding S106 contributions which can arise. It would add a layer of uncertainty to the negotiation process as, if the dispute resolution mechanism was binding, a developer may not be able to deliver the outcome of the process. It seems at odds with trying to develop a productive relationship with the LPA.

Academy of Urbanism nominates Landform’s Erik Pagano as an Academician
19 March 2015

Erik Pagano, Landform’s Managing Director, has just been named as an Academician by the Academy of Urbanism.

Academicians are nominated by their peers according to their contribution to the making and shaping of places.

Erik says “we support the Academy’s mission to recognise, encourage and celebrate great places. Landform creates valuable sites for development from which great places are made, and I am delighted to accept this nomination”.

Tom Symes
Landform Estates Ltd.
Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill takes a step forward
05 January 2015

In July 2014 Richard Bacon MP introduced a Private Members’ Bill - the Self-build and Custom House Building Bill. It has government support and reaches the report stage in Parliament this month (January 2015).

After attending a recent meeting at the House of Commons Erik Pagano, Landform’s Managing Director said “The Bill asks local councils to keep a register of anyone interested in self-build and custom-build projects and to make land available in their local plans. Interestingly, it would also allow volume housebuilders to include self-build and custom-build projects as affordable housing, if this is done with a Registered Social Landlord.”

There is considerable market interest and demand for self and custom-build housing in the UK. The Government has said that they wish to see the annual rate of housing delivered through self-build schemes double from around 8% to 16% of all new homes built.

The lack of availability of consented land with infrastructure and services is, by a considerable margin, the single biggest constraint to delivery of self-build and custom-build housing.

The Bill is due to reach Report stage in the House of Commons on 9th January 2015, followed by passage through the House of Lords, and then Royal Assent in 2015 if all goes smoothly.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Natural England - Friend or Foe?
03 December 2014

There are not many planning applications, certainly of any size, which don’t end up in front of Natural England at one stage or another during the planning process, so dealing with the Governments Statutory Authority is something we are all used to. Vilified by many clients and consultants alike, do they really deserve the adjectives such as unhelpful, un-pragmatic, unrealistic, commercially naive, and overly precautionary, to name but a few? 

In reaching an answer to that question, it is best, perhaps, to consider some of the problems faced by the organisation, and how consistent Governments have altered, re-shaped and rebranded the organisation.

Key, of course, is that the numbers of professional staff have been much reduced, but more pivotal is that there are more administrators and planners than ecologists. Strange in an organisation charged with protecting England’s Natural Environment and Wildlife. Worse still is the practice of Natural England subcontracting to private individuals or small consultancies to review Environmental Statement chapters, advise on mitigation schemes, and pronounce whether a particular planning application is fit for purpose.  With no check, no independence, and with a competitive notion which removes any objective assessment, they have been given significant power with no come back or responsibility. In my opinion they have damaged the image and impartiality that a truly independent Statutory Authority should possess.

Often the biggest criticism of Natural England was that advice received was ad hoc and changed subject to the individual, region or office being consulted. Then came ‘Standing Advice’ a one size fits all approach, which left Natural England officers incapable of moving outside the box and leaving them open to criticism. However, it did have benefits in the area of European Protected Species licensing, where for the first time a consistent approach was being applied. Latterly of course this more centralised approach has been (at least in part) abandoned and we will all have to get used to a more regional based approach.

For my part, do they deserve the adjectives? Probably not, but being deserving of a label is not the same as whether the label is actually applicable in the current circumstances. What I want is a fully funded and professionally staffed Natural England with whom I can have a sensible and professional debate on behalf of my clients.

Landform Submits Application for 450 Homes at Daventry
08 October 2014

Landform has submitted a planning application for 450 new homes at its Mickle Well Park site in Daventry. The proposals include a new two-form entry primary school with places for up to 420 children.

The application also includes land for a new medical centre, a local shop, a community hall and landscaped public open space & woodland areas throughout the scheme. There will also be a ‘trim’ trail for residents, play areas, links to existing cycle and footpaths and enhanced walkways along the Grand Union Canal’s towpath. 

The project includes 450 new homes in a mix of apartments, bungalows and 2 to 5 bed houses. This will include 112 (25% of the total) units as new affordable homes and 24 fully serviced plots for ‘self-build’ homes to be sold to private individuals. Orbit Homes, which is one of the largest private and social housing providers in the UK, is working in partnership with Landform on the scheme.

Erik Pagano, Landform managing director, said: “A priority for us in developing our proposals has been to listen carefully to local community views and a key concern has been the provision of community infrastructure to accompany the new housing.”

In the lead-up to making its planning application Landform & Orbit held extensive public consultation events to gather views from the local community. The overwhelming majority of people realise that Daventry is a growth town and their concerns were about the form of development, rather than the principle. They wanted to know what services and facilities would be available at the site and to recount the pressures they already experience with school provision and the capacity of the GP clinics.

Erik Pagano added: “If you look at our plans, you will see that we have been able to respond to their comments and have created a high quality and low-density scheme that will help to solve Daventry’s housing shortage.”

Caroline Rogers
Landform Estates Ltd.
Housing Land Supply - London the new Battleground?
01 September 2014

The hearing sessions of the examination of the Mayor’s proposed alterations to the London Plan commence next month. The alterations (or FALP as commonly referred to) seek to update the London Plan to reflect, amongst other matters, the revised housing requirements identified through the most recent Strategic Housing Market Assessment or SHMA. (1)

In short, the Mayor is proposing to increase the annual requirement for London Boroughs to 42,000 new homes per year, against an identified requirement, on his own assessment, of between 49,000 to 62,000 new homes per year. This is in the context of a track record of delivery of 26,600 (all sources) 2012/13 and a nine year peak of 33,955 (2) in 2006/7. The Mayor is therefore accepting that even if the rate of supply is increased beyond that which has been achieved in the past, there will be a continuing under-supply of housing.

The question is what happens to this under-supply?

The planning world was saddened by the loss of Sir Peter Hall. Sir Peter was one of the seminal urban planners of his generation and through London 2000 and London 2001, identified the issues facing the capital with a prophecy that has proved to be unnervingly accurate. London has always been a magnate for growth and immigration. This role is fundamental to both London’s status as a world city and the UK economy.

In the past, regional planning bodies (including the collaborative grouping of South East and London Planning Authorities, SERPLAN) have grappled with the effect of outmigration from London to ‘ROSEland’ (Rest of the South East). With the revocation of the RSS, this difficult task falls to individual boroughs and districts through the ‘duty to co-operate’. Many plans are falling at the submission stage on the basis of failure to discharge this duty. Whilst the task of co-operating with a small number of adjoining districts should not prove insurmountable, juggling the under supply arising from London across districts an hours’ train ride away from London is nearly impossible.

So what is needed?

The examination will no doubt conclude that London can do no more than meet as much as it can. The numbers are after all expressed as minima. The effect will be continued under-supply of housing and hence scarcity. Whatever the views of those already comfortably housed, this can only be bad for those seeking to get onto or climb the housing ladder and ultimately for the economy of London and its surrounding counties, where people and businesses will struggle with the effect of escalating property prices. Whilst the consequence of the planning system is the rationing of the supply of land for development in the public interest, the degree of scarcity goes beyond what is acceptable.

Nothing will happen now until after May. But whichever party (or parties) form(s) the next Government, it must be time to assemble a new regional planning board, providing a vehicle for collaborative working across London, the South East and parts of East Anglia, to seek to tackle the housing crisis in a coordinated manner. This isn’t contrary to the principles of localism – but it’s an essential step in providing a forum for representatives of all the affected authorities and communities to come together to formulate a rational response to the crisis.

(1) Mayor of London. The London Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2013 (SHMA). GLA, 2014

(2) London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 10, 2012-13 March 2014 updated July 2014

Self-Build Housing Proposed for Landform’s Daventry Development
14 July 2014

Landform Estates has confirmed their intention to deliver around 36 self-build housing plots as part of their Mickle Well Park development in Daventry. Landform are working together with Orbit Homes to promote the 38 ha (94 acre) site on the northern edge of Daventry for around 480 new homes.

Tom Symes, Landform Director, says “We know there is considerable market interest and demand for self-build housing in the UK. This is supported by the Government who want to see the annual rate of self-build housing double from around 8% to 16% of all new homes built.”

In the April 2014 budget the Government said it would make a £150 million Custom Build Serviced Plot Fund available to help bring forward more land. This will support the forthcoming ‘Right to Build’ scheme that will give individuals the right to purchase land from councils for self-build projects. The fund will open for applications on 30 September 2014.

However, the lack of availability of consented land with infrastructure and services is, by a considerable margin, the single biggest constraint to delivery of self-build housing.

Tom Symes added “Mickle Well Park will respond to this demand by making fully serviced freehold plots available, meaning that private individuals will be able to purchase a plot of land with confidence that all title, contract and technical issues will be in a form acceptable to lending institutions. This will allow conventional mortgage finance to be available to purchasers with which to undertake the construction of their homes.”

Download a pdf of the Self Build Housing Prospectus for Mickle Well Park Daventry

Build your own home in Daventry
Build your own home in Daventry
Tom Symes
Landform Estates Ltd.
Housing Shortage Hits One Million
29 May 2014

10 years ago the seminal Barker Review of Housing Supply warned that at least 210,000 private homes a year were needed in England to avert a housing crisis.

Since then an average of just 115,000 homes a year have been built, meaning the country is now 1 million homes short of what is needed to house its population and prevent a worsening affordability crisis.

Successive Governments have failed to pay heed and develop policies to deliver the homes the country needs. To put this into perspective, this shortfall is now equivalent to the number of homes in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

A new report from the Home Builders Federation estimates that:

  1. Achieving Barker’s objective of ‘Reducing the long-term trend’ and pricing households back into the market will now require 260,000 private housing starts.
  2. Achieving Barker’s objective of ‘Improving the housing market’ will require 320,000 private sector starts per year – a figure achieved in only four years since World War II.
  3. Even achieving the least ambitious Barker objective, to slow down the rate at which households are priced out of the market, would require more than 200,000 private starts per year – a figure last achieved in 1973.

Whilst the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme is driving demand and increasing supply, we start from a very low base and the shortfall is huge.

At the recent HBF annual conference Kate Barker said “The continued shortfall in housing supply matters most to those who lose out in the battle for dwelling space. At the moment the cost is falling heavily on many families in the private rented sector. It is vital to raise the rate of new supply.”

As we approach a general election, we need to see all parties committing to policies that lead to a sustained increase in house-building. Building the homes the country needs will provide the decent homes people deserve and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Planning Practice Guidance
08 May 2014

In February 2014 the Government issued its latest planning guidance with a number of measures that suggest they are becoming more anxious about votes than genuine housing growth, particularly those in traditional conservative heartlands.

Nick Boles’ Statement introducing the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) began by emphasising issues that are closest to MPs’ hearts, namely Green Belt and flooding.  Flood risk is of course a highly topical issue following the recent wet winter, but while Mr Boles promised “robust guidance on flood risk” it is a statement that has been repeated before.

The Green Belt references build on comments from MPs over the past 12 months that a shortfall in housing supply alone does not override Green Belt when dealing with planning applications.  Green Belt authorities might see this as an invitation to leave Green Belts alone at the Local Plan stage, which of course cause creates tensions with neighbouring authorities who are asked to provide their shortfall in housing needs.  The likely disagreement could halt an emerging Plan through failure to cooperate, and there is only one way to stop it going that far and that is to comprehensively review the Green Belt boundaries.

The most pertinent point comes in the detail of the PPG.  Large parts are identical to the draft August version, but there are some changes that appear to make dispensations to those worried about the demands for development on greenfield sites.  This is regrettable because some of the points in the previous draft have been watered down and will become grounds for further disagreement, with delays or reductions in the delivery of development inevitable.

Taken at face value, these aspects of PPG sit comfortably in the run-in to the next General Election, but they are unlikely to help solve the housing crisis and be a danger to genuine economic growth.

“Daventry Calling”
Landform is promoting 500 new homes at Mickle Well Park.
03 April 2014

This is a 38-hectare (94 acre) site on the northern edge of Daventry, the delightful market town in Northamptonshire.

The site is an excellent one, close to the Grand Union Canal, with good access to local schools, community facilities such as the Phoenix Youth Centre and links with good local public transport as well as cycle-ways and footpaths.

Landform director Tom Symes says the new development will provide much-needed high quality private and affordable homes with minimum disruption to the local environment.

The intention is that Mickle Well Park will also include serviced plots for self-build homes. Currently only 8% of the UK’s homes are self-build but government wants this amount to double and announced a new Right to Build incentive in the budget to encourage people to build their own homes. The lack of availability of consented land with services is the biggest single constraint to self-build delivery.

Daventry is one of the UK’s leading warehousing and distribution hubs because of its great transport links and geographic location – just a few miles from the Watford Gap - and is home to the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal.  It’s even better known for its famous “Daventry Calling” radio broadcast signal; as it was at the nearby Borough Hill that the BBC World Service transmitted its war-time ‘Daventry Calling’ broadcasts during the Second World War.

Tom Symes
Landform Estates Ltd.
Landform sells two Norfolk sites for 480 new homes
06 January 2014

Landform has sold two of its prime Norfolk sites after securing planning consent for 480 new homes. The 25-acre site in Aylsham, which has consent for 300 new houses, has been sold to David Wilson Homes, a subsidiary of Barratts. The second Mulbarton site, which is for 180 houses, has been bought by East Anglian housing specialist Hopkins Homes.

Landform’s managing director, Erik Pagano, said he is delighted with the sales as they will bring much-needed new housing, as well as new local amenities, to the region. A third of the new homes in both developments will be affordable housing units.

As part of the planning permission for the Aylsham site, a new £1.4 million fitness & dance centre, a modernised swimming pool, along with 15 acres of land for recreational & academic use will be provided to Aylsham High School, as well as serviced allotments for the Town Council. There will also be a new school car park and a public riverside walk as part of the scheme.

Mr Pagano said: “We always like to work with the local community when we are seeking planning consent so that we can bring new amenities to the district as well as the new housing. This, for us, goes to the heart of the government’s new localism agenda.”

At Mulbarton, the new 33-acre housing site will also provide locals with 1.5 acres of new allotments, a £0.5 million County Education contribution, 8 acres of public open space, local highways improvements, as well as an additional one-off contribution of £150,000 to help the local infant and primary school up-grade its facilities. Locally based Saffron Housing Trust will build the 59 new affordable homes. 

Caroline Rogers
Landform Estates Ltd.
Exceptional Relief for the New Year
02 January 2014

Another year and another set of Community Infrastructure Levy Amendment Regulations. The Government laid the new draft CIL Amendment Regulations before Parliament in December, and these regulations are to come into force by the end of January 2014.  These changes are generally good news and are to be welcomed.

The proposed change which has caught my eye, is the change relating to exceptional circumstances relief. Currently, this relief can only be claimed where a S106 agreement applies to the same planning permission and which imposes a higher contribution than the relevant CIL liability. This restriction is to be removed which should make the relief easier to claim, and importantly, increase the number of cases where the exceptional circumstances relief may be applicable. So, if there is a S106 agreement in place and the charging authority considers that the requirement to pay CIL would have an unacceptable impact on the economic viability, then relief from liability to pay CIL may be granted.  The change does at least open the door for more discussions in relation to viability on a site basis.

However, for this relief to apply, the charging authority needs to have issued a statement confirming it is available in its area.  Also, any relief the charging authority chooses to give must not constitute a notifiable state aid.

Other significant changes proposed in the new regulations include:

  • making it easier to claim the “in lawful use” reduction for existing buildings;
  • allowing design changes to schemes without incurring another full CIL charge where a new permission is granted;
  • allowing payment of CIL in phases for any phased planning permission and not just outline permissions; and
  • pushing back the restriction on the pooling of planning obligations to April 2015.
Time to stop digging?
01 December 2013

Archaeology crops up on developments all over the UK and everyone involved has to temper their curiosity about ‘what’s under the soil’ and ‘is there any treasure’, with the realities of gaining planning permission and getting much needed development underway.

In the 1990s planning guidance (PPG16) revolutionised archaeology by requiring developers to think about the archaeological implications of their development from an early stage; by gathering information at the planning application stage, the landowner and their professional team knew what was likely to be encountered and had usually made provision to ‘dig it’ ahead of groundworks.

A begrudging consensus emerged during the early 2000s that PPG16 worked; the important sites were recognised at the planning stage and when nationally important remains were found, foundation designs or site layouts were altered to leaving the archaeology buried – a resource for future generations to explore.

And then the crash of 2008! Archaeology, like the development industry and wider economy suffered a rapid slowdown; large scale excavation virtually ceased.

So where are we now? Archaeology, because it is at the front end of any development, acts as something of an economic bell-weather. Since December 2012, the number of archaeological investigations has been steadily rising. In the meantime, government policy on archaeology has changed twice, PPG16 and PPS5 have been revoked, and we are getting to grips with the implementation of section 12 of NPPF ‘Conserving and enhancing the historic environment’.

In many ways the NPPF has resulted in little change. However, the wealth of archaeological data generated by 20 years of developer-funded investigations is being assessed on a regional basis and there is the prospect that an improved understanding will result in better targeting of future archaeological investigations.

So, not quite time to stop digging yet.... but watch this space!

Can people with complex learning difficulties own their home?
04 November 2013

Saffron Housing Trust believes so and over the last few years has worked with partners across East Anglia to deliver home ownership to people with complex needs. The partnership comprising principally Ipswich Building Society, My Safe Home and Suffolk County Council believes that everyone has the right to a safe decent home and for many, home ownership can provide that security and independence.  Therefore why not for vulnerable people as well?

The experience so far has shown that when people have ownership of their accommodation it promotes a better attitude and culture of support within care staff and has significant positive impacts on people’s quality of life.  Often the complexity of people’s disability has led to an underestimation of the independence and quality of life gains that can be achieved.  The people we work with require the highest levels of support and may have extremely challenging behaviour; they are usually living in residential care or at home with families about to go into crisis.  Through Saffron they now own their home, with the right to remain living there as long as it is in their best interests to do so, significantly increasing their security, independence and quality of life. People that have moved are living longer, healthier lives. They are able to express choice about their lives which may be as simple as indicating they want a drink, or as complex as taking part in an activity within their community.  But what does this all cost in these days of austerity? Well actually it saves money for the Local Authority and to date Suffolk County Council has estimated a saving of £10,000 per person in reduced care costs.

Read more on how HOLD has changed people’s lives.

Quirk of the planning system number 483.5
16 September 2013

My practice has recently secured prior approval for two separate office to residential conversions, using the new permitted development rights. 

One is for an office that has been vacant since it was constructed in 2007 (it was the unwanted commercial element in a mixed use development), the other is for a currently occupied office.  Neither approval has any conditions or affordable housing requirements. 

But the charming irony is that the owner of the empty office will be charged over £125,000 in Community Infrastructure Levy upon conversion, while the occupied office will be charged zero. 

This is because community infrastructure levy is payable when buildings that have not been in use are converted to another use, while no charge is made if the conversion involves buildings that are, at least in part, in use. 

This runs counter to the principle of bringing pointless offices back into productive use as housing.  The system is inadvertently incentivising the conversion of occupied offices over unoccupied ones. 

In fairness, the government has already consulted in changing the community infrastructure regulations to eliminate this anomaly, such that all lawful buildings, whether in use or not, will be free of levy upon conversion.  No date has yet been set for implementation of this change. 

It would have been better if the community infrastructure levy regulations had been coordinated with the new permitted development rights.

DURFC Triumph down under
Magnus Yadi on the Australia Tour, sponsored by Landform
05 August 2013

Durham University Rugby Club would like to thank Landform for making our tour to Australia possible. Hopefully, we made Landform proud sponsors with 4 wins from 6 with our first XV winning all 3 of their matches down under!

DURFC 1st XV in their Landform sponsored kit
DURFC 1st XV in their Landform sponsored kit
DURFC 2nd XV in their Landform sponsored kit
DURFC 2nd XV in their Landform sponsored kit

Following a few training sessions in Brisbane, on Monday the 10th, the squad transfered to Newcastle on the Central Coast – going straight from the airport to our first match. Our opponents for the 1st and 2nd teams were Newcastle Select Barbarians. The 1st team put in a strong winning performance with a few players, such as fullback Simon Hammersley, who was offered a scholarship to play out in Newcastle by the opposition after the match. Unfortunately the 2nd team fell to the hands of a Newcastle Barbarian team with at least 5 ex Wallabies including Ben Darwin and Steve Merrick. Alumni working and living out in Australia even made the trip to watch us play, with people such as former Lion and Durham player Will Greenwood attending.

The next day was the highlight of the tour for many. This was where Graham Rowntree gave us the opportunity to help out with the Lions squad training – holding tackle bags for them and helping on the scrum machine. I have never seen so many young adults bursting with excitement. It turned out that many of the squad we trained with started the first test; men such as Captain Sam Warburton, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones and Jonathan Sexton. It was a truly humbling experience training alongside giants such as Paul O’Connell.

We headed to watch the Lions play the Waratahs in Sydney, but were on a strict curfew with our next game against the Sydney Norths in sight - the 1st team won, but the 2nd team lost by just 2 points.

Our last stop was Brisbane for 1st Lions Test.  All 48 members of DURFC went out in force in our Palatinate blazers that had made us well-known. Within minutes the squad were stars of Sky TV’s coverage; alumni Will Greenwood pointing the squad out to a worldwide rugby audience.

The squad arrived home in time for graduation for many DURFC leavers and landed with a missed call from the Lions management team asking the squad to train with the Lions in Melbourne… Sod’s law eh?

Dacorum gets it nearly right
The Government means business
22 July 2013

Congratulations to the planning team at Dacorum in Hertfordshire, where Inspector David Hogged has endorsed the Council’s Core Strategy - including a target of 11,320 new homes to 2031. They can breathe easy, though not for too long: the Inspector has also requested a partial review of the plan by 2017/18.

Meanwhile, the great majority of local planning authorities are still struggling with housing targets. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), published on 27th March 2012, announced that the Government wanted a big boost in housing supply, with authorities making every effort to meet housing need and seize opportunities for growth. Almost 16 months later, some 90% of authorities still do not have a housing number demonstrably in line with the Framework. For them and for the rest of us, Dacorum is a loud and clear reminder that resistance is futile.

Unlike many authorities, the Borough Council played impeccably by the rules. It showed genuine commitment to cooperation, as confirmed in writing by its closest neighbour – the normally fractious City and District of St Albans. It acknowledged that its ‘objectively assessed need’ was for around 13,500 homes, as per the official CLG household projections. It made no attempt to fudge the numbers. It did not manipulate the projection downwards with doctored assumptions. Its capacity is constrained by the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which are mentioned specifically in the Framework as legitimate reasons for restricting development. Due to these constraints, it could not meet its housing need in full. But the shortfall was just 15%, and it would not bite until 2024.

Yet the Inspector is not quite satisfied that Dacorum is trying hard enough. He rejects the Council’s supply assessment, which treats constraints like the Green Belt as absolute obstacles to development. He wants a new assessment, which balances constraints ‘against the need to accommodate somewhere in the region of 13,500 dwellings’. Only a ‘rigorous and comprehensive’ review of the Green Belt will do, which the Council has already started.

Local authorities elsewhere should take heed. Those that do not fall into line will face unplanned development, while their plans get sent back to the drawing board again and again. The only answer is to stop resisting growth. This is what the Government wants, and the Planning Inspectorate is making sure it happens.

Residential Car Parking – Is it Working?
08 July 2013

Paragraph 62 of PPG3 (2001) advocated standards that provided an average of no more than 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling.   This resulted in numerous developments in the 2000s with on-street parking problems, often obstructing footways and blocking turning areas.  

PPG13 Transport (2011) removed the requirement for maximum parking standards.  Whilst some authorities (e,g. West Sussex) have embraced this with an evidence based parking calculator, many authorities have reverted to minimum standards.  Whilst dealing with the under provision issue, in some cases it has resulted in the inefficient use of land, especially in accessible central locations.  A recent appeal decision for a car free scheme in a large town in the Thames Valley concluded that a minimum standard was not reasonable or necessary given that many existing residents managed to successfully live car free, and blanket on street controls would deal with any overspill parking issues.

So, does the NPPF’s approach to parking (paragraph 39) go far enough?  Maybe, but PPG13 included helpful reference to not requiring developers to provide more spaces then they want to unless there would be exceptional circumstances (e.g. safety) that cannot be resolved through on-street controls.  The reintroduction of a statement similar to this may assist. 

Of course, it might be argued this would risk the problem developments of the 2000s, but I do not think so.  Credit should be given to developers who have worked out that many people want family homes with a good standard of amenity and off-street parking.  Even then, some well-designed on-street parking can reduce vehicle speeds and enhance the street scene. 

However, there remains a market and role for car free/reduced parking development in accessible central locations.  This needn’t result in amenity or safety issues and should not be prevented by the dogmatic application of minimum standards.

Certificate of Lawful Use
01 June 2013

In preparing the scoping of a Transport Assessment (TA) for the redevelopment of a site with an existing use, it is normal to carry out traffic surveys at the site entrance as well as carrying out traffic surveys on adjacent roads. Before putting these surveys in hand, and before putting pen to paper with the planning and highway authorities to scope the TA, it is well worth spending time with the site operator/owner to understand how the site operates from a traffic point of view.


The use of the site and the level of traffic activity associated with the site might change over time and it is critical in being able to understand the net traffic effect, to make sure that the correct level of existing traffic activity at the site is assessed in the TA. If there have been changes in use/activity or if the use has been in existence for many years and the site does not have an up to date planning permission, Landowners/ Developers would be well advised to consider a Certificate of Lawful Use application to establish the correct baseline for assessment. 


It is appreciated that such applications will involve delay in progressing redevelopment planning applications, however, the benefits of establishing the correct baseline cannot be understated when significant off-site highway contributions could be involved. Thus although the site will have an existing use value and the Certificate of Lawful Use might not significantly affect that value, off-site highway contributions associated with redevelopment would erode the uplift in value, with consequent impact on the viability of the redevelopment proposals.

Help to Buy
01 June 2013

Successive governments have mixed track records in stimulating the economy but the latest Help to Buy mortgage initiative appears to already be influencing the market.

This scheme, which was introduced on April 1st 2013, allows house buyers (for new build properties) to obtain a 20% equity Government loan, which is interest free for five years.  Many mortgage providers are keen to loan 75% with the government taking the first 20% slice of equity risk and buyers need just a 5% deposit.

Since its introduction, reservations and sales appear to have increased significantly on many of the new build sites around the country and the RICS are now predicting housing starts of circa 115,000 for 2013 (up from less than 100,000 in 2012), albeit still well short of the cumulative housing needs predictions.

As the new build market only represents about 11% of the total housing market, the influence of the Help to Buy scheme will have its limitations. However, the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme (details of which are due to be published later this year and to come into effect in January 2014) could have a far greater influence as that scheme is expected to extend to existing homeowners and apply to both new and old properties.

Ironically, a poor economy (and thus low interest rates) in combination with the government guarantee schemes, probably give the housing market better prospects than a buoyant economy.

The land market for smaller “oven ready” sites is already reflecting the additional confidence that government underwriting can provide. 

Having finalised sales of residential sites in Norfolk, Essex and Hertfordshire last month, we have seen strong demand from an increasing range of house builders who, in many cases, are better funded and have more confidence than at any time since 2007.

Tewkesbury Triumph
Localism trumped by NPPF
22 May 2013

Mr Justice Males is my new hero. In a landmark case, the Judge has just given the all clear to new housing developments around the country with his recent Tewkesbury ruling that the Localism Act does not give local councils the power to frustrate the planning process.

Legal experts are already predicting that the Judge’s ruling against Tewkesbury Borough Council’s legal challenge to the decision by Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to approve two housing developments, has set a precedent that NPPF-compliant developments have the weight of the law behind them when there is no local plan. Tewkesbury Council, which challenged the SoS’s right to permit two schemes approved on appeal, that it had blocked for a 1,000 houses at Bishop’s Cleeve in Gloucestershire, will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new local plan to meet the district's 'objectively assessed' housing needs.

Any hope by local authorities that the Localism Act can be used to hide behind has been dashed. As Mr Justice Males said in his ruling: “The Localism Act has not brought about a fundamental change in the proper approach to planning applications.”

This is good news; for developers and local authorities, if they are clever. Recalcitrant councils such as Coventry City Council, Bath and North East Somerset, Rushcliffe Council and East Hants that have also had their plans rejected, can be in no doubt about what they must do next.

Tewkesbury will prove a big turning point for the Government’s ambition to force councils to comply with the NPPF, and to open up new land for development. About 100,000 houses are currently being built a year but Pickles knows this number has to more than double annually if we are to meet projected need by 2031.

He’s got off to a good start: it’s been a year since the NPPF was published and so far its impact has been more profound than a cynical development industry thought likely. Authorities that have not submitted their plans by April 1st will find the force of the NPPF has primacy over their out-dated plans. If it was Pickles who chose April Fool’s Day as the deadline, then he’s even smarter than I thought.

Erik Pagano
Landform Estates Ltd.
Temporary Uses: a win-win for stalled sites?
04 May 2013

Until recently, the red tape surrounding obtaining planning permission for temporary uses proved to be too much for all but the most determined. Now however, we are starting to see Councils with a more flexible and "can-do" attitude to these sorts of projects; their communities are benefiting from the buzz and interest created by exciting temporary use projects bringing colour to the local environment.

The typical scenario is where a site is cleared for redevelopment which is then delayed, perhaps due to planning issues or problems securing funding. Landlords are becoming much more alive to opportunities for making use of a site in the intervening period, i.e. on a temporary basis, to secure an income stream from the site at the same time as raising profile/interest in the site. It's also a positive from the point of view of keeping that all-important buzz in the surrounding community, rather than run the risk of a whole area falling into the doldrums because of empty sites and stalled developments.

An increasingly common temporary use is pop-up galleries; artists who thought they would never get a public showing in a prominent venue suddenly discover that they have all the space they could desire. It is a classic example of how a social deficit can be flipped for public benefit with a bit of imagination and flair.

Moreover the Government is stepping in to ensure that legal red tape does not deter landlords from handing over the shop units however, briefly. It has been confirmed that in order to create opportunities for new and start-up businesses and help retain the viability and vitality of our town centres, a range of buildings will be allowed to convert temporarily to a set of alternative uses including shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1) for up to 2 years. It is expected that these changes to permitted development rights will be brought in within the next month or two.

Landform sponsor Durham University Rugby Tour of Australia
04 May 2013

 

Landform Estates have recently confirmed sponsorship of Durham University Rugby Club’s tour to Australia in June of this year.

“Our tour would not be possible without sponsorship and we are extremely happy to have Landform as one of our official sponsors of the tour; we will try and show this gratitude with some wins down under!” says Magnus Yadi, First XVs Scrum Half.

“Durham University Rugby Club is one of the oldest sporting clubs in the University, dating back to the foundation of the University in 1832; it counts World Cup winner and British Lion Will Greenwood and ex England captain Will Carling among its alumni. The Club is currently the number one University Rugby Club in Britain, having won the British Universities and College Sports National Cup at Twickenham, Northern Premier League Champions, as well as the winners of the BUCS Trophy Cup, BUCS National 7s and the Northern Conference Cup.

The main aim of our Australia Tour is to build some solid foundations for our 2013-2014 season – we will be playing against premier sides from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with advertisement for our games already making the newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney. Of great importance is that we will be following the route of the British and Irish Lions and will have the honour of training alongside them, which will raise the club’s profile beyond all measures. We will take two squads out of around 45 players in total and we will be closely linked with The Lions’ Tour, following them from Brisbane all the way to Melbourne. This association will, consequently, mean that we will also be subject to the vast amount of media interest that will ensue as it will be televised on Sky Sports.

Charrette based community engagement will speed up local plan delivery
27 March 2013
A new initiative by the Highland Council addresses this issue by using participative, Charrette processes to create new town Visions, which will inform the new Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan (CaS Plan). A Charrette is an interactive design workshop held over several days, in which the public, local professionals and stakeholders work directly with an independent design team to generate a specific community masterplan or Vision. Well designed, frontloaded, participatory planning processes bring out the positivity and creativity in communities and can eradicate the sense of alienation felt by many people in relation to the local planning process. The Wick and Thurso “whole town” Charrettes were held in late February 2013, sponsored by the Scottish Government as part of their Charrette Mainstreaming Programme. Two days of public workshops gave all sections of the community the time and space to take part in workshops, walkabouts and hands-on planning groups to consider key issues and plan ideas for the future. The facilitation and design team, led by John Thompson & Partners (JTP) with Gillespies, then developed the outcomes and presented back illustrated Visions for the future of the towns on the final evenings of the Charrettes. The well attended Wick and Thurso Charrettes met with a positive reaction from the community and importantly from the potentially sceptical local press. The leading article in the John O’Groats Journal (25 February 2013) described project options being selected and refined via “a thoroughly democratic process” and went on, “We believe this gives a mandate for the projects to be taken forward within the new development plans for both towns.” The Wick and Thurso Charrettes have set the CaS Plan off on a sound footing and we will look forward with interest to tracking the Plan’s progress through to adoption.
Are we Dutifully Cooperating?
27 March 2013
The Duty to Cooperate may be set out clearly in the NPPF and made a statutory duty in the Localism Act 2011, but in recent months we have seen a number of Local Authorities failing to meet expectations within their Core Strategies at Examination, or being forced to withdraw before even getting this far. Coventry City Council, for example, proposed a Core Strategy which incorporated 22,500 fewer homes than the original RSS ambitions within their boundaries, and demonstrated little cooperation with their neighbours. Their plan has therefore been found unlawful before it even got to Examination. Reigate & Banstead and Rushcliffe Borough Councils are in a similar situation, and the numerous projects we are working on nationally demonstrate the void emerging between those willing to drive cooperation and those closing their doors. So what are the barriers for Local Authorities? They do say never ask a question you don’t want the answer to, so many Authorities prefer not to even open Pandora’s box. Politically, there are issues around Local Authorities wanting to become recipient Authorities for more housing; everyone wants to be a donor. Timing is also an issue with each Authority working to different timescales - no one wants to be delayed waiting for their neighbour, so many just plough on undertaking the minimum level of cooperation. One of the biggest barriers is cultural. This level of target-setting was never previously part of their role; instead numbers were set in the Structure Plan by Regional Authorities who dealt with all cross-boundary issues. It’s simply not in their blood. Ultimately, without addressing sub-regional issues, we are in danger of missing real opportunities, and therefore potential for economic growth. This is not, after all, just about housing numbers, but also about everything from transport, employment provision, tourism, to the natural environment and landscape. Heseltine strongly believes that Local Authorities are too small to address economic issues properly. While LEPs can pick up some of these requirements, do they really have the teeth? As the revocation of RSs spreads across England, the Duty to Cooperate has the potential to fill the void, to some extent, and ensure that strategic planning does not stop at administrative boundaries. One could even term this “regional planning by stealth!”