James joined Rapleys as a Town Planning Partner and Equity Partner in May 2022. His expertise are in successfully taking forward planning proposals for large schemes; which include complex office, retail, residential and mixed-use major regeneration schemes. These all involve complex or sensitive sites, constrained by planning designations, operational requirements and other considerations.
James focuses on successfully working with local authorities to obtain permission by negotiation. Clients for these services are predominantly developers, landowners, financial and other institutions. Examples include British Land, Grainger, Transport for London, Helical, Aviva and Imperial College London.
He provides planning strategy advice for projects, as well as assessing opportunities and constraints, submitting outline and detailed planning applications and appeals, preparing planning briefs, making representations to Development Plans to change planning policies, giving evidence at Inquiries and political engagement with councillors and MPs to maximise chances of success. James also assists in managing teams of consultants through the planning stages of the project.
James is both a planner and a surveyor, with memberships for the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament at the end of April, giving leaseholders legal protection against having to foot the bill to fix safety defects. This was after many UK housebuilders signed up to the Government’s building safety pledge, committing to pay to remove dangerous cladding on their own buildings between 11m and 18m in height.
Martin Gladwin, Head of Housing Consultancy at Rapleys expresses how the journey is far from over. “It is the right course of action to look at the companies that have erected most of these buildings, but it is not the full answer.”
Tom joined Rapleys in August 2021 as a Senior Surveyor in the Affordable Housing and Viability team after nearly 4 years at Dalcour Maclaren Chartered Surveyors, where he provided development consultancy and valuation advice for a range of utility and infrastructure companies.
Tom has experience in providing clients with detailed development valuation advice for residential and mixed use sites, with a particular emphasis on identifying opportunities to maximise value. At Dalcour Maclaren he offered clients strategic valuation advice in connection with the redevelopment of their surplus sites, including advising on housing type and tenure in order to maximise income and capital receipts.
Tom has overseen a range of transactional instructions for clients with responsibility for the disposal of surplus sites, including the due diligence, sale preparation, marketing and contract negotiations. He has also advised in relation to the acquisition of new assets and provided reasoned advice in relation to commercial risk and market context.
Tom currently provides development valuation advice to Registered Providers in connection with their acquisition of land and new build residential units. He is also able to offer advice in relation to appropriate affordable housing strategies.
Places for Everyone, the Joint Development Plan for Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The Plan seeks to guide the development of around 165,000 new homes and over 50m sq.ft of commercial space across the nine Greater Manchester boroughs.
Following its submission, the Plan will now be subject to an independent examination conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. The authorities hope to have the Plan adopted in 2023.
The submission of the Plan to the Government is an important and positive step towards the Plan’s formal adoption. It follows numerous delays since the Joint Development Plan’s first consultation draft was published in 2016.
The adoption of the Plan is absolutely vital, as it will ensure Greater Manchester’s future growth through both the allocation of sites and by providing a platform for each of the individual Local Authorities to bring forward their own Local Plans in due course.
Rapleys is currently advising clients in all development sectors across Greater Manchester and in the wider North West Region.
If you have any questions relating to the Places for Everyone Joint Development Plan or require assistance in unlocking a potential development opportunity, please get in touch with Jonathan Harper, Town Planning Partner or Richard Huteson, Town Planning Partner based in our Machester office.
Ryan joined Rapleys as a Senior Planner in June 2021, and has been working as a Town Planner since 2014. Ryan has experience in working on a variety of projects across a wide range of sectors on behalf of both private and public clients, including residential, retail, hospitality, commercial, industrial and mixed use schemes.
Ryan has extensive experience in the co-ordination of planning applications and the project management of multi-disciplinary teams, and advises clients at all stages in the planning process, including the completion of site appraisals, formulation of planning strategies, representations to local plan consultations, preparation and submission of a wide range of planning application and consent types, and securing reserved matters approval.
Being commercially aware, with a strong understanding of development activity and the evolving planning legislation and policy context allows Ryan to provide sound and reliable tailored advice by working directly with the client from the initial site appraisals through to achieving planning permission.
George started his professional career at Rapleys in September 2020 as a graduate within the Town Planning team at the Manchester office. Prior to formally joining Rapleys, George completed two months of work experience with Rapleys in the summer of 2018 and 2019, along with a brief spell of work experience at Turley’s Leeds office.
As a Planner, he will primarily assists in the preparation of planning documents for residential and retail developments.
George graduated with a Masters of Planning (MPlan) Class Two Division One Honours from the University of Sheffield in July 2020. He is currently working towards gaining his RTPI full accreditation.
Martin is a Chartered Building Surveyor with over 25 years’ experience in the social housing sector. After completing a Building Surveying Degree in 1988, Martin has worked for Hunter and Partners, Savills, Ridge and Partners LLP and Plus Dane Housing (a registered provider operating in the North West), where he was Head of Asset Management for seven years, managing a portfolio of over 13,000 homes.
He joined Rapleys in 2020 as a Senior Associate, leading the Housing Consultancy team which provides a comprehensive range of specialist asset management consultancy services to Local Authorities, Housing Associations, ALMO’s and other owners of residential housing portfolios across the UK.
Having worked in both public and private sectors, Martin uses his extensive experience of property asset management, financial business plan modelling, viability and sustainability assessments, stock condition surveys and energy efficiency to provide expert advice to clients with a full understanding of the regulatory, strategic and operational issues that define excellent and modern asset management practices.
Martin specialises in stock condition surveys and has completed some of the largest and most complex surveys to date in the UK. He works with clients to understand the nature and performance of their assets to deliver informed options appraisals, to determine and prioritise actions and ensure the portfolio is managed effectively, professionally and in alignment with business plans.
Richard joined Rapleys as a Partner in 2020 to build a planning team in Cambridge. He works for both private clients and local authorities, securing planning permission for key growth and infrastructure projects. Richard’s projects are usually of a residential, care, office or industrial nature.
Richard undertakes a broad range of planning application and appeal work but has a particular focus on public inquiries, Examinations in Public (EiPs), environmental impact assessment, green belt cases and sustainable urban extensions. He also has extensive experience of planning enforcement matters and regularising unlawful development.
Richard is known for his inquiring and methodical approach. He is often involved from the earliest stages of a project in which he establishes the key project drivers and objectives and investigates and advises on the chosen site’s planning potential. Where potential is identified Richard devises the best strategy for realising it and ensures the effective implementation of that strategy.
Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team gained approval from West Suffolk Council’s Development Control Committee last Wednesday for the introduction of a pioneering dementia care concept to the UK, at a site in Little Wratting, near Haverhill.
The Cambridge team submitted a detailed planning application in February 2021 and then monitored and managed it proactively to ensure that the case officer was able to recommend approval of the application despite the site’s countryside location. The team worked closely with statutory consultees, responding to their comments and addressing any concerns throughout the determination process.
Strawberry Care appointed Rapleys at the outset of the project. Early instruction meant that Rapleys were able to guide them through the sequential approach to searching for, assessing and identifying sites, and then to help them evidence the need for the scheme. This was critical to justifying the site at Little Wratting, which was identified as the most sequentially preferable, and, ultimately, to enabling the case officer to make a robust recommendation for approval of the scheme.
Strawberry Care Director, Phil Jordan commented: “I applaud Rapleys Town Planning team for the great work they have done in securing this resolution; highly professional and a pleasure to be involved in”.
Richard Sykes-Popham, head of Rapleys Cambridge Town Planning team, commented:
“We’re delighted Strawberry care can now start to plan the delivery of their first dementia village.
Their unique care model makes this result even more rewarding. It also completely justifies the committee’s decision, which required them to make an exception to the local plan.”
The scheme will be home to 120 residents who will live together in 20 shared apartments, each with 6 bedrooms. Together with the various community buildings and an internal arrangement of streets and squares, the development will create a small village where residents are both safe and free to roam; the aim being to enable them to live a normal life despite their diagnosis. The Little Wratting site is ideally suited to this use. The primarily self-contained scheme will be well screened by existing vegetation and will benefit from a quiet environment without the kinds of peak noise events that are known to cause distress for those living with severe dementia.
The village is expected to open in 2023 as a market leader in all senses, including through its use of lower-carbon construction and renewable energy generation measures.
Carole joined Rapleys in January 2020 as the Head of Facilities Management, across multi-regional sites, within the wider Property & Asset Management team. Carole brings with her a wealth of experience managing diverse property portfolio’s within the commercial, retail, industrial and residential sectors.
Other experience includes preparation, monitoring and reconciliation of Service Charge budgets, plus the management and monitoring of health and safety compliance.
Notable projects include the transfer of a £250,000 service charge property from Midlands to the North West region. This was instructed based on personal management of the site and direct involvement with the client.
Furthermore, Carole took over a mixed portfolio of non-compliant properties and raised Statutory Compliance from 65% to 85% over a 3 month period. Carole has a further proven track record of adding value to property portfolio’s for clients. A key example being when she achieved a savings of c£500,000 across an entire portfolio by consolidating a number of key facilities management contractor costs.
Carole has managed Beetham Tower in Manchester, a highly prestigious mixed-use property with a hotel and residential apartments (including some confidential and high-net residents). She also managed the prestigious Cube in Birmingham, which is a mixture of residential and commercial.
The Government’s introduction of the Class MA permitted development right – making it possible to convert most commercial buildings to residential use, is deemed to be a shortcut to addressing housing shortages instead of dealing with the bigger issues within the planning system.
Rapleys Town Planning Partner, Jason Lowes comments on the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to Article 4 directions. Lowes thinks that although local authorities have seen a level of success in the past in relation to the approval of these directions, the change in policy means the chances of approval are lower than before and that it remains to be seen what the government will permit.
Further to the planning application for 116 energy-efficient homes on Timperley site and a planning application for the Thorley Lane development, it is clear that Trafford Council need to improve their House Delivery Test record.
Rapleys Town Planning team commented “Trafford currently falls within the bottom 10% of authorities in England for housing delivery,” Rapleys added. “The proposed development will deliver a substantial contribution towards this significant identified market housing shortfall.”
Joshua joined the Town Planning department as a Senior Planner in December 2019. He joined with over three years’ experience at a residential land promoter as well as commercial consultancy experience.
Experience includes a variety of projects within the residential and retail sectors across a number of Local Authority areas in the UK.
Joshua is proficient in the preparation, coordination and submission of planning applications, appeals, monitoring planning policy and managing projects through the planning process.
Planning consultancy Rapleys has hired a Town Planning Partner in its Manchester office.
Andrew Bradshaw joins the firm, leaving his previous role as head of planning at property consultancy GL Hearn, where he spent more than three years. In his new role, Bradshaw will lead on the residential sector in the north west.
Bradshaw has worked on the negotiation of planning permissions for government agency Homes England across the UK and the preparation of town centre masterplans in Newbury, Blackpool and Rochdale.
Samantha joined the Manchester Town Planning team as a planner in October 2019. She has dealt with a range of projects across the UK that require the preparation of documents such as planning strategy notes, statement of case, planning statements and covering letters. She also negotiates with consultants and planning officers as well as submitting both planning and appeal applications.
She is able to offer honest and expert planning advice that is tailored to the client’s needs and aspirations by working directly with the client from the initial site appraisals through to achieving planning permission.
Samantha is well equipped with Urban Designing skills and very good with numbers, she is able to translate and communicate technical information easily. The skills also enable her to offer creative design proposals that can be integrated effectively with the surroundings.
Whilst the Government refines its proposals for planning reform, which will need to be reconciled with increasing disquiet in the Conservative Party at large, it has released another version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is the fourth iteration of central Government planning policy since the first NPPF in 2012, but like the version it replaces (released in February 2019), the changes are relatively discrete and the fundamentals of national policy (such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and matters relating to the Green Belt) remain very much in place.
The changes are broadly consistent with those proposed in a consultation carried out earlier in the year (see previous Rapleys newsletter), and the main areas can be summarised thus:
- A greater focus on design, and particularly “beauty” in development, in line with the Government’s “build beautiful” initiatives;
- A general encouragement of trees, and more specifically seeking to ensure that all new streets are tree-lined;
- A longer life for strategic policies is sought, where new settlements or significant extensions to existing settlements are proposed;
- A strengthening of policy relative to Article 4 directions, to underline the Government’s discouragement of restrictions to permitted development rights (PDR);
- An encouragement towards faster delivery of public service infrastructure;
- A requirement that local planning authorities have regard to the importance of retaining historic statues, and explain their historic and social context in preference to their removal, and
- The addition of an Annex 3, formalising land use vulnerability classification (in the context of flood risk) into policy.
In this regard, it would appear that the new NPPF is intended to represent somewhat of a “holding position”, including putting a little more meat on the bones of what the Government has been saying over the last 6 to 12 months, in advance of more wide-ranging initiatives later in the year. In this context, the Government has already indicated that a fuller review of the NPPF will be undertaken to promote the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
If you would like to discuss these changes, the Government’s wider planning reform agenda, and the implications they might have on your portfolio, please get in touch with one of our nationwide Town Planning team.
Rapleys Town Planning team have secured revised planning permission for the final land parcel on the site of Cardington airship sheds on behalf of Gallagher Developments and Bellway Homes.
Over the years, permission has been secured for 130 dwellings on the west land parcel, 592 dwellings on the Eastern and South-Eastern land parcels, as well as listed building consent for the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed airship shed.
Will joined Rapleys in 2018 as a partner in the Affordable Housing/Viability team. He joined from GL Hearn where he worked for over 8 years in the Affordable Housing and Viability team.
Will specialises in providing development valuation advice for residential and mixed-use sites, with a particular emphasis on the valuation of affordable housing and development viability. He has provided valuation advice to many large developing Registered Providers including Clarion, L&Q, TVHA and Home Group.
He also acts on behalf of private developers in connection with viability negotiations with local authorities in order to assess the appropriate level of affordable housing. Following completion of s.106 agreements, Will acts in an agency role for developers to secure a Registered Provider. He also provides agency advice to Registered Providers for acquisition purposes.
Will is able to offer clients strategic valuation advice in connection with the redevelopment of their sites, including appropriate affordable housing strategies in order to maximise both land and resale values.
The Government introduced a new Use Class – Class E – last summer, which combined a broad range of land uses including retail, office and light industrial uses, as well as gyms, medical facilities and nurseries. However, as a transitional measure until 31 July 2021, the previous Use Class Order was kept in force relative to permitted development, whilst the Government considered what permitted development rights should be given to the new land use. Over the Winter, the Government consulted on proposals to include the change of use of Class E floorspace to residential as permitted development, and the Government has today confirmed that this new permitted development right will be introduced from 1 August 2021.
It is important to be aware that the new permitted development right will be conditional upon the building:
- Having a floorspace of no more than 1,500 sqm;
- Having been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the date of an application for prior approval;
- Having been in Class E for two years before benefitting from the right;
- Not being listed, nor being within the curtilage of a listed building; and
- Not being within protected or designated areas (i.e. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, the Broads, World Heritage Sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments), with the notable exception however of Conservation Areas, where the right will apply.
The new permitted development right will also be subject to a prior approval process, which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the proposed change to residential use is acceptable in terms of:
- Transport impact and achieving safe access;
- Flooding and contamination risks;
- Impact of noise from commercial premises;
- Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
- In areas considered important for B2 and B8 uses only, the impact on residential amenity;
- In Conservation Areas only, the impact of the loss of the ground floor Class E use on the character and sustainability of the area; and
- In relation to health centres and registered nurseries only, the impact of the loss of such local services.
Transitional arrangements for existing Article 4 Directions which restrict the conversion of offices to residential use (under Class O of the General Permitted Development Order) have also been outlined: those that remain in place on 31 July 2021 will continue to have effect on equivalent development (i.e. the conversion of offices under Class E(c) and E(g)(i) to residential use) until 31 July 2022.
In addition to the above new permitted development right, the Government has announced the amendment of existing rights to allow for:
- The extension, erection or alteration of school, college, university, hospital, and for the first time prison buildings, by up to 25% of the existing footprint of the cumulative buildings on the site, or 250 square metres, whichever is greater; and
- Ports and their agents to erect buildings in connection with the operation of the port, with the intention of aligning this right with that applying to airport development.
To discuss how these proposals can present new opportunities to add value to existing property portfolios in the run up to taking effect later this year, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team for advice.
Natasha joined Rapleys in November 2017 and is the lead contact for neighbourly matters services in London. She specialises in Daylight and Sunlight, and legal Rights of Light.
Natasha previously worked as a Rights of Light Surveyor and Expert Witness, and has a particular interest in these services.
Her main focus is maximising the development potential of sites whilst providing efficient and client based service. Natasha has a strong background in compulsory purchase and s.203 Housing and Planning Act 2016 with council related schemes. She also has experience in managing large scale developments and schemes with a large number of potentially affected neighbours.
Natasha also has a further strong focus on protecting rights of neighbours affected by proposed developments.
Richard is a partner in Rapleys’ town planning team. He has extensive commercial and residential sector knowledge and experience, gained within a variety of both public, private and client side roles.
Richard has worked with a wide range of national clients, particularly in the convenience retail sector where he is currently managing the Lidl portfolio. He has successfully obtained planning permission on appeal and embarked on a number of informal hearings resulting in a successful outcome. Richard’s extensive experience and interest in S106 negotiations, viability, CIL and planning policy give him a complete understanding of the best way to secure planning permission.
Richard has expertise in securing planning permission for major complex planning applications and high profile schemes. He specialises in guiding and developing tough planning strategies for schemes often requiring significant community and public engagement.
Richard is highly focused, fostering a good work ethic to motivate his team towards the successful execution of shared objectives and engaging with the local community to address planning issues.
The Government have published the latest Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results for 2020. With the national lockdown announced in March, the Government has adjusted this year’s results by reducing the homes requirement for 2019-2020 by a month.
We have compared the 2020 results with those in 2019 to identify how Councils have fared over the last year.
Even with the one month reduction, notably and probably not unexpectedly in the circumstances, there has been a large increase in those in the Presumption category at the expense of those in the Buffer group.
Of the eight Presumption Councils of 2019, only two have improved their delivery sufficiently to move out of that category – City of London, with the lowest figure in 2019 of 32% and New Forest at 43%. Of the remaining six, Eastbourne and North Hertfordshire have the dubious honour of achieving an even lower score in 2020 than in 2019:
No doubt these authorities in particular will be feeling the pressure to improve their position next year.
If you have any property in these Council areas and require some planning advice, please do get in touch with Sarah Smith, Planning Partner at Rapleys or another member of our nationwide team.
Last week the government released the social housing lettings statistics for April 2019 to March 2020, as well as the English Housing Survey for 2019/20 – both hot on the heels of the social housing white paper. Martin Gladwin considers what they tell us about the state of the social housing sector and its role in meeting housebuilding targets.
The social housing sector has a vital role to play in the government’s ambition to deliver 300,000 new homes a year, yet at present the number of new social housing developments is well below target, with only a 3 per cent increase in stock over the past decade, despite a strong political impetus, a pressing need to tackle homelessness, and 1.15 million households already on local authority waiting lists as of this year.
Wakako is a senior associate in Rapleys’ town planning team and has advised on a wide range of planning projects involving commercial, leisure, retail, residential and mixed use commercial developments. Her experience includes project management and co-ordination of multi-disciplinary teams in a number of planning applications and appeals, as well as providing advice on the policy formulation process in protecting and promoting clients’ interests.
She has represented clients at appeal hearings and assisted the expert planning witness in giving evidence at a major Inquiry, as well as providing assistance in support of various large scale mixed use regeneration schemes. She has also negotiated with various agencies and stakeholders through a number of complex planning applications.
Wakako has also represented clients at Local Plan examination hearings.
Wakako joined Rapleys in 2006 as a graduate planner, and was promoted to senior associate in 2015.
Following changes to permitted development (PD) rights and the White Paper Planning Reforms published at the end of the summer, the Government has recently launched a further consultation on new Permitted Development rights, allowing a change of use from the new Commercial, Business and Service use class E to residential use class C3. It’s fair to say that most in the industry were expecting this, but perhaps not quite so soon, and it’s clear that the proposed new rights will have far reaching consequences for our high streets, town centres and beyond.
The consultation, published on 3 December, proposes new PD rights to allow the change of use from Class E (which includes retail, office, light industrial, gyms, medical facilities and nurseries) to residential dwellings without the need to obtain planning permission.
The PD right will apply to all Class E buildings, including those within Conservation Areas. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, World Heritage Sites and Listed Buildings will be excluded from operation of the new right.
A prior approval application will be required, which should address a short list of criteria as follows:
•Daylight / sunlight;
•Fire safety; and
•Residential amenity (in certain locations).
The prior approval application must include detailed floor plans and minimum space standards will be mandatory. To benefit from the new right, the building must have been in a use falling within use Class E on 1 September 2020. It appears that there will be no affordable housing or other planning obligation requirements, and no CIL liability where no new net floorspace is created.
The proposal forms part of the Government’s response to changing behaviours affecting the high street brought about by the rise of on-line retailing and the impact of COVID-19.
The rapidly changing face of our town centres demands radical action to re-imagine and re-vitalise what were once vibrant, busy commercial centres. The Government’s intention is clearly to allow change to occur swiftly with limited intervention in the process of change by Council planners.
For further advice on the reforms and to discuss the opportunities that the proposed PD rights introduce, please contact Neil Jones, Partner in the Town Planning team at Rapleys on 07774 652 426.
The Government published the Social Housing White Paper on 17 November. This document contains significant proposals that will change how social landlords operate, including new powers to the Social Housing Regulator, new tenant engagement and satisfaction measures and improved complaints processes.
Asset management teams will need to consider how they will implement proposed 4-yearly property compliance inspections, the potential impact of mandatory installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to all properties, and how to respond to an increased focus on a wide range of building safety matters.
The White Paper also confirms that a full review of the Decent Homes Standard will commence in 2021, seeking to modernise and extend the Standard to include building safety and security, energy efficiency and green space provision.
We know that Social Housing landlords will be keen to proactively respond to these changes at the earliest opportunity. Through our network of UK offices, Rapleys provide clients with expert Asset Management consultancy services. If we can be assistance, please contact Martin Gladwin, Head of Housing Consultancy.
The Environment Bill, which was introduced to parliament last October, sets out measures for improving air quality, transforming waste management and protecting water resources. If it becomes law, it will have a big impact on developers, but the bill’s progress has encountered several delays, making it difficult to plan ahead.
Sarah Smith, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys discusses the implications of the delays.
“The Environment Bill was drafted ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. “Some 80% of the UK’s environmental legislation has been shaped by the EU over the last 30 years”
“As a response to Brexit, the Environment Bill is intended to set out a new environmental framework,” she says, adding that much of this is additional, as “many of the EU’s environmental protections have been transposed into UK law already”.
Simon joined Rapleys in 2002 as a graduate building surveyor and is now a partner in building consultancy. He has experience in all property sectors with particular specialism within the railway, industrial and residential sectors.
He also specialises in residential dilapidation matters and leads multi-disciplinary teams in the preparation and negotiation of complex dilapidations claims for bulk rented housing estates.
Simon is an Incorporated Member of the Association for Project Safety and has experience in all matters of Health and Safety Consultancy. He has acted as CDM co-ordinator and more recently as principle designer on large scale commercial and residential construction projects.
He is experienced in developing bespoke forms for tablet based, electronic data capture and in running projects to undertake detailed surveys of property portfolios in excess of 600 properties.
Rapleys Asset Management team specialises in maximising income and value of property assets and minimising clients’ liabilities. In collaboration with our other specialised teams, our senior team of Partners have experience working with investors, occupiers, developers and landlords, in both the public and private sectors.
We concentrate on added value initiatives such as:
• Formulating asset and portfolio strategies
• Repositioning assets
• Change of use/reconfiguration
• Strategic refurbishments
• Re-gearing leases to improve terms and covenant
• Transaction management
Our sectors are:
• Industrial & Distribution
• Retail & Leisure
• Automotive & Roadside
• Charities/non profit
• Affordable Housing
What we do
We provide a one stop solution for the asset life cycle, from initial investment advice on acquisition, planning advice, redevelopment, project management, building consultancy, lease consultancy, management and disposal. Our service is flexible. It can be:
• End-to-end of the ownership cycle, by working alongside our Investment team to identify added value opportunities (pre-acquisition) and delivering these initiatives on acquisition, through to final exit or;
• Ad hoc advice to improve current asset performance during the hold period, by exploring change of use, re-development initiatives and lease re-gears.
Our strong nationwide team of 150 readily collaborate to drive “added value” initiatives for our clients, providing cross specialism advice. Our in-house sector specialists can immediately support initiatives with their excellent market knowledge and expertise, without relying on external advisers. The scale of Rapleys enables us to resource instructions, providing an efficient collaborative Partner-led approach.
“The UK is in uncertain economic conditions, which will challenge your asset performance. Rapleys approach, combined with our breadth of experience and skill set will position assets to maximise performance and minimise liabilities – our independence enables clients to maintain discreet profiles, with a focused adviser who truly values long term relationships.”
Adam De Acetis, Head of Asset Management
“Rapleys asset manage Trident Industrial Estate on behalf of the Royal London Property Fund (The Fund). The mandate is led by Adam De Acetis, with support from a multi-disciplinary team. Over the period since acquisition, The Fund has benefited from both new leasing and lease restructuring transactions which have significantly added value. Rapleys has clearly demonstrated an ability to reposition an asset and drive investment performance.”
Andrew Johnston, Fund Manager, RLAM
Sarah joined Rapleys as an Associate in 2011, being promoted to Partner in 2015. She works nationally with a wide range of clients dividing her time between the Bristol and Birmingham offices. Prior to joining Rapleys, Sarah had worked in consultancy in Swindon since the late 1990s and has more than twenty years experience as a professional planner.
Sarah has advised a range of private sector clients across a variety of sectors including Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon homes, Redrow, Bellcross Homes, Commercial Estates Group, Associated British Foods, Wrenbridge Estates, Gallagher Developments and the Jockey Club. High profile planning projects including:
- 4,500 dwelling/mixed use urban extension to Swindon (Wichelstowe) for Taylor Wimpey
- 5,000 sq m extension to a pharmaceutical factory in Swindon
- Regeneration and redevelopment of former British Sugar refinery in York for 1,100 dwellings
- Promotion of a 4,500 dwelling garden village at Colworth, Bedfordshire for Wrenbridge/Unilever
- Regeneration and redevelopment of former factory site for B1/B8/5,600sq m Asda store at Worksop for CEG
Sarah has significant experience in managing and leading multi-disciplinary teams on a wide range of major (and minor) projects, with particular emphasis on largescale residential/mixed use/commercial (non-retail) schemes. Sarah’s specific area of knowledge is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) where she has over twenty years of experience of advising, managing and co-ordinating Environment Statements to accompany planning applications.
As mentioned in a recent update the Government has introduced Regulations to amend the Use Classes Order and scope of Permitted Development. These provide opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets without the need to obtain planning permission, providing greater flexibility in the face of uncertain and fluctuating market conditions.
Since the update was issued a claim for a Judicial Review has been submitted to the High Court on behalf of the campaign group Rights : Community : Action. The claim argues that the Regulations are unlawful and requests that they are quashed. A hearing is scheduled to take place on 14 and 15 October 2020.
The timing of the hearing is problematic as the Regulations came into force on 1 September 2020 and can be legitimately be utilised for their intended purposes (e.g. changing the use of a building, erecting an upward extension etc). However, should the claim be successful, and the Regulations quashed, it is possible that any changes of use or works undertaken since 1 September 2020 could be deemed unauthorised and require retrospective planning permission (which may or may not be granted). Therefore, until the claim is resolved, it is crucial that this risk is factored in when making decisions on whether to proceed with any changes of use or works which rely on the provisions of the new Regulations.
Rapleys LLP has been following the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system closely since the White paper and the proposed changes to the current system were published in early August. The principle of reforming the system is overdue and structural reform is necessary.
Our submissions to the first consultation can be found here; they are based on an analysis of every LPA in England and the implications of a more targeted standard methodology for determining housing figures.
We will be making further submissions to the White Paper consultation later this month.
Nick joined Rapleys in early 2015 as a partner in the special projects & development team after ten years at Strettons Chartered Surveyors, where he was responsible for the development consultancy team from 2012 onwards.
Nick specialises in providing detailed development valuation advice for residential and mixed-use sites, with a particular emphasis on the valuation of affordable housing and development viability. He has provided advice to developers in both the public and private sectors and was previously on the valuation panel for the majority of the G15 Housing Associations within Greater London.
In his former role, Nick was jointly responsible for successfully tendering to provide detailed valuation advice to Triathlon Homes in relation to the phased release of their 704 affordable rent, shared ownership and shared equity units within East Village (former Olympic Athlete’s Village). He has also provided detailed valuation advice on other major residential led regeneration schemes in London, a number of which have been for developments in excess of 500 homes.
He has acted on behalf of private developers in connection with viability negotiations with local authorities in order to assess the appropriate level of affordable housing. Following completion of s.106 agreements, he has acted on behalf of both private developers and Registered Providers in connection with the valuation, acquisition and disposal of ‘Package Price’ s.106 affordable housing contributions.
He has acted on behalf of land owners and developers in the acquisition and sale of development sites within London & the Home Counties.
Nick is able to offer clients strategic valuation advice in connection with the redevelopment of their sites, including appropriate affordable housing strategies in order to maximise both land and resale values.
The government has released its long-awaited planning white paper, Planning for the Future. Its proposed reforms, including the replacement of Section 106 payments and fast-tracking “beautiful” buildings has been met with a mixed response from the property industry.
Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner at Rapleys shares his views on this radical reform.
“Announcements will not change the planning system overnight,” says Rapleys planning team partner
“The proposals are certainly radical, but with planning reform the devil is always in the detail,” said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.
“Experience shows it is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be, particularly as this is a consultation and we don’t know at this stage which measures will be implemented as currently proposed, and just as importantly which won’t.”
“It is likely to be some time before one can really judge how much of a game-changer the government’s initiatives will be.”
“The Government has hailed these proposed changes to the planning system as a means of getting Britain’s construction industry firing on all cylinders and generally encouraging economic recovery following Covid-19. What is clear at this stage however is that these announcements will not change the planning system overnight, as the consultation alone runs to nearly the end of October, and implementation of any measures is only likely to start early in the new year, at the earliest.”
The long-promised Planning White Paper, heavily trailed in the media last weekend, has been released for consultation by the Government. The document promises “radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War” and “a significantly simpler, faster and more predictable system”. This is promoted in 24 proposals, upon which views are sought up to 29 October. The proposals are wide-ranging, and have the potential to affect almost all of the major aspects of the planning system – some of the more eye-catching proposals are summarised below:
- Simplifying the Local Plan system to identify three types of land – “Growth” areas that are “suitable for substantial development”, “Renewal” areas “suitable for development”, and areas that are “Protected”.
- Growth areas “would automatically be granted outline planning permission for the principle of development, while automatic approvals would also be available for pre-established development types in other areas suitable for building”.
- Development management policies established at national level, with a suggestion that local development management policies be restricted to “clear and necessary” site or area-specific requirements.
- Replacing the existing tests of soundness (including removal of the Duty to Co-operate with neighbouring authorities) with a single statutory “sustainable development” test.
- Establishing a fixed 30-month period to develop Local Plans, streamlining the “disproportionate burden of evidence” that supports them.
- Changes to how local housing need is assessed, seeking to address housing affordability and having regard to local constraints. A new standard method would be a means of distributing the national target of 300,000 new homes annually, and one million homes by the end of the Parliamentary term.
- Housing Delivery Test and Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development to be retained.
- Faster and more certain decision-making, with “firm” deadlines. Legislation will be brought in requiring local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to meet statutory timescales, with the possibility of sanctions if they fail to do so.
- Neighbourhood Plans to be retained, with greater emphasis on incorporating digital tools and data in their preparation.
- Local design guidance and codes to become binding on development. In addition, a “fast track for beauty”, reflecting the propositions of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is mooted.
- The current system of planning obligations is to be abolished and the Community Infrastructure Levy reformed to an “Infrastructure Levy”, with a mandatory nationally-set rate “to be charged as a fixed proportion of the development value above a threshold”. The Infrastructure Levy regime might be extended to include changes of use implemented through permitted development.
- A radical overhaul of how people engage in the planning process, establishing a “digital-first approach” to engagement with local communities.
- An overarching commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050.
In parallel, the Government has also released a more technical consultation paper for comment until 1 October. This seeks views on a range of matters, including:
- The Government’s proposals to change how local housing need is assessed (as flagged in the White Paper).
- How the “First Homes” home ownership scheme will be delivered through the planning process.
- Extending “Permission in Principle” to major development.
- Measures to assist small and medium size housebuilders, and new entrants to the housing market.
The Government is clearly heralding these changes as a root and branch reform of the planning system, and taken at face value it is fair to say that they would be. However, given that the Government is at consultation stage, it must be assumed that implementation of the proposals will not start in the coming months, some proposals may be subject to change, and some may not be implemented at all. Further, with planning reform the devil is always in the detail, and experience indicates it can take many years before the impact of any changes can be properly assessed.
With that in mind, we will be studying the detail of the consultation closely in the coming days, and will provide a more detailed analysis, going beyond the headlines, shortly. However, if you have any questions about the Government’s consultation, or would like Rapleys to help get your organisation’s voice heard, please contact one of our national team.
On 1 August, a new permitted development right (PDR) comes into force, which will allow additional storeys to be built on top of buildings without the need for planning consent.
The new PDR, which applies to detached residential blocks built between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018, was announced by housing secretary Robert Jenrick in early March. At the time, The Guardian wrote that it was “expected to transform the skyline of residential areas”, but less than a month away from its introduction, legal experts and airspace developers have conflicting views on how effective the new legislation will be.
Jason Lowes, Town Planning Partner shares his view on PDR.
“The line between getting planning permission and prior approval for permitted development may start to get blurred,” says Jason Lowes, a partner at Rapleys, adding that we are not quite at that point yet.
As trailed a few weeks ago, the Government laid further changes to the planning system before parliament on Tuesday, bringing significant changes to the current Use Classes Order, coming into effect on 1 September 2020, and the Permitted Development regime, coming into effect on 31 August 2020, representing a major overhaul of key parts of the town planning regime.
• A new ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ Use Class: (Class E) will subsume and replace Use Classes A1 (Shops) (albeit with a notable exception – see below), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and B1 (Offices, Research & Development and Light Industrial), as well as certain D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) uses such as health/medical centres, gyms and nurseries which will not fall within the new Class F. Under normal circumstances, this will permit premises to switch between these uses without the need for prior approval or planning permission. However, shops smaller than 280sqm mostly selling essential goods, including food, and at least “1km from another similar shop” will fall within a new Class F.2 (see below);
• Class D to be replaced by a new Class F: the current Use Classes D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) will be revoked, and replaced with the following:
*Class F1 (Learning and Non-Residential Institutions) which will include educational premises, museums, galleries, libraries, public/exhibition halls, places of worship and law courts.
*Class F2 (Local Community) which will include some small shops (as detailed above), community halls and meeting places, outdoor sports and recreational facilities, swimming pools and skating rinks.
• Other Use Class Order changes: consequentially, a number of different land uses which currently fall into Use Classes will become sui generis, and therefore planning permission will be required to change to and from them, including: pubs and bars, hot food takeaways, music venues, bingo halls and dance halls.
• Permitted Development for the Demolition of Vacant Buildings to Residential Development: specifically, the demolition of a single detached purpose block of flats, or building used for office, research and development or industrial purposes, and its replacement by a single detached block of flats or detached dwelling within the footprint of the old building. The building to be demolished must have been vacant for a period of at least 6 months, have a footprint no larger than 1,000 sqm and be no taller than 18 metres. There is, also, a more wide-ranging prior approval process which will require confirmation from the Local Planning Authority that the new development is acceptable, before the work can commence. In this regard, the Local Planning Authority will consider, amongst other things: the design and appearance of the new building, possible transport and highway impacts, residential amenity impacts including the right to light, and the impact on heritage and archaeology.
• Two-storey Upward Extensions: the upward extension of existing dwellings and blocks of flats by up to two storeys. The rights will only apply to dwellings constructed between 1 July 1948 and 28 October 2018, and to buildings for flats, between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018. The new rights are also subject to a number of other limitations and conditions, including the requirement for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority in relation to matters such as the design and appearance of the new extension, possible transport and highway impacts, and residential amenity impacts including the Rights to Light.
Guidance providing further details about how the changes will work in practice is still to be published, but they are likely to have wide-ranging consequences. From a landowner and developer perspective, they are very likely to present a range of opportunities to repurpose existing residential, commercial and retail assets in order to respond and adapt to fluctuating market conditions. If you have any questions following these announcements, particularly in relation to the exceptions, limitations and conditions to such measures, please contact Jeevan Thandi or any member of our nationwide Town Planning team.
Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight Amenity are two separate neighbourly matters which require consideration during the course of a development. Ignore them and they can have serious implications on a scheme. Embrace them and there is scope for maximising the development potential on your site.
Rights to Light and Daylight & Sunlight Amenity are two separate neighbourly matters which require consideration during the course of a development. Ignore them and they can have serious implications on a scheme. Embrace them and there is scope for maximising the development potential on your site.
A Right to Light is an easement, similar to a Right of Way, where apertures such as windows, doors, even rooflights, can acquire or be granted rights that are protected by law.
The easiest way of considering the light which can be protected is thinking about the amount of ‘blue sky’ which can be seen at the working plane (roughly desk or kitchen work surface height) within a room.
If ‘interference’ in the level of ‘blue sky’ is caused by the construction of a new building or structure and this is deemed to be to an unreasonable degree, then there may be grounds for the neighbour to take action. An objection could then be raised through the courts that could lead to either damages in the form of compensation being paid or even worse, an injunction being granted to cease construction and / or remove the offending part of the development causing the injury.
By contrast, Daylight & Sunlight Amenity is purely a Planning matter with the final decision as to what is considered acceptable belonging to Local Authorities. This subject reviews the orientation of buildings, room uses and the effects on external amenity space in terms of shadowing. It also considers the light within a development itself; not just the surrounding properties.
This should be a reminder to all developers, large or small, not to confuse these two subjects; just because a scheme may have been granted planning permission, this does not necessarily mean it can be constructed without further action. If a Rights to Light risk management strategy has not been fully developed or if the disclosure of sensitive information is prohibited by an insurer, tabling the wrong report could be significantly detrimental to a development proceeding.
It is therefore crucial that consideration of these subject areas is given as early as possible, designing out risks or managing them accordingly.
For further advice on the above or any other Neighbourly Matters such as Party Wall or Access Arrangements for crane oversail, scaffolding or hoarding licences, Rapleys Neighbourly Matters team operating throughout the UK will be well placed to assist.
Jonathan is a Partner in Rapleys Town Planning team and has a wide range of experience across a number of property sectors including residential, retail, commercial, and automotive & roadside development.
The work he has undertaken includes the project management of major planning applications, planning appraisals to assess the development potential of sites, the identification and promotion of strategic land sites, and planning appeals.
He has experience advising a wide range of clients including national retailers, housebuilders, asset managers, private developers and corporate clients.
Jonathan joined Rapleys in 2012. He previously worked for the north west based planning consultancy NJL Consulting LLP.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced measures that are promoted as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live”.
Much of the announcement anticipates further reform of the permitted development regime, to allow the following without the need for planning permission:
• The change of use of retail floorspace to other town centre uses;
• The expansion of the types of commercial premises that can be converted to residential;
• The redevelopment of “vacant and redundant” sites, provided they are developed for housing, and
• Upward extensions—coming hot on the heels of last week’s proposed changes to the permitted development regime (which included the ability, under certain circumstances, to build new homes on top of existing blocks of flats).
Although many developers and landowners would support the above initiatives, those watching closely will recall that very similar measures were subject to consultation, by the Government, over a year and a half ago.
Also announced was the commitment to a cross-government strategy to improve the use of public land, alongside reiteration of spending commitments.
We can expect further detail relative to the above in next month’s planning policy paper, which it is said will introduce “comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system, to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”. Following this will be a “Local Recovery White Paper”, which will, amongst other matters, introduce wider deregulation. Therefore, there will evidently be a few more hurdles to come before all of the reforms come into force.
As ever, Rapleys will continue to keep a close eye on the Government’s planning reform initiatives, and continue to issue regular updates once announcements are made. In the interim, if you have any questions following the Government announcements, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys or any other member of our nationwide team.
Jamie joined Rapleys’ development consultancy team in April 2016 as a graduate surveyor from Oxford Brookes University where he studied Planning and Property Development. He now sits in the affordable housing & viability team in the London office where he assists landowners, developers and housing associations.
Jamie provides development valuation advice for residential, mixed use and ‘build to rent’ schemes on both small scale developments and larger urban extensions. His work is generally focused in the south east of England but he has worked on sites in Newcastle and York. Jamie works on detailed development appraisals to assess scheme viability and deliverability while providing affordable housing strategy advice. He also provides agency advice in relation to disposal of development sites and S106 ‘package deals’. Jamie’s client base consists of a range of landowners, residential developers and housing associations.
Jamie became accredited into the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in November 2019, and his interests outside of work include cricket, rugby and exploring the highlands of Scotland.
Planning updates are coming thick and fast this Summer. Following the Government’s announcements on Monday, the associated Business and Planning Bill has received its first reading in Parliament. This includes the further legislation required to enact the following interventions to support the development industry:
- ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
- ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
- Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.
The Bill also includes a series of changes to licensing laws to ease rules for consuming food and drink outdoors.
The ‘automatic’ extensions will come into force 28 days after the Act is passed, the construction site working hours proposal will come into force six days after the Act is passed, while the appeal procedure flexibility would be implemented as soon as the legislation is passed.
Most notably, the detail on the ‘automatic’ extensions confirms the following:
- Planning permissions with expiry dates ranging from 28 days after the date on which the Bill is enacted to 30 December 2020 will benefit from an automatic time limit extension up to, but not beyond, 1 April 2021.
- Planning permissions that have already expired during the lockdown period (i.e. between 23 March and any day up to 28 days after the Bill is enacted) will be required to secure ‘additional environmental approval’ from the relevant local authority, who will have 28 days to respond to any request for such approval, with deemed approval being the default position if no response is received in that timescale. The additional approval process, in short, requires that the LPA is satisfied that environmental impact assessment and/or habitats assessment information is up to date.
- The extension provisions will also apply in a similar manner to outline permissions, where there are deadlines for submission of reserved matters or the commencement of works, which have expired, or are due to expire, in the above period (23 March – 31 December 2020).
- Listed building consents with ‘expiry’ dates from 23 March, up until 31 December 2020, will benefit from automatic renewal until 1 April 2021.
The Bill is due to be ‘fast-tracked’ through all stages of Parliamentary approval in the coming days. It will be advisable to document any extension in writing, with the relevant authority, to avoid any future uncertainty.
In other Planning news, changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights have also been announced, which come into force from 1 August. These will allow existing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes without the need for planning permission. The new right is restricted to buildings of three storeys or more and the extended building must not be more than 30 metres in height. The right only applies to buildings built after 1 July 1948 and before 5 March 2018. Prior approval will be required, which will consider transport and highways impacts; air traffic and defence asset impacts; contamination and flooding risks. In addition, Councils can consider external appearance; daylight; impact on neighbouring amenity and protected views.
Further reforms of the planning system are expected over the Summer, including a new PD right to allow the demolition of existing commercial premises and replacement with new build homes. This is seen as a response to the rapidly changing nature of demand for office and retail space, in particular in town and city centres, as a result of Covid-19.
We will provide regular updates on what is currently a fast changing planning system. In the meantime please get in touch with Neil Jones or any member of our national planning team for further advice.
Jason is a partner in Rapleys’ town planning team. Since joining Rapleys, Jason has submitted and negotiated a wide range of planning applications, including retail, motor trade, residential and public transport infrastructure. To support such proposals, Jason has prepared retail, design and general planning statements.
Jason has undertaken numerous site analyses and appraisals, and provided planning advice in relation to site disposal. He has also been actively involved in public consultation exercises promoting development, particularly public exhibitions.
Jason has given planning evidence at public enquiry, has provided expert planning witness advice and has promoted development at examinations in public.
Jason was educated at Stowe School and University College London. Since graduation in 2000, Jason spent three years gaining experience within the construction/refurbishment industry. Subsequently Jason worked for two years in contract work as a development control officer for a number of local authorities in the north-west London area, dealing with a wide range of planning applications from minor to major, and contributing to the London Borough of Ealing petition in respect of the Crossrail Bill.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday announced further measures intended to assist the development industry and boost the economy, including:
- ‘Automatic’ extensions to time-limits for implementation of planning permissions, where these would have expired during the lockdown period;
- ‘Fast-tracking’ requests for changes to construction working hours; and
- Greater flexibility for planning appeal proceedings.
MHCLG stated that the new measures will be introduced this week, albeit they will require secondary legislation to be passed before coming into effect.
‘Automatic’ time-limit extensions
Following strong lobbying from within the industry, the Government has followed some of the devolved nations in confirming that planning permissions which have expired, or are due to expire, during the lockdown period will benefit from an automatic time-limit extension. This means that planning permissions (and listed building consents) which expired from 23 March, or will expire before 31 December this year, will remain valid until 1 April 2021.
Fast-track for changes to construction hours
The Government will temporarily introduce a new fast track route to apply for changes to planning restrictions on construction hours, to allow longer hours to support safe construction working. Local Authorities will have 14 days to determine applications, after which time they would be deemed to be approved. This measure is intended to be in force until 1 April 2021, but will not apply to construction work on individual houses.
Greater flexibility for Planning Appeal procedures
Currently, regulations only permit the pursuit of planning appeals, in any given case, under one procedure (written representations, hearing or inquiry). The proposed changes, which would be permanent, will allow more than one procedure to take place at a time, with the intention of speeding up the decision making process for inquiries and hearings.
In principle, these measures are welcomed as interventions that seek to support the development industry in uncertain and challenging times. There is little detail in yesterday’s announcement, and as ever this will be key to the effectiveness of the measures.
We will provide updated commentary when this detail is known, but meanwhile, should you require any further advice at this stage, please contact Neil Jones or any member of the Planning team.
James is a partner in the building consultancy team and has a broad range of experience across all mainstream areas of commercial building surveying.
He specialises in management of refurbishment projects, preparing and negotiating dilapidations claims on behalf of both landlords and tenants, undertaking pre-acquisition and technical due diligence building surveys and advising on Party Wall matters in both residential and commercial schemes.
James has project managed refurbishments valued in excess of £8million and negotiated numerous large dilapidations claims on behalf of various clients ranging from pension and investment funds to top global brands. James has also acted for both Building and Adjoining Owners regarding complex party wall schemes and undertaken building surveys on various prestigious commercial properties ranging from small scale to hundreds of thousands of square feet in size.
James is a senior associate in Rapleys’ lease consultancy team and has a wide range of commercial property experience. He has professionally represented a range of institutional landlords and private individuals, and is a RICS Registered Valuer.
He specialises in all aspects of lease consultancy work including the negotiation of rent reviews, lease renewals and lease re-gears. He also undertakes Red Book Valuations for loan security and other purposes.
James joined Rapleys in 2013. Prior to this he worked at Strettons Chartered Surveyors in London for nine years where he split his time between commercial agency, Red Book Valuations and lease consultancy.
As the government takes the first tentative steps to bring us all out of lockdown, measures to make it easier for the housing market and planning system to operate have been included in a raft of announcements made over the last 48 hours. These measures, when followed safely, can only be welcomed by everyone in the industry. They will further mitigate the impact of current events on the housing market and planning system, over and above the extensive efforts already being made at a national and local level to, as far as possible, keep local plans and planning applications moving.
Restarting the Housing Market
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a series of measures to allow buyers and renters to complete purchases and view properties in person, while estate agents, conveyancers and removals firms can return to work while following social distancing guidelines. In addition, and as well as reiterating planning related guidance released shortly before the speech (see below), measures were announced to allow builders to agree more flexible site working hours with the local authority to assist social distancing, not least to ease pressure on public transport.
New Central Government Guidance
The government has released further guidance about how the planning system should continue to adapt to the ongoing situation, this includes:
- CIL: Amendments to the current CIL regulations will be introduced to help address cashflow issues for small and medium-sized developers with an annual turnover of less than £45 million. The amendments will enable charging authorities to defer payments, to temporarily disapply late payment interest and provide a discretion to return interest already charged.
- Publicity and Consultation for Planning Applications: New regulations come into force today (Thursday 14 May) which supplement the existing statutory publicity arrangements for planning applications, listed building consent applications and environmental statements. The regulations extend the minimum time period given to residents to make representations and remove the requirement for physical hard copies of certain documents (e.g. environmental statements) to be available for inspection.
- Local Plans: MHCLG are looking at temporarily relaxing requirements on community engagement and the need for physical documents. They are also engaging with the Planning Inspectorate on the use of virtual hearings and written submissions.
Significantly, the guidance includes confirmation that there will be no amendments to application time limits, with the rights of applicants to appeal against non-determination remaining unchanged.
The Planning Inspectorate has updated its guidance in relation to Covid-19, confirming that:
- Inspector site visits will now resume, breaking a significant logjam in the process.
- The first digital appeal hearing was deemed a success, and the Inspectorate is planning 20 examinations, hearings and inquiries in May and June. A major step towards Robert Jenrick’s request that the Inspectorate “make all hearings virtual within weeks”.
- A variety of methods need to be used when prosecuting these virtual events, reflecting the fact that the public have differing levels of access to digital technology.
As we have confirmed in previous newsletters, many in the planning industry have been struck by the great efforts that have been taken to keep the planning system moving through what are unprecedented events. It is hoped these further measures will build on that, and it is very likely that some of the reforms that are being brought in now will stick long after the current situation has passed.
If you would like to discuss the above further, please get in touch with Dan Sharp or a member of Rapleys nationwide team.
The secretary of state last week allowed two appeals totalling more than 800 homes on green belt sites. Commentators suggest that the decisions indicate the weight that ministers place on schemes’ potential contribution to meeting housing need when considering whether they demonstrate the “very special circumstances” required for green belt permission.
Generations of young planners have passed through the doors of Oxford Brookes University’s Wheatley campus. It is fitting therefore that the site, located 3.5km outside of Oxford, should have been the site of a potentially significant planning decision.
In the second of two important decisions on green belt sites, both issued last week, housing secretary of state Robert Jenrick granted the university permission to redevelop the campus and turn it into 500 homes. Just a couple of days earlier, Jenrick had approved plans for 325 homes and a special needs school in the Greater Manchester green belt in Stockport.
However in both appeals, the most important factor was meeting housing need. Claire Dutch, partner and co-head of planning and environment at law firm Ashurst, said the Stockport decision “swung” on the issue of housing need. Similarly, housing was the key factor in the Oxford Brookes decision, said Jason Lowes, town planning partner at Rapleys. “Even though there was a five-year supply, the fact that there was such a shortage of affordable housing was given strong weight.” While meeting housing need in itself is not usually deemed very special circumstances by councils, said Lowes, it formed a large part of the secretary of state’s thinking in both of these decisions.
Lowes believed that while housing need was probably given sufficient weight in the Oxford Brookes decision to justify consent, other factors were deemed to be important too, such as the benefit of getting rid of the campus’s tower that looms over the surrounding countryside. Burden agreed, adding: “It’s not saying that residential sites in the green belt are up for grabs – you have to look at the special circumstances of the site and the planning constraints.
To read the article in full please click here.
Graham joined Rapleys in 2015 and has progressed to be a partner. He shares the leadership of the charities sector within development services. Graham brings together his general practice surveying experience with his skill of working with clients and groups from all backgrounds.
His professional services experience has included real estate consultancy, residential and commercial development appraisal, and investment advice for private clients and charities.
Graham has a broad spread of project management and valuation experience that has been based in London and the home counties, Cambridge and East Anglia.
He leads the professional services valuations team who undertake;
- Valuations of commercial properties;
– Office, retail, industrial
– Portfolio valuations
- Valuation for;
– Secured borrowing
– Accounting purposes
- Residential development appraisals
- Monitoring and interim valuations during construction
In a move to further the significant Town Planning successes Rapleys has already been delivering in the region, the firm is delighted to welcome to the partnership, from April, its new lead of Town Planning in Cambridge, Richard Sykes-Popham.
Richard, previously of Carter Jonas and Januarys, brings with him a wealth of experience in Cambridge and across the eastern region and enjoys an excellent reputation as a trusted and focused planning advisor.
He joins, the business, as a Partner.
Richard’s background has given him exposure to a broad range of work and to business and team management. In addition to the promotion of planning applications and appeals, Richard has a particular focus on public inquiries, Examinations in Public (EiPs), environmental impact assessment, green belt cases and sustainable urban extensions.
He is able to bring his expertise, to the table, on town planning and wider multidisciplinary instructions: the latter in association with our other service lines in the Cambridge office, including development consultancy.
On his move to Rapleys Richard commented: “I am delighted to be at Rapleys. In the process of joining I have been able to get a good measure of their ethos and values, which have the firm’s clients and its people at their centre. The culture of the practice coupled with its excellent fundamentals make it an extremely exciting business to be part of. My focus will be on getting our planning services to clients and to ensure that we add value in the pursuit of future instructions and commissions.”
Rapleys’ Senior Partner, Robert Clarke, adds “I am delighted to welcome Richard to the partnership. He is a significant appointment in the growth of the Cambridge office. He brings a wealth of local, and national, experience to the business: to the benefit of our client base. I have no doubt that, under his leadership, the town planning team, in Cambridge, will become an important player in the city, its hinterland and wider region”.
Claire joined Rapleys in 2002 bringing 15 years experience in the IT service provider industry to the business, having predominately worked in IT solutions and database administration.
Claire is a principal surveyor delivering services across a number of commercial portfolios and leads the database management for all corporate clients. She has led the set-up of databases and extranet portals for various key clients. Claire delivers high quality account management and is a superb communicator whose focus is on maintaining open and positive relationships with clients, tenants, occupants and landlords alike.
Heading up Rapleys’ TRAMPS database management, Claire deals directly with IT, property accounting and service charge management in corporate real estate services.
More recently she has developed Rapleys’ new facilities management service offering.
Angus has over 20 years experience and heads up the development team. He has a wide range of development experience including mixed use developments, disposals and acquisitions, development audits/appraisals and providing agency advice. He also has considerable experience in development management, taking projects through the development process from inception to delivery.
Angus is active in a number of sectors including residential, retail, industrial, office and mixed use developments. Angus joined Rapleys in 2004 having previously worked as Head of Development Sales in the South of England for Network Rail, where he was responsible for disposing of Network Rail surplus land assets and promoting and delivering major station developments.
In March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick outlined a number of measures to reform the English planning system. Announcing his plan the day after the Budget (11 March), he said the proposals would create a more efficient planning system, enabling more houses to be built in the places where people want them. Jenrick promised that the white paper would be “ambitious” enough to create a “planning system truly fit for the 21st century”.
Planning for the Future included: fully digitising the planning system; setting a deadline of December 2023 for completion of all local plans in England before government intervention; and extending permitted development rights. Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys spoke to The Planner and give his view on this ambitious measurement.
The need for speed
Many people involved in the planning process will have experience of “multi-dimensional delays” due to the planning system’s complexity and the lack of resourcing at a local level, said Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys.
“One of the government’s main priorities should be to speed up the planning system and create more certainty in the development management process, and aid better decision-making. The Planning for the Future paper indicates that the planning white paper will contain a number initiatives aimed at streamlining the system – for example, zoning tools – which, if done properly and effectively, have the potential to have a long-lasting impact to help meet housing need.”
Connected to this is the need to speed up the system to meet the demand for housing and, said Lowes, developers “will no doubt welcome” further extensions to permitted development rights. In doing this, the government needs to ensure that permitted development rights help to increase housing supply, he urged, “whilst also being mindful that the focus on streamlining the delivery of housing should not be at the expense of the quality of accommodation or design”.
“The government appears to be going in the right direction to continue to utilise permitted development rights as a means to drive forward housing, whilst also confirming that changes will have regard to design, and meeting light standards, all of which should be welcomed and it will be interesting to see the detail on this.”
Read The Planner article in full, which includes other professionals opinions on the White Paper.
In common with everything else in these unusual days, the restrictions imposed on movement as a result of the coronavirus outbreak have had a huge impact on the planning system, resulting in well-publicised delays to local plan examinations and public inquiries. However, it is a credit to decision-makers at both a national and local level that great efforts are being put into reducing the disruption as far as possible.
To date, these efforts and changes have included the following:
The Coronavirus Act
Passed in Parliament last week, in addition to giving the Government considerable powers, this emergency legislation allows the convening of planning committees via video-conferencing, addressing a major potential hurdle to planning decision-making.
Temporary relaxation of planning regulations
Extended permitted development rights came into force on 24 March 2020 to enable pubs, restaurants and cafes to operate as food takeaways for a 12-month period. This is on top of other government advice aimed at cutting red tape, for example the Written Ministerial Statement by Robert Jenrick on the 13 March 2020, in which local planning authorities are encouraged to act flexibly, and not to take enforcement action that would result in unnecessarily restricting the deliveries of food and other essential items during this period.
Activity at local authorities
It is fair to say that the current performance of local authorities is mixed, but working from home has become commonplace in many councils over the last few years and in a lot of places decision-making is still happening, including at committee level (and we can expect this to increase as a result of the Coronavirus Act – see above). As a result, in local authorities with good technological support, the immediate impact has been relatively limited to matters which require human contact, such as meetings and consultations, and even here there seem to be improvements all the time.
Keeping the system moving
Last week the Chief Planner, encouraged local authorities to be innovative in decision making, including exploring opportunities to use technology for meetings and consultations, anticipating and seeking to address the areas of greatest challenge – ie officer/applicant meetings, and public consultation exercises (both pre-and post-application).
In short, things are changing on a daily basis, but one of the bright points of the situation is the commitment that the Government and many local authorities have to maintain their planning services as far as possible and under very challenging circumstances. Therefore, our advice to clients is that – where possible – development should continue to be vigorously promoted in order to ensure that proposals are in “pole position” once normality starts to set in again.
As the situation evolves, further updates will be circulated over the coming weeks. In the interim, to discuss this and any other queries arising as a result of the current situation, please contact Jason Lowes, Town Planning at Rapleys.
The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across the globe, and the town planning system is no exception. Social distancing measures threaten to slow the system, given that:
- The Planning Inspectorate are postponing all local plan examinations, appeal site visits, hearings and inquiries. The decisions on how to proceed will be at the discretion of the individual Inspector, but this could mean more appeals being dealt with under written representations, although technological solutions are being considered, where feasible.
- There are an increasing number of planning committee meetings being postponed to uphold the social distancing guidance, although with no centralised guidance currently available to Councils on how to proceed, it will be down to each local authority to decide how best to avoid a growing backlog. This may encourage some local authorities to engage a smarter use of technology, or even a shift towards more applications being dealt with under delegated powers; however there is unlikely to be a seamless transition or centralised solution and some delays in the short term at least, seem inevitable.
However, on the other hand the government are already introducing a number of measures to ensure that the planning system doesn’t act as a barrier in these unprecedented times. So far, such changes include:
- The government are relaxing permitted development rights to allow pubs (Use Class A4) and restaurants (Use Class A3) to operate as hot food takeaways (Use Class A5) for a period of up to 12 months.
- In a Ministerial Statement, Robert Jenrick announced that local planning authorities in England should take a positive approach to ensure that planning controls are not a barrier to food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry to enable the delivery of food, sanitary and other essential products to be made as quickly as possible.
Evidently the news, impacts and responses are changing on a daily basis at the moment, but Rapleys will keep you up to date with these changes and what they could mean for your sites, applications and businesses.
As flagged in the Chancellor’s Budget on 11 March, proposals to reform the planning system were set out the following day by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in the 11 page ‘Planning for the Future’ publication. The paper acts as a prelude to a series of major publications due later this year, beginning in spring with what is hailed as an ‘ambitious’ Planning White Paper offering ‘creative solutions’ to modernise the planning system. However, some of the proposals sound quite familiar.
Last week’s publication proposes several initiatives for planning reform, which aim to support communities to deliver more homes, help first time buyers, create ‘beautiful, sustainable places’, ensure a commitment to affordable housing and work towards the Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
Promoting well-planned development
Measures to promote development include:
- Investment in brownfield land and the launch of a national brownfield map;
- Calls to build above stations in urban areas;
- The introduction of new permitted development rights this summer to build upwards on existing buildings;
- Permitted development rights to allow the demolition of vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings, to be replaced with ‘well-designed’ new residential units;
Many of the proposals feel far from new, particularly some of the other initiatives announced, including reviewing the formula for calculating Local Housing Need and setting a deadline for all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan (December 2023).
The initiatives also include a spatial element in the form of a new Spatial Framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which will involve up to four new Development Corporations. This proposed commitment will be well received by those who have been calling for support from central Government for a strategic approach for the ‘Ox-Cam Arc’. However, this appears to be harnessing growth that is already happening, rather than an attempt at kickstarting regeneration in deprived areas.
Speeding up the system
The White Paper will also include specific measures aimed at speeding up the processing of planning applications, which will include a new planning fee structure, measures to ensure planning permissions are built out more quickly, as well as automatic rebates for planning application fees when refusals are successfully appealed.
However, perhaps the most notable measure to accelerate the planning system is the proposed expansion of zonal tools such as Local Development Orders (LDOs). Whilst LDOs have been available for a number of years, their use has been limited in practice and it will be interesting to see if the initiatives go as far as the Policy Exchange’s recommendations earlier this year, in their ‘Rethinking the Planning System for the 21st Century’ report.
Good design and placemaking
As well as seeking to accelerate the system and encouraging delivery, the publication places significant emphasis on design. It announces that the NPPF will be revised (yet again) to further embed the principles of good design and placemaking, alongside taking forward the recommendations of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report.
In related news
Jenrick also illustrated his commitment to housing delivery elsewhere last week in his deeply critical letter to Sadiq Khan to express his disappointment at the Mayor’s London Plan falling significantly short of meeting London’s identified housing need, and its ‘layers of complexity.’ Jenrick has directed that the Plan cannot be published until certain Directions have been incorporated and requests a commitment to maximising delivery in London, inviting the Mayor to regular meetings to ensure his requests are met.
The proposed planning reforms are evidently at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how the initiatives are developed. However, any proposals that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. That said, from the announcements it would appear that a lot of the thinking is far from revolutionary.
For any further detail or clarification do not hesitate to contact Olivia or one of the Town Planning team at Rapleys.
Yesterday’s Budget announcement contained a clear message of business continuity as the Chancellor relayed emergency measures to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus. Public health, the NHS, SMEs and workers were the primary focus, but for the property industry, there were still some takeaway messages. Not least, an announcement of short term emergency Business Rates relief, as well as a programme of investment launched for roads and infrastructure. Key members of our service teams add their comments.
Retail & Leisure Group
Russell Smith, Partner, comments; ‘overall there was some welcome, positive news for the high street, in particular for small shop and restaurant owners who will see an increased business rates discount. It is a temporary and extreme step sadly in light of the destabilising Coronavirus pandemic, but nonetheless it is well needed and overdue for the ailing retail sector.
The announcement to hold a review into the long term future of business rates should make a marked change to the future of the high street. This will need to be implemented in a timely manner however as there is likely to be a further reduction in footfall in high street across the country in the months to come.’
Alfred Bartlett, Partner, adds ‘ironically, the digital service tax (2% tax introduction on digital businesses) will also help bricks and mortar retail and may prove a good first step in balancing the investment in trading formats and redressing the high street decline.’
Automotive & Roadside
Phil Blackford comments; ‘the Government have announced a fund of £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles ensuring that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station. That is very welcome news to both manufacturers and EV charge suppliers and hopefully will provide the much needed kick start to creating the necessary infrastructure in the UK to align Government targets, manufacturer’s development and production and a structured network of EV charging stations.’
Jason Lowes, comments; ‘in terms of planning, most of the announcements in the Budget were primarily financial commitments, with the Government’s planning reform initiatives saved for today’s announcement by Robert Jenrick. These indicate that a planning white paper will be released in the spring, addressing a wide range of matters, including:
- Introducing a “zonal” element to the planning system
- Further measures to encourage development on brownfield land
- Initiatives to speed up the planning system
By way of background to the above, the Government feels that the planning system is holding back the delivery of housing, and that these initiatives will break down barriers. However, they are all at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how they develop. Nevertheless, any initiatives that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. Rapleys Town Planning team will be releasing a fuller newsletter on these reforms shortly.’
The latest results for the annual Housing Delivery Test (HDT) were made available last week. The HDT requires councils to deliver a set number of houses in line with adopted requirements. Those who do not meet these targets incur penalties of increasing severity depending on the degree of their failure. Rapleys have reviewed the latest figures, and provide the following analysis.
The HDT requires councils to have met their cumulative housing requirement over the past three years, with the results recorded as a percentage (where 100% indicates that delivery is exactly equal to the requirement). Failure incurs consequences. Local authorities may be required to publish a Housing Delivery Action Plan (all results below 95%), apply a 20% buffer to their Five Year Housing Land Supply calculations (all results below 85%), or – in the most extreme circumstances – be subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development (all results below 45%).
Last year’s results, published in February 2019, did not apply the presumption to any Council. However, the stringency with which the HDT is applied has increased over the period 2019-2021; as the test becomes more demanding local authorities are finding it harder to keep heads above water. This year, eight authorities are subject to the presumption: Basildon, City of London, Eastbourne, Havering, New Forest, North Hertfordshire, Thanet and Three Rivers. In total, 81 authorities are required to apply a 20% buffer to their housing supply (including the eight authorities listed above).
For those who are subject to the presumption, and therefore the ‘tilted balance’, it will be harder to justify refusal of planning applications. For those required to apply a 20% buffer to their supply calculations, they will find it harder to maintain a demonstrable five year supply. Authorities who are unable to demonstrate adequate levels of both delivery and supply, find themselves impaled by both of the presumption’s twinned horns.
This year has certainly given teeth to the government’s latest initiative to increase the rate of housebuilding across England and we expect next year’s results to show a substantive increase in the number of authorities subject to the presumption as the bar will rise from 45% to 75%.
Rapleys has experience in providing detailed, evidence-based analyses of housing positions in authorities up and down the country. This expertise, taking into account the latest HDT results, is able to identify the severity of present circumstances (and likely future positions) for the next five year period and beyond. Using this research, we can help to advise you of promising opportunities in the short, medium and the long term.
In the latest installment of Insider’s Property Perspective Q&A series, Stuart Harris was asked to comment on the South East property market.
As head of the Cambridge office, he discussed how office space remains in strong demand, how the industry is adapting to changes in investor perceptions and the key obstacles to development. The following questions were asked and answered in full throughout the article, below is a snapshot of detail.
In what sectors (residential, industrial, office, leisure) do you see the highest demand for new space and why?
‘Online retail habits are well documented, and have been for some time, but we see this feeding strong continuing demand for industrial space.’
What are the key industries that are diving demand for property?
‘Technology, innovation and biomedical industries are affecting demand across many property sectors…’
What changes to legislation do you want to see in the coming years?
‘Green belt legislation is having a stifling effect on the scope for continued investment in progressive cities such as Cambridge, where pioneering industries show a great appetite to grow within clusters.’
What future changes to the industry do you see making a significant impact on your business?
‘The industry is adapting to changes in investor perceptions and a realignment of the scenery in the built environment.’
How much of a role should the market/local authorities play in development?
‘Increasingly, there is scope for local authorities to participate and lead development through the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors.’
What are the key obstacles for more development and how can they be overcome?
‘With confidence growing in relation to the long-awaited resolution of Brexit, the adoption of more progressive attitudes towards planning and taxation would assist in removing obstacles.’
How can areas away from the main motorway corridors and urban centres become more attractive to investors?
‘Investors are telling us that town centres under pressure can still provide attractive yields, particualrly where risk can be mitigated by the delivery of a greater degree of mixed-use…’
For the full article follow the link to Insider Media here, published on 31 January 2020.
Following a six-week period of consultation in Summer 2019, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet have recently resolved to enforce a new city-wide Article 4 Direction, meaning a planning application will need to be submitted for proposals to convert family houses (C3 Use Class) to small Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) accommodating between 3 and 6 people (C4 Use Class). This will cancel existing Article 4 Direction which has been in place for some time across the Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston areas of the city.
The new Direction will come into effect on 08 June 2020, with the existing Direction being cancelled on the same day.
The Council are also requesting that landlords of existing small HMOs declare their properties online by 8 June; after this date, existing HMOs which have not already been declared may require the submission of an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use or for retrospective planning approval.
For more information, including on how to declare an HMO property, please visit the Council’s website, or do get in touch with Sarah Smith or Jeevan Thandi in our Birmingham office for advice on planning implications.
Client feedback is critical to our continued delivery of excellent service so we are always delighted to hear from clients on existing and completed projects.
Rapleys Building Consultancy Group are pleased to share the following feedback:
Keith Hurford, Project Director, Millbrook Park
‘Rapleys are engaged by Inglis Consortium as Lead Consultant/ Development Project Manager assisting me as Project Director in all matters relating to the development of Millbrook Park, a development of 2240 units. This work has included planning, cost consultancy, infrastructure strategy, infrastructure procurement, delivery, sales and marketing, land disposals and liaison with residential phase developers.
Rapleys have a keen eye for driving value through the design process and driving performance from a multi discipline consultant team. Their team led by Jason Mound is pragmatic, determined and particularly good at problem solving when they arise.
Rapleys have provided an excellent service and are a valuable member of the overall delivery team. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their involvement in similar developments.’
The case study can be viewed here.
Nathan Ross, Project Manager, WH White
‘Rapleys are providing development PM support to WH White Limited for the development of up to 800 homes and associated development at Bearwood in North Poole. Jason has significant experience in the management and delivery of large residential developments similar to Canford Park and has brought this experience and wealth of knowledge to WH White to enhance the development asset at Canford Park.
We found Rapleys and Jason to be knowledgeable and efficient in the process and design of the development and would certainly use them again on future projects. We are currently assembling a team for a larger development in the area through the next local plan process and will be seeking support from Rapleys for the project.’
The case study can be viewed here.
Sadiq Khan’s London Plan is closer to adoption after the Planning Inspectorate gave it the broad go-ahead in its report earlier this week. However, some substantial concerns were raised, and a number of potentially far reaching recommendations were made. When adopted, the new London Plan will replace the current, much consolidated version issued by London’s previous Mayor (now the Prime Minister).
A series of examination hearings were held on the draft new London Plan earlier in the year, and now the much anticipated Inspectors’ Report has been published. The report confirms that the Plan provides an appropriate basis for the strategic planning of Greater London, provided it is amended in line with the Mayor’s suggested changes and, more crucially, the recommendations put forward by the Inspectors.
In this vein, some of the Inspectors’ recommendations would seem to fundamentally change the Mayor’s approach, including the removal of the proposed presumption in favour of small housing developments and, perhaps most contentiously, a recommended commitment to a “strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London” (albeit to be undertaken as part of the next review of the London Plan).
Evidently there is a lot to digest in the 125 page report, but the principal recommendations can be drawn into three interlocking themes:
- The Inspectors’ recommendation to remove the presumption in favour of small housing developments, and cut the small sites housing target in half, after finding the Mayor’s aspirational policy approach to be “highly unlikely to occur, based on the available evidence”, placing an unreasonable expectation on the contribution that such sites can make in meeting housing targets.
- The draft Plan seeks to apply a blanket approach to prevent the de-designation of Green Belt sites, which the Inspectors consider is not consistent with the NPPF. As a remedy, they suggest that the Plan commits to a review of the Green Belt in future policy work. In addition, alterations addressing the rather stringent original wording of Green Belt policies are suggested, effectively putting them in line with the NPPF.
- The report finds that the need for industrial land is likely to be greater than assumed in the Plan, and that this demand could be “many hundreds of hectares”. In response, the Inspectors recommend that allowance is made for boroughs to review their Green Belt boundaries in emerging Local Plans, to make allowance for additional industrial capacity.
The Mayor has already voiced his opposition to some of the report; not least the principle of a London-wide Green Belt review and it will be interesting to see what his next move is. Further, any suggestion of releasing land from the Green Belt always proves politically contentious – to say the least.
However, in reading the report it is evident that the Inspectors have not come to their recommendations lightly, and from their perspective the recommendations relative to Green Belt policies are intended to bring the London Plan in line with national policy.
The Inspectors also insist that the matter of a Green Belt review must be considered in the light of their findings that “capacity within London is insufficient to meet the identified annual need for housing and the potential shortfall of industrial land in the medium to longer term”, emphasising the issue of competing land uses, and balancing the needs of a growing population against the protecting the fundamental aims of the Green Belt.
The Inspectors also raise difficult questions in respect of the considerable reliance on small sites, an approach which was not considered realistic, leading to recommendations to significantly reduce Borough targets for such sites. This stance, whilst appearing somewhat severe at first glance, is not unsurprising, given the difficulties that are often faced when bringing forward small sites for redevelopment, particularly in London, against the quantum of new dwellings that the new London Plan expected to be brought forward in this manner.
The shortfall in industrial land highlighted by the Inspectors will be familiar to anybody trying to find, for example, sites for logistics development in London, particularly in the inner boroughs, and therefore the attention given to this matter will be welcomed by those in the industry.
In summary, the matters raised by the Inspectors are quite significant and their view is clear that “it would be wrong to unilaterally rule out changes to the Green Belt”. However the report is equally candid in saying that the consequences of not adopting a London Plan would be worse than adopting one that does not meet the capital’s development needs. The ball is now in the Mayor’s court, and we await his response.
The RICS released the first ‘Professional Statement for Affordable Housing Viability’ in May 2019, which has been in effect since 01 September 2019. The ‘RICS First Edition of the Financial Viability in Planning: Conduct and Reporting’ is mandatory for all RICS members and sets out what must be included within all Financial Viability Assessments (FVA) and how the viability process must be conducted. The key changes that must now be incorporated when carrying out the viability process are relevant not just to viability practitioners, but also to developers and consultants that contribute to FVA submissions as part of the planning application process.
The statement was compiled against the background of the High Court decision in Parkhurst Road Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor  EWHC 991, which emphasised the need for clarity in relation to problems regularly occurring within the practice.
It has also been previously reported from various stakeholders in the sector that FVAs were of a varied standard. Namely, they don’t all include the required information to provide proper regard to all material facts and circumstances both area wide and scheme specific.
Whilst the statement focuses on the reporting and processes involved, more specific details on development viability in planning will be dealt with in the forthcoming second edition of the RICS guidance note ‘Financial Viability in Planning’. A few new and amended processes are detailed here.
Increasing the transparency of reported information has been a hot topic in viability over recent times and this statement increases the need to make FVAs public material during the planning application process. It states that FVAs must be prepared on the basis it will be made publically available. This should provide more clarity to the general public and should increase the trust that the viability process is being carried out in an appropriate manner. In addition, it is now mandatory that viability appraisals should be based on market information rather than client specific information.
Previously it was up to the developers’ consultants to provide the information to prove an appraisal input is justified when there was a disagreement. Whereas it now ensures that if a reviewer does not agree with an assumption they must provide a detailed summary of the differences, including the supporting or reasonable justification as to why there is a disagreement. This is of benefit to the developer as it should reduce the time spent negotiating disagreements as both sides will start with fully justified information rather than just a disagreement with no evidence.
To further ensure that all information is consistent, impartial and without interference, it is now a mandatory requirement that all contributors to reports utilised within the FVA process, both acting for developers or public authorities, must comply with the mandatory requirements within this document. It is the responsibility of the RICS member or firm carrying out the FVA to ensure that is carried out. This should help to improve the trust that all inputs of the FVA process are reasonable, justified and provided by a competent and capable individual or firm. By ensuring that all inputs are reasonable and provided by a competent practitioner the negotiating time of the FVA will be reduced.
As a partnership we have been adopting best practice guidance for many years but the production of this Professional Statement formalises the process that needs be followed in the preparation of FVA reports.
We carry out a large number of FVAs for our developer and landowner clients on sites of varying scale and quantum nationally and would be happy to assist with all matters in relation to both FVA report submissions and affordable housing matters.
In addition to this professional statement the RICS is producing a second edition of the guidance note Financial Viability in Planning (published in 2012), to reflect on the changes in the revised National Planning Policy Framework 2018 (updated February 2019) and the Planning Practice Guidance 2018 (updated May 2019). There is no date set for the publishing of this document but we continue to monitor the matter to ensure we adopt the most up-to-date and relevant guidance.
On 01 October the Government released a replacement suite of planning practice guidance relating to design, as a key part of its attempts to encourage better quality development. The release follows the interim report of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission a few months ago and was trialled at the Conservative Party Conference earlier in the week. Although the new guidance does not have the formal status of planning policy, it is nevertheless relevant to both policy making and decision taking.
National Design Guide
Arguably at the heart of the new guidance is a ‘National Design Guide’ (NDG), a 70 page document which is intended to build on the policies within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that encourage high quality development, specifically by:
- Defining ten characteristics of ‘beautiful, enduring and successful places’ with ‘looking forward’ checklists which include; the context and identity of different locations, natural and public spaces, efficiency in use of resources, and ensuring that development is ‘made to last’
- Setting a ‘common overarching framework’ within which specific, detailed and measurable design criteria can be produced at the local level
- The introduction of a National Model Design Code, which is intended to set the standard for local design guides and codes to be prepared by local authorities. However, the code itself is not included, instead it is confirmed that the draft code will be subject to consultation early next year, following the final reporting of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission in December.
On a practical level, it is clear that the Government wishes greater emphasis to be placed on the ‘story’ of the design evolution of development proposals, highlighting the role of design and access statements (which were brought in just over 10 years ago to address this matter in any event).
Other elements of the replacement guidance
The guidance framing the NDG includes further detail as to how the planning system should support well designed places. In addition to the NDG, the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) update includes:
- Clarification of the role of strategic and non-strategic policies, masterplans and design codes
- A commitment for local authorities to prepare a ‘Local Design Guide’ to be adopted as supplementary planning documents or appended to a neighbourhood plan
- A reiteration of the Government’s commitment to pre-application discussions, and guidance on planning application related documentation such as parameter plans (for outline applications) and Design and Access Statements (as flagged above)
- A commitment to community engagement on design matters and design review more generally.
It is clear that improving the quality of development design is a key Government aspiration for the planning system. However, in truth (and unsurprisingly, given the youth of the prime minister’s administration) this is at a very early stage. As matters stand the guidance, and in particular the NDG, deals with general concepts on a nationwide basis. In the short term, it can be anticipated that some local planning authorities will expect developers to design their schemes in a manner which clearly takes the NDG into account.
However, the new guidance and the NDG is likely to start in earnest once the National Model Design Code is published, and local authorities start to prepare their own Local Design Guide and Codes (albeit there is a question as to how many local planning authorities will have the resource and expertise to produce them).
More generally, if the design code approach promoted by the Government provides a greater degree of certainty in the planning process on a matter which is inherently subjective, this will no doubt be welcomed by landowners and developers. However, on the other hand, if not applied flexibly or geographically there is a danger that the national model design code approach promoted by the Government will create a level of prescription to development which is unjustified. This could result in monotonous development that does not take into account the unique physical context, history and the cultural characteristics of its location and surroundings.
Planning practice guidance (PPG) has been updated to reflect new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regulations that came into force on 1 September. Here are five key things you need to know about the changes.
- A section on ‘monitoring and reporting’ has been introduced.
- Councils are given autonomy over how they should consult when introducing a levy.
- More detail has been provided on how indexation should be applied to section 73 applications, which amend an existing planning permission.
- Guidance on spending CIL revenue has been revised.
- Authorities are explicitly advised that ‘charging authorities can use funds from both the levy and section 106 planning obligations to pay for the same piece of infrastructure.
Neil Jones, Partner in our Town Planning department, shares his views and comments on each of the above and how the updates might impact local authorities, developers and the general public alike.
The full article is on Planning Resource (4/9/2019).
Today’s statistical analysis from the ONS makes interesting reading. There was somewhat of a furore about a year ago when the ONS published – for the first time having taken over the statistical responsibility from MHCLG – the 2016-based Household Projection figures. These updated figures were interpreted by many to mean that fewer homes needed to be built than was previously thought. In particular, those arguing for lower levels of housebuilding saw the numbers as justification to scale back housing plans.
However, this approach risked undermining the government’s pledge to prioritise housebuilding and the overall national target of 300,000 new homes built every year. As a result, Government quickly stated that when calculating housing need, the previous2014-based Household Projections should be used. The primacy of the 2014-based figures was re-confirmed inupdates to the Planning Practice Guidance earlier in the year.
Given that today’s analysis concludes that the difference between the 2014 and 2016 figures were as a result of methodological improvements informing the latter, the issue looks likely to be a continued bone of contention between Local Authorities, developers and the government. Notwithstanding this, at least for now the 2014-based figures look likely to be the first port of call for the majority of base-line housing need calculations.
As featured in Planning Resource.
Rapleys’ Building Consultancy Group is pleased to introduce the most recent Associates’ to join the team.
Adam Reed, Bristol
Adam is a commercially driven chartered Building Surveyor who joins the team with a wealth of experience across a broad spectrum of building surveying services. Having a strong working knowledge of the regional market, and notably being a member of the BCO NextGen Committee for the South West region, will prove invaluable for the Bristol service line within the national Building Consultancy Group.
Adam is adept at providing the full range of commercial building surveyor services to clients including; technical due diligence, dilapidations, contract administration and CDM advisory. Recent projects have included CAT A office refurbishment and industrial contract administration. Each project has been approached professionally and client relationship management always prioritised, ultimately providing reasoned commercial advice and added value to each project.
Adam comments: ‘I am looking forward to getting involved in the wide-ranging projects and services that the whole Building Consultancy Group delivers at a national and regional level. My move to Rapleys comes as they go from strength to strength in the market and I am confident I can add further to the growth of the team and services.’
Jack Downing, Birmingham
Jack joins the Land Development Project Management service line within the Building Consultancy Group. This move follows experience leading the design and delivery of primary infrastructure on a range of mixed use developments nationally.
Bringing over ten years’ experience in infrastructure engineering, Jack is a qualified member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and has managed numerous land development and building schemes. With a strong track record in value led and outcome based design, Jack has a keen eye for delivery strategy whilst keeping a firm grip on the detail to ensure risks are managed and opportunities are realised.
Jack comments: ‘I am exciting to join the team and I feel there is a significant opportunity to build and expand our offering to clients. I am very much looking forward to playing a key role in residential and mixed use development sites and making use of Rapleys’ full range of property services. Delivering a client focused service has always been at the heart of my approach. I do this by investing the time to understand the client’s key drivers so I can ensure these are achieved and I will continue this as I progress here.’
Justin Tuckwell, Head of Building Consultancy, comments: ‘I am delighted to welcome both Adam and Jack to Rapleys. Their talent and skillsets were carefully considered to enable a continued, and improved, service to our clients. I am excited to support their careers and develop their skills. I am confident that with their combined experience and proven service delivery our position will be further strengthened in the market as the Building Consultancy Group continues to expand.’
‘Lookers car dealership boasts flat above – a one-off or a new mixed-use template, asks Nick Hughes’ – Property Week.
‘Standing three storeys tall beneath a block of modern apartments, Lookers in Battersea, south London, is not your average car dealership – on two counts. Not only is it the largest Volkswagen showroom in Europe, it is also part of what is thought to be the first UK mixed-use scheme to include a dealership.
The development has been the best part of a decade in the making and involves three key players: Lookers, developer Linden Homes and agent Rapleys, which brought the other two parties together.’
Angus Irvine, Head of Development Services, brought Lookers and Linden Homes together to achieve a balanced and innovative scheme in this desirable London postcode. Stretching back for several decades a dealership has occupied this site but Lookers Chief Executive, Andy Bruce, could see the dealership ‘being dwarfed by the rise of surrounding developments’ over the last few years. With no intention to sell the freehold of their site they turned to Rapleys to unlock the value in the land and in this area, the value was in upward development.
The result was a tower development scheme with 173 apartments and ‘a full-blown dealership with servicing. That’s why this is unique’ says Angus. To overcome the challenges the multi discipline Rapleys team, led by Angus, brought together experts from across the firm’s Development, Planning, Investment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.
Rapleys’ Neighbourly Matters team have been extensively involved in a mixed use redevelopment of a former brewery site in South Bristol.
The development, which was granted planning permission last week, comprises a residential led scheme of 94 new homes, with apartments arranged in two blocks of 7 and 8 storeys. With 2,000 sq m of co-working and commercial space also being provided on the site of the former Ashton Gate Brewery and Thomas Baynton’s Brewery with a number of the original buildings retained and refurbished.
Rapleys have been onboard since the early stages advising on Daylight & Sunlight Amenity, carrying out several analyses on a variety of neighbouring properties. Rapleys have also engaged early on in the design process, advising on Party Wall matters and will shortly be serving notices on the relevant adjoining properties for the demolition and construction phases.
The Old Brewery MCC LLP is a joint venture between Change Real Estate and Cannon Family Office.
Dan Tapscott, Partner, Head of Neighbourly Matters, comments: ‘This development has been a pleasure to get involved with; a variety of building types on a brownfield site with circa 35 neighbouring properties to consider is just the type of challenge our national Neighbourly Matters team are geared up for. The clients approach in enabling early engagement across the project team will ensure the effective delivery of the scheme.’
“Housing minister Kit Malthouse has announced the five successful bids to create new towns across England. Between them, these settlements could deliver 64,000 homes.
The communities will receive a share of £3.7 million in funding that aims to ‘fast-track’ specialist survey and planning works necessary for their development…
…Jason Lowes, a partner in the planning team at Rapleys, said the funding deal is further confirmation that garden communities ‘very clearly’ remain a key part of the government’s new homes strategy. While they should be welcomed in principle, Lowes said they are ‘by their nature a long-term solution and only part of the picture.’
‘Nearer-term solutions, such as the expansion of existing cities, towns and villages, are also critically important to ensure that people who want to can find new homes close to their families. This needs to be pursued through intensifying densities in appropriate locations, not least town centres, and reviewing the spaces around existing settlement boundaries – including, if necessary and appropriate, green belt land – particularly brownfield green belt land.'”
For the full article go to The Planner by clicking here.
Commercial property and planning consultancy Rapleys has advised Lookers PLC on the development of its new £10m dealership located on York Road, Battersea.
The 90,000 sq ft Volskwagen dealership forms part of a multi-million pound mixed-use joint venture between Lookers and Linden Homes. The state of the art dealership comprises the first three floors of the development, including significant amenity and customer experience space as well as a state-of-the-art automotive services department.
The multi discipline Rapleys team, led by partner Angus Irvine, brought together experts from across the firm’s Development, Planning, Investment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.
Principally this included a full planning and feasibility study, resulting in the unlocking of air rights to facilitate a multi-storey, mixed-use development comprising both the car dealership and a residential scheme. Rapleys identified and secured Linden Homes as the joint venture partner for the project, subsequently securing planning permission for the full commercial and residential scheme, to include 174 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, both private and affordable, across the fifteen storey, four tower development.
Rapleys also advised Lookers on relocating the existing dealership to an alternative site while works were being undertaken, to minimise any disruption to the day-to-day business.
Angus Irvine, Partner and head of Development, commented: “As competition for land, particularly in urban conurbations, increases, it is critical that investors and developers have a creative approach to maximising the value of their assets. Frequently this means changing or expanding uses and more often than not, building up rather than out. Lookers’ new dealership is a terrific example of this; maintaining and enhancing commercial operations while delivering much needed private and affordable housing in the heart of London courtesy of JV partner Linden Homes.”
As part of a series of announcements last week, the Government surprised many by replacing its national planning policies with a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). However, now that the dust has settled it looks like two of the other announcements, changes in National Planning Practice Guidance and the Government’s first annual reporting on its Housing Delivery Test, are nevertheless as, if not more, relevant.
Another National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
The original NPPF was published in 2012, and it took six years to be replaced in July 2018. Less than 9 months later, this document has now been superseded. However, the changes in the document appear, at first glance, to be minor at best. The substance of the changes can be summarised as follows:
• As a result of a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, a paragraph has been changed to make it clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the proposal will have a “significant effect” on a habitats site, unless an assessment has concluded that the proposal will not adversely effect the integrity of that habitats site (paragraph 177).
• A footnote has been amended to state that “where local housing need is used as the basis for assessing whether a five year supply of specific deliverable sites exists, it should be calculated using the standard method set out in national planning guidance” (footnote 37).
• An amendment to the glossary to confirm that non-major sites with outline consent should be presumed deliverable, unless there is evidence that they are not, effectively flipping the presumption for this type of development (definition of “deliverable sites”).
• A further glossary amendment to clarify that alternative approaches to the standardised method of calculating housing yield should only be used in policy making and not, for example, housing land supply statements (definition of “local housing need”).
All in all, the changes to the NPPF can be boiled down to; one change in the main body of the document, one footnote change and two glossary amendments. As such, they represent a tightening up of the 2018 version rather than indicating any broader change in approach.
On the positive side, planners across England will be heaving a sigh of relief that they don’t have to memorise another raft of paragraph numbers. However, the publication of such a similar policy document, so soon after the last one, raises the question of whether we can expect new NPPFs to be published on a regular basis.
Practice Guidance changes relative to calculating housing need
In an attempt to simplify the system, last year the Government introduced a standard method of calculating housing need, based on household projections. However, this was somewhat undermined by the publication, last autumn, of new household projections based on 2016 data, which suggested, when applied to the standard methodology, a housing need that was far below the Government’s nationwide aspirations.
The Government has since made it clear that these projections should not be used, preferring the earlier, 2014 based data. Last week’s change to practice guidance represents a further cementing of this position. However, this is likely to prove temporary as the Government is reviewing its methodology and we can expect further announcements on this later in the year.
Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results
HDT was introduced by the Government in the 2018 NPPF as a way of measuring the actual delivery of additional dwellings in a local authority area against need. The results of these tests are of high importance to both local authorities and developers; substantial under-delivery against the test triggers the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The results indicate that over a third were below the 100% pass rate and many were considerably lower. Of these, 87 of the worst performing local authorities will need to apply a 20% buffer when calculating housing need. In addition they, and a further 22 authorities, will need to produce “action plans” to remedy the situation.
The presumption in favour of sustainable development has not been triggered by any local authority yet, but this is because the threshold for substantial under-delivery is currently 25% of need. It will rise next year, and then again in 2020 to its final level of 75%. Around 20% of local authorities would currently fail against this yardstick.
The release of new national policies would normally be a major planning story, but in reality the changes are incremental and reflect government thinking that we were already aware of. The same is true of the changes to planning practice guidance.
In this context, the biggest takeaway of last week’s announcements is likely to prove the HDT results – these illustrate that housing delivery falls short (in some cases far short) of Government aspirations. Although this is hardly news in itself, local authorities will be under considerable (and growing) pressure to increase the numbers of new homes, particularly in the worst performing areas, with knock-on opportunities for developers and landowners.
If you would like to discuss how the planning system might add value to your property portfolio, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Property and planning consultancy Rapleys announces the launch of a new office in Cambridge. The new office is Rapleys’ second in Cambridgeshire, with the firm being founded in Huntingdon and maintaining a strong presence and heritage in region since 1951.
The Cambridge office consists of both professional advisory and transactional teams from across Rapleys’ service lines, delivering a joined-up, multi-disciplinary offering to clients in the region. Each team consists of professionals who live and work in the city, with strong established relationships across Cambridge’s range of complementary consultancy services.
Stuart Harris has been appointed Head of the Cambridge office, and joins Rapleys with more than 30 years’ experience working in the industry and region, including roles with Strutt & Parker and Carter Jonas.
Stuart, alongside the existing partnership, will be responsible for promoting and coordinating the delivery of the firm’s core property consultancy and town planning services in the city, including: Town Planning, Building Consultancy, Development, Affordable Housing & Viability, Commercial Agency, Landlord & Tenant and Investment.
Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, commented: “Our new Cambridge office, alongside the appointment of Stuart, represents a key further stage in Rapleys’ evolution, which builds on our long-established heritage, presence and reputation in the region going back to the founding of the firm in Huntingdon in 1951. We saw a real opportunity in Cambridge, which is undergoing substantial growth, and a market opening where we can bring in services – such as Affordable Housing and Viability, Strategic Land, Building Consultancy and Town Planning – which are currently underrepresented in the region or are subject to increasing demand. At the same time, our expanded footprint and capacity in the region further complements our national expansion programme – providing clients access to partner-led teams with both local expertise and UK-wide reach.”
Stuart Harris, Head of the Cambridge Office at Rapleys, added: “Principally I am delighted to join Rapleys at this exciting juncture. There are significant opportunities in Cambridge, which is rapidly increasing in commercial importance and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. This looks set to continue – not least driven by the wider strategic plan for the region including the Cambridge-Oxford arc and expressway – and we are seeing an increasing demand particularly for planning and consulting services from businesses seeking to capitalise on this growth. I look forward to working with the wider Rapleys team to help clients seize these opportunities.”
Rapleys’ Cambridge team can be contacted at 20 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD / 0370 777 6292.
Buoyed with revised forecasts from the OBR, the Chancellor certainly had more wiggle room on Budget day than many expected, but there are questions over how his despatch box announcements will impact the delivery of much needed new housing. In other news, the Government is gathering opinions on two key housing related initiatives.
In advance of the Budget, planning matters were heavily trailed, particularly in terms of promoting housing and rejuvenating the high street. However, perhaps inevitably, firm announcements were arguably a little thin on the ground.
In terms of housing, an extension (albeit a temporary one) of Help to Buy and the roll-out of backdated stamp duty relief for first time buyers of shared ownership property will likely provide a welcome boost to the voting public seeking to get on the property ladder. The stimulus package to support smaller house builders as well as strategic partnerships with nine Housing Associations across England will also be welcomed.
However, beyond this, a major focus relative to housing was on the publishing of the full recommendations of the Letwin review. Critically, Letwin found no evidence to support the allegations of so-called ‘Land Banking’ levelled against many developers. The real reasons behind the gap between planning consent and housing delivery are, as many planners would attest, far more complex (so complex, in fact, that the Government’s response will not be published until February next year).
Letwin’s recommendations relate particularly to the largest development sites (i.e. those with more than 1,500 homes) and would potentially see planning rules requiring developers to offer a range of “housing products” (which already happens to a large extent) and allowance for a bigger role for councils. When responding to the report, the government will need to be wary of making a complex system more complicated for developers and stretched local authorities.
As for the high street, the new reduction in Business Rates for certain small businesses is a welcome move but, at the same time, those retailers who have had difficult times recently would not blame this factor alone – rates are an important, though singular, piece of this puzzle. In terms of planning, the chief response was the announcement of a consultation to further extend permitted development rights – further details below.
Consultation 1: “Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes”
Although this consultation takes in a number of matters, such as reforms to how local authorities can dispose of surplus land and compulsory purchase guidance for new town development corporations, the most eye-catching part of this consultation is proposed extensions to permitted development rights.
- Greater flexibility relative to land use in the high street – although the only new suggestion relevant to the delivery of housing is the suggested ability to change the use of takeaway premises to residential without planning permission, which will surely have, at best, a limited impact.
- The ability to add floors to existing development (potentially up to five storeys) without the need for planning permission – although, reading between the lines, the tension between this initiative and how it would take local circumstances into consideration is exercising the Government.
- The ability to demolish commercial buildings and redevelop sites as residential without planning permission – this would, potentially, be a major step, and if implemented is likely to be highly restricted/controlled.
- Other matters, including increasing the scope of permitted development in terms of electric charging, and a proposal to make permanent some temporary measures, specifically the ability to change storage and distribution facilities to residential use and residential extensions.
All in all, the consultation suggests some fairly sweeping changes relative to the delivery of housing. However, in our view it falls short in terms of land use in the High Street – many were hoping for a further widening of permitted development relative to converting shops to residential. Comments on the proposal are sought before 14 January 2019.
Consultation 2: “Technical consultation to updates to national planning policy and guidance”
Announced the Friday before the Budget, the Government is also seeking views on matters relative to national planning policy. Given that the NPPF was only adopted in July, it might seem slightly counter-intuitive to be considering changes already, however as much as anything this consultation is about how local authorities should consider housing need through the planning policy process, in light of the household projections, based on 2016 data, released by the ONS in September.
As suggested by the title, the consultation is somewhat technical, but the broad background to this is the Government’s moves to standardise the calculation of housing need across England (Standard Objectively Assessed Need, or SOAN). Using the Government’s methodology, SOAN is calculated using household projections as a starting point. However, the latest household projections were seen as putting a spanner in the works, as in many places the resulting SOAN calculations resulted in a significant drop in numbers, in sum falling far short of the Government’s aspirations to deliver 300,000 new homes per year.
For those following this closely, the headlines are:
- For the short term, 2014-based household projections should be used as the demographic baseline (not the aforementioned, and lower, 2016-based projections).
- It is clarified that the 2016-based projections cannot be used as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to justify a departure from the standard methodology.
- In the long term the standard methodology will be reviewed to support the aspiration of delivering 300,000 dwellings a year.
Other matters included within the consultation include defining “deliverable” in terms of housing, and a suggestion that the assumption in favour of sustainable development should still apply for development requiring a Habitats Regulation Assessment, if there is no adverse effect. Comments are sought before 7 December 2018.
If you would like to respond to the consultations, or discuss the Government’s changes to the planning system further (and in particular explore how they could add value to your property portfolio), please get in touch.
Jason’s comments were cited further in CityAM 30 October 2018 – click here
As part of emerging growth plans for the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc, which includes the £215 million Growth Deal for Oxfordshire announced in late 2017, the Government has published a plan showing the broad alignment of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, a key component of its future growth strategy for the Arc.
The Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc is one of the most economically successful in the country and competes internationally for high-tech and science investment. Following a request from the Government, the National Infrastructure Commission investigated ways to maximise the potential of the area. The report subsequently published in November 2017, concluded that rates of house building in the area will need to double if the arc is to achieve its economic potential.
The absence of a direct dual carriageway link between Oxford and Cambridge had been recognised as a significant infrastructure barrier and constraint to growth. To address this, in November 2016, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study Stage 3 Report (Highways England/Department of Transport) was published and identified three corridor options for further assessment:
- Option A: a northern option, roughly following the existing A421 to the south of Bicester and via Buckingham to the east of Milton Keynes.
- Option B: a central option, following the east-west rail corridor.
- Option C: a southern option via Aylesbury, linking to the M1 south of Milton Keynes.
A decision on the preferred corridor option for the expressway has been eagerly awaited by the development industry. There are areas within this corridor and in close proximity to the expressway, that will in future become natural locations for strategic housing and employment growth that will be identified in future Local Plans. The announcement this week, that Option B is the preferred broad alignment will help to define the parameters of this critical growth axis and establish areas of search for long term strategic development opportunities.
Rapleys has significant experience in undertaking site searches and identifying long term strategic development opportunities. For further information please contact either Tony Clements or Dan Sharp.
On 6 April 2018, updated planning regulations came into force which allow for larger scale residential development to take place through the conversion of agricultural buildings, without the need for planning permission.
The amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 (SI 2018 no. 343) extended the permitted development rights in relation to agricultural buildings.
Permitted development rights allow for certain types of development and changes of use to be carried out without the need to submit a planning application.
Previous permitted development rights
Under the previous regulations (2015), agricultural buildings could be converted to residential dwellings, via permitted development rights, as long as the conversion did not create more than 3no. dwellings and no single dwelling could have a maximum floor space above 450 sq.m.
Permitted development rights now
The new regulations (2018) increase the number of houses that can be created from the conversion of agricultural buildings without the need for planning permission. Agricultural buildings can now be converted to provide:
- 5no. small scale dwellings with a max floor space of 100 sq m; or
- 3no. larger dwellings with a max floor space of 465 sq m; or
- 5no. dwellings comprising 3no. large dwellings (a max floor space of 465 sq m) and 2no. small dwellings with a max floorspace of 100 sq m
What does this mean for land owners & developers?
The Government anticipates that the new regulations will result in an increase in the number of new homes created through the conversion of agricultural buildings. It is hoped that this will positively contribute to the supply of homes to meet local needs and result in the delivery of new houses which safeguard the character of local areas.
The changes to the regulations allow land owners and developers greater flexibility when considering the conversion of agricultural buildings both in terms of the number of new houses which can be created and the size of the dwellings. This in turn, should create more opportunities for small scale residential development within rural areas.
Whilst a planning application to convert an agricultural building to residential use is not required if the proposal meets the criteria set out above, along with some more detailed criteria, it will still be necessary to apply for prior approval from the Local Planning Authority to confirm that specified elements of the development are acceptable.
If you require further information or advice on how you might benefit from the new regulations, please contact Neil.
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations come into force in two months’ time. From 1 April 2018, commercial properties must have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘E’ or above in order to be let. The MEES regulations will apply to the renewal of existing leases and may also have an impact upon future lease events, such as rent reviews and break options occurring after 1 April 2018.
The changes in MEES regulations are likely to affect property owners and existing tenants throughout the UK. So, to minimise the impact, forthcoming lease event dates for any sub-standard property should be identified quickly.
Firstly, landlords would be well advised to ensure that lease renewals for properties with an ‘F’ or ‘G’ rating are completed before the MEES regulations become mandatory on 1 April 2018.
Landlords should also ensure that new leases restrict a tenant from obtaining a new EPC, other than for when one is actually required i.e. in connection with an assignment or the grant of a subletting. This is because a new ‘F’ or ‘G’ rated EPC obtained by the tenant may place an obligation upon the landlord to carry out improvement works in order to bring a sub-standard property up to the minimum ‘E’ rating. Equally, landlords should ensure that sufficient rights are reserved in new leases to enable them to enter the premises in order to carry out any works that may be required.
Where existing leases contain breaks which may be effective after 1 April 2018, we would advise landlords to establish that the EPC rating of the property is ‘E’ or above. Again, if this was found to be sub-standard it would place an obligation on the landlord to carry out improvements to enable the property to be re-let. Tenants will no doubt appreciate that this situation could also assist them during negotiations with the landlord over whether or not to exercise a break.
For ‘F’ or ‘G’ rated properties that are subject to rent reviews occurring after 1 April 2018, whilst a letting might not be possible in the real world without energy efficiency improvements being carried out, a number of questions may arise in the hypothetical world of the rent review:
- Where the lease provides an assumption that the tenant has complied with its covenants and/or statutory obligations, this would effectively result in an assumed increase in the EPC rating to ‘E’. In this case, the landlord of a sub-standard property may seek to achieve a higher rent than that which might ordinarily be possible.
- A tenant may argue that the rental value should be reduced because the landlord will not, in reality, be able to let a sub-standard property.
- Where the cost of energy efficiency improvements carried out by the landlord is recoverable through a service charge, the tenant may seek to adjust their rental bid to reflect this situation.
It is therefore essential for both property owners and tenants alike to consider the impact the MEES regulations will have on future lease events.
Rapleys can help with this and if you require any further information, please contact Tim Holt.
We are continuing our expansion in the Midlands with the latest appointment of a new partner, Tony Clements, to establish and lead the town planning team in our Birmingham office.
Tony Clements joins from GL Hearn where he spent the last three years leading the regional planning teams. Tony’s appointment means Rapleys now offers dedicated retail & leisure, development, building consultancy and planning services to the Midlands area. The Birmingham office was opened in 2016 and is quickly expanding to reach the ambition of covering the full range of services for developer, investor, landlord and occupier clients.
Tony has over twenty years’ experience as a professional planner and is an experienced expert witness. He has advised a wide range of private and public sector clients across a variety of sectors and has acted on a number of high-profile planning projects.
Tony has a strong track-record promoting large scale residential developments for many of the UK’s largest home builders.
Tony states: “I am excited to be joining the planning team at Rapleys at a time when there are significant opportunities to build on and expand our offer to clients in terms of technical capabilities, sector expertise and geographical coverage. I’m very much looking forward to carrying through the planning process a range of residential and mixed-use development projects that I have been working on across the midlands and nationally.
Delivering a client focused service has always been at the heart of my approach to planning consultancy and I am delighted to join a progressive and expanding team within a highly respected, independent property consultancy.”
Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, states: “I am pleased to welcome Tony to the partnership. He brings a wealth of experience in managing and promoting residential and commercial schemes through the planning system. He will, undoubtedly, foster and contribute to our ever expanding national planning business with a focus on the midlands market.”
A common project objective is completing construction work as quickly as possible, but it is key to choose an appropriate form of construction that optimises time on site without compromising the quality of the design or the end product. Modular construction is the quickest means of delivering a new building and, with the latest technical innovations, is also capable of delivering high quality.
Modular construction, which involves buildings being constructed off site with pre-fabricated components, became popular after the Second World War when there was huge demand for new buildings – particularly dwellings – to replace bomb damaged structures.
While modular and pre-fabricated construction successfully satisfied the requirement for buildings to be completed quickly, a common perception was that the quality of finish, aesthetic appearance and durability were not so readily achieved. This point of view continued during the following decades with people typically associating modular construction with poor quality buildings such as cold, damp and draughty temporary classrooms.
However, over recent years technical innovation and advancements in design and production techniques have meant that modular buildings can now be bigger, more flexible and achieve higher aesthetic and quality standards. This has resulted in a resurgence in both popularity and acceptance.
A high profile recent example of the speed with which modular buildings can be completed is the temporary school, known as KAA2, which was required to accommodate 960 pupils following the Grenfell Tower fire. The new school, constructed of 210 modular units, was completed by modular experts, Portakabin, just 13 weeks after project inception.
While speed of construction on site remains the main advantage of modular buildings over more traditional forms of construction, the other benefits typically include:
- More programme certainty with construction being less susceptible to adverse weather conditions
- Improved quality control achieved through standardisation, repetition and fabrication processes being undertaken in a factory controlled environment
- Reduced cost through supply chain management, economies of scale and reduction of waste
- Brand consistency – particularly appealing for occupiers with a corporate identity eg. restaurant and retail chains
- Improved sustainability and environmental credentials resulting from reduced resource inputs and less waste material – the charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has reported that off-site fabrication can reduce waste on site by up to 90% when compared to traditional construction
- Provide suitable temporary accommodation on sites where major refurbishment or redevelopment is to take place on owner occupied buildings
While modular construction does provide clear benefits, there are also downsides that need to be fully considered and mitigated:
- Rigorous pre-planning is required to ensure that a coordinated and integrated fabrication and construction sequence is agreed at the earliest opportunity.
- Before fabrication commences, the design should be checked to ensure compliance with the brief. Design changes during fabrication, or worse still on-site, will be increasingly costly.
- A lack of coordination during the design and installation stages will lead to delays and cost increases that will negate the benefits of implementing a modular approach.
There are also other ways this construction method can be utilised if full modularity is not appropriate or viable. Elements of prefabrication, such as bathroom and kitchen pods, can be incorporated into more traditional building designs to derive some of the pros without the cons.
We regularly help clients find the best form of construction for their projects and project manage the instruction through to completion. If you would like any help or advice on your next construction project, please contact Alastair Bliss.
Demand for care homes throughout the UK remains very strong despite the fragmented nature of the market. The majority of development activity is in the ‘for profit’ sector and is aimed at private customers in the more affluent parts of the country.
Demand for additional care home beds is predicted to rise steadily over the next decade with some experts suggesting a requirement of close to 7000 new places per annum, reflecting the UK’s ageing population.
With this underlying and consistent demand it is unsurprising that care home investors and developers are actively seeking new sites in good regional locations across the country.
Operators typically offer a range of care options for customers. These include; nursing care, dementia care, residential care, day care and personal care. The main differences between these types of care home is the level and quality of care provided, although some of the larger homes will provide a range of care solutions under one roof. The basic principle being that the higher the level of care required the higher the annual cost.
Care home development
The majority of new care home developments have a capacity of between 60 and 100 beds with associated car parking. In planning terms it is a C2 use classification and in general terms it can be regarded as a ‘soft’ planning use owing to the low traffic generation and the general nature of the use itself. Care homes are also employment generating (unlike standard housing) and this can assist with change of use arguments on former employment sites. Typically, the more intensive the care provided the higher the employment generated.
The high consumer demand and current under-supply has resulted in an increasing number of developers seeking new opportunities for care home development, which in turn has led to an increase in prices being paid for new opportunities. The requirements are typically 1-3 acres in area and can be located on the edge of town centres or suburban locations in areas with strong financial demographics.
Prominence is not essential but sites with good frontage to main roads and close to local amenities are highly desirable. Some examples of suitable properties include former car dealerships, large pubs, and industrial premises.
Rapleys has been successful in identifying and acquiring a number of sites on behalf of care home developers and we urgently seek additional development opportunities. If you have any surplus land/sites that would be suitable for a care home please contact Alun Jones.
The Government has announced that all local authorities will need to produce up-to-date registers of brownfield sites available for housing, and that guidance to this effect will be issued around June this year. It has also confirmed that legislation about “Permissions in Principle” will follow later in the year to simplify the planning process for developers. While still understandably light on detail, the government’s proposals to streamline development of brownfield land is welcome progress. Both permission in principle and the launch of brownfield registers do bring the potential to more efficiently bring sites on stream although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.
Taken together, the new mechanisms have the potential to lower the initial hurdle of bringing forward development through the planning system, and this has to be supported. Further, the owners particularly of small and medium sized sites would no doubt be pleased with a relatively simple method of getting on the planning ladder, and provide them with early confidence to further investigate the potential of their land.
Of course, the success of this venture very much depends on Local Authorities’ ability to keep the register up-to-date and implement the new permission in principle regulations. This has the potential to be a real administrative challenge and will require careful management to ensure the opportunity to increase the delivery of housing isn’t missed.
If you have or are aware of any previously developed land that might benefit from being on a brownfield register, or potentially from a “permission in principle”, Jason Lowes or one of our nationwide team would be happy to discuss this further.
The new Mayor of London has issued his draft ‘Homes for Londoners: Affordable Housing & Viability SPG 2016’ for public consultation. It is the first formal guidance document issued by the new Mayor since his election earlier this year, and represents the first steps towards a new London Plan (which he hopes to have adopted by 2019).
It does not go as far as his manifesto pledges for all new schemes to provide 50% affordable housing, although this figure is retained as a city-wide target. Beyond this, the details of the SPG do not come as a surprise and follow on from the aspirations of the London Borough Development Viability Protocol published earlier this year.
The SPG focuses on affordable housing and viability and includes four distinct parts: background and approach; the threshold approach to viability appraisals; detailed guidance on viability assessments; and a specific approach to Build to Rent schemes. Whilst it is currently just in draft and, even if it is adopted, it cannot introduce new policy, it nevertheless provides relatively detailed guidance for Local Authorities in decision making.
Given that more than half of London boroughs are Labour controlled, one can expect many of them to start referring to it in pre- and post-application discussions in short order. Further, for schemes that are referable to the Mayor, it provides a clear indication of the Greater London Authority’s attitude to any affordable housing offer.
The overarching ambition is to boost the overall supply of new homes by making the planning system clearer, quicker and more consistent, and speed up the process for schemes that deliver higher levels of affordable housing. It outlines a carrot and stick approach in that it will aim to reward those developers who deliver 35% affordable housing or more but makes the viability process and subsequent review mechanisms more onerous for those schemes that propose less than 35%.
The Mayor’s view is that the national Vacant Building Credit (VBC) policy should not apply within London – not surprising, under the circumstances, but it will be interesting to see how this pans out given the Government’s ongoing commitment to VBC.
There is a clear drive for all Financial Viability Assessments (FVA) to be made available to the public. Applicants will have the opportunity to argue that limited elements should be kept undisclosed, but the clear onus is on the applicant to make this case.
The Mayor’s preference for using “Existing Use Value Plus” as the comparable Benchmark Land Value when assessing the viability of a proposed scheme is explicit in the SPG. The premium above Existing Use Value will be considered on a site-by-site basis.
The SPG provides specific guidance on Build to Rent developments, recognising that they differ to the traditional Build for Sale model. There is guidance on the requirements for covenant and clawback arrangements if units are sold out of the Build to Rent sector. It also sets out an alternative pathway which applicants can choose to follow that promotes London Living Rents (or similar discounted Market Rent).
Comments on the draft SPG need to be with the Mayor by 28 February. If you would like to discuss the impact of the draft SPG on your proposals, or would like our help in getting your views across in representations, please contact Nick Fell, Partner and Head of Affordable Housing & Viability, email@example.com or Jason Lowes, Partner in the Planning Team, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chancellor presented the Autumn Statement on Wednesday 23 November with some announcements impacting the property and development markets. Rapleys wraps up the key points below.
Despite including housing in one of the four key areas to be targeted by the £23bn of spending generated from the NPIF to 2021/22, the Statement failed to deliver a silver bullet for housing delivery. We will await the much anticipated Housing White Paper to deliver the detail.
The focus on investment in traditional and technological infrastructure is, however, welcomed. It is often these areas which act as ‘pinch points’ in themselves for both economic and residential development capacity. The commitment of £2.3bn investment in infrastructure to unlock potential for 100,00 new homes in areas of high demand, can only be welcomed as a fiscal aid to support viability. However, it’s questionable whether the proposed £23,000 per plot is an efficient approach.
Similarly, the support to increase affordable housing delivery is much needed but there was an absence of detail in how this will represent an effective approach in light of the 1m home target over the parliament, which is well short of its objective.
Of potential significance is the commitment to relax restrictions on government grants to allow providers to deliver a wider range of housing, which could translate into a stimulus in starter home delivery and Private Rented Sector accommodation.
However, it is the commitment to the balance of budget and investment, with focus on new infrastructure delivery to provide an environment to support economic and residential growth which will be the headline of the statement for the development industry, alongside the requirement for Local Councils to make tough decisions on the location of development.
Ben Read | 07747 757639
The Chancellor’s announcements in relation to the housing market appear to be shifting away from the previous Chancellor’s almost entire focus on home ownership, to a more balanced housing market. The RICS have reacted positively to the announcements on increased investment for affordable housing, particularly for affordable rent.
Alongside the £2.3bn to be spent on infrastructure, the government also committed to an additional £1.4bn to be spent on affordable housing, which is in addition to the £4.7bn that was previously announced. The money will help fund an additional 40,000affordable homes. The Government has also lifted the restrictions limiting the funding to homeownership products. This is a clear indication of a shift back towards a more balanced housing market to take into account the decline in home ownership and increasing importance of good quality rental stock.
Nick Fell | 07964 558697
For business rates, there were limited announcements from the Chancellor. The most revealing announcement was confirmation that rates bills will go up by a maximum of 43% year on year in 2017/18, and a further 32% the year after for those RVs over £100,000. These were pitched as a saving from 45% and 50% respectively, but these were figures out to consultation only and still represent increases more than 20 times the current rate of inflation—once again leaving businesses short changed.
He confirmed a previously announced scheme offering rate relief to the hard pressed Oil and Gas exploration sector, and a doubling of Rural Rate Relief to 100% from 50%. The announcement that new fibre optic broadband infrastructure will benefit from 100% relief for 5 years will benefit BT Openreach significantly, but very few others.
Alan Watson | 07917 352428
The continued focus of the Autumn Statement on the development of housing indicates that the trend of existing office and industrial floorspace and land supply being lost to residential use is set to continue. The consequence will be growth in office and industrial land prices and a strong growth in rents.
Colin Steele | 07860 749034
The key impact to the Scottish market will come via the City Deal funding announcement which will bring economic growth and development to infrastructure and strategic projects. A City Deal agreement for Edinburgh is confirmed, proposals from Perth and Dundee are being considered and talks will begin shortly on Stirling.
The Chancellor stating that every city in Scotland will be on course for a City Deal gives local areas greater powers and freedoms to help support economic growth, create jobs or invest in local projects.
Neil Gray | 07467 955228
The Chancellor stated that insurance premium tax (standard rate) will increase from 10% to 12% which will see this type of tax doubling within 2 years. This will lead to additional expenditure on buildings insurance and we expect those with large property portfolios to be significantly hit.
The announced increase in the national living wage to £7.50 from April 2017 will also cause an impact to property management costs as it is highly likely that we will see contractors (receptionist, security, landscaping providers etc) passing this cost onto their customers meaning landlords and tenants should prepare themselves for increased service charge budgets and expenditure.
However, the Carbon Price Support will be capped to 2020 which should reduce the increase seen on energy bills for end consumers, helping reduce the expenditure seen on utilities.
Mark Coles | 07785 522956
Please contact a member of the team if you would like more information on the Autumn Statement and the impact it may have on your property or portfolio.
More permitted development on the way
Further changes to permitted development will come into force on 6 April, the most important being:
Office to residential
As previously announced, the right to change the use of most office space to residential without planning permission is to become permanent. It will continue to be subject to a prior approval procedure, albeit this will be extended to consider the impact of noise on new residents.
Current non-geographic exceptions will remain in perpetuity, but geographic exceptions (including Central London and Manchester city centre) will expire in May 2019, although one can expect many of the local authorities affected to promote Article 4 directions to retail the restrictions beyond this.
Interestingly, there is no mention at present about the idea mooted last autumn of extending permitted development to include demolition and redevelopment of office buildings for housing. This was quite a radical proposal, raising many questions about how it might be implemented – the government may feel that it needs more time to consider this.
Light industrial to residential
A new three-year temporary permitted development right for changes of use from light industrial to residential will come into force on 1 October 2017. Beyond its temporary nature, there are a number of other restrictions imposed, including:
- A floorspace limit of buildings less than 500sqm;
- Evidence will be required that the building was used solely for light industrial purposes on 19 March 2014 (or, if the light industrial use was established but the building was vacant in March 2014, the date the building was last in that use would be relevant), and
- Whether the site is identified as being particularly sensitive (for example, listed buildings, scheduled monuments or in a site of special scientific interest).
- Prior approval will be required relative to flood risk, contamination and transportation considerations. In addition, the prior approval process will include consideration of the impact of the change of use on surrounding light industrial operations, where these are deemed to be “important”. Prior approval must be granted before 1 October 2020, and development must be completed within three years of the prior approval date
Office to residential conversions have proved popular with developers – according to government figures, almost 4,000 conversions were approved between April 2014 and June last year and no doubt the extension of this right in perpetuity will also be welcomed. However, the change of use from light industrial floorspace may not prove as popular, given the restrictions improved (not least on floorspace), and the level of additional work that might be required to render sites fit for habitation. Further, it will also be interesting to see how local authorities will define areas that are considered “important” for light industrial use – from past experience, some local authorities may take a very broad view.
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The Scottish Government has issued Draft Planning Delivery Advice on “Housing and Infrastructure”. This has come as a result of the “root and branch” review of Scottish planning. The Government has commissioned a separate study on housing and infrastructure to tackle one of the practical issues of the current shortage of housing.
The draft advice is concerned with improving housing and infrastructure delivery primarily through the development plan process, but it will also be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications and appeals. Once finalised, it will replace Planning Advice Note (PAN) 2/2010.
Developers have found delivery of housebuilding in Scotland has become increasingly challenging in recent years. There has been a reduction in completion rates and shortage of deliverable sites coming forward. This guidance seeks to improve the way in which this is handled.
The document sets out that there should be a lesser focus on numbers of houses planned. Instead a stronger emphasis be given to delivery of houses, providing levels of what is required to meet current demand, but also to prepare for the future in places which can successfully evolve and grow over time. The advice addresses the issue of effectiveness (i.e. how a planned site performs) and in doing so identifies a number of criteria against which the effectiveness of a proposed housing site will be assessed. The most notable change is the removal of marketability as one of the effectiveness criteria. Is this an admission that previously identified sites were not attractive for housebuilders and buyers?
In terms of Infrastructure, emphasis is given to partnership working, with a focus on working with stakeholders and agencies in “Delivery Groups”. The advice states that the costing of infrastructure developments should be explored as early as possible to ensure that the correct funding is in place to achieve delivery. The advice suggests this can be done, in a number of traditional methods, for example, Planning Agreement, Developer Contribution, Scale or Kind, but also new approaches such as Cumulative Contributions, thought to be particularly useful for strategic projects.
We consider this a welcome approach given that the most attractive sites currently appear to be smaller but more deliverable.
Rapleys is working with a number of landowners, housebuilders, and housing providers in Scotland and we look forward to putting our practical experience to use on these projects when the new guidance is adopted.
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Hot on the heels of the consultation on changes to the NPPF, the Government reforms of the planning system continue. Specifically, two further consultations were launched late last week on initiatives to speed up the planning system and bring forward new housing. Comments are being accepted on both consultations until the 15 April 2016.
Nationwide changes to simplify and speed up the system
Under the seemingly innocuous title of “Technical Consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes” the Government is seeking views on some potentially radical proposals, not least “fast-tracking” and introducing competition to the processing of planning applications (although decision-making will stay with local councils). Other matters include:
- Further proposed details for the procedures for “permission in principle” (PiP) and subsequent “technical details consent” (TDC). This includes an indication of the matters to be addressed by each process – location, use and amount of residential development will be addressed at PiP stage, with matters such as design and infrastructure at TDC stage. Additional detail includes proposals relative to timescales and the scope of information required to make applications.
- Additional detail relative to “brownfield registers”, which local authorities will need to prepare and should include all brownfield land except land that has no realistic prospect of being used for housing.
- Options to raise planning application fees, but linked to performance.
- More detailed proposals on the circumstances under which the Government would intervene in the local plan process.
The consultation document is wide-ranging and begins to add much-needed detail to the operation of the Housing and Planning Bill. Nevertheless, gaps remain on how the Government’s flagship planning legislation will be implemented and everyone involved in the planning system (and particularly local authorities) will be looking at future detail with a magnifying glass.
Building upwards in London
In the interests of reducing the take up of green belt land for housing, the Government and Greater London Authority want to make it easier to add height to existing buildings in London, suggesting the following options:
- Permitted development, under a prior approval procedure, for additional storeys up to the height of an adjoining roofline but there will be limits and exceptions, and neighbours will still need to be consulted;
- Local development orders, in specific areas to be defined;
- A new policy in the London Plan to support additional storeys, where a site specific planning permission application is still required.
Although the proposals are to be welcomed, it is arguable how much of a change this measure represents, given the levels of identified housing need in the capital.
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