Chelgate Local Newsletter – March 2019
Marching into Spring: Rosewell Review, focus on micro-homes, Housing Delivery Test, and importance of infrastructure
Rosewell ‘appeals’ for quicker decisions
By Kasia Banas, Consultant
The time taken to determine planning appeals could be cut by almost half, a Government-commissioned review has found.
In the report published on 12 February 2019, Bridget Rosewell CBE concluded that the average duration of the process could be “slashed” from 47 weeks to around 26 weeks. She found that “outdated administrative processes and poor IT infrastructure were unnecessarily holding up cases”, and “a lack of suitably qualified inspectors was also hampering efforts to set up inquiry hearings on time”.
The report does not advocate for an overhaul of the process but focuses on building on its existing strengths. It makes 22 recommendations and calls for improvements in areas of early engagement by all stakeholders, greater certainty about timescales, and employing technology to increase efficiency and transparency. Some of the measures include launching an online portal for the submission of inquiry appeals or preparing a strategy for hiring additional inspectors.
Response so far
The Planning Inspectorate has welcomed the report and will be working to prepare an implementation plan for delivery of its recommendations.
The formal response from MHCLG can be expected later in the year but housing secretary James Brokenshire has said that this “fantastic report” gives the government “a clear direction of travel on how we can ensure the appeals inquiry process is fit for purpose”. He expects that speeding up the decision-making process will ensure the delivery of more homes, in the right places, and will help the government reach its target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
While reactions to the report from the sector have been largely positive, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, expressed his concerns over the effect the tighter deadlines might have on inspectors’ ability to visit local communities and assess circumstances on the ground.
The Planning Inspectorate granted planning permissions for around 30,000 new homes through the appeals process last year. Hopefully implementation of Rosewell’s proposals will result in a more efficient delivery of the much-needed homes, while weeding out the low-quality schemes.
Micro-housing under the microscope
By Vivienne Shirley, Senior Consultant
As Londoners spend almost a third of income on rent, and the number of homeowners under 45 falls by almost a million from 2010 to 2016, is it time to look at micro-homes?
The housing crisis shows no signs of abating, with the number of homeless people who have died on the streets or in temporary accommodation in the UK more than doubled over the last five years. Policies such as Help to Buy and Right to Buy garner positive soundbites for the government but may not actually be helping the situation. Meanwhile, average house prices have quintupled over the last 50 years. As the sector explores new ways to provide truly affordable housing, the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) has released a controversial new report arguing micro-homes could be part of the solution.
The report points out that many Londoners are ‘forced to endure long commutes, live in overcrowded shared flats, or leave the city’, as housebuilding fails to keep up with population growth. By scrapping space requirements for flats to allow the creation of ‘micro-housing’ – homes smaller than the nationally-mandated minimum 37m2 of floor space – young professionals who value location over size could live centrally at an affordable price. While author Vera Kichanova admits micro-housing would not suit everyone, she argues it would expand the home options for city dwellers and consist of custom-designed units that make good use of space, often accompanied by communal amenities.
Co-living comes forward
Micro-housing overlaps heavily with co-living, in which residents generally live in studios with en-suite bathrooms, and get the use of the building’s communal facilities such as gym, bar and cinema. Co-living is therefore a sociable option for renters, with several schemes already up and running in London having innovated around the planning system.
However, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) only counts co-living homes as part of councils’ five-year housing land supply in so far as they release ‘traditional’ homes to the market – which likely leads councils to discriminate against co-living schemes. Another issue is the fact that co-living does not have residential use classification, making it harder to carve up and sell properties. Kichanova notes the new draft London Plan sets no minimum space standard for co-living units, but argues its definition of co-living is too narrow and introduces arbitrary rules – many micro-housing schemes would not qualify.
Impact on mental health
After housing, another major crisis facing young people today is loneliness, with research by the Mental Health Foundation showing that loneliness was a greater concern for 18 to 34-year-olds than over-55s. With the rise of social media and uncertain working and living conditions, perhaps this is not surprising. While co-living schemes aim to help with this – for example, The Collective Old Oak in London, the world’s biggest co-living development, runs yoga classes, film nights, and running clubs – there are concerns that micro-homes that lack communal areas could fuel mental health issues. Anecdotal evidence describes people living in confined spaces feeling claustrophobic, chaotic and embarrassed to invite people over. However, there is not yet enough research to show if well-designed, purpose-built units would have as negative an effect.
Money money money
While the report argues that micro-homes would enable people to live centrally at an affordable cost, the evidence of existing co-living schemes suggests otherwise. They are often expensive – the smallest rooms at Old Oak cost upwards of £850 pcm – and do not require affordable housing provision. While micro-housing schemes that lack communal facilities would likely be cheaper than co-living developments, it is unclear how much cheaper – and some fear that scrapping minimum size requirements would simply lead to developers squeezing in more units and upping profit, while lowering quality and space. Though rent levels might be lower per flat, they could be higher per square metre than under existing rules.
As the country continues to grapple with the housing crisis, it remains to be seen whether policy-makers embrace micro-housing as part of the solution or reject ‘rabbit hutch’ housing.
Crunch time as over 100 councils fail Housing Delivery Test
By Daniel Fryd, Senior Consultant
The results of the first MHCLG Housing Delivery Test – long touted as the mechanism that would hold councils to account for their failure to build new homes – were finally revealed in February.
Over 100 councils will have to take action following the results of the test, with 87 having to identify 20% more land in their local plans to build new homes on. This is clearly not an insignificant uplift, so the impact on authorities including Harlow, Mole Valley, East Hertfordshire, Guildford, Basildon and Ipswich is expected to be marked.
The remaining councils will have to put together an action plan setting out how they will ramp up delivery and meet their housing need in the future.
What is the test?
The housing delivery test is MHCLG’s method for checking whether local authorities are providing the right number homes for their area. The test results set out the percentage of new homes delivered, against the number required over the past three years.
Under the guidelines which were first shared in the revised NPPF, authorities providing under 95% need to produce an action plan, those under 85% have to add the 20% buffer, and those under 25% face the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development.
No authorities face the harshest punishment yet, but that is all set to change in November when the minimum bar is raised for councils up to 45%.
Feeling the squeeze
Seven councils are currently on course to fall below the 45% threshold which comes into force in November, unless they record a significant increase in new homes this year. This includes Redbridge (38%), Barking & Dagenham (43%) and Thanet Council (44%), which are all among the worst performing authorities with woefully low delivery percentages.
If they do not seriously look at sensibly delivering many more homes in their area over the next year, they face opening themselves up to speculative development through the presumption in favour of development.
These measures, alongside tough MHCLG talk on intervening in the lack of local plan making, is all part of a wider government drive to increase housing numbers. There has been much talk about whether MHCLG would choose to intervene in the local plans of councils falling way below the housing levels expected of them. Councils at Wirral and Thanet have been given directions by MHCLG to complete their plans within a specified period, and Castle Point is expected to have directions to ignore its last council and vote on the local plan and to proceed with it as it has been drafted.
Many local authorities already have a 20% buffer on land supply in the local plans they have submitted: they need to ensure delivery. Those councils which have submitted local plans with housing figures below housing need can expect modifications to increase that supply and an early review.
Considering the revised NPPF came out last year, councils who have to step up delivery and have plans close to submission have had plenty of time to ensure that their emerging plans provide a sufficient supply.
There will be an array of Examinations in Public coming in the next few months for the many emerging local plans across the country. Inspectors now have every right to put their foot down and ask for an increase in delivery in under-performing authorities.
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to see more new homes coming forward.
Is placemaking back on the agenda?
By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property, Chelgate Local
Michael is also an Essex County and Harlow District councillor, vice-chairman of the county Development and Regulation Committee and sits on the district Development Management Committee.
Quality design in all its facets and ‘place’ are key streams in the new revised NPPF, including a new chapter 12: “Achieving well-designed places”. This introduces a different focus for officers and members when considering planning applications, something that they may not yet be prepared for.
The industry does recognise the importance of placemaking and some strive to develop real communities with quality design when planning new developments, to create places where people really want to work and live. It is not unusual for them to then be frustrated when the project comes before committee because their efforts are not recognised by members, or they are simply not understood.
I cannot recall any debates in committee when considering an application about the sense of ‘place’ other than usual negative comments that the proposals look awful and the architecture is wanting. Officers then brief members that design and architecture are subjective and they need to look more at form and context, and the use of space.
It is ultimately members’ responsibility to decide whether the officer’s recommendation is correct and to determine the application. By inference, the revised NPPF must place a further responsibility on officers to ensure members do understand the revised NPPF, can recognise good design and good placemaking. This may mean members will need more training, but I don’t think many will object to that.
It is a shame that the reference to ‘Garden Cities’ has been removed from the NPPF. This was a concept that councillors did comprehend and perhaps using those principles of quality design across all applications would have been a step forward.
Members do debate elements of a project which could be deemed to relate to placemaking, but councillors do need to have a greater understanding of placemaking as a whole. As such, the revised NPPF adds some new considerations, in addition to the existing:
- Density, and the effective use of land
- Town centre vitality
- Sustainable transport
- Healthy and safe communities
- Community engagement
Also inherent in the revised NPPF is community consultation. It encourages applicants to engage with local communities in the pre-application process, where they do not already. It is key that both the ward members and the community are engaged early in the process so applicants can identify local issues and aspirations and tailor their projects accordingly.
The revised NPPF is a step in the right direction in terms of placemaking but it needs to be a joined-up approach. Officers and members need the training and experience to execute the vision the government has for the communities of tomorrow.
Local Plan updates – March 2019
Ashford –On 21 February 2019 the council endorsed the Inspectors’ Report and the appended set of recommended Main Modifications to the ‘Local Plan to 2030’ and adopted the ‘Local Plan to 2030’ as part of the Development Plan for the borough.
Aylesbury Vale – The Council has received Inspector’s response to the points raised in their letter following the publication of his Interim findings. The Council is now finalising their onward timetable including when the proposed modifications to the Plan will be published for public consultation. The adoption of the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan is planned to be in 2019.
Basildon – Consultation on the Revised Publication Local Plan has closed, and responses are now being processed. All the representations received will be collated and a Statement of Issues will be produced and submitted alongside the Revised Publication Local Plan and all supporting documents to the Government and sent to the Planning Inspector for consideration as part of the Examination in Public. It is the Council’s aim to do this by the end of March 2019.
Bexley – The Council is now consulting on the preferred approaches to the matters to be contained within the new Local Plan (Reg 18 consultation). Any comments must reach the Council by Sunday 31 March 2019.
Braintree – The Local Plan examination is currently paused as work is undertaken on the additional evidence required by the Planning Inspector. According to the Local Development Scheme approved in January 2019, hearings for the Shared Strategic Plan (Section 1) are expected in Autumn 2019 and for Braintree District Specific Local Plan (Section 2) in Spring / Summer 2020.
Brentwood – Brentwood’s Pre-Submission Local Plan was approved. The public consultation is closing on 19 March 2019.
Bromley – The Local Plan for Bromley was adopted on 16 January 2019.
Broxbourne –The Council has received Inspector’s Post Hearings Advice and will now consider how the Plan could be modified accordingly.
Cambridge and East Cambs – Following lack of progress with regards to preparation and consultation on main modifications, The Council, on 21 February 2018, withdrew the emerging Local Plan for East Cambridgeshire from its examination.
Castle Point – In November 2018 the Council resolved to not proceed with the Pre-Publication Local Plan and is now in discussions with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with regards to the next steps. It is likely MHCLG will give directions to overturn the council’s decision and proceed with the draft local plan submission, similar to the path taken at Thanet and Wirral.
Central Beds – Further additional evidence on the duty to co-operate, landscape, heritage and transport and an update to the Sustainability Appraisal was submitted by the Council on 28th January 2019 at Inspector’s request. The hearings are now expected to commence in May 2019.
Chelmsford – The Independent Examination hearing sessions took place in November and December 2018. The Inspector’s post hearing advice is that the plan could be found sound subject to main modifications (MMs). She set out her views on those matters where further MMs are necessary and next steps and the administrative arrangements. The Council’s response was due on 22 February.
Cherwell – The Inspector resumed the Hearing Sessions on Tuesday 5th February 2019. The council is also preparing a Part 2 to the Adopted Local Plan 2011-2031 (Part 1) which will contain non-strategic site allocations and development management policies.
Chiltern and South Bucks – The Call for Sites closed on 14 January 2019 and will be used to update the Council’s Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment, which will be part of the evidence base for the new Local Plan. Publication of the Local Plan for consultation prior to its submission for an examination in public is anticipated to be in spring/summer 2019.
Colchester – The Local Plan examination is currently paused as work is undertaken on the additional evidence required by the Planning Inspector. According to the Local Development Scheme approved in January 2019, hearings for the Shared Strategic Plan (Section 1) are expected in Autumn 2019.
Dacorum – A pre-submission Draft Plan is expected in August 2019 while the Council continues undertaking the Duty to Co-operate and public and stakeholder engagement.
Dartford – Regulation 18 public consultation was held in June/ July 2018. Public involvement in the next stage in drafting the Local Plan is expected in summer 2019.
Dover – Regulation 18 consultation is planned for July/August 2019, with adoption expected in February 2021.
East Herts – East Herts’ District Plan was adopted at an Extraordinary Council on the 23 October 2018.
Elmbridge – On 30 October 2018, a new Local Development Scheme was approved and sets out the work programme up to 2021. Regulation 18 consultation is now planned for August/September 2019.
Epping Forest – The Local Plan has been submitted for approval and Ms. Louise Phillips from the Planning Inspectorate has been appointed to carry out the independent Examination. The hearing sessions opened on Tuesday 12 February and will run until Thursday 23 May 2019.
Epsom and Ewell – Pre-Submission Public Consultation is planned for late 2019.
Folkestone and Hythe – The Council submitted their Places and Policies Local Plan to the Secretary of State on the 28th September 2018 for independent examination. The Planning Inspectorate has appointed Mr Jameson Bridgwater to oversee the examination process.
Gravesham – After reviewing responses received to Regulation 18 (Stage 1) Part 1 Site Allocations, the council is gathering further evidence and together with the consideration of responses received will prepare Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation documents which will be consulted upon in Autumn 2019.
Guildford – On the conclusion of the Local Plan hearing that took place on 12 and 13 February the Inspector had confirmed that, subject to final checks and his report, the Guildford Borough Local Plan was sound. The Inspector will be issuing the final report shortly and the formal adoption process will also be put in place as quickly as possible.
Harlow – The Harlow Local Development Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for examination in public on 19 October 2018. David Reed BSc DipTP DMS MRTPI has been appointed by the Secretary of State to undertake the independent examination of the Plan. Provisionally the Examination hearing sessions will be held between 26 March and 4 April 2019.
Havering – Following the hearings which took take place between the 9th and 19th of October 2018, the examination was suspended to allow the Council to complete the required additional work. The reconvened examination is due to take place on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 May. The inspector expects to advise of revised matters and issues and guidance notes by 16 April.
Hertsmere – The council is undertaking targeted public and stakeholder engagement in preparing the plan (Reg 18). Issues and options consultation is expected in March 2020.
Maidstone – New Local Plan was formally adopted at Full Council on 25 October 2017. The Council is already preparing its review, with a Regulation 18 – scoping/options consultation planned for summer 2019.
Maldon – The Secretary of State Approved the Maldon District Local Development Plan on 21 July 2017. A review is to be completed by 2022.
Medway – The council published updated Local Development Scheme in December 2018. Regulation 19 – Publication of draft plan is planned for Summer 2019.
Milton Keynes – Following the six week consultation between the 31 October and 12 December 2018 on the proposed schedule of main modifications, the Inspector found that Plan:MK meets the criteria for soundness, provided the main modifications are included. The schedule of modifications have been incorporated into the final version of Plan:MK, and it will now be submitted to Cabinet and Council in March for approval and formal adoption.
Mole Valley – Reg. 18 Preferred Options consultation to take place in June 2019 (delayed by May 2018 local elections), and Reg. 19 in Winter 2019/20.
North Hertfordshire – Following the hearing sessions into the Local Plan, the Inspector published his proposed Main Modifications to the plan and the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal. Consultation on the Main modifications runs from Thursday 3 January to Monday 4 March 2019.
Oxford City – The consultation on Draft Plan Regulation 19 ran until 28th December 2018. The council is now processing the representations received and will submit the Secretary of State for examination by the end of March.
Reigate and Banstead – Following submission of the draft Development Management Plan in May, examination hearings ran until 9th November 2018. The council made the amendments requested and heard back from the inspector on 18th January with a letter setting out the suggested main modifications. The Council expects to commence public consultation on the Main Modifications on 6 March 2019, closing at on Thursday 18 April.
Rochford – Preferred Options Document public consultation (Regulation 18) is planned for October/November 2019.
Runnymede – The Council submitted the Runnymede Local Plan to the Secretary of State on 31st July. Hearing sessions took place in November 2018, with further hearings at the end of February 2019. Following the closure of the Examination, the Inspector will prepare a report to the Council with precise recommendations which may include modifications to the Plan.
Sevenoaks – The council consulted on the Regulation 19 Proposed Submission Version of the Local Plan until 3rd February 2019. The plan will be submitted to the Government’s Planning Inspector in Spring 2019.
Southend-on-Sea – Council intends to undertake consultation on Local Plan Issues and Options in Spring 2019.
South Northamptonshire – The Council submitted the Part 2 Local Plan to the Secretary of State on 22 January 2019. On 13th February a Planning Inspector, GJ Fort BA (Hons) PGDip LLM MCD MRTPI, was appointed to conduct the examination into the soundness of the submitted plan. Hearing dates have not yet been announced.
South Oxfordshire – Latest draft version of plan was approved at Council on 20 December 2018. The council undertook a Regulation 19 consultation from 7 January to 18 February 2019, with a view to submit to the Secretary of State in March 2019.
Spelthorne – The Council invited comments on the draft Site Selection Methodology, with the consultation finishing 28 January 2019. Consultation on Preferred Options (also Reg. 18) is scheduled for June-July 2019.
St Albans – Reg. 19 consultation ran until 17th October 2018. All valid representations are now being considered by the Council with the aim to submit for independent public examination in March 2019.
Stevenage – Still awaiting the secretary of state’s permission to move forward with its local plan following the holding direction of November 2017, after concerns were raised by Stevenage Tory MP Stephen McPartland. In January 2019, the council launched judicial review proceedings to challenge the continuation of the holding direction.
Surrey Heath – The Draft Surrey Heath Local Plan Issues and Options/Preferred Options Consultation finished on 30th July 2018, and the Pre-submission Consultation is scheduled for June 2019.
Swale – The Council has recently published its Local Development Scheme which sets out the timetable for preparing the next Local Plan, with plans to hold Reg. 18 consultation in Oct – Dec 2019.
Tandridge – The Council submitted its local plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination on Friday 18 January 2019. Inspector Philip Lewis BA (Hons) MA MRTPI has been appointed to conduct the examination.
Tendring – Tendring, Braintree and Colchester’s Local Plan share an identical Section 1, which was considered through a joint examination in public in 2018. This has currently been paused by the Planning Inspector to allow the North Essex Authorities to carry out further work. EiP will resume when the work has been completed and is expected to take place in Autumn 2019. Tendring-specific policies and allocations can be found within Section 2 of the Local Plan, which will be finalised following Section 1 and is expected to be submitted in Spring 2020.
Thanet – The Council submitted the draft Local Plan to the Secretary of State on 30th October 2018 for independent examination. Independent Inspectors have been appointed and sent Initial Questions for Examination to the council on 17th December, to which the council responded on 11 January. Hearing dates are scheduled for April-May 2019.
Three Rivers – Potential Sites Consultation ran between 26 October and 7 December 2018. Publication stage is planned for Autumn 2019.
Thurrock – Reg. 18 (Issues and Options Stage 2: Spatial Options and Sites) took place in July 2018. Reg. 19 was planned for September 2019 but has been delayed following the publication of the revised NPPF.
Tonbridge and Malling – The Reg. 19 consultation ran until 19th November 2018 and the council submitted its local plan to the secretary of state on 23rd January 2019. Inspectors Simon Berkeley BA MA MRTPI and Luke Fleming BSc (Hons) MRTPI have now been appointed but hearing dates have yet to be announced.
Tunbridge Wells – Preferred Options Reg. 18 consultation is completed. Consultation on a Pre-Submission Local Plan (Reg. 19) will take place from 30th March 2020.
Uttlesford – Consultation on the Addendum of Focussed Changes to the Regulation 19 Local Plan ran until 27 November 2018. The plan was submitted on 18 January 2019 to the Secretary of State and Inspectors have been appointed to carry out an independent examination. The Inspectors issued a series of Initial Questions to the Council which it responded to by 25 February; dates of hearing sessions have not yet been announced.
Vale of White Horse – Hearings for the Local Plan 2031 Part 2 closed in September 2018 and the inspector outlined suggested main modifications on 19th December. Public consultation on the modifications is set for 18th February to 1st April.
Watford – Issues and Options consultation ran from Friday 7 September to Friday 19 October. First draft local plan is expected in Autumn 2019.
Waverley – The council is completing additional work on the Local Plan Part 2 and it is expected that the Reg. 19 Consultation will take place in June/July 2019, with submission in Winter 2019.
Welwyn Hatfield – Stage 5 of the hearing sessions took place on 6-7th November 2018. The Stage 6 hearing sessions which were provisionally set for early December 2018 are now likely to take place in Autumn 2019. Following a request from the Inspector, the council held a further call for sites ending 4 February 2019. On 10 February, the Inspector requested a more detailed examination timetable from the council.
Woking – Site Allocations DPD consultation (Reg. 19) ran until 17 December 2018 and submission to Secretary of State is expected in June/July 2019.
Wycombe – Submitted for public examination in March 2018 and the final scheduled hearing session took place on September 26th. The consultation on proposed modifications will run from 13 February 2019 and to 27 March 2019. Following the close of the consultation all representations received will be passed to the Inspector for consideration.