Monthly Archives: May 2012

DCLG Self Assessment – Lack of ‘Passion Pace and Drive’

Inside Housing

The Communities and Local Government department needs to strengthen its performance in key areas, a report has found.

 The department’s capability action plan, published today, notes morale has been affected by restructuring that has cut pay costs by 34 per cent, and suggests it needs to improve staff engagement.

The plan also says the department is weak in areas of leadership and learning and development.

It gives an amber/red light for the leadership’s ability for ‘igniting passion, pace and drive’ and being able to ‘develop people’.

‘The department must continue to focus on building levels of engagement in DCLG, strengthening our leadership and developing our people,’ the report says.

In a foreword to the report Sir Bob Kerslake, the permanent secretary at the department, writes: ‘We strive continuously to be a better department. We have many strengths – and these are reflected in this self assessment. But we know there is more to do.’

Diana Brightmore-Armour, non-executive director and chair of CLG’s nominations and governance committee, said the CLG was increasingly seen as an ‘influencing department’ in government and ‘recognised for successfully managing a restructure at executive level and strengthening governance through a new team of non-executive directors’.

The CLG has plans to improve its performance in its weak areas, such as building on staff feedback and strengthening a sense of common purpose.

An improvement plan for the department will be published at the end of the financial year and the current commercial practices including procurement will be reviewed in May.

Geothermal Power Could replace need for 9 Nuclear Power Stations

Guardian

The UK could meet a fifth of its power needs – the equivalent of nine nuclear power stations – by exploiting geothermal power, a new report into the technology has found.

But the report found that the current subsidy regime does not provide sufficient incentive to develop the technology in the UK – even as Charles Hendry, minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, flew to Iceland on Wednesday afternoon and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with his Icelandic counterpart Oddný G. Harðardóttir to explore a possible new interconnector that could be used to import geothermal electricity from the country’s volcanoes.

Geothermal power stations use water pumped down to hot rocks under the earth that returns to the surface heated, fuelling electricity generation or to be used for space heating.

There are promising sites for geothermal power spread throughout the UK, from Cornwall to the Lake District, East Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Another plus is that geothermal power, while renewable and low-carbon, can provide baseload electricity. That means it can be used to back up intermittent sources of renewable energy such as wind and sun. The study found geothermal could supply 9.5GW of electricity, about 20% of current demand, but also 100GW of heat, which would be enough for the whole of the UK’s space heating needs. The government has struggled to encourage the take-up of renewable forms of heat, such as wood-fired boilers and underground heat pumps.

However, geothermal power receives a relatively low level of subsidy – less than that offered to wave and tidal power, and less than that offered in rival countries such as Germany and Switzerland – according to the report, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Association and written by the engineering consultancy Sinclair Knight Merz. The study, published on Wednesday, found that subsidising geothermal technology initially would help to bring down costs rapidly as sites around the UK were developed. It recommended a different system of subsidy, targeting support at the exploration drilling phase.

Ryan Law, chair of the REA’s deep geothermal group, said: “We don’t want to be left out of a global industry which is estimated to be worth £30bn by 2020. We could be at the forefront of this industry given the strength of British engineering skills. If the UK wants to seize a share of this booming global market we must prove our competence at home. Clearly investment at home could also go a long way to meeting our future energy needs cleanly and safely.”

There are potential problems to be overcome, however. Geothermal technology is still expensive, can only work in certain sites and the process of drilling and pumping water to the underground rocks has been linked to seismic activity in some areas. The two small earthquakes that hit Blackpool following drilling in the area for shale gas exploration did not stop advisors recommending that ministers should allow shale drilling to go ahead – but local residents may have concerns.

 

 

DCLG 2012-2015 Business Plan – New Garden City Programme Included, ‘Streamline Planning Applications’ addition

Published today.

In terms of planning they had done almost everything in the past business plan so it looked like they had no agenda of reform ahead.  Lets look at whats new.

Under ‘Metting Peopl’s housing asiparions their is

4.4 Locally planned sustainable large scale developments
i. Publish details of the support we can provide to locally-led, locally-planned large scale developments and details of how to access it Started   End Sep 2012
ii. Publish details of the locally-led, locally-planned schemes to be supported
Start Feb 2013   End Feb 2013

This of course is the nome de plume for Garden Cities.

It says that two land auction pilots will be brought to the market by end DEC 2012, but as these are publicly owned sites it will be difficult to see how they will prove anything.

Under ‘Put Communities in Charge of Planning’ we have

5.1 Radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods much greater ability to shape the places in which they live, based on the principles set out in the publication ‘Open Source Planning’

i. Prepare and introduce secondary legislation on neighbourhood planning as necessary
Started End Oct 2012

ii. Publish first annual release of data on the number of neighbourhood plans. The plans will include statements showing who were consulted in the production of the plan and how issues were addressed by each neighbourhood forum or parish council Started  End Apr 2013

iii. Put in place a programme of professional support and funding to assist those communities leading the way in developing new neighbourhood plans Started End Sep 2012

iv. First local authorities designating neighbourhood areas under the Localism Act
Started End Jun 2012

v. Publish six monthly data on local plan making progress by authorities Jun 2012 End Dec 2012

vi. Announce outcome of review of planning guidance, in concert with the sector
Started End Nov 2012

vii. Local councils reporting on compliance with the duty to cooperate in Authority Monitoring Reports

Note the DCLG will be producing data on Neighbourhood Plans but to avoid the accusation of producing date on neighbourhood plans but not local plans they have u-turned on keeping up to date the local plans database.

Note also that DCLG seems unlikely to make a start on producing/endorsing guidance until November – even critical guidance on calculation of housing need and trajectories.    Strated  End Jan 2013

5.2 Consultation on review of Use Classes Order and implementation of new regulations

i. Consult on review of Use Classes Order and implementation of new regulations
Started End Apr 2013
5.3 Streamline planning application and appeal procedures and implement new regulations
i. Publish proposals to simplify the information required to support planning applications, particularly at the outline stage (including consultation) Jun 2012 Apr 2013
ii. Review planning appeals process (including consultation) Started End Apr 2013
iii. Publish monitoring report on performance against the ‘planning guarantee’ for application and appeal processing times Strat Aug 2012 End Aug 2012
5.4 Provide strong incentives for local authorities to build new homes through reform of the Community Infrastructure Levy
i. Pass the regulations associated with the Localism Act 2011 to ensure that the Community Infrastructure Levy incentivise neighbourhoods to go for growth Started End  Oct 2012
ii. First local authorities publish data on their spending on infrastructure via the Community Infrastructure Levy  Start Aug 2012 End Aug 2012

So at last the DCLG will be dealing with the nuts and bolts of making planning applications, real issues of ‘red tape’ rather than the diversion of getting bogged down on planning policy.

Buy a Georgian Crescent

The entire Somerset Place Bath, by John Everleigh built 1790-1820 – Savaills representing Telegraph

James Lang LaSalle – 72% of Land Buyers say #NPPF will make no difference in ease of aquiring housing sites

The report is here Residential Land and Planning 2012

Developers are reporting that the availability of debt for land purchase and development has deteriorated rapidly in recent months, with implications for housing delivery.

The industry does not anticipate significantly increasing delivery in response to planning reforms, but has higher hopes for the government’s NewBuy Guarantee scheme.

Land values appear stable in much of the country, with the exception of London, where competition for sites continues to drive prices upwards.

Developers active in the North and Midlands are more positive about future land availability, despite the fact that the need for housing, and the viability of development, is strongest in London and the South.

Westminster Introduce Transferable Development Rights Affordable Housing Model

Inside Housing

 Under the model the land owner agrees to sell land for below market rate in exchange for an ‘affordable housing credit’ they can use against obligations for future schemes.

In the Westminster example, which is the first of its kind, commercial property company Land Securities sold a site to private affordable housing developer Pocket for £2.3 million less than its market value.

Fermoy Road

The Fermoy Road development includes 32 one-bedroom flats

Westminster Council agreed that this money could be held by Land Securities as credit against affordable housing obligations on future developments. The credit can be used in lieu of payments that might have to be made where it is not feasible to have affordable housing onsite.

Pocket specialises in building one-bedroom homes for sale at below market rate in London. It achieves this by maximising the use of space and avoiding some planning requirements, but was unable to do this in Westminster due to high prices.

The unusual planning model allowed Pocket to go ahead with the 32-home Fermoy Road development. The homes will be sold at a discount of 20 per cent on market rate to households that meet the income criteria used for the mayor of London’s first-time buyer scheme (those earning less than £61,400 a year).

Buyers are bound by a covenant that means the home must be sold on for 20 per cent less than market price – which in Westminster is from £300,000 for a one-bed home – and to a person who qualifies for affordable housing. Sales must be approved by the council.

Marc Vlessing, co-founder of Pocket, said the scheme could be a ‘massively important’ way of funding affordable housing developments in high-value areas.

‘We are talking to Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea – talking to a number of lead boroughs – Camden – in which there are large developers with big affordable housing obligations, and where our credit model creates a new currency,’ he said.

Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster Council, said: ‘This new scheme lays the foundations of a new era in affordable housing in the capital.’

Experts on the development of affordable housing said although they were familiar with the principle of affordable housing credits they were not aware of similar schemes coming to fruition.

 

Skip Tax will result in increase in Flytipping – Skips Protests could Block Central London

We all know how Osborne paid for abolishing the Pasty Tax.  Out of the Omnishambles into the Omnishambles.

Indy

Britain faces a nationwide epidemic of fly-tipping and thousands of jobs will be lost because of a massive increase in charges to dump rubbish, waste companies warned last night as George Osborne was hit by a new tax row.

They also forecast that skips full of rubble would go uncollected around the country after an increase of nearly 2,500 per cent in the tax for dumping some types of rubbish in landfill sites.

Waste firms have already staged an impromptu protest in Parliament Square over the move. Today, they will ask the Chancellor to reverse the “skip tax”.

The storm has arisen after the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is overseen by the Treasury, spelt out tax rates which will see the amount charged for dumping some waste materials soar from £2.50 to £64 a tonne.

The HMRC said last night it had merely acted because landfill sites were charging waste firms the wrong rates.

But the skip disposal industry, which employs between 20,000 and 30,000 people, says it will now cost £300 to empty a typical skip, compared with £144 before last week’s tax rise.

Companies warn they will no longer be able to afford to remove the thousands of skips currently lining Britain’s streets as they charge an average of £170-£180 to hire one. They also argue that the crisis will undermine building firms’ efforts to emerge from recession.

Jon Tapping, who runs a skip hire firm in Mitcham, south London, said more than 50 of his 75 skips were hired out, but he would be heavily out of pocket if he collected them.

Days after the move was announced, drivers from waste firms blocked Parliament Square and are considering a blockade of 1,000 skips in London over Jubilee weekend. They will today hold a protest meeting in the House of Commons to which they have invited Treasury ministers to defend the move.

The Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who has organised the meeting, said: “How can the HMRC do this to small business at a time of recession?”

An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC responded to concerns expressed by landfill operators that some companies were not paying the right rate of tax and in the process disadvantaging those who paid the correct rate. We have addressed this anomaly by issuing fresh guidance to ensure a level playing field.”

Euro Break Up could Halve Prime Central London House Prices – Fathom Consulting

Telegraph

Foreign money seeking a refuge from the wider economic turmoil accounted for 60pc of acquisitions of prime central London property between 2007 and 2011, according to a report by Fathom Consulting for Development Securities.

If the shared currency broke up completely, London property would initially be boosted by the continued flight towards a safe haven, the report predicts.

But, once the break-up had taken place, demand for these assets as an insurance against this event would start to ebb.

“Although fears about a messy end to the euro debt crisis may account for much of the gain in prime central London (PCL) prices that has taken place over the past two years, we find that a break-up of the single currency area is also the single greatest threat to PCL,” said researchers.

“In our judgment, a collapse of the single currency area could ultimately produce a 50pc fall in the value of PCL property.

NT Launch Campaign Against Brandy Island Marina

NT

We are leading a campaign to oppose the development of a marina at Brandy Island, on one of the most unspoilt stretches of the River Thames. 

Brandy Island adjoins the beautiful village of Buscot in Oxfordshire, which we have looked after since 1956 to protect its special character. The island is a rich wildlife habitat and its setting has attracted walkers, artists and all who love the riverside for centuries.

Now the peace and tranquillity of the area is threatened by an application for a commercial development on Brandy Island which has been submitted to the Vale of White Horse District Council.

We are strongly opposed to the development and are urging local people and organisations to object to the scheme.

Local people and organisations have until 8 June to lodge their objections to The Vale of the White Horse Planning Authority.

Our reasons for opposing the scheme:

We are a charity that exists to look after special places for people to enjoy. We support new development where it’s appropriate for the local area. In this case we are strongly opposing the scheme for the following reasons:

Land use

This development would have an impact of the character of the local area, which is recognised by the Local Authority as ‘an area of high landscape value’. It would also detract from the unspoilt beauty of Buscot Old Parsonage which is a Grade II* listed historic building.

Nature conservation

The site has notable nature conservation interest and could be even more important as a wildlife habitat. Kingfishers and otters already inhabit the Buscot Lock site and we believe the habitat should be enhanced by returning the whole site to a conservation area.

Traffic

Traffic will rise to an unacceptable level for local residents. The access roads are very narrow and have no passing places. Buscot Lock attracts visitors throughout the year. It’s a popular picnic spot in the summer as it is a safe and unspoilt place for people to enjoy. The increased traffic will have adverse effect on the safety of the public and their quiet enjoyment of the site.

The increased traffic will add to the existing pressure on the road through the village and increase parking problems. The T junction with the main A417 is already considered dangerous and more traffic in the village will only increase the risks.

Noise

The impact to residents both in the village and immediately adjacent to the site cannot be underestimated. Local residents will be immediately affected by the noise of boat owners with power tools, radios and machinery, as will all those who currently enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the area.

The local campaign group is here

What a waste of £17 million for community planning orders

What a waste of money that could pay for over 100 additional neighbourhood plans.

Community planning orders fill a niche need in only a limited number of LPAs, where a community wnats housing in a village say and the LPA unreasonably does not.

They wont apply in neighbourhood plan areas as their Neighbourhood Development Orders apply.

If the case is that by cutting red tape it will save money why subsidise it.

You will still need architects drawings, and a planning statement to justify it to the examiner, so these costs are the same whether or not you go down the planning application route or the Cpo route.  So £17 million to subsidise the legal profession in drawing up Cpos, what a joke.  If an LPA says, this scheme is ok submit a planning application, will they have to pay the money back?  Will an expensive and unnecessary referendum then be forced?  Not a moments thought seems to have been given to this policy.  Why subsidising making planning applications – everyone would want some.  Another example I think of DCLG civil servants shrugging their shoulders and giving ministers enough rope to hang themselves until the inevitable ominshambles occurs.

Would that money be much better spent on funding to Portas Pilots and Neighbourhood Plans?

It seems like the government and Grant Shapps in particular trying through very illiberal state intervention make it look like a flopped policy has succeeded.

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