When mayor Boris Johnson unveiled his housing plans in 2013, he proposed building a further 42,000 homes a year to meet population growth. But a few months later, analysis by the Greater London Authority (GLA) put the actual need at between 49,000 and 62,000.
So, who will accommodate this shortfall of up to 20,000 homes a year? London has so far refused to consider building on its green belt and this is causing uproar with its neighbours, who may have to accept the 200,000 new homes – and revisions to their own green belts – over the next 10 years because of the capital’s unwillingness to consider changes to its green belt.
Luton council has accused the GLA of applying double standards by refusing to countenance a revision of its green belt, while expecting its neighbours to do so, while umbrella group South East England Councils has called on the GLA to review the London green belt and do more to meet its housing need.
Our research shows, under current London proposals, the majority of councils across the wider south east will each have to accommodate between 1,000-5,000 extra new homes by 2025, with those closest to London facing the greatest pressure. However, if the green belt around London is maintained, locations further out from London – such as East Hertfordshire, Medway and Chelmsford – will have to accommodate more than 11,000 extra dwellings.
This would be on top of meeting their own housing needs and is the equivalent of a new garden city, or a new Ebbsfleet, for each of these councils. New housing for Londoners in those locations will then increase the distance commuters need to travel.
The mayor believes building on industrial land, developing in town centres and releasing more public sector land to developers will help meet London’s housing needs. Johnson also says that his proposed figures are a minimum and that councils should identify additional capacity in their own plans.
But by deferring a decision on whether the green belt in London should be relaxed and not saying how long-term needs will be met, the mayor’s proposals have not helped London’s housing crisis.
Matthew Spry is senior director at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.
The BPO argued in the Guardian yesterday that planning controls on HMOs should be relaxed to make housing more affordable. Which would surely be the case if you crammed people in.
But a cautionary note from other jurisdictions. Where there is a housing shortage and no controls then people pack in, sometimes 6 or 10 to a room, and this causes sub stations to blow up and sewerage networks to overflow, as they were calculated on much lower load and diversity factors. We see that here for example in the UAE seeing national controls introduced. never forget why planning controls exist in the first instance.
So Cheshire East has lost two more housing appeals, despite Nick Boles writing to the inspector on the issue of their previous RSS imposed housing moratorium. However whether you applied 5% or 20% they still did not have a 5 year supply.
Great strides have been made in securing investment into Greater Birmingham – but progress on forward planning however has been a different matter.
The Local Growth Deal secured by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and positive news around HS2 and the Curzon Urban Regeneration Company have been a major boost to the region.
But progress on forward planning has been harder to find. The GBSLEP has embarked on the preparation of a spatial planning framework. As a member of the planning sub-group, planning consultancy Turley has seen first-hand how this work has developed.
The framework entitled A Spatial Plan for Recovery and Growth (SPRG) started life in February 2012 but initially focused on the current state of play rather than producing a forward-looking vision.
Theoretical growth options were explored in the consultation draft SPRG published in September 2013, such as urban consolidation, urban extensions, growth corridors, or new settlements, but without any sense of how much growth was required.
As a result, there was a disappointing response to the draft SPRG and some doubts as to whether an informal plan would ever have much influence over local authorities.
It was decided in late 2013 that background work was needed on housing needs and employment land requirements and this month the initial findings of the long-awaited strategic housing study were presented to a workshop of local authority officers and private sector representatives.
The presentation revealed that the latest raw population projections pointed towards some 8,000-plus additional dwellings being required across the GBSLEP area compared to the 5,500 currently in draft local plans with Birmingham’s needs representing 70 per cent of the total GBSLEP requirement.
Currently, the Birmingham Draft Plan, which has already been submitted to the Secretary of State and will be the subject of a public examination in the late autumn, is only proposing to supply 2,500 dwellings per year of the 5,500 a year across the GBSLEP area of which some 5,000 dwellings and a large employment site would be in the green belt at Sutton Coldfield.
The plan assumes that over 30,000 houses will be accommodated elsewhere, even though some developers say that Birmingham could accommodate another 5,000 within its boundaries. The question is who will make up the deficit and more importantly whose green belt will have to be rolled back to make way for them?
On the face of it, the other eight authorities in the GBSLEP area could be faced with doubling their own housing supply to help house the city’s growing population.
That could mean authorities like Solihull, where the adopted local plan has been subject to a successful High court challenge, or Lichfield, where the local plan was delayed while the authority increased the number of housing sites, may have to provide two houses for every one that they need themselves.
That will not go down well if those additional dwellings have to be found in those districts’ green belt.
The next stage of the strategic housing study for the GBSLEP area is intended to consider the spatial distribution of housing.
The report should be available by the time of the Birmingham examination. This could have several implications.
Firstly, the ‘duty-to-co-operate’, which is an essential part of the Localism Act, requires that authorities show how and where their ‘objectively assessed housing needs’ are to be met. If Birmingham cannot reach a consensus with adjoining authorities, there is a risk that their local plan will be found ‘unsound’ unless they can accommodate more housing on the city’s own green belt. Secondly, as a result of the recent High Court decision, Solihull will need to revisit their housing numbers just as Birmingham’s needs have been firmed up.
Solihull, the natural destination for many of the city’s upwardly mobile migrants, is challenging the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal but it is highly unlikely that Solihull will make any commitment to Birmingham until this is resolved,
Thirdly, the Birmingham housing market area is wider than the GBSLEP area and includes not only the Black Country but North Warwickshire and Stratford-on-Avon, (arguably more so than East Staffs or Wyre Forest which are in the GBSLEP).
That means Birmingham will need to negotiate outside the GBSLEP area to meet its needs, with those authorities possibly further advanced with their own plans.
Finally, of course some will argue that housing needs in the LEP area should be even higher than the study suggests, because it fails to take account of economic growth, affordability or market signals.
The next stage of the GBSLEP’s Spatial Planning Framework will distribute new housing and employment with the aim of giving life to the GBSLEP’s growth strategy and realising the vision for a thriving city region, creating many more jobs and retaining aspirational and well-educated people.
Where will they want to live? Probably in the same areas that will be resisting Birmingham’s needs. The battleground will inevitably be the West Midlands green belt.
* Mike Best is executive director at Birmingham planning consultancy Turley and a partner to the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership spatial planning group
Liverpool LEP is campaigning to the government to have a direct HSR2 link setting out the benefits.
But this is not the reason it has been excluded. Lime street is too small – 260m platform length – it needs 400m, and its approach is too tight.
If Liverpool wants HSR there is an obvious potential site. The site of the disused Crown Street station – now a park, which has a disused railway line running to it. All is needed is to shift a school playground and ssome housisng on Angela Street. It was the world first intercity station. It would become a major new focal point rejuvenating Edgehill and Toxteth. If the LEP is serious it needs to solve the technical issue above all else. The station could easily be linked to the city centre by tram.
One of the most misleading tropes of recent years is that ‘peak oil is dead‘, underlined by the closing of the Oil Drum blog. Fracking seemed to supply endless cheap gas to the US, poil production in the US increased in the US for the first time in decades, fracking was on the ascended as was oil shale, there was even talk of Saudi America.
Yet the uncomfortable truth is that costs of oil production have increased, revenues have not and neither have oil prices, increasing oil company dents and squeezing profits.
The peak oil theory was not that oil was running out but that cheap easy to extract oil was running out, hence new sources would be more expensive to extract with lower profits. The industry is very vulnerable to a globaal supply shock that might come from a major conflict.
Even more worryingly is that the unexploited reserves might never economically be exploited, with solar rapidly of the reaching past grid parity. That mean that oil company debts might be unpayable and their stock could be a huge bubble. According to the Trillion fund 20-30% of pension fund savings are in carbon fuel based stocks.
Telegraph (a picture of non-green belt as ever)
The number of new homes built on the protected Green Belt has more than doubled since the Coalition was formed.
Figures obtained by The Telegraph show that 15 new homes in England are now approved on Green Belt land every single day.
Campaigners said the findings were “alarming” and called on the Government to intervene to save parts of the green belt from developers’ bulldozers.
The Green Belt is a ribbon of land around towns and cities which were designated in the aftermath of the Second World War to stop urban sprawl.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which was introduced in March 2012, was meant to introduce further protections for the Green Belt from developers.
The figures are contained in a report titled “Green Belt under development” by Glenigan, the planning and construction industry experts which supplies figures to government departments and agencies.
The report found that on the face of it overall planning applications and approvals have been relatively stable over the past five years.
However last year saw the approval of 5,600 new homes on the Green Belt, compared to just 2,260 in 2009/10 – a 148 per cent increase over the five-year period.
This is despite development on the Green Belt only being allowed “in exceptional circumstances” by planning rules. Developments of three or more homes accounted for a growing majority of residential units built on Green Belt sites.
The report showed that approvals have risen progressively since 2009/10, with 227 projects approved in 2013/14 – a 161 per cent rise over the five-year period.
Allan Wilén, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The number of new homes involved is growing. As the economy recovers and demand for new homes increases, so will the potential pressure for the release of more the Green Belt sites.”
The figures would appear to confirm reports of planning wars breaking out across the country with residents battling unwanted schemes forced on communities by councils which have to meet five year housing plans.
Glenigan’s figures were condemned by countryside campaigners, who have long warned that the green belt around towns and cities was not safe from developers.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the report was evidence of “a very worrying trend that shows Green Belt policy is not working as it should”.
Paul Miner, a spokesman, said: “CPRE accepts that there are some suitable sites on Green Belt land, such as old hospitals or research centres, that could be re-developed.
“But new homes should be built in the footprint of existing buildings, not allowed to intrude on the rest of the Green Belt, which is what we’re seeing time and time again at the moment.”
The National Trust also said that it was concerned by the evidence that more of the Green Belt was being built on by developers.
Local authorities have a duty under the NPPF to set out where new homes can be built over the next five years.
They can also earmark or “safeguard” other land – including some areas of the green belt – that might be required for future development.
Earlier this year MPs complained in a Parliamentary debate that councils were needlessly earmarking sites on the Green Belt for development.
The Government said that development on the Green Belt was now at its lowest level in terms of acres sacrificed to builders since 1989.
Brandon Lewis, the Planning minister, said that ministers had “fortified the Green Belt” by abolishing targets which were established under the Labour Government.
He said that “official statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989”.
He said that Government was also encouraging the sale of “surplus brownfield land for redevelopment, and introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use”.
He added: “Local Plans are now at the heart of the planning system, so councils decide where development should go.
“There is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and councils should be using their powers and the support that’s available from the Government to prioritise development on these sites, and defend our valuable countryside against urban sprawl.”