Barwell – no ‘Huge Chunks’ out of Green Belt – Exceptional Circumstances Test Stays (so less than Huge still ok then)


Theresa May’s Government is due to announce a major shift in housing policy by placing greater emphasis on renters with plans to deliver more affordable rental properties.

Gavin Barwell, the housing minister, said the Government intended to encourage more housebuilding of all kinds, including more social housing. But he insisted the plans, due to be published in a white paper this week, would not propose any changes to the rules of building on the green belt.

He acknowledged the proposals would represent a “change in tone” from previous Conservative policy and Margaret Thatcher’s “home-owning democracy” advanced by David Cameron.

It will include proposals to amend planning rules to enable councils to plan for more build-to-rent-properties as well as measures to ensure more secure, longer term tenancies are available in the private rented sector.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme, he added: “We are not going to weaken the protections. We have a clear manifesto commitment. There is no need to take huge tracts of land out of the green belt to solve the housing crisis.”

“They [councils] can take land out of the green belt in exceptional circumstances but they should have looked at every alternative first. That policy is not going change.”

The white paper will outline steps to ensure longer-term tenancies are available in private rented schemes to give renting families more stability.

Telegraph seizes on research from Mulheirn with Basic Errors to say we have ‘Too Much Housing’!!!!!

Telegraph – The Greenbelt must not be sacrificed for housing

The basic error in the Mulheirn Blogs – there are dozens and dozens in the Mulhairn blogs and the Refern review (which of course John Healy has ignored) – a box of wine buried does not add to the ‘supply’of housing – similarly houses of elderly in care, people temporarily moved abroad, in testate, second homes etc. are not part of supply – they are not for sale.

Similarly he makes the mirror of the economics – never argue from a price error – never argue from a quantity – household formation is suppressed when people have low incomes – such as during a depression and secular stagnation.  Its known as concealed households.  If you try and argue this at a LPI the inspector will throw the argument out.

The third error is an empty home in Oldham doesnt meet need in St Albans.  All housing need is local.  There is a name for this fallacy.

These factors are taken into account into EVERY SHMA and local plan inquiry – they are established in literature and government guidance on calculating housing need- basic GIGO.

Next week will see the publication of yet another housing White Paper designed to “get Britain building again”. Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, seeks to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed and hit the targets for the supply of new homes.

He needs to do this within certain political parameters. Mr Javid may be under pressure from many sides to abandon protection of the Green Belt but he cannot do this without reneging on a promise made by the Conservatives in their 2015 election manifesto. Moreover, the Conservatives have championed the idea of greater local democracy. It would, therefore, be at odds with that approach if he were to force councils to adopt development plans they do not want.

The good news is that from what we know Mr Javid does not propose to go down either of these routes. He intends that existing Green Belt protections should remain in place. His White Paper will, however, reiterate the current position that green belt land can be developed in exceptional circumstances or when there is local agreement. It has never been the case that the Green Belt cannot be built on; but it should take place within very strict limits. The Tory election manifesto stated categorically “The Green Belt is safe for another five years under a Conservative Government”. They must stick to that.

As to local democracy, councils are required to draw up plans for new house building if they are to avoid having them forced on them by planning presumptions. However, one problem is that many councils then fail to follow through on their stated aims. One question to be addressed by the White Paper is how they can be encouraged to do what they say.

A further area that must be better explored is the development of brownfield sites. The manifesto included a commitment to “prioritise brownfield development” and the White Paper needs to show how this can be achieved. The Home Builders Federation have proposed a “presumption in favour of residential development on appropriate brownfield sites” to replace the current system of “public sector-led solutions through brownfield registers”. This is worth exploring though it also has implications for local democracy. None the less, if more houses are needed then it would be better if they were built in areas where the infrastructure exists for a growing population rather than on greenfield sites where roads, schools, GP surgeries and the like need to be provided.

Mr Javid’s White Paper will almost certainly take as given the almost universally accepted assumption that not enough houses are being built to match the demand created by new household formation. But is this actually true? Ian Mulheirn of Oxford Economics argues that this approach is entirely based on Whitehall projections that have turned out to be wrong. He has compared the forecasts with the data for actual household formation and found that the apparent requirement for at least 200,000 new built homes every year is not borne out by the evidence. In other words, there is enough housing but there are major problems of distribution and of inflation in London, the South East and some other hot spots around the country.

A leafless tree stands lonely in a green field on green belt land in Brockworth, Gloucestershire
Green belt land in Brockworth, Gloucestershire CREDIT: JAY WILLIAMS

Mr Mulheirn’s evidence should at least be examined by ministers before they proceed. If there is no shortage of housing then other approaches are evidently needed to solve the problems of inadequate levels of social provision and rampant property price inflation. The latter is excluding many of our young people from the prospect of buying their own home until well into their middle age. Once upon a time, property ownership levels were higher in Britain than almost anywhere in Europe, but in recent years countries like France have overtaken us. It would be a betrayal of future generations not to address this – it is whether it can be done purely by building more houses on greenfield sites that is debatable.

One solution is to release more property currently underused by couples whose children have left home and now wish to move into a smaller house. Tax incentives to help them do so, such as an exemption from stamp-duty for downsizers, should be considered. Perhaps, too, private tenants of council-owned commercial property should have a right to buy and turn some of it to residential use. A judicious combination of sticks and carrots may well help unblock some of the sclerosis in the system preventing new building.

When the Government last tried to change the planning laws with the aim of increasing house building, this newspaper campaigned to retain our unique countryside and prevent the sort of development sprawl that has blighted so many other countries. Ministers listened then and we trust they will do so again.


Housing White Paper ‘Protections for the green belt are the same as in the manifesto’

All it said was ‘protect the Green Belt’ as I said at time the weakest manifesto conservative commitment ever on this.


Developers will be ordered to use planning permission or lose it under government plans to speed up the building of hundreds of thousands of new homes.

Ministers will next week publish proposals encouraging developers to build on plots more quickly rather than sit on land which has already been earmarked for new properties.

The Tories have promised to build one million new homes by 2020, but construction rates are running at below the level to hit that target.

Theresa May has made building more cheap affordable homes one of the cornerstones of her premiership and chairs the Cabinet committee to drive the policy personally.

However, protection for the green belt will not be watered down as ministers do not want to provoke a war with Tory councils, it is understood.


The Housing White Paper will target car parks near railway stations for new homes, will reserve sites for new prefabricated homes which are quicker to build and will allow taller homes to be built.

It is also expected to include measures to encourage smaller construction firms to break the stranglehold of the large housebuilders.

However, there will be no new threat to the green belt. One Government source said: “Protections for the green belt are the same as in the manifesto. There are no fears about the green belt.”

The White Paper – which is expected to be published on Tuesday – is anticipated to include new proposals to require developers to complete homes more quickly.

Currently builders lose planning permissions after three years unless work has started. However, they can maintain planning permissions on sites simply by “digging a trench”, sources said. This means that more than 700,000 homes which have been granted planning permission since 2006 are yet to be built.

Under the new plans permission would be linked to the completion of homes by certain dates, rather than the starting of work.

Developers could have to build quotas of homes by set deadlines as a condition of receiving the planning permission, or be let off paying for new local roads, bridges and community halls – so called Section 106 agreements – if they complete the new homes more quickly.

A report last year by Civitas, a think-tank, disclosed how developers and landowners used a controversial relaxation of planning rules in 2012 to hoard planning permits rather than build more homes.

More than two million planning permits were issued between 2006 and 2015 – a rate which would be enough to build an average of 204,000 new homes a year but foundations were only laid on 1.3 million of them

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said councils had approved more than 200,000 homes a year for the past four years, and yet last year there were still only 164,000 new-build completions.

He said: “This would be a really bold step by ministers and suggests they are not prepared to tiptoe around developers anymore – for too long planning permissions have been granted with no obligation to build.

“This has meant that landowners and developers have been able to secure huge windfalls and then maximise their profits still further by drip-feeding new homes into the market at the highest prices they can.”

Campaigners welcomed the plans. Rick Hebditch,a spokesman forthe National Trust, said: “There are positive signs that the Government has shifted away from blaming the planning system for housing problems.

“People need homes but we need a well-resourced planning system to ensure they’re good quality and in the right places.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Too few homes are being built, but this isn’t because of a failure of the planning system or a lack of land.

“It is because the big builders would rather build slowly on greenfield land than build quickly on the many suitable brownfield sites across the country.

“It is good that ministers understand this and are willing to put some pressure on developers to raise their game.”

Alex Morton, a former housing and planning adviser to David Cameron when he was prime minister, said: “Tory MPs and councillors get angry when they see permissions going up but housing starts rising slowly. If done this must be implemented sensitively.”

Steve Turner, a spokesman for the Home Builders’ Federation, said it was sensible to tie in the interests of the builders and local authorities when planning permission was granted.

This would stop local authorities granting planning permissions for too many homes on smaller sites to hit housing targets set by central Government.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, added: “We look forward to seeing more detail on this and welcome measures to speed up build-out rates in the private sector.

“The sooner the homes the nation needs are built the better but this must not be at the expense of affordable housing.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve been clear that house builders need to deliver more homes, and our White Paper due out shortly will set out clearly our plans to increase build out rates.”

At the Conservative party conference four months ago, Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, said he would take action to force big housing companies to build more homes more quickly.

He said: “The big developers must release their stranglehold on supply. It’s time to stop sitting on land banks and stop delaying build-out. The homebuyers must come first”.

Times Leader – Government Must Have Stomach for a Fight in its Heartlands on Planning


Out and Up

Britain requires a housing revolution. The Conservative government should have the stomach for a fight in its heartlands to bring it about.

The government is about to unveil plans to build a million homes by 2020. Many people will feel that they have heard this sort of announcement many times before and it is up to Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, to ensure that it actually happens this time. Ministers are often hawkish about housing development but their talons are blunted by local authorities wary of nimbyism.

Members of parliament are another problem. Last year, it was reported that Gavin Barwell, the housing minister, was himself an ardent opponent of a large development in his Croydon Central constituency. Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative MP, has already warned Mr Javid of conflict within the party after the secretary of state approved building on the green belt in Mr Mitchell’s constituency of Sutton Coldfield. Nobody is immune to these local pressures. In Theresa May’s own backyard of Maidenhead, there is a fight brewing over news that 86 per cent of new homes are to be built on green belt land.

The sacrosanctity of the green belt among Conservatives is illogical and unsustainable. It is often forgotten that the point of a green belt is not that it is green, but that it is a belt. City planners, first in 19th-century Vienna and then in Edwardian London, conceived of the idea as an urban girdle, protecting cities from disfiguring sprawl. Those lucky enough to live in a city’s green fringes today are thus the beneficiaries of policies designed to increase housing density. It is perfectly reasonable that as cities grow, the green girdle should be loosened.

The housing white paper is also expected to permit urban developments to go upwards to the height of their nearest neighbours, possibly abandoning existing restrictions about blocking light. More housing is to be located near train stations and transport hubs. These are often surrounded by large car parks, which would be relocated underground.

It may be that urban Britons simply need to learn to live differently. The dystopian experiences of many residents of 1960s tower blocks have entrenched a taste for low-rise development, along with a peculiarly British belief that every home should have its own roof and its own garden. Yet higher density housing need not scrape the skies. Many European cities, such as Paris, manage to make high-density mid-rise housing thoroughly desirable. The centre of Madrid rarely rises above ten storeys and yet manages to have a higher density of homes than Hong Kong. Even in London, one of the most dense areas of housing is to be found among the plush mansion blocks and exquisite garden squares of Kensington and Chelsea.

A pinch of realism is sadly essential. Mr Javid has a taste for grand policy announcements and housing is a particularly tough nut to crack. Local opposition can spring up from unexpected sources. In 2013, David Cameron’s government was widely lauded for making it easier to convert commercial premises into homes. A few years later, many such developments were fiercely resented for making bland neighbourhoods that once brimmed with life, such as Soho in London.

These tensions have no easy solution. A lack of affordable housing is a key marker of inequality, which itself leads to social disillusionment. People with a stake in the fortunes of their nation also require a place to live in it.

Last month the government announced 200,000 new homes in 17 new towns and villages. More will be needed. Developers must be penalised for hoarding land and brownfield building must be encouraged even when redevelopment is costly. Mr Javid’s proposals are expected to include more flatpack homes. None of these, alone, is the answer to Britain’s housing shortage. All of them, together, just might be.

Burying Station Car Parks is a Ridiculous Thing to Promote in Housing White Paper – But Old Coal Yards have potential

Is that the best number 10 can do in Housing White Paper in briefing in Housing White Paper – burying station car parks and building housing above.  Something which will have been done already where it is economic and has only been done or planned in a handful of cases like Northampton.  Its contribution will be tiny.

Most rural stations (the vast majority) were never designed with car parks and they are squeezed in

A few were built on former coal yards, however many coal yards remain undeveloped and have potential – as here in Pluckley Kent

However the BRPB – or whatever they are called now – already has a list of such sites and surplus car parks available for development and now it has shrunk over 20 years to very short nit pickings indeed.  I know because a developer paid me to go over it every week.  A few prize sites were held back as strategic so they could be studied for the potential for redevelopment (including burying car parks (where of course you lose 25% of capacity because of pillars and cant do in areas with high ground water).  So the potential nationally is small, this is a local issue for high value areas not a national solution to make up for treating the Green Belt or Green Fields as Inviolate.  Its a distraction and a rather silly one.

Cllr in Mays Constituancy Sacked for revealing 86% of Housing in Local Plan on Green Belt


A veteran councillor in Theresa May’s constituency has been sacked after questioning plans for thousands of homes in the green belt.

Leo Walters, a former Conservative mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, was removed as chairman of the council’s housing scrutiny panel after expressing concern that the public had not been fully informed about the threat to the green belt.

He said that he had been removed by Simon Dudley, the council’s leader, after “simply handing out facts”.

Mr Walters had sent an email to his fellow panel members informing them of a Freedom of Information response from the council revealing that 86 per cent of the land that it was proposing for development was in the green belt.


London’s Lost Race Course – Hurst Park

As the Jockey Clubs plans to redevelop Kempton Park hit the headlines its useful to think of Husrt Park the other side of the Thames from Kempton Park – sold off for housing in 1960 – they even sold off the Turf.

It has a unique and stunning location alongside the Thames.  In retrospect it would have been better to have sold off Kemton Park and kept Hurst Park.

FT – Javid homes plan risks ire of Conservative grassroots


Sajid Javid is set to defy grassroots Conservatives and some of his own MPs with a fresh bid to boost housing construction that could anger the party’s shire heartlands.

After numerous delays the government is set to present its plan to address Britain’s housing shortage early next week. The housing white paper, originally due before Christmas, was expected last month but its publication was delayed again after reports of tensions between Downing Street and Mr Javid, the communities secretary.

Mr Javid wants to accelerate homebuilding but Theresa May, prime minister, is said to be worried that backbench Conservative MPs will threaten to rebel over the issue.

Ministers have considered “punishing” such councils by excluding them from funding sources such as the New Homes Bonus or the recently announced Housing Infrastructure Fund. Mr Javid said last year that he would “be very tough” on English councils that fail to allocate enough land for housing.

This could also prove contentious if, as planning experts suspect, it includes the watering down of “right to light” rules, which restrict new buildings from casting shadows over existing homes.

Ministers are also looking at encouraging developers to construct more homes on high streets, in an effort to revitalise failing shopping areas with an influx of new occupants. They will further seek to encourage a greater variety of players in the housebuilding sector to increase competition, particularly to attract more smaller builders.

The number of small housebuilders has fallen sharply in the past decade, with industry groups blaming a lack of access to business finance and overly complex planning rules.

The white paper is expected to emphasise the importance of building on brownfield sites but could also see the government authorising some building on the greenbelt if the land lost is replaced with other safeguarded sites .

Ministers are likely to set out plans for a swath of new prefabricated housing, using modular, or off-site, construction in a bid to speed up housebuilding volumes.

The Conservatives have promised to build 1m new homes by 2020, but construction rates are running at below the level needed to meet that target.

Brownfield Sites will Never be ‘Filled’ – so the #HousingWP will simply mean Slowing House building Down

Sun on HWP

 local authorities told the green belt is no longer sacrosanct for development. They will be encouraged to start building on it once brownfield sites have been filled.

Simple simple maths on Stock and Flow for Theresa May and her Sith Aides (there can be only two). 

How many housing units gets built on brownfield each year?

The last data we have from 2014 showed that 60% of new residential address built in 2013-14 were constructed on previously developed land. It falls to 45% for net additional addresses.  This figure has risen to that which it was for several years before the recession.  So we can assume it will be steady in the future in a ‘policy off’ scenario

Of course sites become ‘previously developed’ all the time – and CPRE point out that NLUD data on available site remains static – so that suggests a steady ‘inflow’ of brownfield sites roughly matching the ‘outflow’.

Last year around 170,000 houses were built.   Again assuming a ‘policy change off’ scenario that equates to around 76,000 houses per year brownfield and brownfield land suitable and available for housing of around the same number.

So that’s the flows in and out whats the stock.

The NLUD data now rather out of date and dating back to 2010 suggest 325,000 or so.  In 2015 the Dept finally agreed to update it and provide a brownfield register which we have not seen yet.

CPRE always claimed a figure of 1 1/2 million before 2014, not the need over 15 years is 3 million.  To their credit they commissioned research estimating it at around 1 million.  However most of this land was that already with planning permission and so not net additional supply.  So if we dont have 5 year supplies things were only going to get worse not better.

They estimated a further 550,000 homes can be located on suitable vacant or derelict land.  This is the figure that should be quoted.  Being generous lets use it.

So lets assume in our neutral forecast we have a brownfield ‘stock’ which is being added to by around 76,000 (land for equivalent housing units)/annum and being depleted by 76,000 units/annum.

Accepting the HWP target of 300,000 units per annum (which including drawing down backlog and restoring affordability to 1997 levels) then 25% of the houses we need are being developed on Brownfield Sites. But the shortfall will have risen by 300,000-175,000=125,000.

Lets assume two policy scenarios.

In scenario one brownfield development stays static and all increase come from greenfield.

In the other the rate of brownfield development doubles to around 150,000/annum.

In the first 75% of all housing must come on greenfield sites to meet the target.

In the second 175,000 a year in first year is brownfield, 58%, so 125,000 greenfield units must be built, a 75% increase on the current number of houses built on Greenfield.

But that rate cant be sustained because the stock is depleting by 500,000-175,000+76,000=  around 100,000/annum.  So within 5 years the stock is depleted to only 76,000 /annum of new brownfield sites coming forward.

The numbers dont add up.  Even in a heroic assumption of brownfield development doubling over night most of it would be used up in 5 years leaving only a trickle of new brownfield sites which would never run out and provide only 25% of the supply we need.  In this context ‘Brownfield first’ if applied extremely as in the phrase ‘filled up’ would mean 75% of those needing a home would be without one.

There are policy alternatives

  1. build all brownfield sites at 4x the density requiring public subsidy if necessary and families being forced (at point of a gun?) to move to areas with more brownfield sites- like milltowns with few jobs.
  2. Increasing the rate at which brownfield sites come forward by 4x redeveloping all employment sites assuring those forced to move at a point of a gun have no job to move to even if they could move freely (which of Course Theresa Maybe doesnt like).
  3. Dont build housing if it means building on greenfield – reduce housing targets by 75% and everybody lives in bunk beds in their mums house.

Its a none starter policy reminiscent of the early policies of John Prescott which failed and which will be forced by the continuing housing crisis to be reversed.



Sun – Biggest Leak of Housing White Paper Proposals So Far

The Sun

THERESA May is to force councils to build hundreds of thousands more homes a year in the most radical housing shake-up in 50 years.
The PM will target inner-city sites, stop big developers sitting on empty land and allow more prefabs to solve the homes crisis.

She aims to unblock the development logjam with a blueprint containing two particularly controversial elements.

The first will relax long-standing height restrictions based on light, allowing home owners and developers to extend or build houses as high as the existing tallest property on their block without special planning permission.

The second will see local authorities told the green belt is no longer sacrosanct for development. They will be encouraged to start building on it once brownfield sites have been filled.

No10 is braced for a bitter revolt among Tory shire backbenchers over the moves in the long-expected Housing white paper.

The plans, drawn up by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Downing Street aides, are expected to be published next Tuesday.

MPs, charities and developers familiar with the Government’s thinking also disclosed the blueprint will:

  • TARGET open inner-city sites for development, such as railway station car parks which will move underground;
  • END the scourge of “land banking” by stopping fat cat developers from sitting on sites by either withdrawing planning permission or issuing the threat of compulsory purchase orders;
  • OPEN up development sites to many more small builders, who have been locked out by the big firms’ market dominance and lack of credit access
  • RESERVE sites for prefab builds, which can be erected far quicker but finished to look no different to brick buildings.

A key part of the plan is to demand councils in high pressure areas come up with far more ambitious building targets.

And if they fail, Whitehall will impose strict five-year quotas on them.

Until now some “not in my back yard” councils have infuriated ministers by hiding behind loopholes and falling well short on granting enough planning requests.

The average house price nationwide is 7.7 times annual wages.

In some parts prices are 12 times the value of annual wages, making it impossible for many to get on the housing ladder.

Ministers want to hit a target of 300,000 new homes a year to keep pace with Britain’s mushrooming population, as well as a Tory pledge to build a million new homes by 2020.

Mrs May will next week personally champion the house building revolution as the boldest reform yet in her agenda to deliver for the “Just Managings” who suffer most from unaffordable mortgages and rent.

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