Solihull under Pressure to meet more of Brum and Coventry needs

Birmingham Live

Solihull is facing renewed pressure to find space for thousands more homes to help meet the region’s wider housing needs.

The council has suggested it could accommodate 2,000 units to help ease demand in other parts of the Midlands, on top of the 13,000 or so earmarked for Solihull’s own needs.

However, both developers and other local authorities have suggested this figure is “too low” and want to see the borough – two thirds of which is green belt –  make a greater contribution.

In fact responses from developers, submitted as part of a recent consultation, suggest Solihull should in fact provide between 4,000 and 6,500 properties towards the region-wide shortfall.

By contrast, many residents argue that opportunities to expand are “limited” and believe neighbouring councils, such as Birmingham, should “do more” to clear brownfield sites in their own area.

The flood of responses was submitted to Solihull Council after it published its Draft Local Plan – a blueprint for development over the next 15 years.

A huge gulf between the views of local people and others who have had their say demonstrates the difficulties facing the council as it looks to take the document forward.

Hinting that there could be conflict with other councils over how many houses Solihull should provide to ease the burden elsewhere, senior councillors had suggested earlier this year that other issues should be taken into account.

In particular Solihull’s ruling Conservative group believes that the amount of green belt which will be lost as part of the HS2 development should not be glossed over when doing the relevant sums.

A summary of comments received about the Draft Local Plan also highlights the extent of opposition to allowing development on certain pieces of land.

Solihull has a sizeable amount of green belt land.   Windmill Lane, in Balsall Common, and land west of Dickens Heath are among the proposed housing sites to have received more than 100 objections. Officers have said that they cannot respond in details to the comments received at this stage, but the views expressed will feed into the next draft of the document. The overview of the responses will be presented to Cllr Andy Mackiewicz, cabinet member for climate change, planning and housing, this Thursday (July 18).

Why Reigate and Bansted need to be Starting on their Local Plan Review Now

Reigate and Bansted have concluded they don’t need to review their core startegy now they have a brand new DMP.  Their core strategy policy CS13 requires allocation of 460 units a year 2012-2027.  They have exceeded this level so far.  The standard method requires almost no change.

Their report though doesnt refer to the minimum life span of 10 year of housing supply in the NPPF.  Which leaves three years till the housing supply of the plan runs out in 2022.  2 years (assume they propose to review again the need for review in 2020) is hardly enough time for review of a local plan.   They have benefited from windfall releases of brownfield Green Belt sites which is an exuastable supply.   They should start reviewing now

Electric Vehicle Charging points to be Made Compulsory – but at £16k a time it will kill Affordable Apartments


We are proposals to alter existing:

  • residential
  • non-residential

buildings regulations to include a requirement for electric vehicle chargepoint infrastructure.

The government proposes every new residential building with an associated car parking space to have a chargepoint. We propose this requirement applies to buildings undergoing a material change of use to create a dwelling.

Installing chargepoints in residential buildings will add an additional cost ofapproximately £976 per car parking space for an average home.

This is not correct.  If you are installing a chargpoint in af ront wall next to a parking space the cost for the socket is £45.   If you have flats where anyone can plug in (to avoid electricity rsutling) the cost of a digital charging pole is 14-16 thousand.  This will likely kill off affordable apartments and build to rent.  As of yet there is no technical solution to this at an affordable price.  The sensible thing to do is integrate them with lampost however until we have an affordable solution the cost will still fall on purchasers through being rolled into adoption charges.

The consultation does not even acknowledge this problem, though it suggests setting an upper limit of cost per dwellings it does not state what this is.

The impact assessment doesnt even understand the difference in cost between a single socket which can be secured with a key and dedicated infrastructure for apartments.



The Emergence of ‘Soft’ Strategic Planning

Soft planning is a new style of planning, nothing to do with its statutory status or otherwise.  We have non statutory strategic plans in places like Leicestershire and Surrey and emerging statutory plans with a ‘soft’ stage in places like Oxfordshire., Northamptonshire (next month) and Greater Exteter.  What all of these have in common is absolutely no sharp edges of housing numbers assigned to locations which might hurt a Nimby or upset a local politician.  They are easy to agree as there is no need to set up a structure to make hard choices that cannot be agreed through unanimity.  If you get housing numbers at all it is in an appendix stating need as a fact with a comment that this does not imply distribution. You might get a diagram showing growth locations, but only in the non statutory forms to get around SEA requirements.

Are they useful.  Certainly more so than no strategic plan at all.  And some like Leicestershire are quite good.  They are harmless as a big soft ball and just as likely to break down the wall of opposition to real strategic plan of what goes where when.  Despite being soft they are not popular, as we see in Oxforshire where the results of the consultation (which had a very limited response as it was not consulting on place specific policy options) you found a general opposition to ‘growth’ with a large majority of respondents objecting to almost anything said.

Thats the problem with soft planning, it makes the pain of the big hard ball of housing numbers even more painful.  It simply engenders the public into thinking the planners and politicians are hiding something and discussing real options in secret – which they are of course.


Slough’s housing need ‘ignored’ by Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan, council claims

Slough and South Bucks Express

Slough Borough Council is calling for an ‘immediate review’ of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan due to concerns it ignores Slough’s demand for housing.

The plan, which outlines a need for 15,260 homes to be built in South Bucks by 2036, is due to be submitted for government inspection in September….

The Debate – Would Zoning Acheive Better Planning Outcomes

Centre For Cities? muses on its blog a month after its report on housing inequality and the planning system.  Some comments of my own below each section.

One of the key recommendations in our report is that policy should shift towards a zoning system in which most housing is built by-right, as in Japan and parts of the US such as Houston. London Yimby has made the point though that many cities abroad with zoning systems face similar housing affordability pressures to our expensive cities in the UK.

It is clear that the details of any such system would be incredibly important. A bad zoning system would be one which relies heavily on discretionary granting of permits and arbitrary reviews, and would essentially repeat the mistakes of our current planning regime. Such a zoning code which heavily restricts development, like that in New York City where 40 per cent of buildings in Manhattan would be illegal to build today, would be a disaster.

We’ve previously mentioned Japanese zoning as a model, as it allows lots of builders to supply many new homes in growing cities like Tokyo and Nagoya, keeping housing inexpensive. Key to its success is that, provided a proposed home complies with how the land has been zoned and national building regulations, it cannot be blocked. This idea, where once a local plan is in place, the planning system should allow people to build new homes unless the local authority explicitly says ‘no’, rather than forbidding any development until the local authority grants consent, should inform any attempts at planning reform.

Zoning systems can and has been used in many areas, and especially the US as a means of protecting the wealth of existing homeowners, through a combination of restriction on new land zoned and zoning land predominantly for single families preventing intensification.  This is another example of the ‘homevoter’ power structure where this dominates local decision making. This is at contrast to many countries especially Europe and Japan where there are ‘as of right’ powers to intensify.  A good example in the states where Minneapolis allows ‘as of right’ three storeys, and three units, on every plot.  Croyden’s three storey rule is a modest step in that direction here.  Some examples of this are mandated at a startegic or national level, for example in Japan where rules on uses and intensification are mandated at a national level. What this shows is that zoning is a necessary but not sufficient to achieving scale and quality of new housing, but it muyst be accompanied by national and strategic policies to restrict ‘homevoter’ Nimbyesque restrictions on zoning scale and form.

One response to our critique of the planning system, made well by the RTPI’s Richard Blyth, was that because the planning system has historically built more homes than today, it should not be presumed that it has a systematic problem.

Under this view, it is not necessary to radically change our current system from one where development only occurs if the council grants permission into one where most development is legal without any need for planning permissions. Though supporters of the current system say there may still be potential for some reform.

Factors such as local government’s lack of tax-raising powers, the diminished capacity of cash-strapped planning departments, and their flawed boundaries no doubt make the job of planners much harder.

I disagree with Richard here.  The highest levels of output were pre-war when we had a zoning system.  Post war they were achieved through redevelopment of bomb sites, already zoned, or New Towns where a zoning system applied.  The high levels of output where achieved through high levels of Council house building which concealed the systematic failure of the 1948 planning system to provide land for the housing market.

Another argument made by several people, including by Cllr Sean Fitzsimmons of Croydon Council, is that the wealth inequality that results from housing shortages can be addressed by building more social housing.

Social housing has a clear role to play in providing housing for people outside the labour market, including non-homeowning pensioners without savings, and those in work on the lowest incomes or in the greatest need. The welfare state can and should provide new high-quality housing in expensive cities through building by councils and housing associations.

However, more social housing will not address the underlying inequalities and issues outlined in the report. Even if many more social houses were built, the supply problems in private sector housing in expensive cities would remain. Unless all land is nationalised, there will always be a private housing sector which will require distinct policy solutions. This private sector needs to be able to operate well to reduce pressure on social housing, not the other way around.

Social housing requires council or rp owned land zoned for housing already.  In areas with the greatest mismatch between supply and demand this accounts only for a tiny proportion of the required housing stock.  Major expansion requires social housing to be a viable proportion of new housing which requires more zoning.

Another consideration, from Daniel Bentley at Civitas and addressed by the Letwin Review, is the role of “land banks” held by developers. In this argument, shortages are not caused by the planning system, but by developers buying land and then building new homes as slowly as possible to maximise their profits.

Our thinking on this is that land banking is probably a reaction to structural conditions of shortage in land for development, rather than a cause of shortages itself.

Most firms try to minimize their inputs (e.g. eggs and oil) and maximise their output (e.g. mayonnaise) relative to those inputs. Large builders don’t do this. Instead, both through buying land and by using ‘options’, they hoard large amounts of their input (land). Their output (houses) is then supplied at a rate which is low enough to avoid swamping the market in houses and decreasing prices, but fast enough to maximise profits.

Exactly, an option only ever has a value because of rising land prices because of a land shortage.

A common argument, made for instance by Guy Shrubsole at Friends of the Earth, is that our housing problems are not caused by a shortage of homes, but by under-taxation of land. Whether through mechanisms such as development charges, land value capture, or a land value tax, this position states that inequality could be reduced through the taxation of expensive land. These revenues can then be spent on social housing or other kinds of redistribution.

Taxation of land value is taxation of rent which only ever occurs when there is a shortage of land for housing.

An additional concern that is expressed is that building more houses in expensive cities, instead of expanding supply in cheaper ones, could worsen inequality between richer and poorer places, driving the North-South divide.

The differences in house prices and rents across the country suggest there is no shortage of homes in many Northern cities. So building more homes in Burnley would not address the issues they face, while not addressing the shortages in Brighton. Failing to build enough homes in the South such that house prices fail to stabilize means that homeowners in the south will become even wealthier, widening this aspect of the North-South divide.

Well said, increasing housing land in areas with shortages increases the number of persons benefiting from land wealth and reduces the level of unearned income from land.  It also reduces the number of people biding for existing housing at the margin and therefore drives the ‘filtering process’ whereby each new house built allows one additional household at the bottom of the housing ladder who would otherwise not be able to afford a house at the margin to be able to do so.

Sleep Three to a Bed to Afford Build to Rent Scheme in Brighton

A good case study in how not to answer Cllrs Questions at Committee Brighton and Hove News

On the refusal of the Sackville Trading estate Scheme Hove

Labour councillor Gill Williams commended developer Moda Living for paying the Brighton and Hove living wage but asked if people on that wage could afford homes there.

Moda director James Blakey said yes, adding that “per bedroom rates” worked out at £354 a month and the company did not ask for deposit.

Rent would include access to the gym, internet and reduced electricity costs, he told the Planning Committee.

Former Labour council leader Daniel Yates asked how much it would cost for a unit rather than per bedroom.

Mr Blakey said that a one-bedroom flat would be rented for about £1,250 a month, a two-bedroom flat for £1,600 and a three-bedroom flat for £2,100.

Councillor Yates said that people would have to sleep three to a bed to afford it – and with 25 per cent off it would still not be affordable.

Air Cargo Hub wins Manston Thanet Local Plan/DCO Battle

Isle of Thanet News

The sale of the Manston airport site to the firm aiming to bring cargo aviation and associated businesses to the site has been completed this evening (July 9).

Contracts were exchanged between RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) and former landowners Stone Hill Park last Wednesday but could not be completed until permission was given by the Secretary of State.

This was needed due to  a special development order designating the Manston airport site for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post-Brexit jams at the Port of Dover which is contracted to run until December 31, 2020.

Permission was received today.

Completion of the transaction, which means RSP subsidiary RiverOak MSE owns more than 95% of the site wanted for the airport plans, took place at 7.30pm.

SHP had owned 742 acres of the site which totals around 770 acres with plots belonging to other interested parties. RSP paid the firm £16.5million for the site. SHP had previously submitted a planning application to create up to 3,700 homes, business and leisure and associated infrastructure.

A Planning Inspectorate panel, led by Kelvin McDonald, has been examining the Development Consent Order bid being made by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) to  acquire the site and create the cargo hub.

That examination, which opened in January, concluded today.

The DCO is still needed for the cargo hub project with a decision from the Secretary of State expected by January 2020. However, the compulsory purchase part of the application for the SHP owned land – equating to 98% of the site – is now defunct, although other landowners will still need to be compensated.

Issues surrounding national need, night flights and noise and blight compensation still need to be considered under the DCO process.

The land sale deal means SHP will withdraw its objection to the DCO. It will also withdraw its two outstanding planning applications for housing and mixed use on Manston and will no longer participate in the Local Plan Enquiry.

Tony Freudmann, of RSP, said: “We completed our transaction at 7.30pm. It is a great feeling.”

Adam Smith was Always in Favour of Britain Producing its own Pot

Make cannabis legal and cut crime, says Adam Smith think tank

Wealth of Nations

 If the flax and hemp of Riga are purchased with the tobacco of Virginia, which had been purchased with British manufactures, the merchant must wait for the returns of two distinct foreign trades before he can employ the same capital in re-purchasing a like quantity of British manufactures. If the tobacco of Virginia had been purchased, not with British manufactures, but with the sugar and rum of Jamaica which had been purchased with those manufactures, he must wait for the returns of three. If those two or three distinct foreign trades should happen to be carried on by two or three distinct merchants, of whom the second buys the goods imported by the first, and the third buys those imported by the second, in order to export them again, each merchant indeed will in this case receive the returns of his own capital more quickly; but the final returns of the whole capital employed in the trade will be just as slow as ever. Whether the whole capital employed in such a round-about trade belong to one merchant or to three can make no difference with regard to the country, though it may with regard to the particular merchants. Three times a greater capital must in both cases be employed in order to exchange a certain value of British manufactures for a certain quantity of flax and hemp than would have been necessary had the manufactures and the flax and hemp been directly exchanged for one another. The whole capital employed, therefore, in such a round-about foreign trade of consumption will generally give less encouragement and support to the productive labour of the country than an equal capital employed in a more direct trade of the same kind.

St Albans fails to show Green Belt review in structured Two Stage Approach

Inspectors Letter

The Local Plan proposes substantial Green Belt boundary alterations
to enable land to come forward for development. National Policy
sets out that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in
exceptional circumstances. The nature and extent of the harm to
the Green Belt and the effect on the Green Belt objectives must be
considered in the assessment as to whether exceptional
circumstances are demonstrated.
13. As set out in our Initial Question 16, in seeking to re-draw the
Green Belt boundary we would expect to see that the Council has
followed a two- staged approach. Stage 1 concerns the evidence
gathering and assessment that leads to an in principle decision that
a review of the GB boundary may be justified to help meet
development needs in a sustainable way. It is set out at paragraph
137 of the National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework) and
requires the Council to demonstrate that it has examined fully all
other reasonable options for meeting its identified need for
14. Step 1 of this staged approach requires a thorough investigation of
the capacity of the existing urban areas (suitable brownfield sites
and underutilised land) and whether this has been maximised
having regard to optimising densities. Subtracting this from the
OAHN figure leaves the amount of development that cannot be
accommodated within the urban areas. This process also needs to
be informed by discussions with neighbouring authorities about
whether they could accommodate some of the identified need. Step
2 involves considering if there is any non-Green Belt rural land
which could meet any of the unmet need (steps 1 and 2 are
recognised at paragraph 12.1.6 of the St Albans Green Belt Review
(Doc GB001)).
15. Together these steps give a scale of unmet need which could only
be met by Green Belt release and are necessary to determine
whether the review of the Green Belt is justified in principle. Stage
2 then determines which sites would best meet the identified need
having regard to Green Belt harm and other relevant considerations
including whether they are suitably located and developable. All
these factors are then considered to reach a conclusion as to
whether exceptional circumstances exist for each of the individual
Green Belt releases.

20. As previously requested, this information needs presenting in a
Green Belt Topic paper to cover the stages, steps and questions set
out above, in order to enable our understanding of the Council’s
rationale and approach with regards to this important matter.