Districts declare high street emergency as retail applications plummet

So what exactly is the government willing to take responsibility for? Councils have to do more to deliver the housing people need, councils need to do more to make the houses that are built, better quality and prettier, councils need to do more to promote and sustain the high street.

Let’s not forget that councils need to do all this with less funding from central government, despite being given an ever increasing list of burdens by Whitehall. The Homelessness Act being the latest financial black hole into which cash is pouring like a Las Vegas casino.

The funding deficit is now replaced by, in part, non-domestic rates such as those paid by the high street shops that have been decimated by successive government policy decisions and illogical increases in those rates.

Now in a lovely twist of the knife in local government’s back, we hear ever increasing calls from various parties for councils to do more to reduce the burden of business rates on the high street.

The number of applications by retailers to England’s district councils have nearly halved in the past four years, contributing to the high street crisis.

An analysis by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) reveals that members received 1,258 applications in the year ending June 2019, down from 2,216 since June 2015.

The DCN, which represents 191 district councils, says the figures show that high streets are in a state of “emergency”.

The analysis of government figures for England also shows that planning applications for new housing have slumped to a four-year low.

District councils received 31,073 applications for new homes in 2019 – the lowest since 2015.

DCN says the figures reflect the ongoing economic uncertainty and falling confidence from developers in the housing market.

It is calling on the government to give all districts the long-term funding they need to revive high streets, and to give them flexibility to raise finance locally, for instance, to set business rates relief.

Districts also want the government to guarantee the continuation of the New Homes Bonus to ensure that councils have the funding to deliver services and attract the new investment critical to thriving communities.

“These figures paint a worrying picture about the future of our high streets and town centres, and highlight the uphill battle we face tackling the housing crisis,” said DCN leader for stronger economics Mark Crane.

“There are huge opportunities to reshape places into thriving community, cultural and employment hubs – by investing in new housing, infrastructure, services and events.

“However, district councils, which are responsible for delivering housing and improving high streets, need the funding certainty and powers to transform town centres, to attract investment into infrastructure, and to build new homes.

“While there is a growing amount of energy and schemes invested in tackling these issues from Whitehall, the national complexity and focus on short-term results risks underutilising the ambitions of district councils to deliver change over the long term.”

1 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The Coronimbys – Lets Quarantine them Forever

Forward thinking and longterm planning appears to be a lost skill in this country.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

A new breed has come forth on twitter in recent days.  The coronimbys.  They never really liked human beings anyway, seeing them as a resource consuming, pollution creating blight (except for them of course), with this misanthropy used to resist housing, HS2, new airports, new anything all in a pseudo environmental anti development brand of eco-fascism why denies all hope of human ingenuity to fix, mend and restore the environment.

Oh how they now welcome Covid, it gives them the perfect excuse to say aha we now no longer need the housing.  It has all gone away because of recession.  Hang on I havnt noticed a mortality rate, like the Black Death, of 30% (which byu the way led to the biggest wave of new settlement building in history in the 14th Century as the economy recovered.)   Of course if we can create trillions at teh stroke of a bankers…

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Laudable, but I don’t believe there’s the political will to deliver such schemes now – whatever the Party in power

Copied from Comment inews.co.uk – Weds 31 July

George Clarke: We don’t just need more council houses – we need the very best in space and ecological standards

We are building noddy box estates with hardly any green space and no public amenities. It isn’t good enough

The housing system can't be just a numbers game., says George Clarke. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build (Channel 4)

I was brought up on a council estate, but it wasn’t just any old council estate. It was part of one of the most ambitious and innovative housing developments in the country. My estate was in Washington, a place between Sunderland and Newcastle that was given new town status in 1964. Some of the best architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects and highway and infrastructure engineers came together to build an entire town that would completely transform my life. It was and still is a fantastic place to live.

My Mam’s council house, which she still lives in today, was designed to excellent space standards with a decent sized front and back garden. It sat around a pedestrianised square that was safe for us all to play in. I could walk to school without having to cross a road. The landscaping was amazing. Large green spaces became our fields of dreams where we played football for hours until the sun went down.

‘We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot’

There was an incredible mix of house types. Two-storey four-bedroom houses like ours for young families, three-storey six-bedroom houses for extended families, maisonettes and thousands of single-storey bungalows for those who wanted or needed to live on one level. My estate was a fantastic community that didn’t just happen by chance – it was designed from the outset to be a community.

It wasn’t just about great housing and wonderful green spaces. We had every public amenity a community needed. We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot. We hardly left our new town because we didn’t have to. We had absolutely everything we needed, designed in the most humane and caring way. Most importantly, our homes were truly affordable. Families worked and paid their affordable rent to the council. If you paid your rent you had a safe, secure and stable home for life and housing waiting lists were short.

Look where we are now.  After two-thirds of all council housing had been sold off under Right to Buy or handed over to housing associations, only two million are now left under council control from a high of more than six million in 1980. More than one million people are on social housing waiting lists. More than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. The huge demand and massive lack of supply means property prices are the highest they have ever been. Long gone are the days when most of the population could buy a home for 3.5 times an average income. We are in the biggest affordability and housing crisis the country has ever seen and every year it is getting worse.

What we are building often isn’t good enough; noddy box estates with hardly any green space and certainly no public amenities. The Government has completely failed in its responsibility to provide good quality, affordable housing for its people.

In 2017, Theresa May admitted the housing market is “broken”. This broken system is destroying the lives of so many people. Homelessness is rife. As an ambassador for the housing charity Shelter and being close to the housing industry since becoming an architectural apprentice at 16, I’ve seen far too many families being affected by stress, severe depression, anxiety, poor health and even suicide because they don’t have a stable home.

This has to change. Not everyone wants to ‘own’ their home. Millions will never afford to buy their own home anyway. The state needs to build homes for affordable rent for its people again. Homes should be for people and not profit.

Read more

9m² flats, microhomes sold under Help to Buy: how office-to-flat conversions created the rise of ‘rabbit-hutch’ homes

The housing system can’t be just a numbers game. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build. That cultural change needs to happen from 31 July 2019, the 100th Anniversary of the Addison Act, when I launch my campaign to build 100,000 high-quality, low carbon council houses every year for the next 30 years to replace all of the state housing that has been lost.

Twenty first century homes require the very best in space and ecological standards. Why? Because without a stable roof over your head, everything else in life becomes so much harder, and everyone deserves a home.

George Clarke’s Council House Scandal starts on 31 July at 9pm on Channel 4 

This month’s big idea, from this month’s Housing Secretary

Taking the Easy Way Out: Developers Warned on Poor Quality Homes

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has warned developers building poor-quality homes that they will have to “change their practices” as he called for a “systematic change” in Britain’s approach to planning and design – as reported in on 24/10/19 in the Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/housing-secretary-robert-jenrick-warns-developers-over-poor-homes-p2326f92x

The Government is tackling poorly designed homes – not poorly constructed homes with the launch of a National Design Guide.  This reminds planning authority that planning permission should be refused for developments that failed to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

The guide specifically discourages features that create barriers or segregation within a development.  So poor doors and exclusive playgrounds are out (see “Poor doors: the Segregation of London” & “Too Poor to Play”.

It encourages well-designed building which are functional and sustainable.  Things such as simple electrics, lighting and water systems which are discreet, well-maintained and easy to access to maintain.  It is a sign of the bad design and bad quality housing that the Guide needs to state these obvious facts.

Good design also means that places are robust, durable and easy to look after.  Regrettably, again, this is a feature which is all too often missing from new housing.

Addressing bad design is positive but it seems like the easy way out for the government.  It doesn’t touch on the bigger and more difficult issues of poor construction and appalling workmanship that we see on a day to day basis.  None of these issues will be addressed by the new design guidelines.

It is time for the government to focus on the problems buyers of new build homes are facing which stem from workmanship not design.  Missing insulation, defective floors, leaks, crumbling mortar, badly constructed brick walls and other serious structural problems.It’s time the government took action to make sure builders get these basics right.

New Zealand Tackles Nimby Defence of Property Interests Head in in New National Policy Statement

Lessons in spatial planning policy from the other side of the world – is ANYBODY on this side listening? In fact, will anybody stay in the job long enough to even understand it enough to try?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

A very interesting read

Of course the New Zealand System is based on resource management which the draft statement says has not been focussed enough around spatial planning, or social and economic considerations.

Current processes for public participation tend to favour wealthier property owners over others (in particular younger, non-English speakers, ethnic minorities, the less educated and renters)….

Some planning decisions on urban development appear to consider only the effects on the natural environment or specific amenity considerations, and not how the urban environment meets the social, economic and cultural needs of people and communities. Many decisions
focus on the adverse effects of development, and do not adequately address its benefits (including for future generations). This can have a local and national impact…

The Government intends to introduce objectives and
policies in the NPS-UD that would:
• emphasise that amenity values can change over time, with changes in communities and…

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The Strategic Tradeoff in New Style Strategic Plans

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The story of strategic planning since the 2004 Act has been in large part an innovation of new styles of plan facing the harsh reality of  contact with the Planning Inspectorate.

Now the results of the NEGC and West of England examinations into new style joint strategic plans offers an opportunity reflection similar to that following the unsoundness fining of the first core strategy for Stafford.

Although strategic planning has seen an inevitable revival the reason why it has not been welcomed with open arms is that in England we have never got the structure or geographical level of strategic planning right.  Numerous messing around with local government structures always short of a comprehensive form has led to a messy combination of strategic plan structures covering districts, unitaries, counties and combined authorities.  Though we have moved beyond the weak duty to cooperate to an effective duty to plan strategically there…

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How can we allow this to be happening in this day and age?

Windowless permitted development flats approved at appeal

A plan to convert a light industrial building into 15 flats under permitted development rights has won permission at appeal, despite seven of the units lacking windows and the inspector commenting that they “would not be a positive living environment”.

So why would a supposedly intelligent and well trained planning inspector, having made such a statement, still permit such a sub-standard form of development to go ahead?

Unfortunately, this summary is from a subscription site, so I am unable to get any further details.