Planning system reforms Permitted development rules have led to local authorities and residents being unable to oppose or alter proposals from developers, with no power to insist on adequate room sizes, daylight or influence the look of a building. Contributions from developers towards affordable housing or improving the pavements and landscaping around a property have also been lost under the rules, with the LGA estimating that 13,500 potential affordable homes have been lost in this way. Separately, LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard is due to take part in a debate on Times Radio at 1pm today about the ending of the eviction ban and protection to renters during the pandemic. Observer – Sunday 27 September 2020
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
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.
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
Promoted by R Gambba-Jones & C Lawton on behalf of South Holland and The Deepings Conservative Association all of Office 1 10 Broad St Spalding PE11 1TB. Original printed by Welland Print Limited of West Marsh Road Spalding PE11 2BB
Government mouth pieces defending the indefensible – in my humble opinion. The most senior of them conveniently sidesteps a key question from MPs, ‘If you sell a house at a discount, how do you buy another one to replace it?’. Answer, ‘Spend what money you do get, fixing up the houses you’ve already got’. That’s helpful isn’t it.
A top Marsham Street official has defended the Government’s Right to Buy policy as ‘good value for money’ following demands for its abolition.
The scheme came under fire from MPs and the London Assembly this week, when it was accused of undermining councils’ efforts to build social housing and sapping funds.
At yesterday’s meeting of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Labour MP Liz Twist said: ‘How can you expect councils to invest in new social housing if they have to sell the house at a discount under Right to Buy?
‘It seems a bit strange we are wanting councils to build and yet they are having to sell these houses at a discount down the line.
‘It doesn’t seem to make financial sense.’
Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Melanie Dawes, said: ‘What we get in terms of economic benefits is that housing associations have receipts they are able to build with so we get the usual benefits from new housing supply.
‘We also get distributional benefits because generally we are talking about lower-income families who are able to buy who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.’
Highlighting London Assembly research published that found 42% of Right to Buy homes sold in the capital are now in the private rented sector, committee chair Clive Betts said: ‘It’s unfortunate many of them end up as buy-to-let properties.’
The London Assembly research by member Tom Copley also found the capital’s boroughs spend £22m each year renting back right-to-buy properties.
Mr Copley said: ‘Something has gone very wrong when tens of thousands of homes built to be let at social rents for the public good are now being rented out at market rates for private profit, sometimes back to the very councils that were forced to sell them.
‘Right to Buy is failing London and should be abolished.’
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing, said: ‘These figures reveal the immense costs and inefficiencies caused by misguided policy at a national level and, with boroughs enduring a 63% cut in core funding since 2010, it’s clear we can’t carry on like this.
‘The Government should end its restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts so that all money raised from council house sales in London goes back into building more homes.’
MHCLG director general, Jeremy Pocklington, told the select committee: ‘We think it is good value for money.
‘The case for Right to Buy is it helps people into home ownership that would not otherwise be able afford their own home, which is something this Government strongly supports.
‘It does release resources that councils can use to invest in their stock.
‘While homes are being sold – which is enabling people who would not otherwise be able to own their own home – a great many more homes are being built through all the interventions, looked at in the round.’
It’s probably a bit late to ask this question, given that this scheme has been in place for 30 years now.
That said, the proof must already be there, especially in London where working class areas, that were a foreign land for those with means, are now fashionable and sort after locations for the young professionals, earning big money.
Exposing social housing to the open market , in high demand areas, where demand is the through roof and prices constantly rising, inevitably means the original tenant, very soon becomes the ex-owner.
It might seem like a a very worthy ambition, giving everybody currently sitting at the bottom of the pile and trapped in social housing – as certain people view it – a chance to own their own home. However, assuming that hat was even the original intention and it wasn’t just about killing off the bulk of social housing as we knew it, it’s also had the effect of depopulating our city centre of those of modest means, otherwise known as the working classes.
So all those people who used to empty the bins, sweep the streets, dig up the roads, drive the delivery van, serve in the local shops and do the thousand and one other menial, but vital jobs that keep a city running, now live a journey away from their workplace.
in some cases that journey may mean up to an hour spent on a bus, or train, travelling in from a remote housing estate where everybody else is doing exactly the same thing. The effect of this, is that nobody actually knows who their neighbours are anymore and therefore certainly little, or no sense of community, because there’s so little actual time spent in the company of those who live near us.
Back in what used to be the social housing areas that haven’t been flattened and turned into expensive apartment blocks for the upwardly mobile, the housing has been gutted, extended and beautified, to make it desirable and more importantly, significantly more expensive than it was. Again, just like the workers they displaced, the lack of community will be clear, but this will be by choice in most cases, because their social lives take them elsewhere and opportunities more diverse.
Job done. All those rundown, poorly maintained sink estates cleared out from our city centres And that ‘unpleasant’ working class riff raff removed to where it belongs, when it not actually doing the work that needs doing.
The added bonus is, those who grabbed the social housing as soon as the first tenants where starting to sell, can now maximise their returns, over and over again, by renting to the high earners who need to live close to the city centres.
If Right to Buy was really about getting those of modest means on to the housing ladder, it was a fatally flawed concept. It depopulated our cities of the ordinary working class people, by selling off the only type of housing they could ever have afforded to live in. If that was always the intention, shame on you Margret Thatcher.
The Housing should have been retained and those who wanted to buy their own property should have offered equivalent grant funding to purchase their own home elsewhere. This could have been in a privately built, or publically funding housing developement, such as in the new towns.
It was claimed that this would have forced people to move out of houses, or places they’d been in for many years and possibly spent money on. This is complete nonsense and just a smoke screen used by government to justify to the orignal scheme.
Why should social housing tenants have been given that benefit on top of the massive discounts they received for the ‘equity’ they’d supposedly built up? How was they were any more entitle than somebody forced to rent a property in the private sector, where the end of lease meant the most you were likely to get back was your deposit if you were lucky?
So it seems the Daily Telegraph was actually paraphrasing Theresa May’s speech and using the term council housing, to mean social housing.
The £2 billion headline will be money for the housing associations to put very nicely into the hands of private developers via the various deals and conjurings that go on once a section 106 affordable housing obligation is in play.
A wasteful and time consuming process at the best of times, £2 billion will soon disappear as each sides legal teams dance around the various council and housing association offices.
Why not take a holistic approach to our national disgrace of failing to provide decent housing for those in the most need?
The introduction of land value capture, would allow councils to aquire land at a sensible price, thereby making the most of any share of the £2billion on offer. This, combined with greater borrowing flexiblity, would offer a far greater return for the money available and more certainty of delivery. It would also ensure that this desperately needed housing, was being managed by those who best understand their communities.
LGA warns May’s focus on associations ‘misses the point’ about council-led building
The Conservative head of the Local Government Association (LGA) has hit back after Theresa May suggested councils are not able to build at the same scale as housing associations.
Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA (picture: Tom Campbell)
Councils hit back after May comments #ukhousing
In a landmark speech to the National Housing Summit today, the prime minister said she wants housing associations to lead on creating “large-scale, high-quality developments” because the sector can “achieve things neither private developers nor local authorities are capable of doing”.
She pointed to the Thamesmead Estate in south east London, which is currently being regenerated by Peabody after two councils had “problems dealing with the unique challenges and opportunities” of the project.
But Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA and leader of South Holland District Council, said Ms May’s comment “misses the point about why we are not able to build at scale”.
“Since RSLs [registered social landlords] took over building social housing they’ve built around 40,000 a year, we have never got to the numbers we need to have as a country,” he told Inside Housing.
“That’s not to blame the RSLs, it’s because we have not been part of that mix as councils.
“And what we need to do is get the Treasury to get off our backs. I don’t need more money, I just need freedom so I can spend my money.
“Let me deal with Right to Buy in the way that works for my area and then get Housing Revenue Account debt off the government balance sheet because there’s no need for it to be there – and then job’s a good’un and we can start fixing the housing crisis before the end of parliament.”
However, Mr Porter did also praise the prime minister for emphasising the value of social housing.
In her speech, Mrs May said the rise of social housing “brought about the end of the slums and tenements, a recognition that all of us, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, deserve a decent place to call our own”.
In a statement, the LGA said: “Councils have always been proud of their housing and tenants and the positive recognition of social housing by the prime minister today must be shared by all.”
Despite years of trying to undermine, even eliminate social housing from the housing landscape of the United Kingdom, they have finally had to accept that it has a vital role to play in providing decent housing for those in need.
I sincerely hope that this is not just a sound bite, designed to placate those who have been seeking to remind the Conservatives of their duty to work in the interests of the whole nation, not just those with the right background and connections.
It would appear that Lord Porter of Spalding’s constant pressure on the Conservative government, has finally paid dividends.
Gary Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council, has never been backwards at coming forwards as they say, when it comes to the subject of housing. His passion for council housing and ensuring that councils are able to replace the stock lost to the ‘well meaning’ but flawed, Right to Buy process, is we’ll documented. I also agree with his belief that councils should retain ownership of their housing stock and add to it as the needs of their local community grows.
Why councils cannot be viewed in the same way as the private sector when it comes to providing rental properties, escapes me. It is no doubt tied to the origin of the money that built the original Council housing stock coming from central government. Since that time, the Treasury has never missed an opportunity to remind local government that it still somehow ‘owes’ the Treasury that money.
So now, in an apparent change of heart, a new lump of money no doubt with even more strings attached, is to be made available to councils to replenish their housing stock. However, if the government make it as difficult as they often do when providing financing, the housing is likely to take many years to become a reality. Meanwhile, councils are just getting on with it.
Copied from Daily Telegraph Wednesday 19 September 2018
Tories break from Thatcher’s philosophy of home ownership with promise of £2bn to be spent on social housing
By Gordon Rayner, Political Editor
THERESA MAY will today signal a major shift in Conservative policy on council housing by insisting that people should feel “proud” of living in a state-funded home.
In a speech on housing policy, the Prime Minister will pledge to spend an extra £2 billion on social housing and will say that politicians and society should stop “looking down” on those who live in council homes.
Since Margaret Thatcher’s revolutionary right-to-buy housing policy of the Eighties, a central tenet of Conservative policy has been encouraging home ownership and appealing to the working classes who aspired to buy their council-owned properties.
However, in the wake of the financial crisis, which led to a drop in home ownership, the Prime Minister will today seek to change the language used by senior Tories about council homes.
“For many people, a certain stigma still clings to social housing,” she will say. “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.
“And on the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.
“We should never see social housing as something that need simply be ‘good enough’, nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better.”
She added: “I want to see social housing that is so good people are proud to call it their home.” Mrs May’s remarks signal a change in tone for the Conservatives, a generation after Lady Thatcher spoke about the pride of home ownership and its benefit to inner-city estates.
However, the comments mark a risky approach, as the Conservatives have traditionally relied on the support of home owners, or those aspiring to own homes, for electoral victory.
Mrs May will make her speech hours before she travels to Salzburg for an EU summit at which she is expected to plead with European leaders to accept her vision for Brexit.
Her speech is also designed to offer a domestic agenda to poorer areas of the country that voted Leave. It is part of a policy programme, including energy price caps, that involves more intervention in markets ministers do not believe are functioning properly.
Downing Street insisted Mrs May was not trying to dilute Lady Thatcher’s right-to-buy legacy, and that it remained her “personal mission” to get more people on to the housing ladder. However, she believes social housing is essential in fixing the housing crisis.
Mrs May will address the National Housing Federation Summit, the trade body for housing associations, and will urge it to get on with building high-quality homes the Government has already agreed to fund.
She will announce an extra £2 billion in funding over the next 10 years to give housing associations “the certainty they need” to break ground on tens of thousands of affordable homes.
So far eight associations have been given a total of £600 million to build almost 15,000 affordable homes, but Mrs May wants more to follow suit.
Copied from Sunday Telegraph Business section – 9th September 2018
If somebody who wants open a new business on the high street can’t afford to apply for a change of use planning application and wait UP TO 8 weeks, then that business is probably going to fail not long after opening.
Then there’s the matter of an inappropriate use opening up next to an existing business, just because that vacant unit was available and has a willing owner. Who picks up the pieces when the two businesses clash? The local council of course.
Retailers and landlords: rip up planning laws to save high street
By Tim Wallace
A COALITION of retailers, landlords, councils and pubs has called for planning laws to be torn up so that abandoned shops can be turned into cafes, galleries, gyms and other businesses that could help rejuvenate Britain’s decimated high streets.
Empty units in the middle of towns and villages are often hard to let because it can be difficult and expensive to get permission to change their use. For example, a unit used as a hairdresser’s needs permission to be changed into a nail bar.
“At present, it can take about eight weeks and cost about £500,” said the British Property Federation, which represents shops’ landlords. It wants to change the rules to keep up to date with modern shopping habits, as online sales take retail business away from high streets.
This makes it crucial those selling “experiences” can move into empty units once used for retail.
The landlords’ call to chop back planning rules was joined by other groups who said the move could revitalise high streets. The proposals came in responses to an inquiry by the housing, communities and local government select committee.
“Traditional shop uses have become increasingly blurred, as coffee shops also become mini-libraries, and independent gyms house cafes. Although businesses have adapted to challenges, planning laws have not,” said the Federation of Small Businesses. “Planning conditions seek to regulate every type of floor space, from sale space to a gym floor. These strict regulations and planning conditions drastically reduce businesses flexibility and adaptability, reducing their ability to compete.”
The British Retail Consortium agreed, calling for regulators to “ease of change of use [rules].”
The Booksellers’ Association said it wants “simply less red tape”. It wants more creative use of empty space to bring shoppers back to the high street, including “use of empty shops to promote arts activities and artisan crafts”.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), said “transforming the fortunes of high streets is eminently possible”.
“High quality visitor experiences” help as does a recognition that “far more than just ‘shopping’ is allowing some town centres and their high streets to change and thrive,” said British BIDs.
The Local Government Association said it is time to recognise “a contraction in retail floor space” may be needed to help high streets survive.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said high streets should specialise if they want to thrive. “Examples include Ludlow’s reputation as a centre for ‘slow food’, Norwich’s coordinated approach to its medieval heritage and the ‘alternative’ identity created in Stokes Croft, Bristol.”