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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.
The MJ online By Martin Ford | 22 January 2019
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.’
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.”
My only disappoitment with this comment piece, is that Tom Welsh talks more about cars, that most of us use no more than 5% of the time we own them. Even when he refers to roads, it’s about problems fitting the moving cars on to them.
He does however get on to the auwful boxes we are forcing our young people to put their hearts and souls into and maybe even raise a family in, if then priced out of the market for larger properties. Here’s where the roads come into play, with the narrowness of those now built in residential developments, turning pavement parking into the standard practice.
Comment piece from Sunday Telegraph 9th September 2018
Much about modern life seems designed to provoke fury. Sinks in hotel bathrooms are too tiny to fill up even the miniature kettles they provide. Household goods are too complicated to fix without the services of an expensive expert. Now we have statistical confirmation of another failure by design that drives people mad: parking spaces are too small for today’s cars.
This is largely because cars have expanded in size. The most popular models have widened on average by 17 per cent since the late Nineties, to provide more room for passengers and to cram in all the technology that regulation and drivers demand. Roads and parking spaces haven’t widened to accommodate them, however.
Many streets have in fact become narrower to fit in bus and cycle lanes. Dents, scuffs and even bad backs from drivers angling themselves awkwardly from their vehicles are the sad consequences of too-small parking bays. Terrible drivers who feel the need to park across two do little for societal calm, either.
The broader problem is an obsession with rationing space. Britain feels overcrowded partly because the population has grown strongly, but also because the authorities are determined to squeeze as much as possible into as little room as they can, a perverse fixation on ever greater density. This leaves passengers on trains uncomfortable, new-build flats and houses barely inhabitable and much smaller than older properties, and a trip to the shops by car far more stressful than it need be. Ironically, cars are one of the few things that have changed to meet a natural demand for more comfort. Meanwhile, council car parking spaces rigorously stick to the minimum size permitted by law in order to cram more vehicles in.
Policy changes could fix all of this, of course, and release some of the fury that is built into our daily lives. Land is expensive, and should ideally become cheaper. Travel costs on rail are already high, so operators attempt to pack more into commuter trains. But they could avoid proposed measures like the outrageous scrapping of first class carriages, which enable people to escape the packed-in discomfort we are expected to put up with.
But would any of this get a fair hearing today? Politicians and regulators are wedded to three principles that conspire together against public comfort. First is an unhealthy belief in targets, which sees 200,000 homes built a year as a triumph, even if they’re just inner-city box flats and not the family houses people actually want; and which trumpets unusable bays as meeting demand for parking.
Second is a blind faith in regulations, wherein things are designed to meet regulatory criteria, rather than to satisfy consumer demand. Third is a skewed mania for equality – exacerbated by snobbery – in which those who choose to take up more room, whether by buying a family car or wanting a family home, are deemed to be offending against efficient use of space. It isn’t the owners of large cars we should be fuming against
Landowners’ liability for occupiers’ abandoned waste
An unsuccessful appeal by a landowner against a conviction for knowingly permitting an unauthorised waste operation on its land has highlighted the risks to landowners of incurring criminal liability if former occupiers abandon waste on their land.
The High Court has recently clarified the circumstances in which landowners can face criminal liability for waste abandoned on their land by former occupiers. Commercial landlords need to be aware of the risks and consider how they might be minimised, because the judgment imposes virtually strict liability on landowners in circumstances where occupiers cease trading and abandon waste on their land.
Salhouse Norwich Ltd owned a site in Norwich, which it leased to a mattress recycling business. The business did not have an environmental permit or a waste exemption. In August 2015, the Environment Agency served an enforcement notice on the tenant, requiring it to remove the mattresses. The tenant didn’t comply, and ceased trading, abandoning over 20,000 mattresses (weighing 471 tonnes).
The mattresses remained on the site after the tenant ceased trading. Salhouse Norwich proposed a remedial plan to attempt to clear the site, but the Environment Agency rejected it and charged Salhouse Norwich with the offence of knowingly permitting the storage of waste without an environmental permit. One of Salhouse Norwich’s directors was also charged in a personal capacity, because the company was said to have acted with his consent or connivance, or the offence was attributable to his neglect.
Both Salhouse Norwich and the director were convicted in the Magistrates’ Court, receiving a fine and 150 hours of unpaid community work respectively. They both appealed.
On appeal, the High Court upheld the convictions and found that Salhouse Norwich and the director were guilty because:
- the continued presence of the mattresses on the land after the tenant abandoned them amounted to a waste storage operation; and
- they had known that the mattresses were present on the land, but had failed to ensure their removal.
All the Environment Agency therefore needed to prove was that Salhouse Norwich and the director knew that the mattresses were present on the land and had done nothing to prevent them being there. There was no need to prove any positive act by them.
What does the case mean for landowners?
The judgment is a harsh outcome for landowners, as it seems to require them to take positive action to clean up their land if former occupiers abandon waste on it. Once they are aware of the presence of a former occupier’s waste on their land, they are guilty of knowingly permitting an illegal waste storage operation if they do nothing to remove it.
In addition to or instead of prosecuting for carrying out illegal waste operations without a permit, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and local authorities have powers to serve notices on landowners requiring the removal of waste when it has been illegally deposited or illegally stored on land. Failing to comply with such a notice is also an offence. As highlighted in our March 2018 update ‘Imminent changes to waste rules – it’s not all rubbish‘, these powers have recently been extended significantly, and the position now is that a landowner can also be served with a notice requiring it to remove waste when the waste was deposited with legal authority but where that authority has expired, when the occupier cannot be found, or when the occupier was served with a notice but didn’t comply with it. Landowners can also be charged landfill tax if they knowingly permit the illegal deposit of waste on their land.
Our experience is that, where possible and practicable, regulators will pursue occupiers in preference to landowners. However, regulators will look to landowners to make up the shortfall where an occupier has disappeared or become insolvent.
Before allowing a third party such as a tenant or licensee to occupy its land, a landowner should carefully consider the nature of the occupier’s business and whether it involves waste. If it does, the landowner should ask:
- Are the necessary environmental permits and planning permissions in place for the occupier’s proposed use of the land?;
- Is the occupier’s business established and reputable?;
- Is the occupier’s business financially solvent?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then the risk of the occupier disappearing and abandoning waste is reduced. Prevention in these circumstances in better than a cure.