Kier and their lack of attention to detail

As a member of the district council’s planning committee you get used to hearing the people’s concerns and sometimes even their anger about proposed new development. 

However, once the public concern has died down, most if not all of those issues resolved and the development built, there can be details that come back to bite you.

The pictures below show such minor details within much larger areas of development at Wygate Park.

The first 3 photos are shocking, both visually and potentially, literally.  How anybody could think it made sense to place a utility box, with a mains electrical power feed in the direct path of vehicles entering and leaving a heavily used residential car park, escapes me. 

Having done so, how can they then consider that two cheap wooden planted tubs, already falling apart, are an adequate form of protection against moving vehicles weighing up to 3000kgs?

The second set of photos are of an issue that I thought I’d already addressed, when I found the original bollard lying on the ground, due to the bodge job that had been carried out installing it the first time – how long did they expect 4 long wood screws in plastic plugs normally used in brickwork to last in Tarmac?.  With the help of the our planning enforcement officer, I got the bollard refitted with bolts instead of the wood screws used originally – who do these people employ?  Even then the refit was poorly done, but at least it was more secure than the original amateur job.

Imagine my shock then when I visited the site again sometime later, only to find that the bollard had now disappeared completely.  It appears to have been displaced in favour of new Tarmac and a services cover.  The location still has plenty of space for a correctly positioned bollard, using a nearby lamp post and low wooden fencing to block off the path that would otherwise allow vehicles to pass through easily.

The first photo in the second set show where the bollard is now, notice anything?  That’s right, it’s now in a completely useless position.  It now serves no purpose whatsoever, because vehicles can drive around it with ease, using the Tarmac area serving the properties to the left and drive over the gravel strip as shown by the white tyre marks in the second photo and continue on along the nice new Tarmac footway.

I had considered approaching the site manager directly rather than via our planning enforcement officer about both these issues.  I’ve already tried this with the utility box and planters. This has been met with a deafening silence and I was only asking for the name and contact details of somebody within Kier management.

Ignoring these seemingly minor issues, prior to new development being handed over to the council – the formal term is adopted – stores up problems for the future.  The utility box is of course the dangerous one; I don’t even know what it does, but if it gets hit and badly damaged, the residents will expect somebody’s help getting things sorted out and one things for sure, it won’t be Kier doing it, especially if the car involved is a hit and run.

The useless drive around bollard will very definitely end up in the district council’s complaints box.  Those living beyond the far side of Minsmere Close and wanting to get to and from the school in a hurry, are soon going to starting using this footway as a rat run.  This will be followed by residents in properties along that footway becoming justifiably very unhappy and complaining to the council and their local councillors.  This means that, unless this ridiculous situation is resolved now, local council taxpayer will be footing the bill to fix it instead of the developers.

Therefore, given the silence to date on the utility box, I’m using this unsubtle approach and going public (not that I’ve really got much public to go public with), to see if that gets me anywhere.

Location – access to residential parking court
Utility box logo and DANGER warning 
One of the disintegrating planters ‘protecting’ the box
The new and useless bollard (Spalding Academy School in distance)
Tyre tracks of those already using the shortcut
Location where the bollard was and should still be installed

Then just as I was about to post this article, what should appear in today’s Daily Telegraph. Nothing but empty promises in my opinion when they are coining it in as in the case of Persimmon. Until we have a much larger pool of developers seeking our business and greater range of housing for buyers to choose from, these sharks will keep knocking out their photo-copied designs and building them as cheaply as possible.


Daily Telegraph 4 March 2019

Update

I’m very please to be able to offer an update to this sorry tale, having now been able to make contact with somebody at the right level. However, the answer I received could so easily have come from the site manager had he bothered to respond.

The electrical box and its associated crumbling planters, are apparently remnants from the old sale office that was in that location as the site was being developed out and should have been removed at the same time as the sales office.

The lonely and ineffective bollard is another piece of unfinished business by the onsite team. This one is about the installing of something called a knee rail. This would be a low level fence along the length of the narrow graveled strip to the left and designed to prevent vehicles crossing over.

Charge a deposit for everything we currently throw away

ENVIRONMENT

Effort to curb plastic in ocean is ‘bailing bath with a spoon’

By Daily Telegraph Reporter – 2 January 2019

CURRENT efforts to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean are like trying to bail out an overflowing bath with a teaspoon, an environmental charity has warned.

The devastation caused by plastic pollution was catapulted to the public’s attention in 2018 – largely due to the powerful images broadcast in Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

Despite the positive noises, there has been little tangible change in the UK, according to scientists at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), who say more drastic action is needed.

Dr Laura Foster, head of clean seas at MCS, said: “The most important thing should be to look at stopping the amount going into the ocean.

20pc

The littering rate for on-the-go pieces of plastic that are seen to hold no value, according to Dr Laura Foster

“Think of an overflowing bath with the taps on full blast. We’re trying to bail with a teaspoon, and we’re wondering why that’s not having an effect.

“We need to focus on stopping things going into the ocean in the first place, and it may be that future generations look at a clean-up.”

She added: “We need to incentivise – as soon as you give an empty container a value, you see people’s behaviour change.

“You won’t see them littered – the littering rate for on-the-go items is 20 per cent – but if you have a deposit return scheme on bottles and cans then that’s superb.

English core funding slashed as budgets rise in developed nations

22 NOVEMBER, 2018 BY

When total funding is calculated per head, English councils are once again worse off.

“What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference” Jo Miller, Solace president

In 2018-19 English councils are receiving, on average, £1,423 to spend on services per person. This is more than a third lower than what their counterparts in Wales and Scotland are given to spend per person this year – £2,309 and £2,237 respectively.

While the amount of per capita funding made available to councils in Wales and Scotland has increased by 5.2% and 0.2% respectively in absolute terms since 2010-11, England has witnessed a 29.8% reduction in the last eight years.

Commenting on the findings, Jo Miller, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, who writes on the issue for LGC today, said: “What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference. With a comprehensive spending review on the horizon, and the need for a preserved union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland post Brexit, the case for genuine devolution within England grows ever stronger.”

Both the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government declined to comment on the findings.

However, in his Budget speech last month chancellor Philip Hammond said English local government had “made a significant contribution to repairing the public finances”. He pointed to £1bn extra funding for social care, and the removal of the housing borrowing cap, as proof the government was giving councils “more resources to deliver high quality public services.”

Mr Hammond also said “longer-term funding decisions [for English councils] will be made at the spending review.”

In an interview with LGC, local government minister Rishi Sunak said he did not recognise the national disparities highlighted by our analysis but added “we have a devolved country so whatever Scotland and Wales want to prioritise is up to them. It’s not for me to tell them what to do.”

Mr Sunak said that while he preferred to “focus on outcomes, not necessarily just inputs”, the extra money in the Budget amounted to a “pretty serious statement of intent”.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said its councils had been “protected from the worst effects” of austerity. She added: “We value local government services in Wales and believe in strong local government. We recognise their importance, particularly for some of the most vulnerable in our society, and the role these services play in enabling people to achieve their potential and to live independently, in supporting safe and prosperous communities and in building local economies.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.”

Is Right to Buy a state sponsored gentrification programme?

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?

 

 

 

Is design now really an issue planning committees can use to fend off poor development?

Private drives used to be viewed as a positive by many of those seeking property.  Not only did they avoid passing traffic, they also eliminated your street as an option for others to park in, when there’s was full.
Unfortunately, this type of drive is used as a way to cut costs and brings issues with refuse collections and potential problems with future maintenance, given the types of housing served by them.  Worse still, because they are built to minimum standards, parking is still an issue, because insufficient off street parking is provided, so pavement parking is the standard.
Then there’s the developer’s love of the remote parking court, especially to serve lower priced and affordable housing areas.  Often stuck at the end of a narrow approach and surrounded by poorly maintained planting, these courts soon become weed ridden, litter strewn and frankly nasty places to live near.  Worse still, when residents stop using them for fear of vanadalism, they turn into convenient dumping grounds for the bulky waste items people no long want.
There’s also the lack of anywhere to keep the wheelie bin in between collections in new properties.  Many properties are now built in terraces and without direct access to the pocket handkerchief garden provided, making rear storage a non-starter.  This of course only matters, as long as you don’t live on a private drive, in an area where the local council refuses to enter it with its refuse trucks, because it’s not built to public highway standandards.
Excessive use of lengthy private drives, can therefore require a long walk on a wet and windy night, or early morning, to catch your fortnightly collection round.
Will the NPPF give us the power to eliminate the auwful, rabbit hutches, on streets and roads that are too narrow, have too little off street parking and insufficient storage either external and internal – smallest room sizes in Europe – or is it just a false dawn and business as usual for the developers?
My hope is, that the production of a local design guide will help to address some of these issues.  However, gathering robust evidence for such a document is an expensive and time consuming process and always has the potential to end up telling you that you haven’t got a strong enough case to get real change.
09/10/2018

NPPF: Designs on success?

Well designed houses

Variety of design and quality of construction should not be sacrificed in the drive to build homes at volume. The new NPPF supports a more ‘holistic’ approach to both, argues Sam Dewar

The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provides a comprehensive approach to building more homes, quicker than ever before, in the locations where people want to live and raise a family. But it unquestionably also places extra emphasis on good quality design across the housing spectrum, with implications for applicants and planning authorities.A closer examination of the revised framework reveals a stronger emphasis on a culture of design than existed in its predecessor – that’s for sure. And those involved in the planning process must understand this.

However, the cynics will say that central government is seemingly obsessed with increasing housing densities at the expense of interesting, game-changing design. I find it hard to believe that you can reconcile both – it’s impossible to have both sides of the coin.

Unfortunately, the volume house builders are only helping the housing minister limp towards the delivery of any sort of respectable housing vision at a severe cost to the quality and design of the final product.

Alternatively, small to medium-sized sites can invariably bring a more individual, bespoke and genuinely mixed approach to housing development. This has to be seen in contrast to the volume-driven national house builders, who develop large scale, 1,000-plus unit schemes often incorporating as little as four or five design styles. Many will opine that such ‘brick monstrosities’ will never add up to more than the sum of their constituent parts: bland, featureless, vacuous behemoths, bestriding increasingly depressing urban landscapes. Yet, it’s the former smaller sites, which are the ones often left vacant and unincentivised.

“Effective design in planning generates added value throughout the property development chain, differentiating the ordinary from the extraordinary”

Effective design in planning generates added value throughout the property development chain, differentiating the ordinary from the extraordinary. Simply put, it contributes to delivering more value and return on investment for developers and builders struggling in an extremely competitive sector. It doesn’t have to cost more, as ‘affordable quality’ can be secured through simply thinking differently, or eschewing the traditional for the new.

Developers can not only drive design improvements within a new-look framework through improved engagement with the customer and wider communities, but by also working collaboratively to bring forward new technologies and techniques that build quality. Finding different ways of working, that involves a wider range of stakeholders and brings new skills early on, also plays a part.

Contained within the newly revised NPPF is a shift away from a concentrated focus on the aesthetic towards holistic schemes, which better facilitate the creation of community-focused developments around which local people can enhance and enrich their lives.

That said, local planning authorities might now be more likely to insist on use of design codes and obligations to retain particular architects in planning agreements to secure the final quality of the built environment.

Moves that demonstrate a meaningful approach to engagement, which offer a genuine opportunity to help in bringing to fruition positive planning decisions, have to be welcomed. The weight to be given to these matters in determining applications lies clearly with the decision-maker. However, with competing challenges around housing quotas and the new housing delivery test, it will be interesting to see if more emphasis on design will facilitate how local planning authorities consider the concept.

Government and by implication, local planning, must endeavour to raise construction standards as they look to balance quality and long-term sustainability with expediency of delivering housing. We also need a robust pursuance of housing diversity through encouraging small builders and those involved in community and custom build projects to deliver alternative developments.

“It’s clear that all involved in planning and development need to think long and hard about the long-term legacy for those who live in the houses we build if we are to produce better homes”

It’s clear that all involved in planning and development need to think long and hard about the long-term legacy for those who live in the houses we build if we are to produce better homes. Improved engagement with the customer, whether the homes are for sale or rent, will help. Also too, will greater collaboration across the industry’s professional sectors and trade bodies.

However, in the clamour to deliver the quantity and quality of new homes this country desperately needs – 300,000 units per year – it as important as ever to repeatedly strive to consider new opportunity for design innovation, and think beyond today’s norm. I think the revised NPPF will come to be seen in the long run as a fortuitous driver of real change in the way we build houses in this country.

Sam Dewar is planning manager and director for DPA Planning

Yesterday’s headlines hid the reality that Westminster still doesn’t trust, let alone believe in local government

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.
Inside Housing

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)

Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA (picture: Tom Campbell)
Sharelines

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”.


READ MORE

Councils’ temporary accommodation spend nears £1bn
No appeals for councils excluded from £1bn borrowing programme
No appeals for councils excluded from £1bn borrowing programme
On the naughty step with Lord Gary Porter
On the naughty step with Lord Gary Porter

“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.”

The government has offered councils £1bn of additonal borrowing headroom to build new homes, but this is limited to areas where there is a large gap between private and social rents. It will not be available until April 2019.

Councils have long called for caps on the amount they can borrow to be lifted to allow them to build new social housing at scale.

More on Theresa May’s NHF speech

More on Theresa May's NHF speech

All our coverage of Theresa May’s historic speech on 19 September, 2018, in one place:

Orr: ‘penny has dropped’ for government on housing The outgoing chief executive of the National Housing Federation gives his take on May’s speech

LGA warns May’s focus on associations ’misses the point’ about council-led building Reaction to the announcements from Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association

Sector leaders hail ‘huge significance’ of May’s NHF speechHousing figures welcome the Prime Minister’s speech to the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in London

May’s speech shows a significant change in attitude towards the sector When was the last time a Conservative prime minister made a speech more favourable to social housing?, asks Jules Birch

In full: Theresa May’s speech to the National Housing Summit The full text of the Prime Minister’s historic speech

Theresa May throws support behind housing associations in landmark speech Read more about Theresa May’s speech which signalled a change in tone from the government towards housing associations

May’s new £2bn funding will not be available until 2022 Homes England clarifies the timescale for allocation of the new money promised by the Prime Minister

Morning Briefing: Labour hits back at May’s £2bn housing pledgeShadow housing secretary John Healey says May’s pledges are not enough

May to announce £2bn for strategic partnerships with associations at NHF conference The details released overnight ahead of the speech

May: Be proud of council houses

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

LEAD STORY

Tories break from Thatcher’s philosophy of home ownership with promise of £2bn to be spent on social housing

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.