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A report published today by APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) and written and researched by the TCPA finds that 98% of UK councils surveyed describe their need for affordable homes as either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’.

UK councils are becoming increasingly unable to meet demands for affordable housing and 98% now describe their need as either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’, with only 1% claiming that their need is not substantial.

The survey of 166 local authorities in Britain highlights the pressure on councils to meet the growing demand for affordable housing due to a lack of new homes being built and that many of those that are being built are not affordable to those in need.

The research highlights the cumulative impact of existing housing and planning policies in England—such as the 1 per cent annual rent reductions in the social rented sector and the continued deregulation and reform of the planning system—have reduced the ability of councils to secure genuinely affordable homes available for social rent.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the TCPA, said “Our research reveals that Britain is facing an acute housing crisis with councils across the country increasingly unable to meet the need for affordable housing.

“The government must make tackling the housing crisis a priority. An ambition to increase housing numbers is not enough, we need to ensure that the homes that are built are affordable and well designed.”

By exploring a range of issues faced by councils, this study has identified how local authorities are already taking a more active role in housing delivery through entrepreneurial approaches, such as setting up local housing companies and innovative approaches to partnership working. Over two thirds (69%) of councils surveyed said that they already had or were thinking about setting up a local authority housing company either on their own or in partnership.

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE concluded “A new wave of council homes would help support local economic growth, jobs and skills in our economy; housing could be an effective driver for a renewed industrial strategy but to achieve this we need to place local councils at the heart of delivery on housing need. That means the Government must provide the financial freedoms and flexibility for councils to deliver solutions to our chronic housing shortage.”

Councils in the most deprived areas of England are meeting only a fraction of their requirements for affordable housing because the planning system is not set up to deliver homes for people in the greatest need, according to a recent report.

Between 2016-17, Blackpool, Knowsley and Pendle—whose residents take home some of the lowest incomes in the country—saw no new affordable housing delivered through the planning system and less than 7% of their requirement met by other means. On the other end of the spectrum, affluent areas including the Vale of White Horse were able to deliver 96% of their affordable housing using the planning system.

The planning system is one of the main drivers for delivering affordable housing in England, with 70% of councils saying they rely on it substantially to allow them to meet housing need. Local requirements for affordable housing are usually set as a percentage of overall housing delivered on a scheme. Councils have said deprived areas are being left behind by the current system because only high-value areas can meet developers’ profit expectations and still deliver affordable homes.

Figures show that although over half of councils have set a minimum threshold for genuinely affordable housing using their local plans, only 2% actually manage to achieve it.

Developers have traditionally managed to bypass local requirements for affordable housing by first submitting a scheme that meets the threshold, but later backing out of their commitment, claiming unworkable profit margins. The government attempted to address this problem earlier in the year by restricting the use of viability testing to only ‘particular circumstances’, although councils aren’t convinced that this will curb the problem. One official claimed that the changes will simply create new issues, which local authorities will struggle to react to.

The report also finds that councils often specify much lower numbers of affordable housing in their local plans than necessary because they believe that setting a level which meets their true requirement would deter developers from investing in their areas. This has seen deprived areas setting their target as low as 5% of new affordable housing—when the actual need is sometimes as high as 84%­—but still seeing no new homes created for lower-earning residents.

Planning for Affordable Housing, which was funded by the Nationwide Foundation, makes a series of recommendations about what needs to change to the planning system to deliver more affordable housing for people in need across the country, and highlights the critical role that innovative councils are playing to secure more affordable homes.

Henry Smith, projects and policy manager at the TCPA, said “Although housing costs are often lower in more deprived areas of the country, they’re still out of reach for many local people. This research shows that the housing crisis truly is a national problem and not only limited to major cities and those living in the south east.

“Councils are being put in a difficult situation where they’re forced to furiously attract development to meet a five-year target imposed on them by the government, but at the same time negotiate with developers to make sure that what is actually affordable to people most in need.

“Many councils are responding to these difficult circumstances by acting in new and innovative ways, such as fast-tracking planning applications—considered a barrier by many developers—for schemes which meet higher levels of affordable housing. However, to truly make a dent on these numbers the government needs to immediately increase grant levels for councils and housing associations to enable them to deliver genuinely affordable homes. It is also essential that the government creates a definition of affordable housing, which links affordability to income and people’s ability to pay, rather than an arbitrary portion of the market rate.”

More communities across England will be able to get free access to expert advice and guidance to help make their neighbourhood vision a reality, Housing Minister Dominic Raab has announced.

A £23 million fund – being delivered by Locality and Groundwork – will help local groups to develop a neighbourhood plan. These plans give local people a say in the development of their area, including where homes, schools and businesses should be built, how they should look and what infrastructure is needed to support them.

Community groups will be able to access a range of free help including financial support and latest planning expertise from trained professionals, to guide them through the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Housing and Planning Minister Dominic Raab said “Neighbourhood plans are a powerful tool to help communities shape their local area, making sure the right homes are built in the right places.

“It’s vital that communities have the right support and advice available to help deliver a plan that meets their own ambitious aspirations. That’s why I’m making £23 million available that will help more groups to do this.”

Over 2,300 communities across England have started the process of neighbourhood planning, with 530 plans approved in local referendums.

Previous government support has helped around 7 out of 10 of these communities progress their plans, with 365 neighbourhood plans finalised using support provided by the government.

The maximum grant available has also been increased by £2,000 to £17,000, helping communities to access more resources to develop a plan for their area.

Local taxpayers will be forced to spend £1 billion covering the cost of planning applications by 2022, the Local Government Association warns today.

Planning fees are set nationally, which means councils are prevented from recovering the full cost of processing the 486,500 planning applications they receive on average each year.

Since 2012 – the last time the national fees were increased – communities have footed the bill for as much as a third of all planning applications. This represents desperately-needed resources being diverted away from other vital local services.

Analysis by the LGA reveals the bill for local taxpayers to cover the cost of planning applications is growing at a rate of around £200 million a year and will reach £1 billion by 2022. This is the equivalent of:

  • Repairing 4.35 million potholes – potholes cost £46 to repair, on average.
  • Providing grant funding to help councils and housing associations provide 8,507 new affordable homes. The Homes and Communities Agency, on the last round of funding allocation through the Affordable Homes Programme, issued an average grant per home of £23,510.
  • Creating more than 828 miles of public pavements, almost 4 times the length of the M6 – footways are estimated to cost around £150 per meter.

The LGA is warning this ongoing fees shortfall is hampering planning departments’ ability to stimulate housing growth in communities.

With councils facing an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020, the LGA is calling on government to urgently bring forward its Housing White Paper commitment, to allow councils to increase planning fees, and also commit to testing a fair and transparent scheme of local fee setting, to allow councils to recover actual costs.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said “It is wrong for communities to keep being forced to spend hundreds of millions each year to cover the cost of all planning applications.
“Councils are working flat-out to approve almost nine in ten planning applications, with the majority processed quickly.

“But the shortfall in the amount of fees councils can charge and the cost of processing applications is heaping further pressure on the stretched planning departments which are so crucial to building the homes and roads that local communities need.

“Councils need to be able to recover the actual cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Locally-set fees would also allow councils to prevent increased costs being passed on to residents, while developers could contribute more to maintain high-quality planning decisions, and improve the ability of councils to speed up the planning process.”

Research carried out by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has found that the majority of new local plans in England are failing to cut carbon emissions and to plan for the scale of severe weather predicted over future years.

The study, which examined the most recently prepared plans in England, found that 70% had no carbon reduction targets or any way of monitoring their progress with carbon reduction. While plans did reflect current flood risk, they were generally poor at dealing with future climate impacts such as sea level rise and increased surface water flooding. Only a fraction of plans had recognised the impacts of heat stress or linked climate change with human health. This is despite national policy having firm commitments on climate change.

The full report, Planning for the Climate Challenge? Understanding the performance of English Local Plans, will be launched today at a TCPA event.

Dr Hugh Ellis, Interim Chief Executive at the TCPA, emphasised that there has been a missed opportunity within local plan policy to build in long term adaptation to future climate change impacts for local communities, and to integrate mitigation measures that reduce carbon emissions. He said “In practice a clear political signal has been sent to local authorities to deprioritise climate change and instead to focus solely on the allocation of housing land. Housing growth is vital, but it must be in the right place and to the right standards to deal with the future impacts of climatic change. Local planning can do a great deal to cut emissions and to design places resilient to flooding and overheating, but, the fact remains that many places remain critically unprepared for climate change. Government must act to refocus the system to look at outcomes that will result in secure, resilient and low carbon places.”

The study concluded that significant policy change and new resources were required if the system was going to deliver on is potential in tackling climate change. Sir Graham Wynne, Member of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, commented that: “TCPA’s work is particularly relevant in the context of climate change and local planning has a strong impact on the resilience, well-being and sustainability of our communities. As climate change brings more frequent heatwaves and extreme rainfall, local planning decisions can do much to create safer, healthier communities with lower greenhouse gas emissions. This report worryingly finds that too often local plans fail to promote energy efficiency, low-carbon transport, and the sustainable management of water and flooding.”

Katharine Knox JRF Policy and research manager added “This report provides worrying reading for vulnerable communities at the sharp end of climate change impacts. Without better spatial planning, we risk increasing disadvantage among communities at greatest risk. Efforts need to be made at national and local level to respond to these challenges urgently.”

…the 250 high rise towers planned or underway in the capital go ahead as planned!

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Many planners ignore people’s emotions when they analyse social problems, and as a result planners often get things wrong, according to ‘Planning Theory & Practice,’ published by Taylor & Francis.’

Planners aim to change how people act including where they live, locate a business, send children to school, with whom, how, and where they travel, and where and on what they spend money.

Planning successfully depends on understanding what motivates people. However most planners continue to ignore how people think and act emotionally, despite social sciences and other professions waking up to the power of emotions as they recognise their influence on how people act. In the article, ‘Planning with half a mind: Why planners resist emotion’ published in Planning Theory & Practice, Howell Baum indicates that the few planners who recognise emotional concerns are more successful than the planners who ignore them.

So, if emotions matter, why do planners ignore them?

Historically, planners gained authority for their profession by claiming to solve problems rationally, without giving any attention to residents’ emotions or their own. As a result, planners who identify with the profession must ignore emotions if they want authority. Crucially, the reason society values planners’ claim to ignore emotions and gives them authority for doing so comes from the culture of the Enlightenment, which regards emotion as a threat to reason and encourages people to pretend they have no emotions. Baum posits that by its very nature, planning as a profession will always resist thinking about emotions, resulting in unrealistic and ineffective planning.

Property developers in London could be made to cover expenses for soundproofing nearby flats and residences that are located near to pubs, nightclubs and music venues in London under new plans to help tackle the steep decline of nightlife in the city.

The Cavern in Liverpool (or its modern reincarnation, at least) is a Mecca to any Beatles fan worth their salt. The Haçienda was a Mancunian music venue in Manchester that was the focal point of what became known as the Madchester years of the 80s and 90s.

However, for the past few years venues such as these (and many more throughout the UK) are falling into serious decline. The reason for the decline is twofold; there aren’t as many people actually going to the venues for live music anymore and it is becoming more and more difficult for venue owners to obtain or keep costly licenses to host late-night music. Whilst the first issue is much harder and more complex to tackle, the latter is largely due to pressure being put on venues by local developers to curb the noise in the interest of new residents.

The Troubadour in London is one such venue experiencing difficulties due to local residents. The historic and legendary coffee house – which has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan in 1962, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Morrissey to name but a few – is currently for sale because of noise complaints. Kensington and Chelsea borough declared that the garden could no longer be used after 9pm. This has driven drink turnover down substantially, and the very future of the place now hangs in the balance.

Often the music venues in question have been part of the fabric in these areas long before residential districts are built up around them. The developers that move in then attempt to purge anything from the area that might be deemed undesirable and give people reason not to live in the buildings. Ergo, complaints are made, restrictions are issued and the venue is then effectively starved of the custom it has been entertaining and thriving off for many years.

However, under the new ‘agent of change’ principle, which is to be incorporated into London planning rules going forward, the responsibility of solving issues raised will now sit squarely on the developer’s doorstep, rather than the local council or the venue itself. This will mean that if complaints are made by residents regarding noise from a club, the developer will need to pay for soundproofing for that residence to help block out the noise!

Whilst this may seem extreme, drastic times call for desperate measures. The number of small venues in London alone has fallen by over 30% in the last 8 years. Nightclubs across Britain have actually halved in the past 10 years. The ideology behind the incentive is that the venues should culturally enrich a residential area rather than be a nuisance.

London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture, Munira Mirza said “What we don’t want is for the important regeneration and infrastructure work to damage the music [venue] industry.”

“Some boroughs are very supportive of live music and others aren’t. A lot of them listen to their residents, and don’t necessarily hear the voice of all the people who enjoy visiting [music venues].”

Head of the Night Time Industries Association Alan Miller is pleased with the proposal, saying “this agent of change thing is brilliant but I think it should go further. We should have a situation where if you move into a busy street full of bars and clubs, that’s the street you’re moving into.”

Thankyou for the music!