Friday, 10 August 2018

Time to tighten the Green Belt?

In our green and pleasant land the question must be asked. Is it time to tighten the Green Belt? So as to protection the countryside not just for our generation but also for the generations to come.

In a recent article, Laura Edgar of the Planner wrote:

‘Strategic shrinking’ of green belt as harmful as building on it, says CPRE
Reviewing green belt boundaries as part of the local plan process should only take place in exceptional circumstances – but this ‘strategic shrinking’ of the green belt is as ‘harmful’ as building on it, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The campaign group’s annual State of the Green Belt report says there are currently 460,000 homes being planned that would be built on greenfield land that will soon be released from the green belt – or has been designated in local plans.

Of those houses planned for green belt land, CPRE says only 27 per cent meet the government’s definition of affordable.

Furthermore, according to the report, local authorities with green belt land have enough brownfield land for more than 720,000 homes and therefore “there is no reason for them not to be prioritising brownfield development”.

Because “one-third” of local authorities with green belt land face increased housing targets as a result of the new method for calculating housing demand laid out in the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in July, the release of green belt land is set to continue, says CPRE.

The London Metropolitan Green Belt will be the “biggest casualty”.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at the CPRE, said: “We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they sell off and gobble up the green belt to build low-density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live. The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the green belt only serves to entrench the issue.”

The government, Fyans continued, is “failing” in its commitment to protect the green belt, which is being “eroded at an alarming rate”.

It is “essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened”.

The report features a number of recommendations, including:

National and local planning policies and decision should recognise the green belt’s wide variety of benefits, but focus on ensuring that they continue to fulfil their purpose by:
- Following through on commitments to strengthen the exceptional circumstances test by prioritising brownfield sites within the revised NPPF.

- Committing to establishing long-term green belt boundaries, to be reviewed no more than every 15 years.

National government should develop clear guidance for local authorities on housing requirements to protect designated land and support the creation of new green belts where local authorities have established a clear need for them.
Katherine Evans, partner at law firm TLT, said: “The latest statistics show that green belt land saw a decrease of less than 0.05 per cent in 2016-2017.

"Despite what the name suggests the reality is that little of the green belt is valued for its landscape and some is already developed for a multitude of purposes."

The CPRE likes to characterise the green belt as ‘countryside next door’ but the reality is that little of the green belt is valued for its landscape and some is already developed for a multitude of purposes.”

Evans highlighted that the revised NPPF makes it clear that green belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified, while a planning authority must be able to demonstrate that it has fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting its identified need for development.

“Extensions to boundaries and building on the green belt are only likely where the local authority has already made use of suitable brownfield sites and underutilised land, optimised the density of development on existing land set aside for housing or has reached an agreement with a neighbouring local authority in order to take on some of its housing needs.

“While building more homes to tackle the housing crisis is one of the government’s main priorities, it is quite clear from the revised NPPF that this is not to be at the expense of the green belt. It’s worth keeping in mind that the drive to build new homes is taking place predominantly on brownfield and urban sites."

The National Community Land Trusts (CLT) Network highlighted that the CPRE report found that only 990 of the 7,600 homes rural communities need were built last year. To date, 840 CLT homes have been built, predominantly in rural areas.

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trusts (CLT) Network, said: “Community Land Trusts are thriving in rural areas. This is because local people have recognised them as a way to build the affordable homes that local people can actually afford, rather than more expensive homes.

“Many rural communities are coming up against school and shop closures that are threatening local life. The need for affordable housing has never been more serious. While many local authorities and parish councils are supporting CLTs to form and develop, we would like to see this going further.

“With local governments working with groups to find land there’s no reason why CLTs couldn’t help build the annual quota of rural homes needed.”

The State of the Green Belt report can be found on the CPRE website.

So what does this tell us? Our we about to loose our countryside?

The following is from The Week, whose late owner Felix Dennis was very fond of the countryside:

Why England’s green belt is disappearing at ‘alarming rate’

Housing applications for protected areas hits record 460,000 following relaxation of planning laws

Campaigners say most housing built on England’s green belts is unaffordable for first-time buyers

The UK’s green belt is disappearing at an “alarming rate” as the Government strives to meet targets for new homes, a new report has warned.

However, only 22% of the planned developments meet the Government’s definition of “affordable”. Tom Fyans, director of policy at CPRE, has accused developers of “misleading the public” over a perceived necessity to build on the green belt in order to help families get on the housing ladder, Sky News reports.

“The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the green belt only serves to entrench the issue,” Fyans said.

What is England’s green belt?
The green belt programme was rolled out during the post-WWII urban boom, in order to “stop cities from sprawling and countryside being spoilt”, the BBC says.

Around 13% of English land - some four million acres - is currently covered by green belt regulations, including “scenic sites open to the public, such as the Chiltern Hills and North Downs”, the broadcaster adds.

England has a total of 14 designated green belt areas, which surround urban areas including London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. These special sites are meant to be permanently protected and are only reviewed in exceptional circumstances. 

By contrast, brownfield sites - land that has previously been developed - are often on disused or derelict land, but are often more expensive to build on as the land must first be cleared.

Why is the green belt disappearing?
“As recently as 2010-11, there was no net loss of green belt land in England, but the introduction of a new National Planning Policy Framework in 2012 heralded the start of a sudden erosion of the green belt,” The Daily Telegraph reports.

In the subsequent years up until 2017, 11,960 acres of green belt was lost - the equivalent of around 5,000 football pitches. A total of 37 local authorities have redesignated green belt land for development in the past six years, the newspaper adds.

Applications to build an additional 35,000 homes on green belt land were submitted last year alone.

However, the CPRE estimates that local authorities with green belt areas have enough brownfield land for more than 720,000 homes.

Why are campaigners angry?
Campaigners are unhappy that the Government is not utilising the full potential on the country’s alleged one million brownfield housing sites.

Although more than half of the housing development to date has been on these brownfield sites, campaigners say the “vast majority of homes constructed on greenfield green belt land is in higher price brackets unattainable to most buyers”, The Guardian reports.

“Only 27% of homes built or approved on greenfield land since 2009 fitted the Government’s definition of affordable housing,” the newspaper says.

CPRE policy director Fyans said: “We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they gobble up the green belt to build low density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live.

“The Government is failing in its commitment to protect the green belt – it is being eroded at an alarming rate. But it is essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing responded: “We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside.

“Last year the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade and only 0.02% of the green belt was developed for residential use.

“We are adding more certainty to the planning system, and our rule book strengthens national protections for the green belt and says that councils may only alter boundaries in exceptional circumstances once they have looked at all other options.”

Whatever the outcome it will require some truly radical thinking to solve the problem.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Planning News

See below for the latest planning news from the Planning Portal.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Apparently Millennials Don't Need Living Rooms

In a recent article:

Well, that's his opinion. We at GBS Designs very much approve of the Technical Housing Standards - Described Space Standard document as it sets out the space required for quality housing and helps prevent people being squeezed into 'rabbit hutches'.

GBS Designs

Thursday, 24 August 2017

£45.5m investment to unlock homes in Leicestershire and South-East

On the 18th August 2017, Laura Edgar of The Planner wrote:

Highways England has announced a number of road improvements schemes worth £45 million that could create more than 6,000 jobs and 10,000 homes in Leicestershire and the South East.

The body is making a £19.9 million contribution towards the schemes from its Growth and Housing Fund, which was set up as part of the government’s £15 billion investment in roads.

Private sector developer contributions, the Congestion Relief Fund and other public money make up the rest of the investment.

The three schemes that will receive money are:

M27 junction 9 Whitley Way – Up to 3,500 homes and up to 250 jobs could be delivered.£9.9 million will come from the Growth and Housing Fund and £3 million from the Highways England Congestion Relief Fund. Hampshire County Council and the local enterprise partnership will, under the terms of a grant funding agreement, deliver the scheme. It is the first scheme to be supported by this fund in the South-East.

Anstey Lane (A46 / A560) – Up to 2,378 homes and around 260 jobs could be delivered. Some £5 million will come from the Growth and Housing Fund and £2.8 million from private developers. Leicestershire County Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership will deliver it.

M1 junction 23 – Up to 4,000 homes and 5,600 jobs could be created. Some £5 million will come from Growth and Housing Fund, £10 million from private funding and £3.2 million from the local growth fund. Leicestershire County Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership will deliver the scheme.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive at Highways England, said: “England’s strategic roads are vital for economic success, connecting businesses, people and supporting the government’s agenda of employment and growth. All of these improvements and future upcoming announcements will ultimately ensure England’s major roads continue to make a valuable contribution to the prosperity of our country.”

So it looks like some of the money will come to the South Coast.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Brown Field Sites & Local Plans

A couple of interesting articles from The Planing Portal news updates caught my eye this month.

The first about Brown Field Sites and the second about the lack of Local Plans from certain local planning authorities.

In a recent article, Laura Edgar from The Planner wrote:

Developers support government pledge to free up brownfield land, says survey

The biggest opportunity arising from the government’s housing white paper is the proposal to release more publicly owned land for development, according to a survey of developers.

Short-term property lender Amicus Property Finance commissioned the research. It was conducted with 51 UK property developers.

The top four most popular measures in the housing white paper were:

Increasing the availability of brownfield sites (69 per cent);
The proposed reduction in the time permitted by local authorities to approve planning applications from three to two years (49 per cent);
The continuation of the Help to Buy scheme (45 per cent); and
Increasing the focus on building more homes in the affordable housing sector (41 per cent).
Despite suggesting that they support elements of the housing white paper, developers have expressed scepticism that the government will meet its target to build a million homes by 2020. Just one in five (21 per cent) think this target is realistic.
The research also considered what property developers would like to see the government introduce to address the housing crisis. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) would like to see a repeal of the stamp duty rises and tax relief reductions on landlords; 44 per cent wanted to see incentives for elderly people to downsize, and 37 per cent called for a suspension in capital gains tax to encourage more land to come on to the market.

Keith Aldridge, founder and managing director at Amicus Property Finance, said: “Property developers appear highly supportive of a number of the ideas in the white paper, particularly releasing more brownfield land to the market and the greater focus on affordable housing. The existing ‘Help to Buy’ initiative has also been well received by many developers and we have already financed a number of successful developments in the South-East.

“Though large-scale government investment plays a part in stimulating supply, developers see the current tax laws as one of the biggest obstacles to solving the housing crisis, particularly repealing the recent stamp duty increases for landlords.”

Whether you like it or not, people need to live somewhere that is convenient for their work and family lives. We have all heard others say "I remember when all of this were fields." and similar comments, but the simple facts are that the population is rising and people need affordable housing.

However, in a further article, Laura Edgar also went on to write:

Report: 43 per cent of councils yet to publish draft local plan

New research has suggested that 36 per cent of planning authorities have seen a local plan through examination to adoption, but 43 per cent have not even published a draft local plan.

The report, by planning consultancy Lichfields, considers the progress of local plans under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since it was launched five years ago.

The inability of some councils to make progress with their local plans could expose them to government interventions announced in the housing white paper, the consultancy warned.

Planned and Deliver notes a number of policies included in the housing white paper that might have implications for plan making and delivering planned housing, such as the housing delivery test.

Statistics in the report

161 local plans examined or submitted for examination since the introduction of the NPPF
105 local plans found sound with 36 per cent of local planning authorities boasting an up-to-date local plan against the NPPF
30 per cent of sound plans subject to an ‘early review’, all related at least in part to housing matters
71 per cent of early reviews subject to a deadline or time limit, with eight local plan areas already missing that timescale
23 tools and tests Lichfields have identified within the housing white paper that could help improve plan-making
The research also suggests that in aggregate, adopted post-NPPF local plans, when combined with the London Plan, are not providing for sufficient housing to match the number of homes implied by household projections. The shortfall could be 3,945 dwellings per annum. This is without the consideration of improving affordability.

Lichfields said that with many plans yet to be prepared in locations with restrictive policies, including policies relating to the green belt, there is likely to be a need for upward pressure on housing requirement figures in emerging and next generation plans.

Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields and an advisor on the Department for Communities and Local Government Local Plans Expert Group in 2016, said: “As it has been from the beginning, the major factor slowing the local plan process is the debate and disagreement over housing numbers. Indeed, almost half of plans found sound have needed to adjust their housing targets before making the grade.

“Our research has identified 222 local authority areas (56 per cent) may fail these tests and face the consequences of needing an action plan or application of a 20 per cent buffer on their five year land supply.”

The government is currently legislating to make having a plan a statutory requirement. If a council does not have an up-to-date local plan, the government may intervene by directing a local planning authority to review its existing plans or directing councils to prepare a plan.

Spry said: “Despite some frenetic plan making activity over the past 12 months, our research shows that getting these plans to formal submission remains over the horizon for many areas.

“There are clear signs that the prospect of the housing white paper’s reforms has caused a hiatus, but with net housing completions reaching almost 190,000 last year despite poor plan coverage, it is perhaps better to apply one comprehensive set of reforms now, rather than have constant tinkering.”

Planned and Deliver can be found here (pdf). 

* Lichfields formerly operated under the name Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. The name Lichfields came into use on 14 February 2017.

This is very disappointing as clearly the latter will have an impact on the former, and without a clear local plan the population could be poorly served by both local authorities and developers.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Something to meditate on

Interesting article by Tom Evans ( from The Federation of Small Businesses' magazine First Voice on the importance of taking time to regroup, recharge the batteries and look after your mind and body. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

GBS Designs Awarded Best of Houzz 2017

Over 40 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals in North America and Around the World

GBS Designs of Waterlooville, Hampshire has won “Best Of Customer Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The chartered architectural and design practice was chosen by the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2016. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognized with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2017” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals on Houzz.

“We’re so pleased to award Best of Houzz 2017 to this incredible group of talented and customer-focused professionals, including GBS Designs,” said Andrew Small, Managing Director of Houzz UK and Ireland. “Each of these businesses was singled out for recognition by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts for helping to turn their home improvement dreams into reality.”

Follow GBS Designs on Houzz

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit