London Forum Updates
Councils seek to clarify viability assessments
Posted on: 6 August 2015 at 22:43:06
Viability assessments are used by developers to justify affordable housing contributions that are lower than council targets and are considered by many outside the development industry — and some inside it — to be a smoke-and-mirrors exercise that serves the sole purpose of driving up developers’ profits. Crucially, the reports are not made available to councillors or the public and are instead assessed by an independent consultant who then provides a report to the council. But this could be set to change.
There is growing pressure in the capital for the assessments to be made public and developers’ viability claims to be put to a wider test. Even the pro-development mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has hit out at developers’ use of viability assessments, admitting in a recent meeting of the London Assembly that they are “something of a dark art” and conceding that he would like to see the reports “shared more widely”.
See more in a Property Week article.
ATCM on Office to Residential permitted development
Posted on: 23 July 2015 at 21:19:01
The Association of Town Centre Management has added its arguments to those of London Forum against the extension of PDR for conversion of offices.
Peabody chief opposes Housing Association Right to Buy
Posted on: 19 July 2015 at 22:13:26
The new chairman of Peabody Homes, Bob Kerslake, has said he would consider legal action against proposals of the Government to extend Right to Buy to tenants of housing associations' homes.
The former head of the civil service warned that the housing association would look at challenging the controversial policy unless discussions with ministers are successful in achieving amendments.
The Independent reported on Lord Kerslake's use of his first speech in the House of Lords and Inside Housing had an article on his talk to the Chartered Institute of Housing annual conference. He said opponents must remember the policy is a manifesto commitment, and should therefore work towards amending it rather than defeating it.
Extension of office-to-residential PDR delayed
Posted on: 19 July 2015 at 21:50:01
Thanks to the support of a significant number of London MPs from all parties who were alerted by London Forum and protests by the Mayor, London Councils, London Boroughs, the property, retail and town centre management/BIDs industries and London Forum members the Government has decided to redraft the proposed Statutory Instrument for extending permitted development of offices.
It will give London Boroughs time to prepare proposals for exempting buildings, areas of their Borough or even the whole Borough by issuing an Article 4 Direction. This would have the effect of preventing the introduction of the Government’s proposed freedom to change offices into housing.
See an update by Michael Bach of London Forum here.
Office-to-Resi permitted development could be extended
Posted on: 15 July 2015 at 18:32:25
The Government may be about to interfere with the planning system again in a way that could have serious consequences for London.
The Permitted Development Rights for converting offices to flats, introduced by the Coalition Government for a trial period, has caused considerable harm to the economy of London. The offices converted have not generally delivered the size of accommodation that was wanted locally; no affordable housing could be negotiated by the local Council; many businesses, social enterprises and voluntary groups lost their office space; the floor space cost of the remaining offices increased significantly (see RICS report); there are now too few offices in Central London and small and emerging enterprises are having difficulty finding work space.
London Forum has been informed that the Government will lay a Statutory Instrument to extend and/or make permanent those permitted development rights and even allow demolition of offices and redevelopment as housing under prior approval powers, with no planning consent and no affordable housing. All current exemptions would go – such as those covering Central London and RB Kensington and Chelsea – whilst requiring individual Councils to make the case for Article 4 Directions (to be approved by the Secretary of State) if they want to retain their office stock. The proposals could remove other exemptions, such as in conservation areas, size limits or on other “freedoms”.
In Kensington and Chelsea, which has a unique policy to resist the loss of offices and a Borough-wide exemption from the freedom to convert offices to housing, it would mean that most of the Borough’s office stock, particularly small offices, would be wiped out in the next 3 years, with no accommodation to support a multitude of small businesses.
This could change the character of Central/Inner London to being a high-income dormitory with little of the diversity that we currently associate with living there.
These proposals by Government would be very damaging to London’s economy and London’s town centres, not just Central London Boroughs, as we have seen already in Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and others.
London Forum has written to MPs and Members of the House of Lords to explain the situation and ask them to watch out for a Statutory Instrument issued from DCLG relating to the Town and Country Planning Act. They have been asked to ensure that it is prayed against immediately, to ensure that it has to come back to the Commons when Parliament reconvenes after the Summer Recess for a full debate in the Autumn on its implications. Otherwise, the Statutory Instrument will be implemented before the House of Commons closes for that recess on 21st July.
London Forum urges all its members to ensure their MP is aware of this situation and will act upon it and also to notify any Members of the House of Lords that are known locally.
This continued interference in local decision making, contrary to the Localism Act, is an extension of the other proposals to 'simplify' planning in the Budget and in the Government's recent publication "Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation". The latter has a whole section of proposed planning changes, yet it is signed just by the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. There is no mention of the Department of Communities and Local Government and its responsibility for planning except that its budget will be re-focussed for the needs of first time buyers and it will assist in creating more Enterprise Zones.
Guardian - How developers minimise affordable housing
Posted on: 6 July 2015 at 22:18:53
An article in the Guardian sheds new light on why so little affordable housing is being built across England; why planning policy consistently fails to be enforced; and why property developers are now enjoying profits that exceed even those of the pre-crash housing bubble. It all relates to the developers' viability calculations. Please read the report here.
The figures for the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate at Elephant and castle are given in the article. It is suggested that there could have been the expected 432 social rented homes, not the 74 now being delivered.
London Forum is to hold an open meeting on the subject of development 'viability' on 15th September 2015.
Shared ownership homes may become unaffordable
Posted on: 5 July 2015 at 19:00:08
The Assembly has publish a report indicating that the continuing rise in house prices could jeopardise the long-term affordability of the shared ownership model. Half of households that purchased shared ownership homes in 2013-14 needed a household income of £39,200 or more.
London: the city that ate itself - Rowan Moore 28June15
Posted on: 4 July 2015 at 17:03:55
In this article in the Guardian, Rowan Moore writes that London is a city ruled by money. The things that make it special – the markets, pubs, high streets and communities – are becoming unrecognisable. The city is suffering a form of entropy whereby anything distinctive is converted into property value. Can the capital save itself?
He compliments what Ted Hollamby achieved for social housing in Lambeth but points out that most of it is under threat. Of "estate renewal" he writes "At worst, it sees the demolition of thousands of homes, the eviction of people who, in some cases, might have been there for decades and the building of new homes mostly for sale at market rates, with a much smaller number at rents that the former residents could afford. According to the website mappinglondonshousingstruggles, at least 70 estates are being made over in this way, affecting 160,000 people."
Rowan points out the harm caused by Government changes to planning such as the permitted development of offices.
His article resulted in a comment in the Guardian web site about the way landlords have financial advantages.
IPPR and Shelter on building more homes
Posted on: 3 July 2015 at 22:44:26
The Growing Cities report by the IPPR think-tank and housing charity Shelter says that drastic action is needed to tackle the urban housing crisis. Among its recommendations, the report says that councils within city-regions "should be strongly incentivised to work closely together to co-ordinate building more homes". It says that strategic planning powers and budgets should be devolved to cities and resources such as public land should be pooled and coordinated across boundaries, but councils "which block growth or refuse to co-operate should face financial penalties. If all other options are exhausted, there should be the ultimate backstop of a boundary review to incentivise working together effectively". It states that Green Belt land will have to be used for homes and has proposals for unlocking 'stalled sites'.
Davies Commission recommends third runway at Heathrow
Posted on: 1 July 2015 at 13:47:21
Howard Davies has published the Airports Commission report as here.
The recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow will alarm many people, schools and businesses which would be under the extra flight paths it will cause, if built. The picture of it in the BBC report makes it look like an additional airport, eliminating villages and very many homes.
The reasons will need to be considered further for the Commission rejecting the Heathrow Hub proposal to extend the existing Northern runway at lower cost of a third runway and with less impact on homes.
Clean-Air-in-London has explained here how airport expansion at Heathrow would breach air pollution laws. They have said the Airports Commission misunderstands those laws. Limit values apply beside Heathrow and zone compliance is separate. See http://bit.ly/1INpG6g