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London Forum Updates

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Cross-party opposition to Housing Assoc. 'Right to Buy'

Posted on: 8 August 2015 at 20:49:05
The Guardian has reported pressure by local authorities on the Government to think again about the forthcoming Housing Bill, which will contain the new right to buy measures, because it must help London and its councils to generate more homes in the city, including a net increase in truly “affordable” ones, contribute to sustaining its broad social mix and ensure that money raised from the sale of its affordable homes is reinvested in the capital to help it meet its growing housing need, rather than be exported elsewhere.
This expression of cross-party anxiety about extending right to buy and the forced sale of council housing to compensate for its loss is strongly expressed.

Changes to services offered by Historic England

Posted on: 8 August 2015 at 20:35:51
Four Historic England new services will launch on 12th October 2015. The four Enhanced Advisory Services are:

  • Fast-track Listing: providing Listing decisions in a quicker and guaranteed timeframe.

  • Listing Enhancement: providing clarity over the extent of statutory protection in a guaranteed timeframe.

  • Extended Pre-application Advice: providing Historic England engagement in pre-application advice beyond an initial free service.

  • Listing Screening Service: providing assessment of the likelihood of any heritage assets with the degree of interest that would warrant statutory Listing.

To discuss further, or if you have any questions, please email  
Michael Bishop, Head of Enhanced Advisory Services, Historic England
Sign up to our enewsletter to keep up to date with our latest news, advice and listings.           Twitter: @HistoricEngland

London Forum's comments on the Airports Commission report

Posted on: 7 August 2015 at 23:37:58
London Forum has made comments on the noise, pollution and traffic implications of expanding Heathrow airport with a third runway, as recommended by the Airports Commission.

Affordable housing restriction lifted

Posted on: 7 August 2015 at 19:06:44
A Court Judgement will now allow affordable housing in small developments.  Government's policy has been found flawed.
See a Planning Resource report here.
Also further comment here.

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.

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