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London Forum Updates

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London Councils demand funding for low cost rent homes

Posted on: 9 September 2020 at 15:58:44
The capital is facing the most severe homelessness crisis in the country. London Councils, representing London's boroughs, has issued a statement on the urgent need for Government funding of the types of affordable homes London needs.
The government instead says it will rebalance grant funding in favour of affordable homeownership tenures such as shared equity and it is demanding the provision by boroughs of 'First Homes' for sale. Neither of those are affordable by most Londoners.

Post Pandemic Economic Growth

Posted on: 29 August 2020 at 15:35:45
The Economy committee of the London Assembly has published its response to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry on post pandemic economic growth.
The committee interviewed guests on this subject at a meeting on 4th August 2020 and published a transcript.
On Tuesday 8th September 2020 at 10.00am the committee will hold a formal meeting principally to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on London's high streets. The agenda and reports are available here. This meeting will be held virtually and members of the public are welcome to watch online here.

'Planning for the Future' new consultations

Posted on: 6 August 2020 at 09:59:12
Further to the earlier update on 4th July 2020 on planning changes, much of which is still relevant, the Government published a consultation on reform of the planning system in England with a closing date of 29th October 2020. It introduces three new categories of land for development and applies different decision criteria for each of them on planning applications.
Another consultation to 1st October covers changes to the Standard Method for assessing local housing need, securing of 'First Homes' through developer contributions in the short term until the transition to a new system, supporting small and medium-sized builders by temporarily lifting the small sites threshold below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing and extending the current Permission in Principle to major development.
The alarming implications for London's boroughs of the proposed new Standard Method for assessing housing need numbers has been covered in a report by Litchfields.
A third consultation to 30th October 2020 is a call for evidence on the Government’s proposals to improve the transparency of contractual mechanisms, such as land options, to exercise control over land.
Civic and community groups are asked to study the documents and let London Forum have comments for use in its responses.

New High Street Use Classes

Posted on: 5 August 2020 at 15:20:49
Further to the many topics and links below in the update 'Planning future high streets', the Government has changed the use classes that are applied to different types of businesses in town centres and elsewhere.
The changes will come into effect on 1st September 2020 and two of the new use classes have been extracted from the legislation for information, as here.
They could mean the loss of valued local shops which could be converted to other uses without permission by Councils. Explanation has been sought from Government on new Use Class F2 which might be used to save some shops.
A set of comments by Ashtons Legal on these changes, including consideration of the implications for out-of-town centres, is here.
Out of town business parks could become shopping centres, contrary to long standing Government policy in the National Planning Policy Framework for ‘Town Centres First’. A permission for a new allowed E3 out of town use could subsequently have the building converted to restaurant or retail with no further need for planning permission.

More social housing is needed

Posted on: 29 July 2020 at 22:57:31
Since the earlier update on this subject, the Communities and Local Government Committee has published its findings on the supply of social housing. They report that in 2019, less than 7,000 social rent homes were built, despite evidence that England needs around 90,000 more social rent homes a year for the next fifteen years. They estimate an increased central government grant of £10 billion is required. It is suggested the Government should amend the Land Compensation Act 1961 so that local authorities and development corporations can compulsorily purchase land at a fairer price, which could reduce the cost of a social housebuilding programme by up to 40 per cent. Changes in the rules for Right to Buy are recommended.
The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has written a letter to the Government asking for more funding for social housing.
The National Housing Federation has launched Homes at the Heart, a national campaign and coalition calling for a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing. They wrote on 25th June 2020 - as here - to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in support of social housing being at the heart of recovery.
A Digital Housing Week event on social housing supply held on 24th June 2020 had a presentation by the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Tom Copley. He gave details of initiatives to achieve more affordable housing with an emphasis on delivering social rented homes. Links are given to a bid for Government funding, the delivery of social homes by Councils and the Housing Delivery Taskforce which he chairs.
There is a campaign by SHELTER for more social housing.
The Local Government Association in a report is calling for a renaissance in council house building and they explain why it is important.

New Permitted Development Rights

Posted on: 27 July 2020 at 09:36:25
The changes made by the Government to Permitted Development Rights (PDR) and the problems they have created in recent years have been summarised by London Forum here
A Litchfield report on new permitted development is here.
Further PDR announced by the Government will be for building upwards on buildings. Also, full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes.
Planning Update Newsletter was issued in July2020 by MHCLG in which the Chief Planner provides details of all changes the Government has made and proposes.
An article in Planning also describes the new rules in some detail.
They held a webinar on the subject which can be seen here.
Like all permitted developments and changes of uses of buildings and premises, these Government rules limit the ability of Councils and their communities to decide what will happen and what will be built in any location.
Civic and community groups will need to discuss the implications with their Council and see what safeguards can be introduced to control the consequences.

London's Opportunity Areas - latest figures

Posted on: 26 July 2020 at 09:53:17
The London Assembly Planning and Regeneration committee has published with the agenda for its 14th July 2020 meeting documents and responses for its work including a scrutiny of the way Opportunity Areas (OAs) in London are being planned. The forty seven OAs are intended to deliver a large number of the homes and jobs needed. Extracts with highlights are here from the full twenty page transcript of the event. The comments of borough officers in attendance are important.
The Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe responded to the Assembly's request for the latest information on OAs in a letter and a report on the status of all the OAs. That report shows that the forecast for homes capacity to 2028/29 is a low percentage of the London Plan 2019 Guide figures for many OAs. Also, the net housing pipeline and starts for 2018/19 are quite low.
Masterplans and Local Plan policies in boroughs for the OAs will be essential. The New London Plan requires in Policy SD1 that boroughs should "clearly set out how they will encourage and deliver the growth potential of Opportunity Areas", "plan for and provide the necessary social and other infrastructure" and "establish the capacity for growth in Opportunity Areas". Civic and community groups should check with their Council the status of such plans and their definition of the types of homes required and the infrastructure that will be needed. Also, the development partners expected to be involved and their proposals. If such plans are being developed, they should seek engagement in their preparation.

Further information on planning changes

Posted on: 4 July 2020 at 20:27:04
In the June 2020 edition of the Planning magazine, there was an article with several hints on what the Government may be intending for their changes to the planning system.
A Times article states that radical planning reforms will face severe tests.
London Forum has prepared some draft 'Red Lines' for planning changes which will be reviewed when further planning proposals are published.
The Government has introduced some changes by Statutory Instruments (SIs) which give MPs little opportunity to intervene. According to extracts from the Planning magazine here, the new laws may allow Councils more ability to refuse prior approval applications for conversion of offices to dwellings where certain conditions are not met.
Also, Councils are allowed to hold outdoor markets without needing planning permission.
There is now permitted development (PDR) for building upwards on blocks of flats. The summary gives details of the restrictions and what Councils are allowed to take into account.
There is to be a 1,500-unit pilot of “First Homes” for sale to first-time buyers at a 30 per cent discount.
Councils will be able to defer community infrastructure levy (CIL) payments from smaller developers for up to six months.
The Government has published plans to automatically extend all planning permissions that are due to lapse during the coronavirus pandemic, or have already done so, between late March and the end of this year. That is part of Business and Planning Bill. It has amendments to pavement licences and modification of conditions relating to construction working hours. The housing minister Christopher Pincher wrote about the Bill to the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Planning and the Built Environment as here.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has criticised the planning system for causing delays in development. Apparently, the Government has not acknowledged the findings and recommendation of Oliver Letwin MP in his scrutiny of the reasons why developments approved by the planning system are not being built.
The PM gave a speech launching a 'Build, Build, Build' programme and an article in The Times has a summary and the Planning magazine listed eleven key points about the announcement. London Forum commented on the Government's press release.
The reaction of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in an open letter was scathing. They wrote of "The planner-bashing rhetoric coming out of government." and launched a PlanTheWorldWeNeed campaign. They point out that "With limited social housing grants, planners are also a key to ensuring affordable housing is part of any development."
The NLA reported that the Town and Country Planning Association and Architects Declare have hit out at Boris Johnson’s plans. The TCPA said that "you can’t build without community consent." There is a link in the NLA report to a summary by BECG of its five take-aways from Johnson’s announcements.
There was an article  by Finn Williams and David Chipperfield in The Guardian 'Build Build Build’ shows misunderstanding of planning and infrastructure'
Extracts from a blog of Simon Ricketts on this subject are here.
The Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Sir John Armitt, has said in an interview with The Times that a huge expansion of council housing will be needed to meet Boris Johnson's “Build, Build, Build” commitments. He called also for actions to make Britain carbon neutral by 2050 as recommended in the NIC Design Group report of February 2020, described here.
The NLA has published an article by Tom Venables on 'Putting the plan back into planning' and a report on the outcome of the first meeting of the NLA Expert Panel on Planning. They can be seen here.

Planning future high streets

Posted on: 29 June 2020 at 19:22:27
A research paper has been published on how the state of high streets reveals key issues facing the economy after Covid-19.
Important points about the Government's new town centre use classes have been published.
Michael Bach for London Forum has commented on the problems that will be introduced by a broad new Use Class E.
There is a report by HGH Consulting covering a recent 'Planning Futures' webinar on planning the post COVID-19 High Street.
The Grimsey Review on the future of High Streets has been updated for the emergence from lockdown. It is a comprehensive report and proposes "An exciting new model now ready to be developed and implemented by inspired local leaders." There are 27 recommendations which civic and community groups should study and discuss with their Council.
The High Streets Task Force held a 'Reopening the High Street' webinar on 19th June 2020. Ian Harvey, Director of Civic Voice, participated in that webinar and called for greater collaboration to redefine our high streets. A recording is available here.
Councils across England are sharing £50m of Government funding to support the safe reopening of high streets and other commercial areas. Details are here. The money will allow local authorities in England to put in place additional measures to establish a safe trading environment for businesses and customers.
To support those changes and others arising from the Transport for London and boroughs' 'Streetspace' programme (see the 18 June 2020 update on the next page) the Government issued design principles for 'Safer Public Spaces' and also 'Gear Change' on improving facilities for walking and cycling.
In the 2020 edition of the Journal of The London Society is a article on revival strategies for the high street by Lucy Bullivant.
A report was published 'Ensuring a Thriving Retail Economy' following a survey of retail and other businesses in Chiswick in West London. It was found that high rents are identified as a key reason for businesses failing and that business rates favoured large stores over small ones.

Community engagement in plan making

Posted on: 29 June 2020 at 19:09:56
An opinion piece by Catriona Riddell recommends more honest and transparent relationship between councils and their local communities.
She writes that "A new contract of engagement is needed to ensure that plans are prepared in collaboration with all sectors of the local community, using their extensive knowledge and experience of the places where they live and work to inform priorities from the start."

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