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Carl has nearly thirty-five years' experience in planning and development, with a particular focus on retail and mixed use regeneration projects. Carl also promotes housing, care homes, crematoria, and significant commercial developments - including the biggest print works in the world for News Group UK. He is also the recipient of the Anthony London Law Prize.
“The Government has finally made an announcement favouring the expansion of Heathrow, so it’s one cheer for that. But it’s a one cheer announcement only, because they have made an announcement at last, after two decades of dithering.
“The decision will be subject to further political debate and probably a Judicial Review by West London local authorities. Action in the courts will ultimately be unsuccessful, but there will be inevitable delay and expense arising.
“Fundamentally the Government has made the wrong decision. Heathrow already has an unhealthy dominant position in the market, and promoting its further expansion will only exacerbate and consolidate that position. Going forward, Gatwick would have been a much better and cheaper option, and increasing runway capacity there would have increased instead of diminished competition.
“In the longer term, one runway will not be sufficient capacity for the South-East. As the Government will never have a better opportunity to take unpopular decisions, a more strategic approach would have been to allow Gatwick to expand now and Heathrow to start the longer process to build its runway as well. Then we could look forward to the runway capacity we need and the competition we deserve.
“What we are likely to get is a political row, litigation in the courts, and further delay.”
This announcement is to be welcomed. The size of the Defence Estate has been untenable for decades and one of the benefits of the release of central government land for development, is that planning permission is pretty much guaranteed, so these homes should happen.
However, the announcement needs to be treated with a little caution, and also be seen in context, because it is unlikely in the extreme that these 17,000 homes will actually be delivered before 2020 as suggested.
Each of the sites will need to be marketed; and planning permission obtained. There will also then need to be approval of reserved matters and the discharge of the likely myriad of planning conditions associated with large developments. Lastly, each site is likely only to be built out at a rate that the local housing market can absorb. That is likely to lead to a completion date substantially after 2020.
That is significant because the government has declared a target of 1,000,000 new homes in the life of this Parliament. This is the context in which the proposal must be seen. That target equated to 200,000 new homes a year; or 50,000 per quarter, or 16,667 per month.
In the last five quarters (including the one starting just before the May 2015 election, only 176,249 homes have been completed, at an average rate of 35,248 per quarter.
To hit the government's 1,000,000 target by 2020, completions will now have to average 54,917 for each if the next 15 quarters – already more than 50% above the present rate of completions. This number will only get worse with each quarter that passes without the required rate being met.
Neither this news nor the equally welcome announcement that Network Rail plan to release redundant land for an additional 12,000 homes is going to change the simple inescapable arithmetic: the government will not see the amount of housing it is targeting.
Which of course is no reason for them not to keep trying.
We need a fundamental rethink of the approach to house building, and it needs to be sustained for the life time of several Parliaments. Napoleon once famously ordered the planting of trees beside the roads in France to provide shade for his soldiers as they marched along them. When told that would take years, he replied, ‘that is why we must start at once,’.
Essentially, affordable housing is a tax on house building. Local authorities require developers wanting to build new homes to provide a certain percentage of the new homes as affordable housing.
There are local authorities which have imposed a threshold of two houses, and a requirement of fifty per cent – so the moment you propose to build more than one house, the second one has to be an affordable one. Unsurprisingly, many landowners and developers in those areas look at alternative land uses, or simply don’t propose redevelopment.
Alongside that, we also have the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a development land tax in all but name – which is levied selectively on different land uses, and usually highest on house building; so we have central government screaming for more houses, while allowing local government to tax house building.
The other polices floating around, including subsidised or state-guaranteed mortgages or deposits, don’t take matters further forward either. They simply raise the buying power of the lucky recipients – and so potentially further bid up the prices of the limited stock available - without contributing to increasing the total hosing numbers.
If we want to solve the housing crisis, we need to build more homes. It’s as simple as that. The most recent estimate is that the target should be 300,000 a year, not 200,000 a year. That needs to happen pretty much indefinitely.
If we want that to happen, we need to stop taxing house building with increasingly unsustainable affordable housing requirements, Community Infrastructure Levy, and planning obligations. Of course developments should contribute to or provide infrastructure necessary to enable them to proceed, but the reaction in too many places is to see how much they can be milked for.
In land use terms, we also need an acceptance of higher densities, and higher heights to make the best use of land. We need wider acceptance of the government’s new permitted development rights for conversions, and these should be expanded.”
“This has been a three year process and although planning was finally granted in May 2016, we have been waiting to see if the Judicial Review would delay things further. We are delighted to have now received the go-ahead on this development which will provide homes to help alleviate the housing shortage in this area and provide Lewes with much needed flood defences. We are delighted to have been able to help Santon make this valuable contribution to the Governments over- optimistic target of building 200,000 homes a year in the UK.”