Planning & Infrastructure Monthly: May 2019

May to go, but who is next?

Theresa May has, today, announced that she will be resigning as Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on 7th June 2019. May is yet another victim of the Brexit chaos. Her administration was almost exclusively focused on securing a smooth exit from the European Union and we seem no closer to that than we did three years ago. Her time in office has, ultimately, been a failure. 

The jockeying for position began among Tory MPs long ago. Boris Johnson is the firm favourite among the bookies but frontrunners very rarely win and it will be crowded race. Others who are likely to enter the race are Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Matthew Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Liz Truss. 

Always primed to capitalise on an opportunity, we are offering CPD sessions on the Conservative Party leadership race and each candidate's view on housing, planning and regeneration to those who might be interested. Please contact Rory O'Loughlin on rory@engagecf.co.uk if you are interested in a presentation in the near future. 

Q1 Build-to-Rent (BTR) investment tops out over £1bn

Occasionally we do call it right.

Since ECF started trading in September last year we've been banging on about the BTR market. It's clear a growth market and we're quite excited about developments in the UK market and we're also keeping an eye on what is going on in the Australian market. As an aside, the recent Federal Elections in Australia unexpectedly returned a majority Liberal Government and there is some excitment that the Government might make the tax changes required to stimulate institutional investment in BTR "Down Under". 

Against this context, we were very pleased to read CBRE research last month that indicates a little more than £1bn was invested in the UK BTR sector in the first quarter of 2019. The figure marks a four times increase on the numbers from last year, despite slowdowns elsewhere in the UK real estate market.

Institutional investment into BTR has already translated into over 140,000 homes across the UK which are either completed or in the pipeline, with an increase of 1,981 homes from Q4 2018. More is coming and we are having several discussions with individuals and organisations looking at this option for the sites they have acquired. 

We will be publishing research on perceptions of the BTR sector among councillors and local stakeholders in Autumn 2019, so continue to watch this space. 

Extended permitted development rights taking effect by the end of the month

Earlier this month the Government published its response to the “Planning Reform: Supporting the High Street and increasing the delivery of new homes” consultation from October 2018. It has also published regulations that are to come into effect on 25 May 2019.

Changes include a new permitted development right (PDR) will allow provide for hot food takeaways (A5) to residential use (C3) development. Will we suddenly see the proliferation of the McDonalds flat, the KFC apartment and the Burger King bedsit? And will developers be able to remove the lingering smell of chip fat before opening their units up for viewings. Time will tell!  

The move came shortly after John Healey, Shadow Minister for Housing, made comment which slammed the introduction of the PDR policy by the Coalition Government in 2013. He argued it "created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing”. He also described the homes created under PDR as “rabbit hutch flats”. It looks like a Corbyn Government would look to row PDR back, so if you own a fast food restaurant, its time to ditch the fried chicken and get your application submitted, quickly.  

Like it or not, the policy to allow the conversion of office to residential use has already delivered 40,000 additional homes and a new Conservative Prime Minister is very unlikely to row back on this centre-piece of Tory Party planning policy.

ECF NEWS

ECF were delighted to welcome our Chair, Kathy Jones, to the UK in late April for a flying visit to the UK. We had a number of very productive meetings. The centre-piece was our boardroom lunch event on the BTR sector at which James Pargeter from Greystar and Jamie Parr from Build Offsite spoke. A summary of the event can be read here. We would like to thank both our speakers and guests for their attendance.

For those who missed out, fear not, we will be hosting further events later in the year. Please contact rory@engagecf.co.uk to register your interest for any future boardroom lunch events. New articlesBad business: submit and appeal - Olly discusses some of the tactics of the "submit and appeal" planning strategy used by some developers in the industry. A lesson in digital communications: The Brexit Party and Change UK - Rory writes about some of the reasons behind the discrepancy between the fortunes of Change UK's campaign versus that of the Brexit Party.

The single issue local elections - or was it?

May 2nd witnessed a local election like none before. Much like the upcoming European Parliament elections, it was viewed by many as a referendum over the Brexit process, and rather unsurprisingly both of the major parties suffered as a result.

The Conservatives were decimated, losing over 1,300 council seats and relinquishing control in a third of its prior councils. Labour's night was not much better. Losing 84 councillors on the face of it could be broadly seen as a success compared to the Conservatives, but they had hoped to gain seats.

The winners on the night were the Lib Dems and the Greens who made gains across the country, with the Lib Dems taking home the gold medal by securing control of 11 new councils.

Brexit is the issue that dominates the headlines, and as such, it dominated the headlines of the local election. However, as always, planning issues also played a crucial role over many of the eventual seat changes across the country.

In the Wirrall, Labour lost a majority council to no overall control. This has been laid square at the door for its proposals to develop green belt land for housing in the emerging Local Plan.

The Tories suffered a similar fate in Essex, losing their control having only gained control the election before. Similarly again, there has been considerable debate over their handling of the Local Plan in Basildon.

There are similar stories all across the UK following on from the local election results earlier this month. They tell us that even amid some of the greatest political uncertainty and one of the most significant societal cleavages of our time, the local issues are still hugely important to the electorate.

After all, what is the fundamental upheaval of our modern economic system compared to a loss of light?

Consultation Corner: Learning from the Scottish consultation process

Ken Hopkins, the head of strategic and at Mactaggert & Mickel, a Scottish based construction company, wrote an interesting article earlier last month in The Planner on the disparity between Scottish and English approaches to the crucial function of pre-planning public consultation.

The Scottish process demands a mandatory three months’ of public consultation, as opposed to the English process of a Statement of Community Involvement which can be reduced to nothing more than simple box ticking at times.

Those affected by development north of the border have a far greater say in the consultation process due to the extended time frame, and both the applicants and all of the stakeholders are likely to see better outcomes resulting from the extensive process.

Perhaps, as Hopkins suggests, the consolidation of practice models from both countries would deliver "a more coherent and inclusive process for developers alike", as well as ensuring the right kind of homes are delivered in the right places to meet specific local demands."

Amen, Mr Hopkins! 

To read the full article click here 

Planning Round-Up: May 2019 May was a busy time in the property and planning worlds. Here are some stories worth reading:

TfL planning chief suggests 9,000-home 'cap' on Old Kent Road until Bakerloo Line progresses

Thurrock Council approves £1bn town centre regeneration scheme to build nearly 3,000 homes

Consultation starts for 5000 home plansGreta Thunberg tells MPs that UK planning decisions have been 'absurd'

Using robots in the planning application process could deliver '30 to 50% efficiencies'

If you would like more regular monitoring of the property and planning sector, please contact us on rory@engagecf.co.uk.

Zac Slater