Monday, 15 December 2014

"Not a single home that could be described as "affordable" within government guidelines is being built, or is for sale, anywhere in Cornwall."

There is great concern about the loss of affordable housing in rural areas - as expressed by the Rural Services Network:
Futures Forum: Rural housing decision is a "huge blow"

This coincides with the Rural Coalition making considerable noise:
Futures Forum: The Rural Coalition publishes 'The Rural Challenge' ........ ..... and "urges the government to address three core areas: the rural economy, affordable housing, and health and social care services."

And meanwhile, there are fears that developers are just running circles round everyone:
Futures Forum: "Housing developers are gaming the planning system"

Which is pretty much how even the District Council sees it:
9 December 2014 - Change to planning guidelines means less cash for communities with small new-builds - East Devon District Council

Government rolls over for developers - yet again….

Thursday, 11 December 2014 2 Comments by Claire

Below is a press release from EDDC.

This is really appalling. As if the district isn’t under enough pressure from developers.

Why is the government so willing to allow developers unfettered control?

And why does it care so little about the plight of residents in villages?

Change to planning guidelines means less cash for communities with small new-builds

Sites with a few homes will escape demand for neighbourhood contributions

Changes in government guidance on what councils can ask small developers to pay for community benefits are set to hit the provision of open spaces, sports and play areas and even education upgrades in East Devon.

Until recently, anyone who wanted to build an estate of new homes was required to offset the impact the new households would have on existing amenities by making a ‘Section 106’ financial contribution towards improvements.

But changes announced by the Government at the beginning of December mean that East Devon District Council and other affected planning authorities will no longer be able to collect play and sport contributions on residential developments of less than ten units in Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton and Sidmouth and less than six units in the rest of the district. Education contributions are affected in the same way.


The Government has introduced this change to reduce the financial burden of these obligations on small-scale developments to encourage builders to get building. The different trigger-points based on house numbers are intended to differentiate between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ areas.

The result of this change in guidance is that affected councils can no longer require builders of small-scale developments to make payments for amenities designed to offset the impact that the extra homes will place on local infrastructure.

There is still a presumption that permission will be granted without this amenity contribution so long as the development is acceptable from a planning perspective in all other respects.

Councillor Helen Parr, Chairman of East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee, said: “We expect this change to result in a significant loss of funding for infrastructure in our communities while developments that place extra demands on infrastructure will continue to be built. Unfortunately there is very little we can do about this change since the strong objections that we voiced during the consultation on this matter have not been heeded”.

Contributions towards mitigating the impact of development on the Exe Estuary and Pebblebed Heaths can still be secured, as these are protected under EU legislation.

No power

The district council’s planning teams are now checking all live applications that fit the profile of the new guidance and where appropriate will be removing the requirement for contributions towards open space facilities. The council does not propose to re-consult on these changes since it has no power to oppose them.

East Devon is not alone in having to deal with the new situation, as this national guidance affects all other local planning authorities to a lesser or greater extent.

The changes will have some impact on East Devon’s draft Local Plan because the council had proposed that all new residential developments should contribute towards the provision of affordable housing through a policy in the new plan.

The same six or ten-home trigger-points just announced also apply to affordable housing and so this approach will no longer be possible. The implications of this are currently being considered as changes may need to be made to the draft Local Plan currently being examined by an Inspector.


1. At 09:23 pm on 11th Dec Sandra Semple wrote:

Look on the bright side - another excuse to delay the Local Plan until after the next election, and well beyond it if they are the majority again!

No CIL, no S106, no affordables - the Developer’s Charter just got better.

2. At 12:01 pm on 12th Dec Paul wrote:

EDDC do not need another excuse to delay it until after the local election. According to the most recent report from Planning Policy presented to one of the committees (DMC?) the EARLIEST possible date to have a Local Plan ready for approval after consultations etc. is late 2015, so allowing for some delays (esp. with the gov’t moving the goalposts all the time) it is likely to be 2016 before we have an adopted local plan - well after the May 2015 elections.

What a fiasco!!

Government rolls over for developers - yet again…. - Claire Wright

The Western Daily Express has been even more scathing:

Affordable housing: Tories are tearing apart our villages' futures

By Western Daily Press | Posted: December 12, 2014

Comments (1)

Agreements that help build affordable homes have been trashed and Martin Hesp is appalled and alarmed by the possible consequences for the West Country's rural communities

Let's put two facts on the table to begin this article: the present Government appears to care little for the countryside or for the ordinary people who live there, and it is patently not interested in providing less well-off families with affordable homes.

A press release sitting on my desk relates to both these facts: "A government decision which means developers will no longer have to provide affordable homes on many smaller sites is a huge blow for rural communities…" So says the Rural Services Network when responding to the appalling news that the Government has decided to exempt developers from having to include affordable housing on sites with ten or fewer homes – at least, in relation to villages and hamlets in the countryside.

Now let's turn to another press release on my desk – this time one sent from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) in Cornwall. It comes to the conclusion that not a single home that could be described as "affordable" within government guidelines is being built, or is for sale, anywhere in the county. By using government figures the CPRE has discovered that one third of Cornwall's population can now only afford a mortgage of up to £52,500 at today's low interest rates.

"If a buyer can accumulate £5,300 deposit (10 per cent of the maximum price home) then the total value of the property to be sold cannot be more than £55,800," states Orlando Kimber of the CPRE. "It follows, that for Cornwall Council to fulfil its statutory duty, property developers must deliver 40-50 per cent of the built homes at below £55,800. With this in mind, CPRE Cornwall would be interested to know of any 'affordable' homes marketed above the price of £55,800.

"Indeed, we've already been notified of a three-bedroom property in Perranwell near Truro, being marketed as 'affordable' at a price of over £270,000. Let us agree to call a spade a spade – this is not an 'affordable house' under any fair definition," says Mr Kimber, who also mentions a recent survey which estimates that 27 per cent of affordable homes in London are being sold to foreign investors in China and Russia.

This, surely, is stark proof that this Government is only interested in lining the pockets of the already wealthy folk who help line the Tory campaign coffers. By which I mean the "flog-off-anything-and-everything-as-long-as-I-get-rich" brigade who care nothing for this country, its people or its landscapes.

The BBC's Archers radio soap has been featuring one such character in recent months, and Justin Elliot portrays a very real example of how one greedy man can cause upset and mayhem throughout a rural community. The real-life Justin Elliots out there will be popping the champagne corks over the news that communities minister Brandon Lewis is removing Section 106 agreements from sites of fewer than ten homes.

Rural Services Network spokesman Andy Dean said: "This decision is a huge blow for rural communities. It is very, very disappointing news. Affordable housing is key to retaining young people in rural communities and in smaller rural settlements, this is how most new affordable homes are delivered."

Claiming the decision will price families out of the countryside, Mr Dean added: "There is scant evidence that such planning agreements undermine development site viability and, where local authorities conclude it would, they can already reduce the burden. We have to find a better way to balance the Government's desire to encourage small builders with the over-riding need to provide affordable homes in rural communities."

Mr Dean is right for so many reasons – but the overwhelming one concerns sustainability, both for the builders and our communities.

A handful of developers will undoubtedly make hay while the sun shines, thanks to the withdrawal of Section 106 – but after an initial rush to build these new expensive homes in pretty places for wealthy people, the market is bound to stagnate as there simply won't be many clients around who can afford, or are willing to pay, the prices these new houses will be offered for.

As for the unfortunate communities which end up having to play host to a rash of executive home developments, what price their future?

Communities need regeneration, so where are the youngsters going to live when they grow up?

Communities need key workers – so how will the rural nurses, plumbers, car mechanics and farm workers be able to find a roof above their heads?

As has been the case with their crass new planning policies, this affordable homes policy seems not to have been thought through by this Government.

Creating South Sea Bubbles to proclaim quick-fix economic recoveries might suit politicians thinking about forthcoming elections, but it does nothing to safeguard the nation's growth or sustainability.

Lining the pockets of the few at the cost of communities and landscapes can only do lasting harm.

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