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Is Britain’s countryside at risk? Anger over ‘developers’ charter’ planning reforms

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A bid to deliver 300,000 homes a year in England by 2025 under proposed planning reforms has raised the ire of at least 90 Tory MPs, including Theresa May.

Under the blueprint for change, which has been dubbed a ‘developers’ charter’, planning permission for ‘substantial development’ would automatically be given in certain areas.

The discontent cost the Government the Chesham and Amersham by-election last month. The Lib Dems, who took the seat, exploited the proposals to raise concerns over construction in the Chilterns. 

Reforms: Under the blueprint for change, dubbed a 'developers' charter', planning permission for 'substantial development' would automatically be given in certain areas

Reforms: Under the blueprint for change, dubbed a ‘developers’ charter’, planning permission for ‘substantial development’ would automatically be given in certain areas

Meanwhile, environmental groups fear the relaxation of the system risks the loss of natural habitats, and archaeologists say the new regime would not allow sufficient time to excavate on building sites, meaning fewer historical treasures would be unearthed.

How could the new system change things?

The new system would require local authorities to draw up ten-year plans, in which land in their district would be classified as ‘protected, for ‘renewal’ or ‘growth’.

Protected zones, such as areas of Green Belt, natural beauty or at risk of flooding would be restricted.

Councils would be required to look favourably on development in ‘renewal areas’. These are places in towns and cities that have already been built on, or strips of land in or at the edge of villages.

Automatic initial planning consent would be given on ‘growth areas’; the most contentious aspect of the proposed relaxation.

Despite the bill being extended to the whole of the UK, the majority of changes will only apply to England.

Why does the Government want these reforms?

Under the current rules which date back to 1947, permission for development is made on a case-by-case basis.

These arrangements are considered cumbersome and a significant bar to home ownership among the members of Generation Rent who Boris Johnson wants to turn into Generation Buy.

The Prime Minister takes issue with aspects of the existing system, including the attention paid to protected species such as the great crested newt, whose discovery on a site can delay construction.

He said: ‘The newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and prosperity of this country.’

Going for growth: Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, aims to increase the number of new homes that are built every year from about 240,000 to 300,000

Going for growth: Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, aims to increase the number of new homes that are built every year from about 240,000 to 300,000

Does this mean we have no say in our neighbourhood?

The Government says that making the planning system digital (at present, it’s document-based) will make it easier for locals to get engaged in development in their area and they should be able to become involved in the compilation of the ten-year plans.

At present, only about 3 per cent of the population participates in planning —which rather gives the lie to the assertion that we are a nation of Nimbys.

But people would have far less freedom than before, if any, to make known their views on individual planning applications — which some say makes the new system significantly less democratic.

Will there be any quality or design standards?

The basis of the objection to many new developments is the look of the scheme. 

Some housebuilders will reflect local ‘vernacular’ architectural styles and materials in the design of their homes; others rely on standard models not adapted to their setting.

A National Model Design Code is to be published in the autumn, setting out guidelines on such things as ‘the arrangement and proportions of streets and urban blocks, successful parking arrangements and the placement of street trees’.

The Code will lay down design principles that councils must observe when giving consent to developments.

But it’s not clear how these criteria will achieve the top quality homes that we need, or avoid a repeat of the cladding scandal that’s blighting the lives of the owners of some new-build properties.

How soon will the system be put in place?

The changes are not yet law. David Bainbridge, a director of planning at Savills, says that the Planning Bill which will contain the proposals has not yet appeared and that it will face a stormy time in its passage through Parliament.

This week, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, promised that the Bill would be published later this year.

He will not wish to be swayed in his aim to increase the number of new homes that are built every year from about 240,000 to 300,000. 

But Mr Bainbridge makes the point this could start to be achieved if, for example, schemes that now have planning permission are obliged to go ahead.

Will the Government listen to the protesters?

The proposals are regarded by some as ‘electorally toxic’ despite the early abandonment of the plan to use a computer algorithm to determine how many homes ought to be absorbed in an area. This risked ‘concreting over’ wide swathes of southern England.

There may be more emphasis now on development on already built-on brownfield sites in urban locations.

Yet the dismay caused by this threat to the countryside has coloured the perception of all of the reforms.

The latest source of dissent is the lack of assurance of about how many affordable homes will be produced by the system.

How can the upheaval be justified if it does not help a significant number of first-time buyers onto the ladder?

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Homes near Elizabeth Line see asking prices double in a decade

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Asking prices for properties for sale near stations on London‘s new Elizabeth Line have more than doubled in a decade, new research has revealed.

Many areas near stations on the capital’s new high-speed line were previously less well connected to key commuter hubs, such as Liverpool Street or Paddington stations.

But they have seen a surge in property asking prices amid new interest from homebuyers and tenants due to the better transport links that the Elizabeth Line provides.

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London's Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London’s Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

The new figures from Rightmove revealed the extent to which asking prices have risen in local areas around Maryland, Abbey Wood and Stratford stations.

Maryland Station in Newham, which provides an additional option for those commuting near well-connected Stratford, has seen the biggest jump in asking prices.

They have more than doubled compared to ten years ago, rising 108 per cent from £233,480 to £486,235.

This compares to the London average increase over the past ten years of 55 per cent.

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Meanwhile, Rightmove revealed that total buyer demand has risen the most in western areas, while prices and competition has risen most in eastern areas.

Twyford, at the end of the western section of the line and the next stop along from Reading, has seen the biggest jump in the number of buyers contracting estate agents.

Numbers have more than tripled compared to 10 years ago, up 245 per cent.

Those looking to buy near Abbey Wood station, at the end of the South East section of the line, face the stiffest competition from other buyers.

Competition in that area has soared more than nine times and is up 869 per cent.

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

It is a similar story along the Elizabeth line for tenants as many look to balance their commute into London with where they can afford to rent.

Average rents in London have reached a new record of £2,195 a month, up 14 per cent compared to this time last year.

Southall has seen the biggest increase in the number of tenants contacting letting agents compared to ten years ago, more than quadrupling, up 372 per cent.

However, asking rents near Southall station are lower than nearby Hanwell or Ealing.

Asking rents have increased the most in western stations Slough, up 44 per cent, and Burnham, up 43 per cent, while those looking to rent near Custom House station face the most competition from other tenants.

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line - Custom House - has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line – Custom House – has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

Custom House, one of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line and benefitting from significantly lower travel times into Central London, has seen competition increase by a staggering 33 times, up 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘As the Elizabeth Line opens, it does so with a backdrop of record rents in London, a rising cost of living and a shortage of available homes.

‘Areas further out from central London that have lower asking prices or rents, but are now more easily commutable will be attractive to new buyers and tenants in search of somewhere affordable to live near the capital.

‘Not only this, but new working from home patterns since the pandemic started two years ago will have many people weighing up whether they are prepared to commute from further away if they need to do so less often.’

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National Maternity Hospital decision is a welcome sign of the Government’s backbone

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The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of the new National Maternity Hospital is a welcome sign that the Taoiseach and his Ministers are willing to face up to the Opposition, the social media mob and assorted objectors on an issue of major national importance.

One of the weaknesses of the Coalition since it took office in June 2020 has been a tendency to run scared in the face of contrived outrage, usually fomented by a combination of Opposition politicians and vested interests, often mistakenly portrayed as representing public opinion.

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URW rolls out Westfield brand to three new destinations

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Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) unveiled plans to rebrand three flagship centres, rolling out the Westfield brand to Parquesur in Madrid, Taby Centrum in Stockholm, and Galeria Mokotow in Warsaw this fall. The rebranding continues the expansion of the Westfield brand in Europe as the company drives new revenues through media advertising and brand experiences, turning its huge footfall of 550 million visits across its European assets into a qualified audience, while also leveraging the Westfield brand’s significant value to retailers, who see over 20%2 higher sales at URW’s centres even when compared to other A-category malls.

 

The flagship destinations share a number of characteristics in addition to being among the most important retail centres in their respective markets: they are set in excellent locations with unrivalled transport options, have distinctive architectural and design features and a best-in-class approach in terms of customer experience, community engagement, and sustainability practices. To celebrate the launch of the Westfield brand at these assets, each destination will host festive consumer events which will be announced later this year.

 

Caroline Puechoultres, Chief Customer Officer of URW, said: “The rebranding of these centres continues our strategy to expand Westfield to Flagship European destinations in the wealthiest cities and catchment areas. The significant opportunity afforded to both retailers and brands by this increasingly digitally linked network of destinations is unparalleled – through Westfield our partners can reach tens of millions of European consumers, driving new possibilities in advertising, brand marketing and retail.”

 

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