Lexington’s Property Bulletin: AUGUST 2010


Pickles pushes ahead with reform

The Coalition Government has hit the ground running and no department is running as fast as the one for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).  
At a recent reception, the Secretary of State said “My name is Eric Pickles and I like abolishing things.” Within his first twelve weeks in charge, regional plans have been abolished; density guidelines discarded and the scope and scale of regeneration agencies have been paired back.
What’s more, the pace of change shows no sign of slowing. The minister told his audience that he has a major announcement planned for each week from now until Christmas.

The planning system has been turned on its head. Work on local plans has stopped in some councils; housing targets have been ripped up in others. Sites that were a shoo-in are now under threat, while no-hopers a few months ago are back in the game. Liberated local councillors are rejecting schemes, confident that applicants are unlikely to appeal in the current climate.
For responsible investors who crave stability and certainty, these have been a difficult three months. But for those willing to take a risk, business opportunities abound.

Reassuring messages 

To reassure industry, ministers have been entertaining industry leaders. Central to George Osborne’s economic strategy is a private sector led recovery. The success of the development, construction and housebuilding sectors will be critical to this.

In a letter to all councils, the DCLG’s Chief Planning Officer, Steve Quartermain said “the revocation of Regional Strategies is not a signal for local authorities to stop making plans for their area.”  The DCLG has also emphasised that local planning authorities will need to justify their housing supply policies in line with the current policy in PPS3.

In the next few months, work is expected to start on the new national planning policy framework to replace the current PPSs and PPGs. This will be critical to establish a positive framework for development.

The Government will also bring forward details of its financial incentives package to encourage councils to promote development. Eric Pickles has told MPs that “local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions.”

The opportunity of localism

The introduction of the new planning system is creating opportunities for many sites and schemes that previously had little chance of securing support.  
Furthermore, some developers are recognising that the principle of localism could result in fewer national requirements on developers. There is therefore an opportunity to shape local plans that are more supportive of development.

Lexington is being appointed by developers wanting to promote supportive local planning frameworks and new projects. Please contact Wyn Evans on 020 7025 2300 for an informal chat on any project that you are currently promoting.

Peel secure Wirral Waters scheme

Wirral Council has approved Peel Holding’s plans for the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters regeneration scheme. The 5 million sq m redevelopment will include high-rise buildings, green spaces and 13,000 homes. Lexington North has been advising Peel. 

For more information, contact Paul Boyfield on 0161 247 8410.

MPs to scrutinise regional planning reform

The all party select committee of MPs overseeing the DCLG has established an inquiry looking into the abolition of the RSSs. The committee will consider “the implications of the abolition of regional house building targets for levels of housing development” and make recommendations to Government. The entire focus of this debate has been on house building while commercial development has been completely ignored. The terms of reference of the select committee reinforce this perception.
It does, however, provide an opportunity for industry to feed in ideas for how the new system should be introduced.
Please contact Lloyd Milton on 020 7025 2300 if you would like support and advice on submitting evidence to the committee.

Local Enterprise Partnerships launched

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles have written to local council and business leaders formally inviting them to create Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – the new Government’s alternatives to Regional Development Agencies.

The LEPs could promote helpful economic development frameworks that will establish positive local attitudes towards development. The first round of submissions needs to be with the Government by 6 September.  

For more information, please contact Lloyd Milton on 020 7025 2300.

Government introduce new schools

The legislation introducing new academies creates the opportunity for new providers to enter into the education sector and sponsor academy schools.  As is often the case when new opportunities are presented in an unfamiliar area, there are potential political and practical challenges.
Lexington has prepared an analysis of the new legislation and the opportunities and potential risks that it presents for businesses that may be interested in becoming involved with the Government’s academies programme.  The legislation has already been rushed through parliament enabling new academy schools to open from September 2010.

For more information about the Academies Bill and what it means for you, please contact Claire Neilson-Noble on 020 7025 2300.

New public engagement guide launched

Planning Aid England and Planning Aid for London have published a free guide to promote “good public engagement in development schemes.”

If you require consultation support to promote planning projects, please contact Clare Coghill on 020 7025 2300.

And finally – how about abolishing the planning system?

The new Coalition Government has invited people to put forward ideas for which laws and regulations should be scrapped as part of its Great Repeal Act. One idea being promoted online is to repeal the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and all subsequent Planning Acts.

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