£2million cash boost to councils to help protect nation’s Green Belt

£2million cash boost to councils to help protect nation’s Green Belt

Local authorities will be able to access a pot of nearly two million pounds to preserve the country’s Green Belt for the future.

The money is being put aside to clampdown on illegal developments, including on the Green Belt. 37 local authorities will be able to use a slice of the fund to hire enforcement officers, use new technology and help meet the legal costs of tackling rogue developers and developments.

Councils will be receiving the cash from the Planning Delivery Fund – a one-off cash boost to assist with the costs of protecting locations with significant areas of Green Belt land.

The move is part of Housing Minister Rt Hon Esther McVey MP’s drive to protect the Green Belt for generations to come. Speaking at the annual RESI Convention in Newport, McVey announced that 37 councils would be receiving a total of up to £50,000 each to help with the crackdown.

McVey said: “Once the Green Belt is built on it’s often gone for good that’s why we are determined to protect it. The public have told us loud and clear they want it kept for future generations to enjoy.

“The funding announced today will help councils clamp down on rogue developers, giving the areas with the highest levels of Green Belt the funds needed to punish those who build illegally.”

The National Planning Policy Framework issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government states that ‘The government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.’

It continues, ‘Green Belt serves five purposes:-

(a) to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;

(b) to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;

(c) to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;

(d) to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and

(e) to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.’

More protection

 

Reforms to the national planning rulebook last year maintained the strong protections on the Green Belt, which protect an area’s character and prevent urban sprawl. Only in exceptional circumstances can land in the Green Belt be built on.

Alongside the cash boost for councils, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is teaming up with the Royal Town Planning Institute to overhaul the national enforcement handbook.

The updated handbook will provide the latest best practice and expertise on shutting down illegal building and preventing it from happening, whilst ensuring developers obtain full planning permission before any building work commences.

Click for a list of councils who applied and were successful in receiving the funding.

Stable year for London’s pubs, according to new figures

Stable year for London’s pubs, according to new figures

The number of pubs in London has fallen by more than a quarter since 2001, but new figures from City Hall show a change in the downward pattern. Between 2017 and 2018 the count remained stable, with a handful of the capital’s boroughs even increasing their numbers.

The figures, published by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, identified 3,540 pubs in the capital in March 2018 – an increase of 10 pubs from 2017.

A total of 11 boroughs saw an increase in pubs, with numbers staying the same in nine boroughs, but falling in 13 boroughs.

The boroughs to see an increase were Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Hackney, Harrow, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster.

The figures come after the Mayor revealed last month that the number of grassroots music venues in the capital has risen in the last year and the number of LGBTQ+ venues remained stable for a second year running, following a decade of decline for both.

Despite ongoing pressures, the traditional London pub remains a key part of life in the capital. A City Hall survey shows 74 per cent of Londoners think that they are important for the London’s cultural heritage, with 45 per cent visiting a pub at least once a month.

The main reasons for a visit are to socialise with friends (68%) and eat (27%). Pubs are also an important attraction for tourists, with previous research showing that 54% of international visitors visited one during their stay in the capital.

The mayor’s measures to support the pub trade and London’s cultural venues include: tough new planning rules to protect venues in his draft London Plan, establishing a Culture at Risk Office to help support pubs at risk of closure, and calling on the the Government to review its valuation policy for pubs following large rises in business rates.

As with the rest of the UK, London has seen a decline in pub numbers for decades, with the number of small pubs in London falling by more than half between 2001 and 2018.

However, these new figures show signs of improvement as the number of both small and large pubs in the capital have increased very slightly between 2017 and 2018. There are now more large pubs in the capital than there were in 2001.

Employment across the pub sector has also remained stable between 2017 and 2018 at 46,000. However, despite recent improvements, a large proportion of jobs in London pubs continue to be paid below the London Living Wage.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London pubs have been a key part of our capital’s heritage for generations, helping to unite Londoners and acting as a vital hub in the community.

“Sadly their numbers have been falling for decades, which is why I’ve been doing all I can to support the trade and turn this tide of closures. I’m encouraged by these results, but with pressure from rates, rent and development, it’s crucial that the Government and local authorities give them their full support too.”

Hannah Wright, of The Leytonstone Tavern, said: “After being empty for four years, and saved at the last minute by a community asset order, we were anxious but incredibly proud to give the neighbourhood back its pub.

“For us, a pub is more than just a place where you serve drinks. It’s a sanctuary for the whole community, existing to help people create real human connections and feel a sense of worth. And it needs to serve its locals.”

Housing provider Torus set to redevelop Liverpool FC training ground site

Housing provider Torus set to redevelop Liverpool FC training ground site

Affordable housing provider Torus has been picked to develop Liverpool FC’s Melwood training ground site.

The housing group currently has 1,600 homes in the West Derby area, where the ground is situated, and manages around 40,000 social homes across the north west.

In 2017, LFC secured planning consent for a proposed redevelopment of the club’s existing training ground at Melwood, as part of plans to invest in a new training facility for the first team and academy sides at Kirkby.

Throughout the tender process, Torus was identified as the best socially responsible housing developer to take over the Melwood site.

Work on the new training ground at Kirkby started in summer 2018 and is expected to be completed in summer 2020. The first team will start the 2020-21 season from their new home in Kirkby.

Andy Hughes, executive vice president, operations and finance at Liverpool FC, said: “Today marks another significant milestone in this hugely important and ambitious project.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sale of the Melwood site having played such a significant role in the club’s history. But the site is limited in terms of space and is unable to accommodate the club’s ambitions for a new first-class combined training facility.

“It’s over two years since we started this journey and we’d like to thank everyone who has been involved, particularly local residents in West Derby for their feedback and patience during this tender process.

“All funds from the sale of the Melwood site will be reinvested back into the first-team squad and the state-of-the-art training centre at the new Kirkby site.”

Torus will continue to consult with the local community as it develops its plans for the Melwood site.

Chris Bowen, managing director of Torus Developments, said: “With more than 1,600 homes in the area, we’re already a long-standing part of the West Derby community, so being selected to develop this site at the heart of the neighbourhood means a great deal to us.

“Consultation with local residents is very important to us and we look forward to meeting with the community in due course. We will also be working closely with LFC to ensure the legacy of this incredibly historical site is a theme throughout.

“Our plans are still at an early stage but will be driven by providing quality affordable homes that address local needs, including specialist housing provision where older people and those with additional care needs can lead sociable, fulfilling and independent lives.”

Fortress and Castle team member conquers the Thames Path Mighty Hike

Fortress and Castle team member conquers the Thames Path Mighty Hike

Fortress and Castle team member Becky Wilson stormed the Thames Path Mighty Hike this July, raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.

The scenic route, which is approximately 26 miles, follows the iconic Thames river from Windsor to Henley. Participants are estimated to take between 7.5 hours and 12.5 hours to complete the course.

Becky, who took on the challenge as part of a group of 11 family and friends, reached the finish line in position 30 out of over 2000 people taking part on the day. Her partner Mark came in next, in position 31.

Becky and Mark en route.

And at the finish line!

The 11-strong team have so far raised a huge £5239.77 for Macmillan Cancer Support, with that total currently still rising as pledges are received for their achievement.

The team

All money raised from the event goes straight to Macmillan, with each entrant raising a minimum of 250 pounds as a condition of entering the event.

Macmillan provides emotional, physical and financial support for people living with cancer. For more information on their fundraising events click here.

One Housing and Countryside partner for 700-home Camden regeneration project

One Housing and Countryside partner for 700-home Camden regeneration project

G15 housing association One Housing has announced home builder Countryside as a preferred development partner for the Camden Goods Yard regeneration project.

Subject to formalising contracts, One Housing has selected Countryside to enter into a 50:50 joint venture partnership. It will see the housing provider and home builder jointly planning, designing, funding and delivering a comprehensive regeneration of Gilbeys Yard and Juniper Crescent estates in Camden. The project is subject to a positive resident ballot and is planned over an eight-year period.

Juniper Crescent and Gilbeys Yard are located either side of Morrisons supermarket behind the Stables Market in Camden.

Currently, 202 homes are provided but the scheme will look to deliver around 650-700 units including new homes for the current residents.

Resident engagement has been made an an integral part of the regeneration project, with a resident steering group part of the procurement team to select the joint venture partner. Residents will also be provided with a landlord offer prior to a ballot in March 2020 to decide on the future of their estates.

Mike Johnson, group director of development, One Housing said: “Following a rigorous procurement process, we are looking forward to working with Countryside, our residents and the London Borough of Camden to deliver this project.

“Countryside share our commitment to providing high quality new homes. We were also impressed by their approach to resident engagement and their ability to demonstrate that they could deliver on added social value and community benefits.”

Andy Fancy, managing director, partnerships South (North and South), Countryside, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with One Housing on this landmark mixed-use regeneration scheme in the heart of Camden.

“We are looking to deliver more than three times as many high-quality homes including affordable homes as well as ensuring that local residents benefit from attractive public open spaces and crucial local amenities – all vital in creating sustainable communities.”

Monika Petrasova, on behalf of the Residents Steering Group said: “We have been pleasantly surprised by the level of involvement in the regeneration project from the start. We were part of the moderation meeting, which has never happened before, and we also marked all the tender submissions”.

New Homes England statistics show significant increase in affordable homes

New Homes England statistics show significant increase in affordable homes

Government housing accelerator Homes England has published its latest annual housing statistics looking at the period between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019.

The findings show there were 45,692 new houses started on site under programmes managed by Homes England and 40,289 houses completed. These are the highest levels of starts for nine years and the highest levels of completions for four years.

Of the starts on site, 67 per cent were for affordable homes – a 10 per cent increase on 2017-18. Similarly 71 per cent of housing completions in 2018-19 were for affordable homes which is an 11 per cent increase on 2017-18 figures.

A total of 17,772 affordable homes started in 2018-19 were for Affordable Rent – a 4 per cent increase on the previous year. 11,560 were for schemes including Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy – a 24 per cent increase on 2017-18. The remaining 1,231 were for Social Rent – a 12 per cent decrease on the previous 12 months.

Of the affordable homes completed, 18,895 were for Affordable Rent – representing a 4 per cent decrease on the previous year, whereas the 8,854 completed under affordable housing schemes including Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy represent a 75 per cent increase on 2017-18.

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said: “At a time where the average house costs around eight times the average income, these are positive signs that the delivery of homes, and particularly affordable homes, is on the up.

“However, there is still a huge amount of work to do to make sure this trend continues. We’re just getting started and need the sector to join us in our mission to make sure we continue to deliver homes across the country for the people who need them the most.”

Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP, said: “It’s great to see our housing accelerator has their foot firmly on the gas with nearly 29,000 new affordable homes finished last year.

“Getting these properties built is all part of our cast-iron commitment to making sure everyone has the opportunity to realise the dream of a stable home.

“But there is more to do, and so this Government is providing serious support, including £44 billion of funding and guarantees, to build more, better, faster.”

The figures reflect the latest set of official statistics in relation to housing starts and completions for England, excluding London, for all programmes except those administered by Homes England on behalf of the Greater London Authority.

The list of programmes included in these totals are detailed in the official housing statistics report, which can be found here.