Harris Lamb Blog – 15th April



Nick Aylett

15th April, 2011.

Localism & Planning – Another thought!

By Nick Aylett, Agency.

I read over the weekend how John Prescott, as he was then, ruled in 2000 that 60% of all new homes had to be built on previously used land….



The route provides 27 miles of privately funded and operated highway from Coleshill in North Warwickshire to Cannock in South Staffordshire.  The road carried an average 47,592 vehicles on weekdays in the summer of 2010  and from my experience of the Toll Road, private cars form the vast majority of the traffic.

The M6 Toll Road was identified as an “M6 Relief Road” to alleviate congestion on the M6, which is something many people feel has not been adequately addressed and, with one way car tolls at peak periods of £5, this is something to be debated elsewhere.

From a property perspective the benefits have probably been more tangible than the traffic improvements.  The southern end of the Toll Road and the ‘T1’ junction close to J4 M6 coincided with some of the latter stage build projects at the Hams Hall National Distribution Park, a 430 acre business park which ranks as one of the best such employment parks in the UK.

Junctions T2 and T3 appear to largely function as commuter gateways for those living to the south and east of Sutton Coldfield from where national motorway access has improved considerably and the effect on house prices has been positive in these areas.

The access to Junctions T4 and T5 at Weeford and Lichfield has given a stimulus to residential and commercial property markets alike with possibly the biggest winner being the 300 acre Fradley Park, where some of the largest distribution buildings in the area have been built with more to come.  We are marketing the new Fradley Prologis Scheme with 70 acres and units to 700,000 sq ft available to be built and which will be on site shortly.

T6 Burntwood, a forgotten part of the West Midlands conurbation 10 years ago for business and for new build residential perhaps, has not quite been “transformed” but certainly “considerably improved”.

T7 & T8 and the Cannock access points to the Toll Road provided the catalyst that has helped to promote the former coal mining town into a first rate employment location.  Significant development of a cross section of employment type accommodation from offices to manufacturing and warehouse operations has bought vitality to Cannock which I think is largely due to the Toll Road passing the town’s doorstep.

For those drivers who still regularly sit stationary on the M6 between junction 8 and 10 bemoaning the state of the traffic and whether the Toll Road has done the job it promised, the tangible benefits are probably in property as much as traffic counts.  The commercial new build and viability of new schemes along the entire length of the Toll Road has been transformed since the road was built.

…This target was exceeded with a reported 80% of new homes built on brownfield sites over the following years.  Bear in mind that this was in the relative ‘boom’ period of plentiful credit and accelerating house prices.

The Budget on 23rd March 2011 abolished this target.  Councils are now free to decide their own direction of travel for new build housing.

The article I read though said that the number of planning applications had been falling every single quarter since last May and applications were down 22% on a year ago “as a result of the localism agenda”.  A continuing credit crunch is certainly in some part to blame for much of this but there may be other issues at stake.

The consensus from many of the major house builders is that they will not generally “build” houses where sales prices are less than £175.00 per sq. ft.  This effectively rules out building in much of the UK and says a great deal about the house building industry’s view on risk – they are far more risk adverse.  Given falling house values in some areas this is not too surprising.

With local authorities now having powers to set their own housing targets the argument was that instead of development being demanded centrally this will instead be led locally.  The problems will arise in how local councils view new planning proposals being brought to them by the housing developers.  There is a need for councils to quickly interpret and react positively to market requests.  Bear in mind that there are a lot of new negotiating skills being learnt!

The argument made was that “217,000 homes have been scrapped from council plans” as a result of the localist agenda.  Quite why the headline runs over the plans for 200,000 new homes going into the ether is without proper analysis, but the arguments of market uncertainty and continuing tight credit are very relevant.

What is needed is a really positive engagement between those people planning and those judging what is planned. Those “judging what is planned” are seen as the local electorates and their elected members.  In my opinion engaging and agreeing in commercially acceptable timetables is key.

For advice and assistance on all aspects of development, Nick would be happy to help. He can be reached on 01905 22 666 or via email: nick.aylett@harrislamb.com     

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